Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Month of Savings

Starting tomorrow, I am going to be doing thirty days of savings on our blog. Each day I am going to highlight one small way that you can save money and share the approximate savings with each entry. At the end of this month, I will have a final tally of savings, to show how saving money really is all about those little expenses. These entries will then be converted into an article, that you can refer back to.

For the truly zealous penny-pincher, the concepts might not be new, but I am hoping that it will inspire others by sharing all of the little things one can do to save some cash.

I hope you will join me for The Month of Savings!

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Hospital Hospitality

I am sorry that I have not been posting as much this week. My grandfather had to undergo surgery, this past Thursday, and I have been back and forth to the hospital to be with him. He had an aneurysm that needed to be operated on, and has been suffering some setbacks from his surgery. He is currently in ICU and is needing lots of prayers, so please keep our family in your thoughts. I know he would really appreciate the good thoughts and prayers, as do the rest of our family.

I never know what to do in crisis situations except to cook. Since I knew everyone would be sitting in the waiting room for hours on end, I figured I could make some snacks for everyone while we were waiting. I made some of my granola bars, Rice Krispy treats (with whole grain Cheerios mixed in since I ran out of Rice Krispy cereal), and some of my trail mix.

I save my oatmeal containers since they make the perfect container to put snacks in. When I send treats to college students, I use these containers and decorate them. I really love to give gifts in the oatmeal containers. They make a great presentation for anything containing oatmeal like oatmeal cookies, granola bars or anything else that utilizes this ingredient.

There are a variety of ways to decorate oatmeal containers to pretty them up. Here are some examples of cute ways to decorate these:

- Take wallpaper or gift wrap and wrap the container.
- Crinkle a brown paper bag and cut out a circle to go around the top of the container. Use a wide ribbon to secure the paper bag on top.
- Take a hole punch and punch out two holes on the top of the lid. Loop ribbon through the top of the lid and tie a bow on top. You can also loop a gift tag through it and stamp or decorate the tag with well wishes.
- Get your child involved and have them help you decorate the container. Have them draw a picture on Kraft paper or on construction paper and have them write their name on it. This can make the gift even more special for grandparents.
- Have your child cut out pictures of their favorite things and make a collage on the outside of the container.

The containers themselves make a practical solution for transporting treats, since the snacks are less likely to get smashed, and you will have no worries about leaving the container (unlike your favorite Tupperware).

If you know of a family who will be at the hospital, this can be a thoughtful gift to bring along with you. As someone who has been spending a little more time than usual at the hospital, I can attest to the fact that the days are long and the food is bad, not to mention expensive. Save that family some money and provide some healthy snack alternatives. I guarantee they will appreciate the gesture. There might not be much you can do about the situation, but making it more bearable is appreciated by the family members.

Tuck in some snacks for the family, the newspaper, old magazines and a favorite book. These things can help make the days less long for families and they will really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Related Readings:

Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

Teaching My Kid to Say Thank You
How to Make Trail Mix
Sharing the Bounty

Sound Off: What are some other containers that you like to reuse in your house? Do you have any hospital hospitality tips to share?

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Monday, July 30, 2007

New Article: Milking the Milk Budget

As you all know, grocery savings is a huge topic on our site, so I was excited to talk this week about how to save some money in the milk category. With milk prices rising, my grocery dollars have been screaming for mercy. I did some research on ways that you can keep your costs down and still have tons of milk in your house to drink.

Adding the powdered milk was not a new addition in our house, but freezing our milk has been something new we have been trying. I hope you will have some time to read my article, "Milking the Milk Budget."

For the locals, this will be our topic focus tomorrow (Tuesday) on Moms First on WSBT-TV morning news. I will be on sometime between 6:30-7:00 AM. I hope that you can catch it and I can share more about this topic with our local moms out there!

Related Readings:

Grocery Shopping Tips
Hillbilly Housewife's Guide to Powdered Milk
Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Orange Julius
Magic Milkshakes & Slushies
Iced Peppermint Mochas
Powdered Milk & Christmas Drink Mixes

Sound Off: How much is milk going for in your area? How much milk does your family go through each week?

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ebates Makes Shopping More Rewarding

I am a HUGE fan of Ebates and have received almost two hundred dollars back in checks for shopping and referrals. In fact, I just had to purchase some new appliances and I decided to order through Ebates to receive a 2% cash back bonus from Sears. Doing the in-store delivery gave me free shipping to our local store, so I didn't even have to pay for shipping. Why not get a little reward for your purchases if you have to make them anyway? If you want to read all about my experience with the company you can read my entry here. I promise that I only promote companies on my blog that really work for me and I think this company is truly a winner.

Just when I think that Ebates can't get any better, they have added a new Coupons On Demand feature. This is an excerpt from their website explaining all about this new feature:

We post thousands of offers on our Coupons and Specials page but there are bound to be a few that we miss. Can’t find the one you’re looking for? Request it here and we'll do the work for you!

How it works:

1. Check the Coupons and Specials page to see if your coupon is available. We only provide coupons for Ebates' merchant partners. To see if your store is on that list, visit our All Stores page.

2. Use this post on the blog. You can click on the "Coupons on Demand" link on the Blog Homepage to link back to this post.

3. Leave a comment here requesting a coupon. Free Shipping? Money Off? Free Gifts? You name it, we’ll try to find it. Important:

4. Wait for our response. Monday through Friday, we will reply via email within 24 hours if you provide your email address when you comment. Otherwise, check the comments section for our response! We can only post coupons approved to be used on Ebates.

If you do decide to sign up with Ebates, I would love if you used this link to sign up because I do receive a $5 bonus for each person who signs up. But better than that, you receive $5 too!

Don't forget to sign into your Ebates account when doing your school shopping for uniforms, school supplies, and all of the other stuff those darn kids need to get started! I noticed that they have a Back-to-School section on their blog now, highlighting really great deals for the fall season.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Freebie Friday: July 27, 2007


Friday Fun Question:
What is the best money-saving tip you could give or that was given to you?


Health & Beauty:


Sign up to receive a free sample of M perfume created by Mariah Carey.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Beautiful perfume from Estee Lauder. Click on the "Request a Sample" link.

Sign up for a free sample of the healing garden skin organics reNourishTM moisture lotion SPF 15, from the healing garden's newest line.

Fill out the form to receive a free sample of Energizer Hearing Aid Batteries.

Food:

To receive the Sun-Maid New Taste Of Tradition Recipe Booklet, please complete the information.

Nestle Crunch is giving away 2,000 bars each day between 9-5 PSTD. You can try the new Nestle Crunch Crisp Bar for free and enter for a chance to win a Wii.

Vote here with a simple click and receive a coupon for a FREE cup of Stonyfield Farm yogurt (Limit one vote and coupon per email address, coupon is redeemable for 10 days after download and not redeemable in Canada).

Try a free sample of Honey Bunches of Oat Cereal.

Try a free sample of Yogi Tea.

Home & Garden:

How about a free Do-it-Herself Workshop from Home Depot? Now's a perfect time to finally organize those messy closets. We'll show you how at this FREE workshop. You'll learn useful tips from the experts to help make more of the space you have. Plus, we'll review smart products — such as ClosetMaid Selectives. Designed for easy installation with minimal tools, these well-designed products will make your closets work better and stay organized in an elegant fashion.

Try a free sample of Pure Essentials form Tide, Downy and Bounce. Look for this sample in your mailbox in six to eight weeks.

Entertainment:

Get a free subscription to Garden Design Magazine. Garden Design is a lifestyle magazine edited for the upscale, design-conscious reader who is serious and passionate about the beauty of gardening, the satisfaction of fine design and decorating, and all the pleasures of outdoor living.
This subscription to Garden Design magazine has been purchased on your behalf by BedBathStore.com. (Note: You will need to sign up for a Start Sampling account, but it will make it much easier when signing up for future freebies because the account will store your address information. No need to sign up for any offers!!)

If you have a Palm, Pocket PC/Windows Mobile, or a BlackBerry, you can have a free one year subscription to Zagat to Go. This gives you access to restaurant ratings and reviews. The promotion code will be sent to you via email.

Get a complimentary subscription to Cruising World Magazine.

Claim a complimentary one year subscription to American Cowboy Magazine.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Giant Magazine. This is one of our favorites in our house- enjoy!

Claim a complimentary digital subscription to green light magazine.

Miramax is offering a free advance screening to Becoming Jane. View the website for participating cities.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Body & Soul Magazine. (Note: My "homemaker" profile did not work for this one so you might need to enter something differently).

Claim a complimentary subscription to Interview Magazine.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Spin Magazine.

Other:

Now through August 31st, you can print out this Victoria's Secret coupon for $10 off of one of their pink items. You can credit it towards a large purchase, or buy something $10 or under, making this free!

Help rid the classroom of germs that may cause illness with a free Clorox® Clean Up the Classroom! kit**. You can pre-register now for a kit for your classroom next year or nominate a teacher to receive one. The multimedia kit contains:
  • Coupons for disinfecting and sanitizing products
  • Educational information on germs in the classroom
  • Fun activities for your students
Pre-register for your kit today! Kits should arrive in September 2007.

Sign up for a free New Mornings Daily Survival Kit from the Hallmark Channel. Delivery of the kit will take four to six weeks.

Sprint customers can receive a free ring tone. Follow the instructions on this page and enter the promotional code U3T6X6P4 to get this freebie.

Get a free Saturday Card from Hallmark. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one sample per household.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher 07.26.07

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Stinky!

It never fails. Shortly after you put a clean plastic liner in the kitchen wastebasket, something really smelly gets thrown away before the bag is full. I've found I can eliminate rotten odors in a wastebasket by completely covering the offending waste with a few layers of newspapers. I use the newspaper ad supplements that fill up my mailbox each week. The paper absorbs the smell entirely so you can use each bag to capacity.
Julie B. in Houston TX


The Hanging Heat Reducer

I did something very inexpensive this year that made a huge difference in the temperature of our kitchen. It would work on any room in the house.

We live in Texas. Summers are very long and very hot here. The large window in the eating area of our kitchen faces West. From about 2pm on each day, the sun pours through that window and bakes the room. By the time we sit down for dinner, the area is unbearably warm (despite air conditioning) and the bright sun is blinding to those of us facing the window.

This year, I cut a large piece of "black-out fabric" a bit larger than the window. Black-out fabric is actually white and can be purchased very inexpensively at fabric stores. I installed three grommets across the top. Then I tacked three small finishing nails above the top of the window above the wooden trim. At noon each day, I can easily hang up the curtain, and by 5pm when we eat dinner, the area is much cooler and there is no more glare! After 30 years of eating at a miserably hot dinner table, it's finally very comfortable!
JR in Houston


Cheaper Flavored Teas

Many people in our area enjoy the raspberry flavored iced tea available at restaurants. Enjoy it at home by using dry drink mixes as the flavoring agent. Kool-Aid is a very concentrated flavor so use sparingly. Select a flavor (raspberry, lemonade, cherry, orange, etc.) and add to dry instant tea to make a dry mix. It can also be added to reconstituted instant tea or brewed tea for a ready-to-drink beverage. Store it in the refrigerator. Add your own preferred sweetener.

For a flavored hot tea, an alternative with more flavors available would be the gelatin dessert mixes such as Jell-O. Besides more easily accommodating different preferences, these also can be more frugal than other flavored tea options.
ALJ


Cereal Savings

I bought three cylindrical plastic containers with lids. I no longer buy a cereal just because it tastes good since we normally go through 15 to 20 boxes a month. I now buy the bags, discounted damaged boxes, and cheaper brands. I pour the cereal in the clear plastic container when I get home and then everyone can see what it is and won't shun it because it's generic or has a dented box.
Candy M.


