Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner: Side Dishes

I just wanted to take the time to share some make-ahead side dishes that you could bring or provide at your next Thanksgiving dinner. Don't forget to visit my make-ahead appetizers post to get ideas for getting your meal started off right (without the stress!)

These entries will be an ongoing series until Thanksgiving, and then these will be turned into an article for future reference. If you have ideas for dishes that you can make ahead for the holidays, please email me at amy@momadvice.com and I will include your recipes within the entries.

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Bread Stuffing

Creamy Corn Casserole


Boston Market Squash Casserole

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

Macaroni & Cheese

Cranberry Sauce (Make a few days ahead to allow flavors to merry)

Mashed Potatoes

Sound Off: What is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frugal Hacks: Movies On a Budget

Today on Frugal Hacks I share some different ways you can watch movies on a budget. I hope you can join me over there and read my post for the week!

We are always looking for new ways to watch movies inexpensively and recently I have become a big fan of just searching for movies using a search function that we have on our DVR. It has been so nice to find holiday movies on television and just tape them for our enjoyment over the weekend.

We also rent a lot of movies from our library because the price is just right for a family on a tight budget! Children's movies and nonfiction movies are free at our library and all other movies only cost us a quarter a day.

We also happen to live just a mile down the road from a second-run theater and I love to go see movies there. $1 admission can sometimes be even cheaper than renting them from the movie rental store and I get the movie-theater experience for the same price.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

More Difficult Than It Should Be

We had to bring a snack to the Halloween Party that we attended and I was so excited to make Scribbit's witch hats to bring with us. What an easy and fun idea...this SHOULD have been.

I didn't realize it, but after visiting three grocery stores, I was unable to find the chocolate cookies that I needed to complete the project.

I had to get a little more creative than usual so I used Christina's Chocolate Crinkles recipe and patted the cookies into a very flat shape. To insure that they stayed flat, I patted them when I removed them from the oven.

The shapes were still not even so I used my great-grandma's biscuit cutter (a favorite piece in my kitchen) to cut out perfect circles.

I found Hershey Kisses filled with caramel and used these to rest on top. A frosting bow did complete the look.

The kitchen was short of a disaster and this turned into a little more work than I had intended to put into the snack.

I must say that the results were great and I was proud of how they turned out. The cookies probably tasted better than the store-bought version and who couldn't appreciate how festive they looked?

Thanks to Michelle for the great treat idea!! I just thought I would share my substitute in case you have as much trouble as me finding these cookies!

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Fun & Frugal Adult Halloween Costume Idea

Sometimes the adults have to dress up for parties too and couple costumes can be so outrageous. While deals can be scored on costumes through eBay or by making your own, many costume sets can cost fifty dollars or more for one night of entertainment. That is where creativity and fun can come into play, as we got the chance to do this year.

Above is my husband's handsome milkman costume. (Note: I hope you can click on this picture to expand it to see things in more detail. The lighting was not good so I apologize for the lighting in this!) The hat was purchased from a costume shop and originally was intended as a captain's hat. We took all of the gold roping off of it and made it into a milkman hat. The cost for this was $6.99. I purchased a white shirt for him from Goodwill on half off day which cost me $1.25. The bow tie was made from the ribbon that I had bought from Big Lots this past week for $1.00 per spool.

Although you can't see it, he also is carrying a small grocery basket from our children's kitchen set. We filled it with empty coffee bottles to mimic the old school milk bottles.

The kisses on his collar were free and completed his milkman attire!

As a housewife, I just dressed like I always do (in one of my fun aprons), but rolled my hair and made my make-up a little more reflective of the times. I carried one of our daughter's baby dolls with a little bow tie on it (also from the Big Lots ribbon) that indicated that this was most definitely the milkman's baby.

This was an adult-only party, but our son wanted to be "fancy" like daddy so we made a little bow tie just for him. He wore it for the duration of the evening and I kept joking that he looked much more like the milkman's baby than that silly baby doll.

We had a blast and it was fun to play dress-up for one night. We rarely do things like this and it was a real treat to have a night out like this.

Anyone else go to a Halloween Party? What did you dress up as?

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Homemade NutraGrain Bars

My kids love cereal bars and I have trouble keeping these in steady supply for our family. I happened upon this recipe to make my own and I thought I would give it a shot. I think the results were nothing short of phenomenal!

I used strawberry preserves that I purchased from Aldi. I did notice that Aldi is also carrying some sugar-free preserves that could easily be substituted if you were trying to be more careful about sweets.

A tray of these made about fifteen generous bars. I don't think the cost-savings on these is that great, but the taste is much better and would be great if you were trying to make more things yourself or were in a pinch until grocery day. These can also be cut and frozen to be used later or tucked in your child's lunch.

You can also substitute your granola bars with my homemade version!

I hope your children enjoy these as much as our family has!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

MomAdvice Friday: Are You Staying On Track With Groceries?

Thank you for all of your heartfelt replies and emails about my question last week regarding my son's "mirror writing." I am taking all of your advice into consideration and want to know how comforting it is to know that many children get through this with absolutely no problems at all. We will continue to keep practicing and communicating with his teacher.

This week, I wondered how everyone has been doing with their grocery budgets. I know that I am a very disciplined grocery shopper and I have been finding myself going fifty-sixty dollars over my usual grocery amount. I am more in tune with this amount now that I am attempting to only grocery shop once a month (except for milk runs in between).

I am not sure if I am the only one struggling in this department or if different areas are having more difficulties than me. We have a family of four and our monthly grocery amount has been $200 per month. This month, I have went sixty dollars over and we are still eating the same stuff as we always do.

Maybe my grocery dollars aren't going as far because my son is going through a growth spurt? Maybe it is because my husband has been coming home for lunch more and I feel like we should have a more elaborate lunch with him? Maybe it is just because groceries are too darn expensive?

So..what are your grocery budgets and family size? Have you seen an increase in your grocery budget these past few months? Do you have grocery tips to share for those of us who aren't doing as well?

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Freebie Friday: October 26, 2007

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and enjoys all of their freebies!






Health & Beauty:


Oxyfresh Toothpaste

Serenity Overnight Pads

Garnier Nutritioniste

Cover Girl Cover Match

Food:

Bag of Halloween Candy (Note: I understand that some of the Kmart stores are NOT taking this coupon- contact your store to see if they will accept this offer)

Home & Garden:


Purex Natural Elements

Sam's Club One Day Pass

Another Sam's Club One Day Pass

Entertainment:


Living the Country Life Magazine

Homemade Magazine (scroll to the bottom and send an email to the address listed)

Giant Magazine

Pet Care:

2.2# bag of pet food from Canine Caviar (First Time Customers Only!)

Free After Rebate:

Quicken 2008 Software
Quicken Rebate Form

Not free, but....


One of my favorite readers, Tracy, sent this great Christmas deal that she ran across and she wanted to share it with us! Thanks, Tracy!! You are the best!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

All Around Our House 10.25.07

My son stayed home with a belly ache today so I took a few pictures of things going on around our house and what we are up to. I was having difficulties with the memory card on my camera so I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do this week for my blog. Here is my way to make up for it!


This first picture is the bench that I purchased for our entryway. I found it at our local Meijer and was pleased with the quality of the piece and how comfortable it is too. I am trying to work on making our home more inviting and making guests stand to take their shoes off didn't seem too inviting to me. This is the first step towards the direction of what we would like to do for our entryway. We are also planning to wainscot the entrance to make it feel more inviting and get a new light fixture to replace the seventies version that is currently there.

We also relocated our own shoes and belongings and hung some hooks for our coats now in the garage. My bench was moved out there so that the kids can sit down to pull off their shoes. I got a couple of cheap milk crates to throw our backpacks and bags in there.

Yesterday we finally got a chance to do some leaf crafts together. While Emily took her nap, Ethan and I got some special time together to pick out leaves from our front yard. Even though I mowed this past weekend, the yard is filled with leaves. We brought them in the house and traced them, colored with them, and decorated our kitchen window. Ethan wanted to hang part of them upside down since they were "falling from the trees." This was a fun craft to work on, to practice his cutting skills, and gave us an opportunity to talk about nature. I don't feel like I do enough of this with him so we both really enjoyed ourselves yesterday.

I threw a chicken in the slow cooker for our dinner tonight. We have been doing really well this month with our menu plan. This will be our first month really on my husband's once-a-month pay schedule and doing my menu plan has really helped us from going out so much and it has been much easier to figure out what to make when entertaining our friends & family.
I am also finally getting around to reading "Eat Pray Love"by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is hard to explain the book, but it is truly has been a great read for me and an interesting look into another person's travels and spiritual journey. Everyone had been telling me to read this, but I had other books in my to-be-read piles. I am so glad I am finally sitting down to read this- it is a fascinating and fun read.
I also finally found a place to store some of my ribbon so it will be more organized. The pretty suitcase that my "sister" sent from that sister swap is the perfect place to keep all of it. It looks so pretty in the case and it is a clever place to store it without it taking up additional room.

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Big Lots Deals

I hit Big Lots this week and I am so glad I did. They had beautiful bolts of grosgrain ribbon (5 yard rolls) marked for $1 each. I bought 22 rolls for my ribbon stash. This might sound excessive, but it will be a great investment for making bows for my daughter and for my little side business. Thanks to Meredith for the mention on her blog because now I am filling a few out-of-town orders too! (Note: For all my local friends, I have just started back up since my mom was sick so if you are still wanting to place orders with me, just shoot me an email at amy@momadvice.com. I apologize that I had to take a break, but am hoping to get the ball rolling again).