Doggie Toys

If you have dogs, you know how expensive and short-lived dog toys can be. Instead of purchasing new, consider your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. We can buy a large box of children's stuffed animals for the price of one PetSmart dog toy (without putting a dent in the thrift store's sad, abundant supply!). Our box will last all year and the dogs love the suspense of a "new" toy, especially at Christmas. Best of all, the money dished out goes for a good cause. If you don't have a thrift store nearby, consider http://www.freecycle.org. Just be sure that there's nothing that could be chewed off of the toy that would be dangerous for your pet.
Mary in IL


Charitable Causes

One of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers is when a charity I have never heard of before sends me a solicitation that includes nickels or dimes and then goes on to explain how even these small amounts can do wonders for their cause! I am also aggravated when some organizations send me return envelopes that already have the postage on them. To the organizations that send cash, I send nothing and give that money to other charitable causes. As for the stamped envelopes, I soak the stamps off guilt free and again use them when I mail to other charitable groups.
Ed G.


Meals to Go!

When we needed to travel across the country to spend time with our grandchildren, we went as inexpensively as possible. I doubled the recipe of some of our favorite meals while I made them for supper and froze them in resealable bags. We were gone for four weeks and traveled 2,000 miles in our little camper trailer we pulled behind our truck. I also bought chips and snacks ahead of time while they were on sale. I made meals of fried chicken, meatloaf, etc. and we kept them in the cooler with dry ice.

I would take supper out of the cooler when we ate breakfast, place it in the fridge while we traveled, and it was ready to eat cold or warm up when we stopped for the night. I also put a frozen breakfast in the slow cooker on low at night and it would be thawed and ready to eat when we awoke in the morning.

We saved a lot of money, especially at campsites since it was out of the normal tourist season. We did not have any upset stomachs from eating out all the time and saved a lot of time by having our meals already prepared. We only ate out once when our kids took us out to eat before we left!
Judy in NE


Lettuce Keeper

If you will slam your iceberg lettuce against the inside of the sink with the core taking the hit, it allows you to pull the whole core out by hand and rinse the lettuce without inserting a knife. It doesn't bruise the lettuce at all and this will help it stay fresher in your refrigerator.
Diane S. in Oklahoma


An Organized Desk

Recently, I redid our home office and found myself in need of several different sized containers for organizing things. I bought a roll of contact paper and just covered cardboard boxes (with the top flaps cut off) in sizes that I needed. I reinforced the bottoms and corners with packing tape to help them last longer before covering them with the contact paper. When I was finished, I had several really nice matching and perfectly sized organizers for the cost of a roll of contact paper.
Heather B in CA


Fly Away

Suspend a gallon baggie half full of water from each section of your porch (between each post). Stapling is the best way to secure. The light refraction through the water in the bag repels flies. We have even had a large table filled with food set out and not a fly on any of it. It's nice to not be bothered by flies without having to spray expensive chemicals or light stinky candles.
Jennifer K. in Ingraham, IL


"No Sew" Curtains

Curtains for the sewing-challenged can be easy. Use the curtain hooks that have little clips to hold the fabric on them. They are sometimes called curtain clips. Then you can use any fabric you like with the hooks, such as a patterned flat sheet. You don't have to sew at all and you can use the fabric later for something else. Curtain clips are inexpensive and can sometimes even be found at dollar stores at ten for a dollar. They seem to be very fashionable now.
Emilie J.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ask Frugal Momma: How Do You Organize Your Pantry & Cupboards?

I know you guys were most impressed with the way we organized our closet, but what you *REALLY* wanted to know is how do we organize our pantry.

Remember when I revamped my laundry system and my yard sale system? That day I hit up the same college student for a great bookcase that she was getting rid of for only $20! I knew right away what I wanted to do with it and couldn't wait to bring it home and put it in our basement.

First, let me give you some background information on our house and previous storage solutions. My kitchen does not have very many cupboards or pantry space so I have had to be more creative with my storage. Our big dream is to expand my tiny utility closet into a walk-in pantry, but until that happens I have been storing the majority of my pantry items in our basement.

Previously, we had a dark wood bookcase that was extremely deep that we were using to store the pantry items. We had ripped this "bookcase" out of our closet that we had turned into an entertainment unit. Yes, you could say that we are pretty creative with our smaller home. We have tried to maximize the space in places that were not being used properly instead of moving into a bigger home.

Due to the depth and darkness of the unit, what had ended up happening was that I found myself doing the repeat-buying. I would look in the unit and say to myself, "No tomato paste?" And then I would rush to the store and buy tomato paste. When I would pull items out though, I would see twenty cans of tomato paste that I had already bought. This was not frugal and the bookcase was working against me.

The location of the unit was also not the smartest place for me. With a quad level home, I was already making the trek down all of our stairs to retrieve items and then walking into the farthest corner of the basement to get what we needed. It was inconvenient and not a functional storage solution.

Welcome to the new home for my canned goods! This bookcase rests just at the bottom of the stairs in a well-lit area of our basement. The light wood color makes it easier to see what is in my pantry and the labels (created with my label maker) make it easy for even my husband to find what we need out of the pantry.

Our upstairs cupboards needed revamping as well. We have the same problem with our cupboards as we did with our former basement storage solution. One cupboard was extremely deep and items would get shoved back there until we said, "Hmmm... do you think that this is still good if it expired in 2003?" Obviously, we were wasting food and valuable cupboard space.

Repeat the same scenario above with the Lazy Susan unit that we had, but just make the items revolve in mass chaos. Clearly, we had a serious problem!

I got these handy storage baskets for less than two dollars each and divided our pantry items into categories. The storage baskets made it much easier for me to pull down exactly what I needed, rather than climbing up on a chair to try and dig through the back of the pantry. It also makes throwing items out quicker, when I need to clean out the pantry, and makes tasks easier because I had grouped like items (or cooking projects) together.

Here is how I grouped the items:

Spices- All of the spice containers were gathered together and imagine my surprise that we had plenty of repeat performers in this category. I wiped down the spices and consolidated them into one container. The spice container is residing in the cupboard closest to the stove. I can pull the small basket down and take out whatever we need and slip it back into the cupboard when I am done cooking. This is much easier than rifling through fifty teeny bottles and makes shopping day easier too!

Cake/Cookie Decorating Supplies- These are items that are used less frequently, but still needed a home. I put these higher up in a basket with handles. Piping bags, piping tips, cookie cutters, food coloring, sprinkles and the birthday candles (that no one could ever find) all went into this container.

Baking Supplies: This is a pretty general category, but it was all of the items that I needed, but could never find. In this larger basket went our baking powder, baking soda, confectioners sugar, shortening, and cocoa powder.

Rice/Pasta: These ingredients went into a larger basket and all of the boxes were consolidated and smaller pastas and the rice were placed into clear Mason jars. The mason jars were labeled and have the cooking instructions labeled on them (unless I knew the directions by heart). In the Mason jars were white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, orzo pasta, macaroni, and couscous. Larger pasta included linguine, angel hair, and thin spaghetti. Everything fit more neatly and anything extra went into the downstairs bookcase unit.

Flour/Sugar: This organizing unit went into our Lazy Susan. This included wheat flour, white flour, self-rising flour, cake flour, brown sugar, and white sugar.

Syrups/Oils/Vinegars: This organizing unit also went into our Lazy Susan and included corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, molasses, honey, and maple syrup. Using this unit eliminated the "sticky" factor, which usually occurred, making a huge mess in the bottom of our pantry. Any extra condiments also get put in there, as they are often used in recipes.

Finally, the items that I like to keep on hand upstairs all go into our pantry door. We bought one of these wire units that mounts on the door and keep items that I might need on hand. A smaller unit, that clips onto the larger unit, houses all of those little packets that we might need to assemble a meal. I try to keep what we need for the week in the upstairs pantry door and then the excess (or whatever doesn't fit) ends up going downstairs.

If you want, I am happy to share where we keep appliances and stuff like that, just leave me a comment!

I hope that this will help give you some creative storage solutions for your pantry!

Note: You can click on the pictures to expand the size.




Related Readings:

Free Up Pantry Space & Make a Snack
Making Your Spice Rack Usable
Getting the Car Organized
Gettin' Quick in the Kitchen
Living Out of Your Pantry

Sound Off: What storage solutions have you found work in your pantry?

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Where to Get Free Wi-Fi


I don't know about you, but I love any place that offers free Wi-Fi. In fact, right this moment, I am sitting at our local library enjoying the benefits of their free wireless internet. The nice thing about going to our library is that I am not required to buy anything and there are no strings attached with me sitting here. I have no sales person hounding me and no one waiting to take my table here.

More and more retailers are beginning to see the benefits of offering free wireless internet access though. Patrons may take up tables longer, but they also tend to place bigger orders while doing their business on the internet.

There are many national retailers that are offering free wireless including Apple Stores, Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee, most McDonald's, Office Depot, CompUSA, Schlotzsky’s Deli, and many hotels and even some airports.

How do you find local places that offer free wireless? You can search under this directory, utilizing your zip code or state, and find a spot in your town or even a town that you are visiting. I was amazed to see all of the great places, in our area, that are offering free wireless that I didn't even know about.

How about when traveling? Here are some listings that might come in handy:

National Hotels That Offer Free Wi-Fi

RV Parks & Campgrounds That Offer Free Wi-Fi

Airports That Offer Free Wi-Fi

Just how secure are wireless internet connections though? This is something that has always made me nervous, as I do worry that someone could hack into our private information. Back in January, a New York Times columnist explored this by performing a test in his local coffee shop. You can read his surprising experience and how you can protect yourself from this happening to you.

Sound Off: Do you look for places that offer free wireless internet? Do you have a favorite spot that you like to visit?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lessons from Miss Meredith

This week Meredith, the lovely blogger of Like Merchant Ships, is offering a week's tutorial for an Online Finishing School. She is sharing the special touches that make her house so homey and the best part of all is that all of her ideas are very budget-friendly.

I hope you will join her class this week. I can't imagine a better teacher and I have already benefited from her first few lessons.

Sound Off: Who taught you how to make a home? Are you a self-taught homemaker or did you have a great influence in your life?

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Spending Money Like We Got It!

This weekend, my husband and I had a date night. We went to a very nice restaurant in town. We ordered fancy drinks, an appetizer, two delicious dinners, a dessert, and then we shared more drinks after the meal was over. We didn't really glance at the prices and we spent about seventy dollars on dinner.

You must be wondering how someone who preaches frugality to the masses could be dining out like she has money to spend? If I saw people eating the way we did, clutching our bellies because we were so darn full, I would wonder how they could afford all those "extras" during their meal.

Lucky for me, I was able to mystery shop this restaurant and was reimbursed for my dinner out. In return for paying for my meal, I had to complete a short survey on the service that I received there. It took me about a half hour to fill out so for a sixty dollar reimbursement, that was a pretty good time investment.

Mystery shopping is a legitimate work-at-home opportunity. I personally never relied on it for income purposes, but I did rely on it for meals out or small cash rewards for taking the time to fill out surveys. In fact, before the site started to take up a lot of my time, we only went out to eat or had date nights when I had a mystery shopping opportunity.

Don't think this is for you? Well, you can still spend money like you got it by using gift certificates from Restaurant.com. This has been the latest way that we have been able to afford dinner out. Our favorite restaurant recently dropped out of the program, but there are still a few restaurants in our area to chose from.

They are currently running an awesome promotion, that won't last long, where you can get $25 gift certificates for only $3 using the coupon code PRESENT when checking out. This is a 70% savings and you can stock up on these as holiday gifts or for your family. The gift certificates are good for an entire year! The coupon code is good from July 24-31.

If you do decide to get these, I would love if you used this link provided because I do make a small bit of money from the affiliation. I promise I would only promote something that I absolutely loved and these gift certificates have funded many of our fun nights out.

Related Readings:

Taking the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping
A Real Review of Restaurant.com
Don't Throw Out Those Take-Out Menus
Holiday Bling Without a Bling Budget


Sound Off: How do you save money when dining out?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Menu Planning Monday 07.23.07


This is my first week participating in this. I hope it will give everyone some new ideas for meals and some new recipes to try in your homes! Please visit "I'm An Organizing Junkie" for a list of all of the participants!

Monday- Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein

Tuesday- Herb Baked Tilapia with Rice

Wednesday-
Ranch Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes & Baby Peas

Thursday-
Chicken BBQ Sandwiches with Shoestring Fries

Friday-
Italian Sausage & Pepperoni Bread Machine Calzones with Pizza Sauce (for dipping)

Saturday-
Yeast Waffle Brunch

Sunday-
Italian Meatloaf Muffins with Mashed Potatoes & Sweet Cornbread (scroll down for the recipe!)