I bought all the red and greens that I could find, in anticipation of the holiday season, and also bought some pretty autumn colors for my daughter. The ribbon bolts were hidden away in a small box by the gift wrap and gift bags.

Another steal of a deal were the boxes of hair color. Since I run my own beauty parlor over here, $2 for a warm fall shade seems like a reasonable investment to me. They had all different brands marked between $2-5 a box.

It looks like I will have some fun projects this weekend-hair bows and hair color!

The stores are putting their holiday decorations and goodies out this week. They had lots of holiday linens, mugs, gift sets, and lots of other fun treats.

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Amy's Notebook 10.25.07


Good news! We are putting the finishing touches on our new product review blog, The Motherloot! I can't wait to share it with all of you and it will be so nice to have a separate home for our reviews.

Other places you might find us this week:
Frugal Hacks
The Carnival of Family Life & The Carnival of Recipes & Make it From Scratch sharing our make-ahead appetizer ideas for Thanksgiving.
The Festival of Frugality shared our bubbly magnet post and named us an Editor's Pick!
The Carnival of Personal Finance included our fun & frugal wrapping ideas post.
I was also on WSBT-TV this week, but I haven't seen the segment posted yet. It also ended up appearing on Wednesday instead of Tuesday due to another interview so unfortunately I don't have anything to share. I will be sure to post if this goes up!
I also spoke to the Middlebury,IN MOPS group on cleaning- thanks for the opportunity to share with those moms and meet others from the Michiana community!


Now on to my notebook entry for today...There were so many great ideas this week so be sure to visit these!

I love these pictures of additional ideas for things you can do with your pumpkin this year.

How cute are these dressed up magazine holders?

These hats are so cool- I especially love the curlers idea!

I have been saving my coffee canisters for awhile now and I love these pumpkin canisters. I think I might need to make some snowmen ones too!

These flower pot canisters would make a lovely addition to my daughter's room and would be a great way to organize all of her hair accessories.

I am going to have to make some ghost toast for the kids.

I love these ideas and designs for window films.

This post gave me some great ideas for some creative Halloween & fall decorations.

These witch kitchen jars look like a lot of work, but those are some amazing results!

I like this idea for a kid's table for our Thanksgiving dinner. Much more fun than a plain old table!

I love this old-fashioned basket for library trips. I will have to keep my eyes peeled at the thrift store.

I think I might make some of these witch hat treats for some of the fun Halloween events we are going to.

I am also going to add this Potato Soup and Pumpkin Crunch Cake to my menu planner for next month! Yummy!

I love these organizing ideas for my desk! There are some very creative and frugal solutions!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Be a Wrap Superstar: Use What You Have

Sometimes it is more fun to spend money on the gifts themselves than it is to spend it on wrapping your gifts. While I love an elegantly wrapped gift, I do enjoy sharing on creative wrapping solutions too. In fact, sometimes those creative solutions are right under your nose. Wouldn't Hallmark be disappointed if we used items we already had to wrap our gifts instead of keeping them in business with their gift bags and wrapping paper?

Here in this first picture is a grocery sack. This paper bag was purchased for five cents from Aldi Supermarket. This was, of course, before I had made the switch to cloth grocery bags so I have many of these useful bags laying around my house that aren't being used.

You can leave the paper bag plain or you can decorate it. I happened to have a Christmas stamp that I stamped onto the paper. The gift tag came from a book of scrapbooking tags that I happened upon at Michael's. I used my coupon to buy them and they were $2 (less with the coupon) for 24 tags. Tie it up with a bow or a piece of raffia, and you have a beautiful gift out of items in your home.

This second gift is wrapped in a map of our hometown. You can pick these up in the different cities that you visit or in different hotels or restaurants. Save them in a folder for wrapping paper and use special areas for the special people in your life.

The gift tag was made out of my business card and then the gift was tied with green raffia. Business cards can be a fun way to tag your gifts to coworkers. Considering many companies overbuy in the business card department, this is a great way to use some of these cards up and also reminds your boss how much he should appreciate your efforts, particularly for large companies where employees and superiors can be a bit more disjointed. Just give it a hole punch and loop it through the ribbon.

Last, but certainly not least, don't forget all of those lovely coloring pages and how useful they can be for wrapping gifts.
Kids love to feel special and they love to contribute towards the making of and the purchasing of the gifts for your family. These scribbled drawings, while not as appealing to the eye as many fancy gift wrap choices, are true beauty to grandparents and other family members.

If you like to have more control over the color choices and such, give your children crayons in your color scheme that you are going for or make suggestions for drawings ("Grandma LOVES snowmen, maybe you could draw her a really special one?").

The gift tag was made from scrap cardstock that I had and then I stamped the tag with the same stamp that was pictured above in my paper bag wrapping job.

Don't forget the other solutions that I have shared on like tailoring your gifts for their recipient and using wallpaper for gift wrap!

I hope this offers some other creative solutions for your wrapping needs! I plan to put this all together into an article for our website for future reference!


***For more great solutions for your family, be sure to visit Rocks In My Dryer for more great ideas for this edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday***

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Frugal Hacks: Soup Supper

I don't have a lot of restaurant weaknesses because I enjoy the food we cook from home a lot more, but I have been giving into one weakness recently...Broccoli & Cheddar Soup from Panera Bread.

After ordering it twice in the past month, I knew I needed to figure out how to make this from home and after trying a couple of recipes, I have finally found THE recipe that tastes just like this soup from the restaurant.

If you have a craving for Broccoli & Cheddar Soup, make sure to give this recipe a try and see what you think! I followed the instructions exactly and it was absolute perfection! A bowl of cheesy goodness with a yummy loaf of crusty bread. It reheats well and would be wonderful to entertain with!

In the spirit of good soup and chilly nights, be sure to read my post over at Frugal Hacks about throwing a special soup supper of your own.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Thrifty Treasures: Autumn Container

I found this container when I hit our local Goodwill this past Friday. Saturday was their official half off day, but my husband was going to be gone all day and I was not about to brave the crowds with two little ones to take care of.

Lucky for me, they had discounted their seasonal items down to 75% off the day before their big sale day. This beautiful glass container ended up costing me less than a dollar after I got my discount.

I filled it with marshmallows and placed it on a serving tray along with hot cocoa and freshly popped popcorn. It was a fun treat for a freezing cold evening and a great way to start our weekend. I always try to do a special snack and the marshmallows looked so pretty in this!

I am going to have fun filling it with all sorts of fun goodies and it is the perfect size to be functional, but not take up too much room in our house.

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Displaying a Collection

Last week, while we were out running errands, I was listening to a question and answer session on the radio. The question for their listeners was, "What do you collect?" and they had tons of people calling in to share their weird and interesting collections. People called in and shared about their massive beanie baby collection or crazy key chains that they had begun collecting.

The two things that struck me when these people came in were two things that have always bothered me about collections. The first was that the collections were usually started by someone else in their family or by a friend. It started with the love for one particular thing and it became as though everyone in the world now knew exactly what to get them for Christmas. And their birthday. And their anniversary. And to help cheer them up.

The second thing that seemed to resonate with me was that almost everyone who had a collection had it stored somewhere. When asked where they kept their thousand key chains, the listener would say, "In my basement." Other answers varied, but they all boiled down to them being put away in boxes because people didn't have a place for the items or didn't know a good way to display them.

These are the two things that have always bothered me about collecting items (not to mention all of that dusting). I like to enjoy items, but I don't enjoy collecting things unless they are useful and are used in some capacity in my home.

I did become obsessed with collecting one item though and as I tsked-tsked the people that called into that radio show, I realized that I had done the same exact thing. My beautiful apron collection, while worn daily, was becoming a disarray of items that were tucked away in the depths of a pantry closet and were brought out rarely. I love aprons and I appreciate their beauty, but what beauty were they bringing me pushed in the back of a closet?

I went to Target and purchased two bronze hooks. The total cost was less than four dollars and I had my husband mount them on an empty wall in our kitchen. I picked four of my favorite aprons and hung them from the hooks.

I am now enjoying my aprons and the true beauty of them in a much greater capacity than I was before. They make me smile when I see them and each of them was given to me by someone special in my life.

Sound Off: What do you collect and how do you display them? Do you have a collection of something stored away?

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Friday, October 19, 2007

MomAdvice Friday: Dyslexia?

My Freebie Friday is not very interactive so I thought it might be fun to do a MomAdvice Friday where you all can share your advice on different issues. People can send questions to me (send to amy@momadvice.com) and I can post them each Friday for our community to answer.

I thought I would get the ball rolling with a question about our son. Ethan has been doing really well recognizing his letters and numbers. I have noticed though that all of his papers have his name written completely backwards. Not just the letters written the wrong way, but written in such a way that if you held it up to a mirror, it would be perfect.

He is five years old and I know that with time, this will hopefully straighten itself out, but I was wondering when does his become dyslexia and what can we do to work towards resolving this problem?

If you have had a child that has done this when did this become diagnosed as a disability or when did this correct itself?

I know nothing about this subject, but I am hoping someone else does.

Help!!!! Please!!!

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Freebie Friday: October 19, 2007

Happy Friday, everyone! Please enjoy all your freebies and thank you for coming to my site. Have a wonderful weekend!


Health & Beauty:




GoodNites Boxers









Get a mammogram get a free blow dry and hair cut.