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How I Finally Cleaned Out My Closet

I got the opportunity to check out, "It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff" by Peter Walsh. I was excited to read this book because I love to read up on organizing the items in my home. Unfortunately, the book focused more on the psychological aspect of people who cannot part with their clutter, rather than a book that is geared towards an enthusiastic clutter-buster.

I would highly recommend this book to someone though who is not living a life that they desire and feel consumed with the clutter in their home. He shares a lot on achieving the life that you have always wanted by taking action and parting with the "stuff" in your life that isn't benefiting you, but is hindering you from enjoying your home and your life.

The fact is, I am the type of person that feels attached to very little in my home. It isn't that I don't appreciate what I have, but the desire to keep items for sentimental reasons has never been big on my priority list. I have memories of good times...not items that represent those good times.

I don't like to collect items because I don't like to maintain and dust collections of things. I don't like to hang on to things that I think I might need in the future because I would rather free up the space in our home.

Don't get me wrong, my house has true areas of chaos. Our garage is a disaster and our basement is in disarray. These are projects that I need to devote some time and thought to and seem to be the dumping stations when clutter starts to consume our house. We have definite areas that we need to work on in order to make our home more spacious and to create more organization in my life.

The one area that I have always really struggled with is my closet and the clothing in it. I hate to turn away clothing when friends and family give me things (even if I don't look good in them) and I have hung onto my work wardrobe for no other reason than the fact that I spent a mint on it and thought I could use it when I returned to work.

The simple fact is that I have no idea when I will be returning to work and the pieces in my wardrobe are already beginning to look dated. By the time I return to work, I will still need to invest in a new wardrobe, and I will also need to get rid of the items that are taking up closet space. Why should I wait until then and just free it up now?

Since our closets are small, and the space there is so premium, I decided to use one of the tips that Peter Walsh had recommended when promoting his book on Oprah. He suggested hanging your hangers the opposite way and flipping them when you wore (not just trying on) an item. Whatever hanger did not get flipped at the end of the specified time, got the boot.

This season I was able to get rid of thirty items in my closet. I loaded them up in bags and took the stuff over to our local thrift store. Not surprisingly, this was very freeing for me and I felt really good about the small accomplishment I made.

My clothes are now sighing with relief because they can breathe a bit. Now that I have room to move my hangers and see my wardrobe, I am able to enjoy the items I have and am noticing all of the the potential outfits in my closet that I had never seen before.

Sound Off: Do you get emotionally attached to your belongings? What is your problem area in your home?

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Freebie Friday: July 20, 2007


Fun Friday Question: Who do you get the most financial inspiration from? What have they taught you that has really stuck with you?

Health & Beauty:

Sign up now to get a free sample from Tampax Pearl and a $1 off coupon from Tampax Compak Pearl.

Enter the Clinique Beauty Boot Camp and walk the halls this Fall with clear skin. 10,000 contestants will have the opportunity to try out Clinique's new Acne Solutions Clear Skin System FREE ($47 value.). After submitting before and after pics, plus a short description of how you feel with clearer skin, Alloy readers (plus any friends or family you'd like to recruit) will vote for the most improved! A panel of judges will pick their faves and then Alloy readers will be invited to vote a final time.

Register and receive a pill box by postal mail. (No purchase necessary. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. Subject to withdrawal without notice. For U.S. addresses only. One per household. While supplies last.)

Try a free sample of Nivea Q10 Advanced Wrinkle Reducer.

Try a sample of Opti Free Replenish Contact Solution. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Get a free sample of new Colgate Total Advanced Toothpaste.

The Dove website is offering free samples of their hair care products. Click on the "Free Samples" button at the bottom.

Try a free sample of Sara Jessica Parker's Lovely Perfume.

Try Relieva (to treat Psoriasis) in a convenient travel size. To receive this, Click on 'Add to Cart'. Then it will ask you for your name and address....AND Promotional Code. USE Code # PRFT0706D
Click 'Continue'. The next page will ask you for your credit card into....DO NOT enter this!
Instead click the Promo button and enter the Promo code again. Click continue.
Then the next page will come up with all your info........click on 'SUBMIT' to finish your order.
The last page confirms your order.
Food:

Print out this coupon for a free junior scoop of TCBY Yogurt in a cup or cone. The coupon expires August 31, 2007.

Register and we will send you a coupon for free bottle of our original Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. Plus you'll be signed up for our Country Bob's Newsletter. Sign up a friend or relative, they will thank you for it. All registrations will be kept confidential.
One coupon per household.

Entertainment:

Together, we can promote civic engagement outside the voting booth and beyond Election Day. The 2007 Engagement Survey is designed to gather information about you, members of the GenerationEngage network, to inform candidates of your views, and to amplify your collective political voice as the 2008 presidential election heats up. We believe your time is of value, and so we’re pleased to offer you ten free downloads from the iTunes website to thank you for your input. While we welcome feedback from respondents of all ages, we can extend the iTunes promotion only to those aged 17-29.

This site has a bunch of free subscriptions to choose from, including a Working Mothers Magazine subscription.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Car and Driver Magazine. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery. You can answer no to all of the offers.


Home & Garden:

Order a free kitchen designer kit and receive a free subscription to Gourmet, Domino, or House and Garden Magazine.

Complete the information to receive your free sample of Post-it® Notes (and also receive free samples of Post-it® Flags!). You can also sign up to receive great offers from Post-it® Perks by clicking the box below. If you are already a Post-it® Perks member, you do not need to check the box.

Other:

Celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day with a free gift from Staples. This gift is available to the first 200 teachers.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Amy's Notebook 07.19.07


The Evil Mad Scientist has a tutorial on how to make your own light tent for taking photos.

Lifehacker shares a great tip for changing your air conditioner's filter with ease.

Monica, over at The Homespun Heart, shares a yummy recipe for coffee cake muffins. These look delicious!

WiseBread has a great post on things to do with chicken leg quarters. They list lots of great dishes that will be easy on your wallet.

DIY Maven shares some great uses for soap that you probably haven't thought of.

Nested has a great tutorial for making a fold-up crayon pouch.

The Crafty Daisies have fun with socks and gloves.

Free Money Finance offers some great cleaning tips and advice.

Shannon, over at Rocks in My Dryer, offers a pep talk on sewing (which I really, really needed).

Fish Creek House has some really great cleaning tips.

Zen Habits offers up 75 simple pleasures to enjoy.

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The Dollar Stretcher Tips 07.19.07

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Cool Tips

As the temperature outside rises, so does our electric bills, elevated by all those fans and air conditioners. To minimize their elevation, prepare your air conditioner for the cooling season.

Clean the condenser coils on your window or through-the-wall units. Remove the cover to gain access to the coils and clean them with a soft bristle brush. While you're in there, clean out any lint build up and oil the motor if it is equipped with oil ports on the sides.

Outdoor compressors for whole house units could use a good cleaning, too. Remove sticks, leaves and those fluffy seeds with a hose sprayer.

Protecting your outdoor compressor or your window unit from the hot direct sun can help increase its energy efficiency.

Don't forget to clean or replace your air conditioner's filter.
Naomi K.


Simple Rash Soother

My daughter often has rashes from unknown causes so we tend to keep some of those expensive oatmeal bath preparations in the medicine cabinet. One night she came in from a long evening of playing outdoors, and of course, she had a rash. I discovered that we were out of the normal Aveeno oatmeal bath! Ugh! I decided to try regular oatmeal (not the instant flavored oatmeal) and put it into our coffee grinder. We had an instant oatmeal bath, and it worked even better than that drugstore stuff!
Roben K. in Fresno CA


Dinner to Go

For our vacation this summer, my family will be staying for a week in a beach condominium with a full kitchen. In order to save money and eat healthier, we have decided to keep eating out to a minimum. But, who wants to spend a lot of time cooking or haul a lot of ingredients? So, I decided to pre-assemble freezer meals here at home using ingredients I bought on sale. The dinners will fit in a zipper bag and will stay cold in our ice chest until we get to our destination. They will go into the freezer and I will cook them up when we're ready to eat them. I'll just add a salad and some bread. We look forward to easy-to-prepare, affordable, and healthy meals away from home, and some great beach memories.
Erin J.


Creative Corn Silk Solution

While processing 400 ears of corn for freezing this week, our family needed extra corn silk brushes, so we improvised and discovered a great tip. Use a microfiber cloth to silk the corn before blanching. The microfiber cloth is slightly sticky to the corn silks and absorbs any corn milk. This eliminates the corn silk beautifully and makes less mess than a brush.
Linda in Raleigh NC


Natural Mosquito Repellant

I read in a book about putting basil around and the mosquitoes will leave you alone. I had a plant growing in my home and took it outdoors on the 4th of July. I sat on the porch for about four hours to watch the fireworks and did not see one mosquito.
Janet


Cleaning Discount

Cleaning products are so expensive and take up an unbelievable amount of space to store. We mix equal parts of vinegar and water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid into a spray bottle to use as everyday household cleaner. This works great on sinks, shower stalls, tile and linoleum floors, counter tops, etc. Plus, it saves a ton at the discount stores at check out.
Denise O. in Beemer, NE


Nasty Gnats

To get rid of gnats, fill a disposable pie pan with 1 3/4 cups white vinegar, 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, and 2 cups water. Let this mixture sit on your kitchen counter or other problem area. You will be surprised at how many you'll get.
Melissa J. in Madison, IN.


Divide and Conquer

When I buy any plant at the store, I separate the perennials when I get home. I bought a plant for $4.99 and was able to get five plants out of it, putting it in different parts of my yard. Make sure to only buy the healthiest plants.
Melinda M.


Cool Slumber

Place a wet washcloth somewhere on yourself when you lie down to sleep with a fan set on "Low" blowing directly on you. You'll cool off fast because the heat of your body will be drawn to the "cold spot." This works the same way if you put a cold wet towel around your neck while you do yard work, etc.
Diane S. in North Olmsted, OH


Removing Mildew

Borax is one of those often forgotten cleaners our grandparents swore by. To remove mildew from upholstery and other fabrics, soak a sponge in a solution of 1/2 cup borax dissolved in 2 cups hot water, and rub it into the affected areas. Let it soak in for several hours until the stain disappears, then rinse well.

To remove mildew from clothing, soak it in a solution of 2 cups borax in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. Of course, modern fabrics can be a bit more fragile than our grandmother's generation, so it's a good idea to test a hidden corner first for sensitivity, but so far I haven't found any problems.
Pam M.

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Freezer Worthy Pizza Sauce

Normally, pizza night is reserved for Friday evenings, but my husband and I are getting a date night this Friday so we have shifted our night to Thursday this week. Since I was already making a pizza for our family, it seemed easiest to make a pizza as a meal for a new mom in my mom's group.

To save time today, I made her dough in my bread machine last night and put it in an oiled plastic bag to roll out this morning. I also wanted to get the sauce done because, for me, this is the most difficult part of making a pizza. I love to have homemade sauce for dipping and to put on top of our pizza, but I am always waiting until the last minute, or I find out that I don't have everything I need to make it.

I made the pizza sauce in my slow cooker and let it simmer all night last night, while we were sleeping. This morning I woke up to tons of pizza sauce, ready to be spread on my dough.

I used this Easy Pizza Sauce Recipe and made three times the amount of sauce. I have put the extra in the freezer for the next few family nights. This will save me a lot of work and a lot of time spent cleaning up the splattered stove each week!

Related Readings:

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough Recipe
Dinner is in the Bag
Fun Family Nights
Organizing the Kitchen

Sound Off: What do you keep on hand in your freezer to help save you time and money throughout the week?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Catch Me on Tuesdays!

I have some exciting news! You can catch me on WSBT-TV (CBS) in Michiana every Tuesday morning starting this next week. I will be appearing on our local early show talking about a variety of topics that appear on our website.

In the first segment, I will just be talking a little bit about what I do and about our site. After that, I will get the opportunity to share more about some of the topics that we cover on here.