Entertainment:

Complete the survey to receive a coupon for a $1.99 Blockbuster Rental (not free, but cheaper than the normal $4 price tag!)

World Magazine (Eight free issues)


Arizona Key chain (The form was taking awhile to come up, just be patient. Click on Promos and then "Free Key chain")




Home & Garden:

Fire Safety Video (for entire family)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Amy's Notebook 10.18.07


Make some spiced pumpkin seeds.

Make autumn leaf sun catchers.

I am going to make this Lego Birthday Cake for my son this year.

Throw the perfect first birthday party.

Make your own fabric buttons.

Find a creative way to store your dish soap.

Sew a simple girly skirt.

Boo your neighbors.

Make some yummy apple bread.

Learn how to store your bulk items.

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Be a Wrap Superstar: Tailor Your Gift

Last week I started a series of posts on wrapping your holiday gifts. I shared my obsession for beautiful wallpaper and a cute idea for your gift tags.

This week I wanted to talk a little bit about tailoring your gifts for their recipient. This is one way that I do try to make my gifts special because I try to wrap my gifts with the person in mind who is receiving the gift.

Sometimes I tailor the gift to the person who is going to receive it and sometimes I tie the theme into what the gift actually is. It is fun to wrap your gifts this way because it makes it fun for the person who is opening it and it shows that you had them in mind when you wrapped the gift.

The gift shown in this example is for your favorite budget-savvy blogger or someone whose occupation involved the green stuff. The gift was wrapped in the stocks section of our Business paper and the gift tag was made out of a piece of money from a Life board game. Tied in green raffia, to go along with our money theme, this brings it altogether perfectly.

I try to do this often with the elements that I bring into my wrapping. When I go thrift shopping, I look for cute serving spoons or whisks that can be used to tie on the outside of newlywed gifts or for the Foodie in our family. Any small item that can be tied to the outside of the gifts can be great items to add to your wrapping details.

The comics section can be used to wrap children's gifts, Wall Street Journals make great wrapping paper, and foreign newspapers can add a little pizazz to any gifts you are giving.

Best of all, what a wonderful and earth-friendly way to recycle your newspapers!

Sound Off: What special details do you add to your wrapping jobs?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An Inspiring Home Tour

Run over to Miss Monica's website, The Homespun Heart, and check out her pictures from a recent tour of the Martha Stewart homes. It has to be one of the most inspiring house tours because I wanted to do everything in every single picture.

We have tons of projects going on over here and our updates are slow with two children and little money or time. We have high hopes though for the kind of home we would like to create here. These pictures gave me another dose of fuel.

On our to-do list:

Painting our kitchen cabinets- I have decided that I am going to paint them an antique white and do bronze hardware. Currently they are oak and have no hardware so I think this will add some character to these.

We are going to do wainscot in our entryway. It is currently painted chocolate and I think it would add some nice character and pizazz to the entryway. We will also be adding a bench for seating.

We are creating an area in our garage for the kids to take their coats and shoes off. I cleaned out the garage and am finally able to park my car in there (whoohoo!) and now we have room to make our own mud room area. I am putting a bench out there (to take off our shoes) and I got hooks to hang our coats up. This will hopefully clear out some of the clutter and will help prevent all of the tracking in of muddy boots and such.

We are going to do some crown molding in our home.

Our upstairs bathroom needs serious updating- wallpaper removal, painting, new lighting, new fan, new flooring...we pretty much need to gut this room and start all over.

We are going to do wainscot in our family room downstairs. It has a ledge and we are going to do this from that point down.

We would like to do a large family desk (like the one featured in the tour), but an L desk so that my husband and I can work together instead of one person in the office and one person hunched over at the couch. I think we are going to try and build this ourselves.

The list goes on and on and on. Our little home is a big sucker of time and money, but the more we do it to it, the more I am beginning to like it.

Sound Off: What is on your to-do list?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WSBT-TV: Dealing With the High Price of Prescription Drugs

Today on my Moms First segment (with WSBT-TV), I discussed ways that you can save money on those high prescription drug prices. This segment goes along with my articles on The Prescription Lowdown and Going Without Health Insurance.

Catch me every Tuesday morning for a quick dose of motherly advice from our site!

Quick Note: We are experiencing some technical difficulties with our forum and the registration process. The letters for verification are not showing and people are unable to register. I apologize that we are having difficulties and will let everyone know when we have resolved this issue. Thanks a bunch!!

Sound Off:
What are some ways that you save on your prescription medications?

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The Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner: Appetizers


Thanksgiving isn't far away, but you don't have to wait until the night before to get your Thanksgiving meal ready. Many recipes can be prepared in advance and they can be waiting for you when the big day arrives.