I am excited and nervous! It seems very surreal to me all that has happened. I am just a mom with a website. I have been doing this for years and getting to share my own trials and tribulations as a homemaker was great therapy for me. I never had anticipated more than my good friends and family coming to see what I was doing over here. I feel so blessed to have gotten to this point and I have appreciated our community and their involvement in all of this, as I have fumbled along trying to create a fun place for moms to visit.

I just want to thank everyone for their continued support and encouragement. I feel very fortunate to be on the receiving end of these great things.

When the segments become available, I will be sure to post the links!

Thank you all!

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The Gift Closet Part Five: Housewarming Gifts

This is the fifth part in my series on stocking your gift closet. For this entry, I would like to discuss some frugal and fun housewarming gifts that you can give to your favorite new homeowners.

Many of the ideas that I had suggested for wedding gifts could also be used as a great housewarming gift for a new couple. You can keep those ideas in mind when doing your shopping too.

1. Breakfast Basket- This is one of my favorite gifts to give, particularly if the family/couple has just moved into their new house and hasn't unpacked yet. I mix up my favorite pancake mix and place it in a decorated jar, purchase syrup (or you can make homemade syrup), and include a whisk for mixing the batter. This can be put inside of a mixing bowl or a pretty basket. I love to give this gift because usually no one has done any grocery shopping and this gives them something to look forward to eating one morning or for a quick evening dinner. Tuck in a little note of congratulations on their new home.

2. Welcome Home- A welcome mat can be a great housewarming gift. You can purchase one of these or you could make them a welcome mat that you have painted and personalized. Keep your eyes peeled in the clearance section for the mats, particularly around the holiday season when holiday mats make their move towards the clearance section.

Other welcome additions to a home are ornate house numbers or a pretty sign that has their family name on it. I also love to make a wreath for the new homeowner to put on their front door which can be another welcome addition towards creating an inviting home.

3. Add a Little Life- When doing your thrift shopping, keep in mind things that would make great items to put plants in. China tea cups, planters, baskets, tin pails- any of these are great to use for planters. You can find items in your garden that will transplant well or you could buy a small plant for the new homeowners. I try to pick things that will not die off easily, considering how busy new homeowners are when they are unpacking, and because not everyone has a green thumb!

4. Tools- It is hard to find the tools that you need when you actually need them. Put together a small tool kit for the homeowner and include items that you know they will really need as they get settled. A box cutter is great for breaking down their moving boxes, items to use for picture and mirror hanging, a hammer and various type of nails are great to include and give to the new homeowner. They have a good selection of these items at the dollar store.

5. Baked Goodies- Who can resist a loaf of homemade bread or a special treat? I love to give items like these because they are affordable and really show that you care for someone.

Related Readings:

Simplifying Gift Giving
Wrapping Gifts
Thrifty Graduation Ideas
Frugal Wedding Gifts
Baby Gifts

Sound Off: What is your favorite housewarming gift that you give or have received?

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WSBT-TV Interview

The interview has been posted to their website and you can view it here. I am so happy that I will be able to share it with everyone and hope you enjoy it!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ask Frugal Momma: Washin' the Washer


Dear Frugal Momma, Would you mind doing an entry on cleaning the washing machine...both inside and out? I know that probably sounds strange, but I try to clean everything in my home on a regular basis! Thanks in advance! The Cleaning Queen

I have to admit that this is something I had never really thought about, although I am sure it is one of those items that I should add to my regular home maintenance. This entry required a little research so I hope that it will help someone else out there!

For the interior of the washer, you will want to clean your washing machine from time to time by running it empty on a hot cycle. I will offer up two choices for cleaning the washer. You can do it the environmentally-friendly way or by trying the bleach version.

The first way that you can clean the washer is by running the hot cycle with one cup (250 ml) of white vinegar. Just add it during the cycle and allow the vinegar to clean the washer for you. The vinegar will help remove any detergent deposits that have built up on your washing machine.

The second alternative for cleaning can actually be used in disinfecting a variety of non-food-contact surfaces. The recipe was supplied by, "Home Comforts" written by Cheryl Mendelson. This method is recommended for your washer, as well as the bathtubs, showers, sinks, marble, plastic, fiberglass, diaper pails and indoor garbage cans. The disinfecting solution is not recommended, however, for metal fixtures or on dark or colored grout.

Disinfecting Solution

3/4 cup bleach
1 gallon warm water
1 tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent

Using solution, wash surface or object clean. Then keep it wet with the solution for at least five minutes. Rinse and let dry.

The exterior of most washer and dryer tops are made from porcelain enamel or synthetic enamel. This type of material does not stand up well to repeated exposure of chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine bleach, or any abrasive cleaners.

The best solution for cleaning the exterior of the washer (and just about everything else) is my homemade all-purpose cleaner. The recipe for that is:

All-Purpose Cleaner

2 tablespoons dish soap (any kind works fine)
2 cups warm water


Put two ingredients into a spray bottle and give it a shake to incorporate them.


If you begin to see any mildew damage to the rubber door seal, on your washing machine, you will want to disinfect it to discourage further problems and to remove what has already occurred. Make a solution of one cup chlorine bleach to two cups warm water. Wearing rubber gloves, first wipe the lower portion of the door seal (where the water and bacteria will be most concentrated) with a soft cloth soaked in the bleach solution. Then wipe down the entire seal. Finally fill the bleach dispenser with bleach and run the washer empty through one hot cycle. You can repeat this process every two to four months to keep mildew down. This is particularly recommended if you live in a humid climate or if your laundry room is not well-ventilated.

I hope this helps answers your question! Please feel free to email your questions directly to me at amy@momadvice.com on any topic related to homemaking or saving money. I would be happy to answer your questions. You can also submit your questions through our forum.

Related Readings:

Happy Homemaking the Homemade Way
Cleaning Out Yo Fridge
Frugal Solutions for the Swiffer
Frugal Carpet Steaming
Favorite Frugal Cleaners
Organize Your Week

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Gabrielle's Story: Oxidative Phosphorylation Complex I and II


We would like to thank Penny & Gabrielle for sharing their family story with our readers!

My name is Penny and I am the mother of a special needs child who is dying from an incurable disease. Gabrielle is such a blessing to me and our family. I am thankful for the privilege of raising God's "special" child as I walk this journey of life with her.

I have been married to my husband, Mike, for 12 years. In the first 10 years of our marriage we had 6 children. In January 1996 we had our first child, Joshua by an emergency c-section. In January 1997 I delivered our second child Jessica, it was a difficult pregnancy and delivery. One morning, when she was 10 months old, I found her dead in her crib. She had suffocated.

The next year I became pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl, Grace, in 1999. In 2000, I delivered another healthy baby girl, Gabrielle, but at 4 1/2 months she went into a catatonic state and was placed into a medically induced coma. She was in the hospital for over a month and when she came home our lives were changed forever. She came home with a feeding tube
through her nose and on over 13 medications that she would receive 3 x's a day. Mike and I came home from the hospital with an overload of information from her doctors on how to take care of her and how "gloomy" her days ahead would be. We did not know whether she would live or die, we knew only that God's miraculous hand had brought her home to us. She was no longer our "perfect" little baby. She was very ill, had numerous setbacks, and would need constant twenty-four hour care.

After a lot of searching, endless questions, and medical tests, she was diagnosed with Oxidative Phosphorylation Complex I and II - Mitochondrial Disease, a rare genetic disorder. Although this is her primary diagnosis, she has a list of other medical problems, including a seizure disorder, brain damage, curvature of the spine, vision problems and more.

She is in a wheelchair and completely dependent on Mike and I and the nursing staff. Despite the illness and the many changes she has brought into our life, Gabrielle continues to be our miracle child.

In 2001 I had a miscarriage. I became pregnant again in 2002, and delivered a healthy baby boy, Andrew, in 2003.

From all of this I have learned that there is healing and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ! In spite of our pain and suffering God wants to touch our hurting spirit and heal our broken hearts.

I had always been a Christian, always went to church, always loved God but when this kind of deep emotional suffering began happening in my life my view changed and I began to question God. Does he really love me? Will this pain ever end? Why did you give me a "broken" child? As all of this was going on I began to search for something to help me put things in perspective. I needed to find an outlet for this emotional roller coaster that I was on, one that was positive, spiritual, and uplifting. I needed to find something that talked about having a special needs child, the feelings, frustrations, and challenges that a mother and family go through in raising a special needs child. I needed to find a resource, guidelines, something that would help me process all of the traumatic events of my child's life that would ultimately change my life as a wife, mother, caregiver, and friend. I needed to know that through the pain and suffering God is there, God does love me, and that my child is not broken, she is a precious gift from God and if I will let him he will show me all of this and more.

Families are faced with so many challenges in raising a special needs child, the guilt, isolation, loneliness, fears, and exhaustion are enough to put you on the edge. There needs to be an explosive awareness to the public of what these children go through and the incredible strength of the families that love and take care of them.

Currently, I have written a journal for families raising special needs children. I am trying to get it published. It is a unique Christian-based journal. The questions invite the reader to get in touch with their initial emotions and write down memories that will serve as the foundation of their healing. As they progress, the journal allows them to communicate private personal reflections with no fear of judgment. Ultimately, they begin to feel God's presence, learn to trust him again and lean on Him for strength and hope.

Thank you for opening the door for families to reach out and help others!

**If you have a story that you would like to share about your child, please email me at amy@momadvice and share what you and your family are going through. We would like to use this segment to raise awareness about family issues including physical and mental disabilities that families are dealing with. Our goal is to educate our readers on the difficulties that your family faces each day. Anonymous stories will be accepted, as well as stories that do not include pictures. We will always strive to protect your privacy!**

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Make It From Scratch #22

Lucky for me, I get to host this week and I am looking forward to sharing all of the entries with you! Unfortunately, I was having a lot of problems receiving all of the entries and so I apologize if anyone was overlooked. It was not intentional, but just a bad technical glitch.

Please be sure to check out what is going on next week on the 23rd edition of Make it From Scratch, hosted by "...And Miles to Go Before We Sleep."

DeputyHeadmistress presents Caraway-Seed Bread posted at The Common Room.

Warren Wong presents The Life Pursuit Of Money posted at Personal Development for INTJs. Warren says, "Why should making money be a life pursuit? Because making money actually helps people! Here's why."

First time making

Joy in the Morning has included a recipe for Giant Soap Bubbles. Loni shares, "Big-time bubble making is a bit like fishing. You'll have much better luck in cool wet weather. Early evenings, nighttime and early mornings are often good. Just after a rain is ideal. Don't throw any leftovers away either. The longer your solution sits, the better it gets."

Michelle Mitchell presents Placemat Purses posted at scribbit.

Devildogwife presents Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies posted at Marine Corps Nomads. This is her first time creating her very own gluten free recipe. Great job!

Stephanie presents Catching the Rain posted at Stop the Ride!. She shares ways that they have found to collect rain water and cut back on her water bill. This is a great green and eco-friendly idea.

Delilah presents Bringing Home Baby.... posted at The Miller Way... This post shows how Delilah's crafty abilities helped her make a new baby seat cover.

Laurie Bluedorn presents Experimenting with Decorations for the Wedding posted at Laurie Bluedorn.

Heather presents We TRIED Homemade Ice Cream posted at It's all for the best. She attempted making ice cream in a coffee can, but it didn't work out so well. I would just tell the kids that it was a science experiment and congratulate myself on being such a cool mom! Great job, Heather!

Alexandra presents Make It From Scratch/Copy Work Pages posted at Happy Hearts At Home. There are some great free and printable worksheets that you can do with your children.

Becca presents Making it from Scratch... posted at Unplugging the "Stuff" Machine.

Y-2K Hippie shares how to make a headband out of an old shirt. This looks like a fun and easy craft!

Over here at The Motherload, my son and I made thank you cards together. You can read my entry at, "Teaching my Kid to Say Thank You."

I've made this before

Karen Bastille presents 50 Ideas For Filling Your Water Bin (51 if you count Water) posted at Summer With Grandmother Wren. This is a great list of materials that you can use in your child's water table and a fun recipe for "clean mud."

Bridget presents The Best, Hands Down, Sour Cream Enchiladas posted at And Miles To Go Before We Sleep..., saying, "Includes directions on how to fold a burrito"

GP presents Breakfast 'Round The Campfire posted at Fish Creek House - INNside Innkeeping, GP offers, "Breakfast round the campfire.. and directions to get you there !"

Veteran Military Wife presents Remembering Your Past Duty Assignments posted at Life Lessons of a Military Wife,. She shares "This is an idea for those who move a lot and would like to remember (fondly) where they've been!"

Joanna presents Camping Breakfast posted at Sunflowers in my Kitchen.

**That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of make it from scratch! using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.**

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Monday, July 16, 2007

WSBT-TV News Appearance Tonight

I will be doing an interview with WSBT-TV news this evening on our local Michiana CBS news station. The interview should be airing tonight on the 5:30 evening news. I hope that some of you local folks can catch it!

Thanks so much for your continued support!

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Creating Family Traditions

It has always been important to me that we create traditions for our family that our children will always remember. That is why I really appreciated the efforts of a local author, Pamela Ogren, who has published her book, "Creating Happy Memories: 100+ Ways to Start & Strengthen Family Traditions."

The author was a single mother, who felt that it was important to her to create family traditions of her own, particularly since it was only herself and her daughter. She wanted to be able to give her daughter traditions and then wanted to inspire other families to create traditions in their own homes. She pooled together traditions from national celebrities and local residents, who had special traditions that she felt families could benefit from.

Her own favorite tradition that she did for her daughter was something she began to doing when her daughter was only an infant. "I wrote letters to her beginning shortly after she was born. I did it throughout the years. When she graduated from college, I put each of the letters in a new linen envelope and tied them with a ribbon and gave them to her for her graduation."

Since I began our own family, I have always tried to create new traditions for our children. I am hoping that these will be memories that they will share with their own family someday or that they will actually implement them in their own house.

Some of the things that I am trying to do for our children are:

1. On the first day of December, I set a basket out with small slips of paper and pens. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick them in their stocking. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, that centers around family rather than gifts.

2. We began doing a Christmas Jar this last year, that was a roaring hit for the kids. I didn't get around to it this summer, but I was thinking of doing jars for the summer too. For the summer, I am going to tie blue and yellow ribbons around each jar. One will be a jar of "Rainy Day" activities and then the other jar will include "Sunny Day" activities. I fill the jars with free or inexpensive activities that the children can do. My son looked forward to drawing from the jars each day and it gave us a great sense of family when doing these things together.

3. I have started a Christmas journal for the children. In the front of the journal is a pocket for pictures and letters. I have started putting our family Christmas card in the front and the letters to Santa in there. Inside I am including things like what the children asked for from Santa, what their favorite holiday recipes were, what their favorite gifts were, and am highlighting any special activities we have done together. I will give this to them when they are grown.

4. I have started a new journal of the funny things that they have said to me. I always think that I will remember this stuff, but it usually slips my mind. I wanted to start keeping a journal of those funny statements so that they can laugh about it someday. My son, who is five now, is at that stage where he says the cutest things. I would just hate to lose those memories.

5. Every Friday night we try to do a family night together. If something falls on Friday that prevents us from having our night together, we rearrange our schedule to make it another night. I make a homemade pizza or a fun dish and we rent a movie from the library or just spend the evening outside with the kids. Dinner is usually followed by a special treat like a slushie or milkshake. The kids love this time and we try to make them the center of attention for the entire evening.

Sound Off: What are some family traditions that you have implemented in your house?

Related Readings:

Creating Holiday Traditions

Bring Back Family Night
Fun Family Game Nights
The Christmas Jar
Making Real Christmas Memories
Christmas Morning with the Clark's
Eve of Christmas Morning Recap


Note: Creating Happy Memories can be purchased through the above link, at the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus, or you can send a check to: Corby Books, P.O. Box 93, Notre Dame, IN 46556 for $11.95.

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Product Review: OxiClean Products

The OxiClean company sent to me a big box of their products to try. They included their detergent as well as several different types of stain removers. Most notably, in the box, was their new pocket-sized stain remover, OxiClean Spray-A-Way Instant Stain Remover. This product is intended for moms on the go. The stain remover would be perfect to stick in your purse or diaper bag for all of those emergency stains that seem to come up when your family is out and about.

OxiClean also offers great products targeted towards moms who have to endure numerous baby stains. They offer Baby Stain Soaker and their Baby Stain Remover. A couple of my other favorite products are their Carpet Spot and Stain Remover and the Outdoor Professional Stain Remover.

I love all of the OxiClean products and have had great success using them on new and old stains alike. The price is a bit more than some of the other stain removers on the market, but I don't have to use as much of the product to accomplish the tasks for cleaning items. I was most impressed with their Baby Stain Remover that they offer. I love to keep a bottle of this handy near our hampers so that I can spray items before they are thrown into the hamper for wash day. I also love to keep the small pocket-sized removers with my bibs and other feeding items for my daughter, so when a stain arises, I can get right to it and not waste any time letting the stain set in.

The only drawback I have found with the baby stain remover and laundry stain remover products is the trigger that is on these bottles. I love a spray that uses more of a spritzer action, rather than the soaker action that is on these bottles. It would be nice if you had the choice between a straight spray and a spritz.

These stain removers are great, but they are much more powerful than many of the traditional stain removers on the market. Make sure you read the directions carefully, to preserve the beauty of your clothing and the color in your items.

Many thanks to the OxiClean Family for sharing their products with me and giving us the opportunity to share our experience with our readers!

Sound Off: While we are on the subject of stain removers, what is your favorite stain removing product? Do you have your own secret formula for removing stains?

Related Readings:

How to Construct an Airing Rack


Should You Buy Brand Name Detergent?


The World's Greatest Stain Remover


Demystifying the Great Laundry Detergent Dilemma

Washing Your Child's Lovie

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Thrifty Treasures: Bread Slicer

I have been looking for a good bread slicer since I started using my bread machine more regularly. I thought it would be nice to be able to make clean & crisp slices of bread, instead of my uneven pieces that I was cutting freehand. I wanted slices that were even, particularly for the sandwiches we were eating out of the loaves.

Lucky for me, someone donated their bread slicer and I was able to snatch it up for $2.50. It was priced at $5.00, but thanks to our local Goodwill Booster Club program, I was able to use my fifty percent off coupon for their member rewards weekend. This is a really great model because it folds down completely flat for easy storage. With kitchen space at a premium in our house, I look for items that can be stored easily while using a minimal amount of space.

If you happen to live in Michiana, you can sign up for their Goodwill Booster Club program for $5 for an entire year. Now through Sunday, they will give you a fifty percent off coupon that day (off of your total order) and then you will get a coupon for each month for an entire year for that $5 investment. Each year the coupons have changed so I am not sure what this round of coupons offers, but no matter what you will definitely get your five dollar investment back (and then some!) I have done the program for three years now and it has saved our family a lot of money.

Does anyone else use one of these types of bread slicers? What do you think?

Related Readings:

Getting to Know the Bread Machine

Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients

Frugal Momma's Test Kitchen: Homemade Croutons

Dinner is in the Bag

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Freebie Friday: July 13, 2007


I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and can enjoy all the freebie goodness today! Here is my Friday Fun question...

What is one thing you want to learn how to do that you think would really benefit your family?

Health & Beauty:

Complete the form to receive a trial size of Head & Shoulders shampoo.

Sign up for a free sample of Eucerin Daily Replenishing Lotion.

Sign up to receive an exclusive Sleeveless Ready Kit, which includes Dove Ultimate Clear, a sleeveless shirt and more! When you receive the kit, take the Dove Ultimate Clear 5-Day Challenge and see how your underarms can become softer and smoother in just five days, giving you the confidence to wear whatever you want, whenever you want.

Now every Always pad has an improved adhesive for protection that hangs on better than ever before. Sign up now to get free samples from Always. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Try a few of the many Metamucil® varieties with our Fiber Sample Kit, which contains a sample of Wafers, Powder, and Capsules Plus Calcium.

Food:

Be a part of the JUST ONE MORE™ pledge today. You'll receive the starter kit (one per household, while supplies last) with all the tools you need to follow through with your pledge. The kit includes a free pedometer and valuable coupons.

Home & Garden:

Discover all® Free Clear today. We are offering the first 1,000 BabyCenter® moms who register a coupon for one FREE 32oz. bottle of all® Free Clear!

Sign up for a free sample of Folgers Gourmet Coffee. (Note: This offer has been posted before. I thought I would repost it, in case anyone missed it before!)

If today is your birthday (July 13th), you are in luck! Krispy Kreme is offering a free dozen donuts to anyone who can prove that they are celebrating today. It is Krispy Kreme's birthday so they are doing this promotion. Enjoy!

Entertainment:

To get your complimentary one-year subscription to Popular Photography & Imaging, simply complete the survey. You can answer, "No, thank you!" to all of the offers.

Select cities are offering a free screening of the movie "Hairspray," on July 16 (Monday). Check to see if you can take advantage of this free offer.

Do your kids dream of being an idol? Do they sing, dance, or otherwise belong in the spotlight? Here's their chance. This summer, KIDZ BOP® is looking for the next big thing, and it very well might be your son or daughter. The best-selling children's music series in the country will hold an online nationwide talent search to find new kid stars, and best of all, the casting call is in your home.

If selected as a host, you'll...

The National Scenic Byways Program is happy to provide its America's Byways® map free to the public. We regret, however, that we can only supply maps to North American addresses (specifically, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.)

CALLING ALL KIDS AGES 5 - 12! Receive a FREE Sample with Genuine K'NEX Bricks. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Limited to one per household while supplies last. Send us the name of the last brick building set you received, including sets from LEGO ®,MEGA BLOKS ® or any other brick building system, and we'll send you a free K'NEX sample with Genuine K'NEX Bricks. Note: A confirmation email will be sent to the supplied email address. You will need to confirm this before the freebie can be processed.

Get a complimentary one-year subscription to PC Magazine.

Sign up for 50 free issues of Sporting News Magazine.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 07.12.07

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!


Clean Eyeglasses

A lot of us wear eye glasses and know the little nose piece that is cushioned can get awful dirty and stained. Just put them in a tall glass at night when you go to bed with a few drops of liquid soap (I use Dawn). Rinse them the next morning, and they will be squeaky clean. If really dirty, it may take several soakings to get it all off.
Janice H. in Somerset, KY


Less Air to Lose

Opening and closing a refrigerator wastes a lot of cold air. Keep the refrigerator full to minimize air loss when opening it. Or, if your refrigerator isn't full, fill it with empty bottles to minimize air loss.
DM


Harvest Again and Again

When you harvest leaf lettuce, leave the bottom two inches of each plant, cutting off the top leafy part. If you water, you will get another crop of lettuce. You can do this over and over and have a constant supply of lettuce as long as you keep the plants watered. You can grow basil and mint and harvest part of the leaves and more will grow back as well. The same is true with rhubarb, which isn't just a spring crop if you keep it well watered and fed.
Karen K.


Mini-Blind Care

If your vinyl mini blinds are just dusty, take an unused dryer sheet and rub over the mini-blind. The dust just falls to the floor in clumps and can be vacuumed up. If the blinds are dirty, take outside on a day that isn't too windy. Place top of mini-blind over nails nailed into wide tree or fence. Spray blind with "Scrubbing Bubbles" bathroom cleaner. The dirt starts to foam up immediately. Let sit for a few minutes and hose off with water, no scrubbing required.
PJC


Trendy!

A great way to save money on costume jewelry that has become tarnished, instead of throwing it away spray paint it. A lot of the new costume jewelry is red, blue, black, white etc. This works great on hoops etc. A quick coating of paint and you have a new pair of fashionable earrings.
Angie M.


Blowing Bugs Away

I have small grandchildren and we enjoy sitting outside on the porch. I had been using tiki torches and various citronella candles to shoo away the mosquitoes, I always worried about the kids burning themselves or knocking them over. (The kids are drawn to the flames like moths.) I found that putting a portable fan and allowing it to oscillate keeps the mosquitoes away. They can't land! It also provides a refreshing breeze.
Linda C.