This year I am trying something different. Instead of the frantic cooking the night before (or the morning of), I am going to try and prepare as much as I can in advance for the big day. I am not sure who is planning on hosting our dinners this year, but even if I am not hosting myself, I try to do my part to help with the meal. I thought it would be so nice to have the food waiting for me instead of me waiting for it.

These entries will be an ongoing series until Thanksgiving, and then these will be turned into an article for future reference. If you have ideas for dishes that you can make ahead for the holidays, please email me at amy@momadvice.com and I will include your recipes within the entries.

First, let's began with the appetizer portion of the meal. I think it is so nice to have some dishes for people to munch on while they are waiting for the meal to be prepared. Here are some fun recipes that you can prepare for the big day and store in your freezer until the day before. Double or triple these recipes for a large crowd!

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Appetizers


Cranberry Spread


16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 c. orange juice

Do-Ahead: Mix all of the ingredients together and mold into a ball or leave loose as a spread. Wrap in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil, and store in a freezer bag. Make sure to label your bag so that you can find it again.

Thanksgiving Day: Let the spread thaw in the refrigerator 1-2 days before Thanksgiving. Place dip in a bowl (or on a platter if it has been molded into a ball) and serve with gingersnaps or crackers.

Italian Meatballs

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg beaten

Do-Ahead: In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic powder and beaten egg. Shape into small meatballs and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. Allow them to completely cool and then place meatballs in a labeled freezer bag.

Thanksgiving Day: Allow meatballs to thaw overnight. In the morning, throw meatballs in your slow cooker and dump a jar of spaghetti sauce on top. Cook on low for two to four hours, or until the meatballs are warmed through.

Spinach Balls

2- 10 oz packages frozen spinach
1 package chicken-flavored stuffing mix
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup butter, melted
Salt & pepper to taste

Do-Ahead: Cook spinach according to instructions, drain in a sieve, use back of a wooden spoon to press the spinach against the sieve to get as much moisture as possible out In a bowl combine the spinach, stuffing mix,cheese, eggs, butter, salt& pepper Mix thoroughly& roll into small balls 3/4 to 1" size. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze.

Thanksgiving Day:
To serve place frozen balls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned If you are doing them fresh or thawed only bake for 7-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Pine Cone Cheese Ball

1 package cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Do-Ahead: Mix cream cheese, shredded cheese, and Dijon mustard in a food processor until blended. Shape into a ball and store in your freezer.

Thanksgiving Day:
The day before- remove from freezer and allow it to thaw. Shape cheese into a pine cone shape. Stick almond slivers into the cone-shaped cheese in rows, until the ball is completely covered. Cover and refrigerate. Serve with crackers.

Bonus Additions: On the big day you can also add a veggie tray and shrimp cocktail to have out for your guests.


Sound Off:
What appetizers do you serve for Thanksgiving Day?

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Frugal Hacks: All Things Pumpkin

Today was supposed to be my son's field trip to the pumpkin patch. He had been talking about this for weeks and we had even been doing a countdown to the day when he would get to go to the pumpkin patch.

The morning greeted us with rain and gloomy weather. We received the call that the trip had been canceled, minutes before we were to set out for our day. His little heart was broken this morning and it broke my heart for him. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for braving the elements this morning, I knew how important it was for him.

I promised him that we would take him as a family, provided the weather clears up, and he could pick his very own pumpkin out. He had kept asking if his dad could go with him, on his field trip, but I had explained that he would need to work instead. Now we can all go together as a family and enjoy a day trip together.

A promise of cocoa (with extra marshmallows) when he gets done with school also was helpful in relieving the tears.

In honor of our day at the pumpkin patch, I pieced together anything and everything you could possibly want to know about cooking a pumpkin, decorating a pumpkin, and fun pumpkin projects. You can read more about these ideas at Frugal Hacks. Just visit my entry entitled, "The Great Pumpkin."

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha: Bubbly Magnets

Today I wanted to share a little holiday craft that I have been working on. I have been making some bubbly magnets to go in stockings and as small gifts for those special people in our life.

Remember, I am no Martha Stewart, so any craft that I share is something that a child can do. I am trying to share some little ideas for things that you can make to give for the holidays. Last week I shared my homemade spiced nut mixture and this week I am sharing my magnet craft. Crafting can be expensive, but this craft is affordable and highly addictive!

Supplies Needed:

Flat marbles (These can be purchased at the dollar store or in the floral section of your local craft store)

1/2" or 3/4" Round magnets (These are the most expensive purchase. I believe they are $6.99 for 50 magnets, but you can use the Michael's 40% off coupon in your paper towards this tab)

Modge Podge Adhesive Glue

A small paintbrush

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Scissors

Pictures for your magnets (you can use photographs, wrapping paper, magazine pictures, scrapbooking paper- anything with a fun design)

Instructions:


Take your marbles and center it over your desired design, just to make sure it will fit perfectly under your marble. Dip your brush into the Mod Podge glue and brush the glue onto your design. Center your marble over the design and stick it to the pattern. Allow the glue to dry for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you are doing more than one magnet, on the same sheet, repeat the process on the paper or move on to your next sheet of paper.