Smoke-Free Rental Cars

My husband and I were on vacation. Since most rental places do not rent smoke-free cars, we had to come up with something fast to get the cigarette smoke out of the car. We went to the grocery store and bought a potato, sliced it in half, and put one half in the front seat and one half in the back seat. The next day the smoke smell was virtually gone.
Theresa in NE


Cheaper Bath Salts

I love Dead Sea bath salts, but they can be very expensive, often $15 or more for a pound. However, craft stores sell a kit for making scented and colored bath salt gifts. You don't even need to buy the kit; the stores sell refills, and you can get a two-pound jar of Dead Sea salts for around $7. The craft stores usually include in their weekly ad a coupon for 40% off any item not on sale, which reduces the price even more.

I don't mind the plain salts, but you can also buy small bottles of fragrance or color. It just takes a couple of drops to customize your salts. For a quick gift, the same stores sell small decorative jars. Fill them with bath salts, add color or fragrance if you like, and tie with a pretty ribbon. If you don't need the minerals for which Dead Sea salts are famous, you can do the same thing with Epsom salts. This is a nice soak for tired or sore muscles, and it's available at drug stores for even less money.
Melissa D.


Going Buggy

My three-year-old son loves bugs. Me, too! So we were checking out some bug collecting supplies, but everything was quite expensive. I checked out my local dollar store and found a very large light plastic jug, perfectly clear, with a lid that had a handle. After putting a few small holes in the top, we had a butterfly house. It also works for other creatures; I currently have two slugs in it, munching on carrots.

For smaller catchers, those little tiny Ziploc containers work great. They're clear enough to see the bug. Plus check out the school supply section for magnifying glasses. I did spring for a net, though. I spent a whole $1.99. Everything was so cheap that I made two sets, one for here and one for Grandma's house. As an added bonus, everything, except the net, can be stored in the big jug! Please note that these supplies are more for catch, observe and release, not for permanent collections.
M.A.


From 30 to 15

My husband and I refinanced our mortgage a few years back. Not only did we get a great interest rate, but we refinanced from a 30 year to a 15 year loan. We will have our home paid for by the time we are 53. We will save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. We refinanced on one income. The monthly payments are still reasonable. I didn't think we could swing a 15 year loan nor did I think it would make a big difference in the long run. Was I ever wrong! Best decision we've made in a long time.
A.

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Bitten: A Cheap Mom's Dream

Unfortunately, Sarah Jessica Parker and her PR crew have not emailed me yet, but I am doing a free plug for this awesome clothing line.

I had mentioned that I was excited to actually see the new Bitten line from Sarah Jessica Parker (carried at Steve & Barry's). I had been meaning to head over there, but it is on the other side of town and life had gotten in the way.

Fast forward to my last mom's group meeting, when one of the gal's walks in looking like a true fashionista with the cutest shoes, jean capris and a cute tank. I told her how cute she looked and she says two words, that makes me head on the other side of town the very next day: Cheap & Bitten.

I headed there and got myself some of the cutest clothes. I got four shirts, a pair of ballet flats, and a pair of jeans for a little less than sixty bucks. While it is more than I typically spend over at my local Goodwill, the pieces could be used with the things I already had in my closet and I had gotten some money from a recent sale of my hair bows.

Here are the positives AND the negatives of this line of clothes. Note: Keep in mind that I am not all that fashionable. I am just a mom who likes to look a little bit current, but am also very traditional in my style choices:

Positives:

- It is cheap as heck! The clothing is cheaper than Old Navy and even cheaper than H&M (which we don't have in our area, but I have shopped the Ft Wayne, IN location). The shoe prices rival Payless Shoes too!

- They carry a broad range of sizes, all the way up to size 22. More importantly, they carry jeans for the petite girl. I have a long torso and really short legs. It is nearly impossible for me to get a pair of pants that do not require altering. They did carry the shorter lengths though and they also carried long lengths for you leggy gals (whom I secretly envy!)

- The store was clean and nice in our area. I am sure they maintain the same type of store all over, but I was actually really impressed with the style of the store and the staff at our location. It reminded me a lot of The Gap (but more affordable).

Negatives:

- I did not realize until I got the jeans home, and bought the size that fit justright (and I know you know what I am talking about when I say justright) and discovered that the jeans were made from 98% cotton. That was a big bummer, as I realized that I will have to care very well for these or have to forfeit them to the thrift store.

- The clothes are made about as good as any other deep discount line. I saw some strings coming loose on the sides of the seam of the jeans. The shirts seem to be better made than the pair of jeans I purchased, but you can tell that you are getting what you pay for. I have high hopes that these will last me until the clothing is no longer trendy, and I would feel comfortable donating them if I got a year or two out of them, due to the low cost of the clothing line.

There you have it! Hope this helps in making another fashion decision!

Sound Off: What brands are you willing to splurge for? If someone gave you a huge gift card (with no strings attached, of course!) what store would you pick?

Related Readings:

The Fashion Savvy Shopper
How to Be a Budget Fashionista
Me Time

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Teaching My Kid to Say Thank You

I decided to do some different types of thank you cards this year. I ran across a cute Martha Stewart stamp set with numbers on it, from the Michael's Craft Store. The set included two sets of ten numbers (0-9) in two different styles for $14.99 for all of the stamps total. I figured I could use these in the future for each of the kid's thank you notes and could also use them as invitations for our parties.

The blank note cards were on sale for $1.50 and included twenty cards. Each of the cards were stamped with the number "5" on it and we wrote out a note of thankfulness for the great birthday gifts he received.

It is important to me to teach my children to be thankful for what they receive. I believe it is the key to getting a lot of what you want in life. People take notice when you are grateful and will want to do more for you because they know how much you appreciate things. For me to just write a thank you note on his behalf, however, doesn't involve him in learning gratitude. I want him to participate in helping with these, even if he can't write yet.

Next to each of my notes, he drew a picture to help with the card. Of course, what he says the pictures are often become more funny than the picture itself. I ask him to explain what each picture is and write a subtitle. For this set of cards, here were some of his subtitled responses:

Picture of a Door: "You Can Always Come to Our House" (This sounded like he could write for Hallmark, don't you think?)

Picture ?: Ethan begins laughing, "We don't know what this is. It is a very strange thing."

Picture of a Mommy with a giant dress:
Ethan: "This is mommy when you have a baby inside you."
Me: (About to PASS OUT!) "But I don't have a baby inside me."
Ethan: "Yes, you do!"
Me: (Getting agitated) "No, I DON'T"
Ethan: "Yes, when you had EMILY inside of you. That is what I am talking about."

Isn't it fun what our children can come up with?

Sound Off: How do you teach your children gratitude?

Related Readings:

Why Being Thankful is So Important
Raising Creative Kids
Raising Financially Responsible Teens
I Heart You!
What is This Secret?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Celebrating With Cheap Class


Can cheap and classy go hand in hand? Maybe I am wrong, but I believe these two can be intertwined, as long as you can try to not look TOO cheap in front of your friends and family.

Ethan celebrated his 5th birthday and had a wonderful birthday party to remember. We picked the Fourth of July for celebrating because we figured the majority of the family could come since it is a holiday. We offered to host a cook out and everyone offered to bring a dish and their gifts for the birthday boy.

I decided to make this delicious birthday cake out of ingredients purchased at Aldi. The results were fantastic! This tasted close to a DQ ice cream cake, but without the make-your-teeth-hurt sweetness from that frosting. I would recommend this cake to any mom whose child doesn't like real cake (my sister was one of those children) or as a fun summer party treat. We decorated it with little cars on top from the movie, "Cars."

Price Breakdown:


1.5 packages of frozen burger patties- $4.99 each or $7.48 total
2 packages of beef hot dogs- $1.99 each or $3.98 total
4 packages of buns (hot dog and hamburger) $.65 each or $2.60 total
2 packages of ice cream sandwiches $1.69 each or $3.38 total
2 containers of whipped topping $.99 each or $1.98 total
1 package of cookies for crumbling $.99
2 bags of chips $.99 each or $1.98 total
Homemade Pasta Salad $3.50
Birthday Banner $3.99

Total Spent: $29.88

19 Guests= $1.57 per guest


Things that we omitted this time:


Friends- If we had a small family, I would feel really inclined to do friends at the party, but our family is big and just a family party for me can feel a bit overwhelming. We are doing little play dates with friends this week and maybe we can polish off the rest of the cake as a small celebration of his birth. My nephew & Ethan are just nine months apart though and are the best of buddies so he still felt like he had a friend there to celebrate. Of course, he was the center of attention and who could possibly love or appreciate you more than your family? No one!

Party Favors- I have never been a big fan of these, personally, and so I avoided this cash trap this time. It helped that we didn't have friends coming and the kids had the best time playing with all of his new things that I felt like the party favors would have been lost in the fun anyway.

Paper Products- With the exception of the infamous birthday banner, I didn't do paper products this time (other than paper napkins that I keep for such occasions). I did do two loads of dishes, but everyone pitched in with clean-up so it wasn't a big deal at all.

The "Only Me Mentality"- I was thinking that I wanted to ask people to bring a dish since it was a cookout, but then thought that might give the impression that I am cheaper than my usual cheap self. Instead, when I called to share that we were having a get together, everyone asked what they could bring to the party. Usually, I would say to just bring themselves, but everyone seemed insistent that they did want to do something to help. And you know what? I pushed my pride aside and let them. Everyone had such yummy dishes and they were happy to share. And that made me happy to not have more dishes to have to cook. It helped that it was the Fourth of July and we would have probably done a family cookout together anyway. Combining the two events helped me feel a little less cheap.

I know many people forgo the dinner/lunch portion of the party, but we live a bit of a distance for our family to have to travel just for cake. I love to sit and visit and share food with everyone so while this could have been more affordable, I still feel like we did really well for the money and we hope Ethan will have many happy memories of his special day!

Sound Off: Can cheap & classy go together? How do you save money when it comes time to celebrate?

Related Readings:

Kid's Party Etiquette for Parents
Ten Easy Steps to Great Kid's Party Pictures
Find an Activity
Birthday Party Ideas
McDonald's Birthday Parties
Simplifying Gift Giving

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Life's Little Miracles


My garden grew something! If you know me, you know what a miracle it truly is! Here are some of my cherry tomatoes I picked for my salad yesterday.

Related Readings:

Overcoming My Fears: Gardening
Gardening Update & Fun Summer Reads
Still Alive

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Product Review: Munchkin Fun

The Munchkin company sent me a package of some of their products to try for review. All I can say is, "WOW!" They offer some really great products and I find them to be very affordable. Included within the box were the following products:

TravelWare Re-usables-Munchkin’s re-usable cups, bowls, spoons, and meal time sets have stepped it up a notch with improved Dora Diego and SpongeBob graphics that will fascinate your child and encourage them to play favorites. Ideal for meals on-the-go, they are durable enough to wash and re-use, yet affordable enough to lose. Bowls include snap-tight lids to prevent spills and cups are perfect for home-made juices.

Snack Catcher Available in four bright colors, the new and award-winning Snack Catcher cup keeps bite-sized snacks inside the container until little fingers pull them out, even if it tips over so less spills in the car or plan! The soft flaps make it easy to access and the little finger cleaning bumps are a special plus for keeping nearby surfaces cleaner. This is one snack holder that will catch mom’s attention and keep messes to a minimum while traveling.

Bling Pacifiers- Your baby’s eyes will sparkle at the sight of glittering BLING™ pacifiers. Besides looking cool, they feature a silicone orthodontic nipple and breathable shield that reduces skin irritation. These sparkly, fun pacifiers are oh-so-fitting for your little prince or princess! Check out all the available styles!

iCrib Sound System- A 2006 JPMA Innovation Award Winner! The iCrib™ is a compact crib sound system that lets you choose the music that soothes your baby to sleep - because some kids are a little bit country, and others a little bit of rock 'n roll.

Of all of the products, I loved the iCrib Sound System and the Snack Catcher the most! All of the products were really neat, but the snack catcher was a great item that we use a lot with my daughter. The snack catcher is the perfect size for little hands and gives her the opportunity to have snacks, just like her brother, somewhere other than the table. We take this with us a lot of places because of the convenience of the size and how much our daughter likes it.

The iCrib Sound System is very cool for the hip parents. You can download lullabies onto your iPod and it attaches via a small cord inside to make a small baby sound system that can be attached to your baby's crib. The Munchkin website also offers Baby Mozart downloads to get your collection started.

We want to thank the Munchkin company for giving us the opportunity to try the products and hope that you have the opportunity to check them out at your local stores! They are neat and innovative products for parents today!

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Washing Your Child's Lovies

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

(The Velveteen Rabbit)



Do you see anything strange hanging on our line? Emily's rabbit makes an appearance there quite regularly, and it always cracks me up to see him pinned and waving in the breeze by his ears. There is just something so comical about that.

Since Emily was three weeks old, she has been in love with bunnies. Before she was born, my grandmother and I were antique shopping and ran across a cute little gift shop. Inside the gift shop was a bunny that I pointed out to her and said how perfect it would be for a little one to carry around since it was smaller than a blanket. She ended up buying one for Emily and she absolutely loved it. A girlfriend also happened to send a very similar bunny to us as a baby gift for Emily. She always had one of these little guys tucked under her arm since she was really small and now we can't go anywhere without them. Her rabbits remind me of my favorite story growing up, "The Velveteen Rabbit." I was never attached to anything in this way, but I always wished I loved something like that.

Emily's bunny collection has grown and now we have four bunnies in tote with us on any given day. She likes to chew on their ears and drag them around on dirty floors. With all the love they receive, they need frequent baths.

Here are some tips for cleaning your child's stuffed animals:

- For smaller toys, like beanie babies, you can actually throw them in your dishwasher. My girlfriend's daughter loves to tote these around and she just puts them in the dishwasher on the top rack. The chemicals that help whiten the dishes, will also help whiten the stuffed animal. Allow the stuffed animal to air dry. Other smaller toys, that your child puts in their mouth, can also be thrown in the dishwasher for a quick and easy way to keep them clean.

- For larger stuffed toys or ones that have been loved a bit too much and could fall apart in the washer, you can stick the stuffed animal in a paper bag with a little baking soda. Shut the top of the bag and shake the bag until the animal is coated in the baking soda. Let the animal sit in the bag for about a half hour and then take him out and give him a quick swipe with a towel, to get any lingering baking soda residue off. He should smell nice and fresh.

- In most cases, you can throw the stuffed animal in a pillowcase and run the delicate cycle in your washer. Before you throw the animal in, make sure that all of the stuffing is sealed in and all body parts are attached. Perform any emergency surgeries before the washing, and then run the cycle. Avoid the dryer, if at all possible, and allow the animal to air dry. In our situation, we have a back-up that we can use, but if you don't the waiting-to-dry process can seem like days. If you have a clothesline, you can hang the animal out there and let the sun dry the animal. Trust me, it is a lot quicker and time is of the essence when it comes to your child's most loved items!

- If you have animals that are collecting dust (this is most likely not the case when it comes to the lovies), you can use your vacuum hose and suck the dust off of the animal.


Sound Off: Does your child have an animal that they carry around with them? How do you care for your animals and how do you distract your child while they are being cared for?

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Free Hanes Underwear

Thanks to Meredith over at Like Merchant Ships for the tip! Wal-Mart is offering a free pair of Hanes underwear on their website. Be sure that your computer does not block pop-ups because the form comes through as a pop-up. Please allow up to four weeks for the delivery of this freebie and limit one pair of undies per household.

Ladies, for your husband's sake, please don't pick the Granny Panties version. Go for something cute! They are free so a walk on the wild side will be appreciated and inexpensive!

I figured this freebie would be gone by next Friday! Enjoy!

Sound Off: What is your idea of a perfect date night with your husband? How do you guys keep things fresh when you have been married for years and years?

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Taking a Look at Our Electrical History


The comment thread on electric bills has sparked a question. How much is my average electrical bill in the summer and just how much did my frugal endeavors help us decrease our bill? I took a look at our 36 month history and this is the actual breakdown for how much electricity we used.

6/27/2007 978 $72.46
5/29/2007 888 $66.90
4/27/2007 804 $61.86
3/29/2007 1043 $76.66
2/27/2007 1051 $77.16
1/30/2007 1248 $89.11
12/27/2006 1252 $88.87
11/21/2006 837 $63.42
10/24/2006 839 $63.56
9/27/2006 1198 $85.55
8/25/2006 1282 $90.71
7/26/2006 1043 $76.06
6/28/2006 885 $66.37
5/30/2006 894 $66.93
4/27/2006 681 $53.91
3/28/2006 841 $64.06
2/27/2006 798 $61.40
1/27/2006 824 $62.93
12/28/2005 740 $57.46
11/28/2005 864 $65.06
10/24/2005 700 $55.00
9/28/2005 1240 $87.64
8/26/2005 1292 $90.80
7/28/2005 1415 $98.37
6/27/2005 1112 $79.89
5/31/2005 728 $56.49
4/27/2005 707 $55.17
3/29/2005 755 $57.55
2/28/2005 745 $56.94
1/27/2005 1004 $72.58
12/28/2004 1116 $79.34
11/23/2004 809 $60.84
10/25/2004 765 $58.18
9/28/2004 1239 $86.74
8/26/2004 950 $69.33
7/29/2004 1247 $87.35

You can see how much our electric bill has gone up and down these past three years. I can't really put my finger on one single thing that we did to help our decreases, but I believe a number of things we did have helped contribute towards our lowered electric bills.

1. We got a new air conditioner. When we bought this house, it had a beast of an air conditioner. The air conditioner was the original to the house and our house was built in 1967. The energy it took to run it cost us extra money. The new air conditioner is much more energy efficient so it has helped our electric bills greatly.

2. We got a programmable thermostat. Unfortunately, I am home almost all of the time so there are no real set days where no one is around. It does help to program times in when we really need the cool air (when we are up and around in the house) and to be able to turn it off or down (when we are sleeping).

3. We do not use the dryer in the summer. This is a new rule this summer, but it is working well so far. It isn't just to help with the electric bill though. It is also a secret getaway for me. I can go outside and away from everyone with an excuse that I *have* to do everyone's laundry. No one can argue with that and it has become a great place to brainstorm new ideas for our site.

4. We open our windows when we can. We actually found screens to all of the windows in our shed, that we didn't even know we had! We put all of our screens in and have been opening more windows to allow that cool night air in. I am not fond of our loud birds in the morning, but it is worth it to keep our bills down.

5. We are gradually making the transition toward the CFL bulbs. I have been researching prices on these and have found the best deal at our warehouse store. If you don't have a warehouse store, look for the larger packages, as they tend to offer more savings, versus the single bulbs. When a light bulb needs replacing, we have been replacing them with the new CFL bulbs instead.

One of our contributors towards our bills being higher has definitely been the impact of the rising gas costs. If you take a look at the majority of bills now, compared to the years past, you will see a jump in your fuel surcharge. It costs the companies more to provide these services, and that has translated into higher gas prices. This, lucky for me, translates into higher bills.

As you can see, I am an open book when it comes to my bills. I think it helps me to reflect more on ways that I can improve this category and it also helps hold me accountable towards making these bills lower.

Have you ever taken a look at your electrical history? It is a fun way to see how you can make a positive impact towards lowering your bills.

Related Readings:

Saving on Utilities
The Benefits of Line Drying Your Clothes
Winterizing Your Home
How to Construct an Airing Rack

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Freebie Friday: July 6, 2007


First, I just want to welcome any new South Bend Tribune readers. Our website was featured today and you can read the article here. Many thanks to Kim Kilbride for sharing our site with the community.

Thanks to everyone who answered the electric bill question last week. It was so cool to see how awesome everyone is doing with their electric and to get some tips for keeping the bills down.

Today's question is, "What is the one area in your budget that you really need to work on?" We all have a problem area in our budgets and it will help me to know what people need help with! As always, you can leave comments anonymously, so it is safe to share on our blog.

Here's your weekly dose of freebies!

Health & Beauty:

Get a free sample of Stayfree Dry Max. Offer good only while supplies last!

Sign up for a free sample of Dove Cool Moisture shampoo. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one sample per household.

Try a free sample of John Frieda Frizz Ease. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one sample per household.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Ultraswim shampoo. You will have to fill out a short survey for this freebie.

Food

This is a free with purchase deal, but you can print out a coupon for a free appetizer at TGI Fridays with a minimum of a $15 food purchase.

Please take this brief survey. Your input will help us serve you better in the future. As a thank-you, you’ll receive a FREE copy of the American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook. This 375-page book provides more than 200 delicious recipes that also happen to promote lower cholesterol. In order to receive your free cookbook, please answer all 5 of the questions below.

Sign-up to run with the CLIF BAR Pace Team and we'll send you a free CLIF BAR Training Kit, which includes free samples of our products and some handy dandy training tips. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

Entertainment

Do you think Michigan is amazing? Better yet, do you have a story that tells us why you think so? We're looking for posts that fit one of the five blog categories (people, places, events, organizations, things) that explain why Michigan is such an amazing place to be. Our staff will pick the most amazing stories submitted and post them on the blog. If we pick your story, you'll receive a free t-shirt! But even if we don't, we'll still send you a small gift for sharing your story with us. At the end of every month, five published stories will be chosen to contend for the "most amazing find" of that month, and then be voted on by our readers. The winner of that vote will receive an amazing Michigan-themed gift basket loaded with a variety of prizes and goodies. Stories should be no longer than 300 words and may include a photo.

Home & Garden

Feeling overworked or overwhelmed? Life getting you down? It's time to turn the tide and look on the bright side. Gather your friends together, celebrate your commitment to each other, and learn to reinvent yourselves by hosting a Kitchen Table Group House Party. By hosting a party, you'll receive a copy of the uplifting and inspirational new book, "This is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down" by Deborah Collins Stephens, Jackie Speier, Michealene Cristini Risley, and Jan Yanehiro. The four women wrote the book after realizing just how cathartic it was to share their life experiences with one another. In addition to a free copy of the book, your guests will be eligible for special discounted offers, and a special guide for starting their own Kitchen Table Friends group. Participants will also be eligible to enter the national Reinvent Your Life Contest, with the grand prize being an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco, lunch with the book's publisher, a VIP Pass to the annual Professional Business Women of California Conference, a complete cosmetic and wardrobe makeover, and a silver necklace and bracelet autographed by the authors. Leave your email address to apply for this freebie. You will be notified if your application is accepted!

Another house party opportunity. On October 6th, gather your guests for a celebration of food, friendship, and national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Host a Pink Plaid House Party, and you'll get a FREE copy of the new Better Homes and Gardens Pink Plaid Cookbook: Celebrating the Promise. Partygoers will share recipes, party tips, information on breast cancer, and ways to support the cause. You and your guests will also receive special gifts and offers from Better Homes and Gardens' sponsors.

Don't have a Sam's Club membership? Use this free printable pass to make your purchases. Note: there is a 10% charge added since you are not a member.

Get a free sample of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one sample per household.

Pet Needs

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Whiskas Purrfectly Fish cat food. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one sample per household.

Request a free sample of Sheba Premium Cuts cat food.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Amy's Notebook 07.05.07

Here are my favorite reads for the week:
Wise Bread shares how wine can actually give your car's battery a boost. There is also a great post on some edible flowers that I didn't realize were even edible. They might be lurking in your garden this year!

Notes from a Cottage Industry has a napkin fold throw down.

WorkShak points out a tool that you can use to get your life more organized. For the frugal souls, we could probably take the categories offered and come up with a book of our own.

Stop the Ride! hosts a great Make it From Scratch carnival this week- check it out!

Baby Cheapskate points out how you can score some free Playtex Nurser bottles.

TipNut shares how you can make a paper bag scrapbook.

Disorder2Order offers tips for organizing your pantry.

These mug and french press jackets are adorable. I wish I was more crafty!

ParentHacks has a great idea for those old telephone books laying around the house.