Once your glue has dried, cut around the marbles, as close to the edges as possible. Now take your glue gun and dab a bit of glue on the magnet and attach your marble over the magnet piece. Allow these to dry completely.

Ta-Da! Cute new magnets for your fridge!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Amy's Notebook: 10.12.07


Make a pretty lunch box.

These before and after photos on these kitchen cabinets are really motivating me. Now I just need to convince my husband to go along with another painting project around here.

Make some homemade vanilla extract.

I think this Pumpkin Biscotti would make a great holiday gift.

Never look at your leftovers the same again with Stephanie's great advice!

How cute are these Halloween tins?

Learn the rules of frugality!

Stay warm (practically) for free.

Buy some blackboard paint and make some really cute stuff for your house.

Throw the best autumn party ever!

Wrap your gifts elegantly.

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Just One More Year...

My poor laundry hamper has been looking pretty sad these days. We bought this hamper the year that we got married and each year it looks a little worse than the year before.

Somehow the top of the hamper got a tear in it and I noticed weird pieces of fuzzy stuff lurking all over my daughter's room. It appears that someone in our house had now made it a mission to pick out the foam interior and shred it all over their room. I can't say who this person was, but I am pretty sure that I can narrow it down to two little people. It was becoming necessary to replace this item or fix it.

I did happen to have some vinyl fabric leftover from recovering my dining chairs so I thought I could use some of this excess fabric and recover the top of the hamper.

Within a half hour, I had the whole thing apart and had recovered the top with the pretty chocolate fabric.

The hamper is still very stretched out and I doubt I have more than a year before it will be completely worthless, but I bought myself a year to look for a new one while I am at the thrift store. This was completely worth the time and effort and I can't wait to keep my eyes peeled at our stores to find a good deal on a new one.

Operation Foam Destruction has been disabled!

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Freebie Friday: October 12, 2007


Health & Beauty:


Free AquaFresh Extreme Clean Toothpaste

Free trial pair of O2 Contacts (this is a coupon that you have to bring into Wal-Mart).

Printable coupon for $5 off (buy a small size to make this a freebie) Tylenol Products.

Carmex

Caress Exotic Oil Infusions

Basis Sensitive Skin Bar

Food:

Free meatball dinner for two from Ikea (Houston location only!)

Free Dr Pepper from Chick-fil-A (you have to enter their promotion and if you lose you still get a Dr Pepper- it is for a limited amount of people so be fast!)

NutraSweet Swirl

Entertainment:

Antiques Magazine

Boating Life Magazine

Go Boating Magazine

Free toy from Toys 'R Us (must be redeemed in store, but no purchase necessary!)

Free movies every week for the month of October (must provide cell phone number to be sent the codes) or you can sign up to be emailed the code (only one code versus four though)


Home & Garden:

Do-It-Herself Workshop (introduction to power tools)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Clinique Freebies & Free Amazon Gift Cards

I just wanted to share a couple of freebies that are being offered right now. The first one is for college kids, but I figured there might be some moms out there with college students who might like to cash in on this freebie.

Clinique Freebie: Clinique Consultants have been visiting select universities this fall with their 3-Step Skin Care System. They been on hand giving expert skin care advice and providing samples to college students in all majors and school years. This is a free event and great opportunity for students to learn how to address their individual skin care concerns.

Students on campus who visit the Clinique team will walk away with a FREE 3-Step sample. The first students to register also receive Clinique "Sleep In" pajama bottoms. More information on Clinique’s 3-Step Skin Care System can be found by visiting:www.clinique.com/3step. If you’re unable to attend the event, you can enter online to win a $500 shopping spree by visiting this website & following the on-site instructions.

The deadline to enter is November 15, 2007 by midnight.

Below is a list of upcoming Clinique college dates:

Oct. 15: University of Maryland – College Park
Oct. 16: University of Central Florida
Oct. 17: Boston University
Oct. 18: James Madison University
Oct. 22: Illinois State University
Oct: 29: University of Mississippi
TBD: George Washington University

This second freebie is a current promotion that Coinstar is running.

Coinstar Freebie: Coinstar is offering a free $10 Amazon.com gift card, if you cash $30 in change. The directions are:

1. Bring $30 of coins to a participating Coinstar® Center
2. Cash it in for an Amazon.com gift certificate… and get FREE coin counting!
3. Complete the printed receipt & mail in to receive your $10 Amazon.com gift certificate.

For more information on this current promotion visit their website.