DIY Maven shares how you can score some cheap eco-friendly shopping bags.


Mommysecrets has a cute tip for sharing a pizza with your family. I am going to have to try this one!

The Frugal Duchess shares some cheap tips for decorating your guest room.
Goodyblog shares a source for making cute puppets with the kids.
Apartment Therapy has a cute project for all of those wine corks you have been throwing out.

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The Dollar Stretcher Tips 07.05.07

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Coupon Savings...Not!

I learned my lesson yesterday about coupons. I had $5 to $6 worth of coupons to use at Wal-Mart, and when I got home, I looked at the receipt and realized the cashier never entered my coupons so I was out the money and the coupons! It would have cost me more in gas to drive back to the store to complain than the coupons were worth. Now I will not only pay attention to the change I receive from cashiers, but I will also make sure they enter the coupons I give them. No more feeling rushed through the line for me.
Shannon in PA


Roll-Over?

Please tell your readers to make sure to find out if their HSA plan will rollover from year to year. Mine does not, and the monies saved must be used by March of the following year or are forfeited. It's still a useful plan for covering deductibles, but be careful or you can lose money.
Cresanna


It's Nice to Be Wanted

Keep your eyes peeled for weekly flyers from pharmacy/grocery stores with pharmacies inside. Many of them are competing for your prescription business and will have promotions for a free gift card with a transferred or new prescription.

I frequently transfer my prescription back and forth, pay my prescription cost of $5, and end up with a gift card for free groceries or items at Walgreens or CVS in the amount of usually $25-$30! I've probably amassed close to $300 in free groceries/merchandise this way and always feel great about the savings.
Christina B.


Freezer Find-It

I stockpile meat when it is on sale. I could never find anything in my upright freezer, so I bought four plastic bins (we used to call them dishpans) at Wal-Mart and labeled each one with a different name: beef, pork, poultry, and vegetables. We put each on a different shelf in the freezer and divided the items into the appropriate bin. Half of the shelf is still available for larger items, such as turkeys or a large roast. Wire bins would be better, but I could not find them at the time. I have one that I got at garage sale. I use it for miscellaneous items, so I can see what is in it at a glance.

I also date everything that I put in my freezer. When I buy new items, I move the older dates to the top. Because I buy meat only on sale, I am often able to share what I have in my freezer with my grown children.
Sharon C.


Can Opener Maintenance

Manual can openers always seem to get balky over time. When mine no longer operates smoothly, I spritz the gear area with flavor-free cooking spray before each use. The "lubrication" makes turning the handle much easier, and the cooking spray is safe to use. I always make sure to wash the can opener thoroughly afterwards.
Lynn in Dallas


Volunteer Savings

I have just found a dynamite way to save money. Volunteer in a thrift store. The one I work in is "manned" mostly by women except for one man who comes in on the weekend to check out the electrical donations and make small repairs. We have some folks who work two four-hour shifts per week and are on call for emergencies. We also have some that only work a few hours occasionally. But we all get the 10% discount and sometimes 50%. The problem I have now is that I am spending too much money! Of course, I'm very well dressed, have a couple of pieces of jewelry I have longed for, and have canes and a walker for bad days. All bought at extremely low prices.
Judith D.


"Upscale" Garage Sales

Don't forget to visit yard sales in upscale neighborhoods. I recently came across one in my area that offered several new unopened lotion gift baskets, similar to the ones that retail for $20-$30 at those body lotion stores at the mall. They were marked for $5 each, so I bought all that the woman had for sale. The next time an unexpected emergency present was needed, there was no need to shop out of desperation, which often results in a more expensive gift.
Cindy


The Bathroom Bag

Bathroom space at a premium? Place each family member's personal grooming items into a small drawstring bag or, for the children, a sand-pail. Keep each person's items in their own bedroom; they can carry their bag or pail to the bathroom and then back to their bedroom when finished in the bathroom. It cuts down on the space that is needed in the bathroom and frees up space for the towels, tissues, etc.
WC


Website Patience

A lot of company websites have a sale of the day or web only sales. If there is something you see that you like in a catalog, check out their website. If you are willing to be patient, you will often be able to get it at a greatly reduced price. I got a pair of Ugg slippers for $35. They are usually $70.
Mary Z. in Woods Hole, MA


In an Emergency...

I have a terrible time remembering the names and dosage of the medications I take. In the event of an emergency, I would not be able to notify medical personnel of my medications. I've found that the pharmacy prints extra labels with the name and dosage of each medication along with my physician's name, address and phone number. I place these stickers (about the size of a return address label) on a card in my wallet. If there are any dosage changes, I just place the new sticker over the old. This helps me keep track of all my medications.
Mary in St. Joseph, MO

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happa What?

I was so excited to finally get a chance to head over to Michael's and check out the new Martha Stewart line that they are carrying. All of the trademark colors and quality crafts were there. The price was better than some of her other lines, but a bit steep compared to some of the other items that the store offers.

We are combining a Fourth of July family get together with my son's fifth birthday. It was an easy way to still get together for the holiday and also enjoy a birthday party with our family. I hunted through the birthday goodies at Michael's and found this beautiful birthday garland and some fun puppet crafts (no glue required!) for my nephew and son to do.

When I brought up our purchases to the cashier, I asked that the coupon be applied to a Martha Stewart rubber stamp set that I wanted to use for my thank you notes & invitations. The girl informed me that the store is not allowed to use the store coupons on the Martha Stewart line. She said that Martha had made a stipulation that she would carry the line on the condition that none of the items go on sale and none of the store coupons could be applied to the purchase. Then, muttered quietly under her breath, "She is SO greedy!" Disappointment set in, as I had many things from the line that I had planned to purchase utilizing the coupon. The quality on these items was there...or so I thought!

This morning, I was bustling around trying to get ready for our big event, I went to put the birthday garland together. The ribbon to the garland was already frayed and falling apart and the garland didn't even have the right letters in it.

Would a five year old notice that his big banner said, "HAPPA BIRTHDAY" or would he be content with how it looked? Considering the purchase was made to be used more than once, I marched back in there and showed the girl what had happened. She told me that I could replace it and as I was walking away, I heard her say, "This is from the MARTHA line! I guess even she makes mistakes!"

I doubt I will buy anything else from the line, if this is a taste of the quality and craftsmanship that will be going into these pieces.

Regardless, HAPPA BIRTHDAY, Ethan! You are loved more than words and we hope to make your day extra special!

And for the rest of you have a HAPPA FOURTH!

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Beth & Jim's Story: How My Mammogram Saved My Husband's Life


I have an important story to share with all of you that comes from one of my nearest and dearest friends. Dr. Beth has been a regular contributer to our website and has always offered her help and expertise towards my projects. She is a wonderful mother, wife, and an incredibly gifted woman. She is a constant and faithful friend who has a positive spirit about her that brings out the best in everyone around her. She was my first friend when I moved to Massachusetts and one of the people I was most sad to leave when we moved back home.

Beth's husband was diagnosed with breast cancer last October and it was a life-changing event for their family. Not only was this news disappointing, but more disappointing was the lack of awareness that men could even suffer from this type of cancer. Beth decided that she wanted to be proactive and educate people on this disease and how it impacts men too.

This story is in Beth's words and we thank her for sharing them!

How My Mammogram Saved My Husband’s Life
By Dr. Beth

Last October, on the day of my mammogram, I jokingly said to my husband, “Do you know what happens during a mammogram? They say, ‘Put your breast on this plate, Mrs. Conners.’ I put my hand at chest level. “And then they slam a plastic clamp down on top of it!” To my surprise, I felt a lump; but it wasn’t in my breast.

It was in his.

So began our odyssey into breast cancer, or male breast cancer, to be specific. We were lucky: my husband’s cancer was caught early and was very treatable. As I write this, he is through his radiation treatments and is thought to be cancer-free.

Many people told me that his cancer would make me “appreciate things in life” and that I would “learn what was important” from this. However, I already, every day, was thankful for our lives together. I already appreciated my wonderful husband, our two beautiful little children, and our happy lives together. I didn’t need cancer to make me slow down and take stock of what I had: I already was well aware.

But cancer did teach me some things:

* I learned that 1,700 men are diagnosed in the US with breast cancer each year, but that most of my friends hadn’t heard of it.

* I learned that approximately 1/3 of diagnosed men die because their cancer is caught too late.

* I learned that the preponderance of breast cancer resources have the word “women” in them and not “men” at all.

* I learned that cancer brings out the best in many of our friends and relatives, and the worst in others.

* I learned that I will never again feel completely safe and secure in our lives, and that life can be fragile.

* I learned that the very best advice was that given to us by my husband’s oncologist: ‘Go out and live!’

Breast cancer touched my family’s life this past year, and we are stronger for it. But we were lucky. If I hadn’t found the lump, if my husband had not gone to the doctor’s, if he hadn’t opted for the surgery he did, things could have been different. And they are different for hundreds of men each year – men who can’t believe that they can also get breast cancer.

I hope that our story can touch the life of someone’s brother, husband, grandfather, son, or friend to make a difference.

**We hope our readers find these pieces informative. If you would like to share your story with our readers, please email me at amy@momadvice.com. We would love to raise awareness about health issues and how they impact families.**

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Monday, July 02, 2007

New Article: Achieving Balance When Working From Home

Finally, a new article has been added to our Work section! Achieving Balance When Working From Home is up for your reading pleasure. This one has been added for all of our work-at-home moms who are struggling with figuring out how to balance work and family life. I am still trying to work on this myself so I hope to use some of these tips in our own home!

Sound Off: How do you create work and family balance when working from home? Do you have any special tricks or tips that are working in your house?

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Thrifty Treasures: Vera Bradley Purse

A long awaited purse...Vera Bradley. Every single time I see one of these, I want it. The patterns are so beautiful! Unfortunately, they cost a mint. I have been watching them on Ebay, but the prices were still a little too high for my taste.

Lucky for me, someone donated their purse to Goodwill and I was able to snatch it up for $8. It is about $6 more than I usually spend for a purse, but is definitely worth it! This one is such a pretty spring color.

My mother-in-law can make bags that look just like these, but has had a hard time finding the fabric. Anyone making bags like these that have a good resource for fabrics? I know she would appreciate the input!

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Still Alive


There is a miracle occurring in my garden. Nothing is dying! Everything is still growing! I actually am growing my own vegetables!

The fact that I haven't killed anything is still blowing my mind! My tomato plants, particularly my cherry tomatoes, are doing really great. I did stake them, but my stakes were not long enough. I should have caged them. I should have relocated them to a sunnier spot. These are all lessons that I am learning about gardening. It is definitely a trial and error type of hobby and I am confident that I can make my garden so much better next year.

I picked a spot in our lawn where no grass was going, for fear that I would dig into our grass and lose interest in the gardening or that my plants would die. Next year, I have a spot all picked out where I believe my plants will do better. It is not as conveniently close as the spot I picked this time, but I have a feeling that everything will thrive under all that sun.

My herbs are not flourishing, but a quick discussion with another newbie gardener lead us to the conclusion that my tomato plants are providing too much shade for the herbs and they need more sun. I am thinking of transplanting them to a sunnier location or just using containers and putting them out in the sunshine.

Regardless, I am really proud of myself and how well it is all turning out. I actually ate one of my cherry tomatoes off of the vine and declare them DELICIOUS!

Want an expert's opinion on getting things to grow in your yard? Gayla, over at You Grow Girl, is a wealth of knowledge! I loved her tip on using expired milk on those tomato plants. I recently met Gayla in person and she is really passionate about teaching people how to begin gardening. We went to dinner with a group of other bloggers and I probably was the worst person in the bunch to sit by because all I did was lean over and ask her dozens of gardening questions. Lucky for me, she LOVES to take about it so we got along great! Her website is a great resource for the novice and pro gardeners and she has a great forum where you can share & ask questions. Check it out!

Related Links:

Overcoming My Fears: Gardening
Gardening Update & Fun Summer Reads

Sound Off: What is happening in your yards this year? Oh, and it is COMPLETELY fine to say absolutely nothing! Nothing or dying is what is usually going on in our yard!

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