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Warm Up Your Belly

It is officially fall because I have finally made my homemade cocoa mix for the season. My cocoa machine had a nice little break while my blender worked overtime this summer. His days were numbered and yesterday's cool weather was just the excuse to start making my cocoa mix. Marshmallows topped our mugs to the brim and we enjoyed a sweet treat on yesterday's cool afternoon.

The yummy warm comfort foods and drinks are something I look forward to all year long. Who can resist a big bowl of soup and a grilled cheese for dipping?


Speaking of these comfort foods, we have been missing our yummy bowls of clam chowder since we had moved back to the Midwest. No one does it better than Boston and we seemed to always be craving a bowl of this yummy goodness, but couldn't seem to replicate it. I was determined to find a recipe to feed our cravings this year and lucky for me, I stumbled upon this chowder recipe that fit the bill perfectly.

This recipe for chowder is delicious. Rich, but not too rich. Chunky, but not too chunky. It is just an absolute bowl full of perfection. There are other chowder recipes out there, but I think this one will be in heavy rotation in our house. The kids won't eat it, but that won't stop my husband & I from enjoying it!
I did make some minor changes to the recipe- I omitted the heavy cream and replaced that with half & half. I also omitted the dill in the recipe because I didn't have any on hand.

Determined to perfect my grilled cheese too, I also tried this delicious recipe for baking your grilled cheese in the oven instead of making it in the pan. Since I am doing grilled cheese in mass quantities, I thought this would be a great solution for us to all have our grilled cheese sandwiches at the same time, instead of doing my batches in stages. Technically not a grilled cheese, this "toasted cheese" is delightful! No soggy centers and perfectly crunchy! Just keep your eyes on them while they cook. The bread does have a tendency to get a tad too toasty, if left unattended!

I hope you can try some of these delicious recipes to warm your belly.

Sound Off: What are your favorite dishes when the weather turns cool?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Be a Wrap Superstar: Wallpaper That Gift, Yo!

I was asked to speak to my mom's group this week on how to celebrate Christmas on a budget. Since I do those Tuesday morning show segments, I figured it would be in my best interest to make some pretty props to go along with my morning discussions (and that could double for my mom's group discussion).

How about serving triple duty and sharing them on my blog here too? Why not!

I have several ideas for thinking outside of the box when it comes to wrapping your gifts. Sure, I could go to the store and get a giant roll of wrapping paper, but what is the fun in that? Some of the most fun is in the inventing of new ways to wrap those gifts under the tree.

The gifts might not all match, they may not be overly red and green, they also aren't going to be uniform, but at least each gift will have their own original style.

Today's gift wrapping idea is to check your local thrift store for wallpaper to wrap your gifts. I frequently find gigantic rolls for only $1. Try to pick a design that can be used for the holidays, but also can double for those other special occasions where a gift is needed.

This gift is not only covered in wallpaper, but the gift tag is made from a deck of cards. Is your dad a prankster? Give him the Joker! Is your brother the jack-of-all-trades? A Jack! Does your mom think she is the queen of the castle? Give that woman the Queen!


Tie it off with a little holiday cheer and embellish your gifts with a little ornament or something holiday-ish. I love those ornaments for those teeny trees to put on my gifts or I love to add big old jingle bells to make my present a little more festive.


I hope you enjoyed my quick tutorial on being a wrap superstar. I will discuss another idea next week!!

***For more great ideas today, visit Rocks In My Dryer for Works-For-Me Wednesday!***

Sound Off: Are you a wrap superstar? What are some things you use to wrap your gifts?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Frugal Hacks: More on Hosting the Unexpected Guest


Well, I got a great response from last week's column about hosting the unexpected guest. I am not sure if it is because people love cleaning tips or if they just love talking about what a pain it is when people just drop in.

I got a great question though on what one can cook for their unexpected dinner guests so that helped to inspire this week's post.

I hope you can swing by Frugal Hacks and check it out! Take a browse around while you are over there. There is a lot of great information and I love the collaborative efforts of the writers in supplying great family-focused content and practical information on frugality.

Is there anything else you would like for me to write about on the subject of entertaining on a budget?

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Interview with THE Jessica Seinfeld

I shared in an entry last week, my true love for the new cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld. You may have doubted my opinion on how awesome it really is, but now Oprah has given her golden seal of approval and this little seal gives Mrs. Seinfeld an instant hit on the bestseller list. Jessica appeared yesterday on Oprah's show and discussed her recipes and ideas for getting her children to eat healthy.

Last week, I had discussed interviewing Jessica with her publisher, Harper Collins. When I saw she was on the show yesterday, I was really worried that she might become too busy to share with me her experience with writing the book. Who can compete with a successful interview on Oprah?

Lucky for me, Jessica is truly a class act and had emailed me the answers to all my questions this morning. I was so incredibly excited and I hope that you will enjoy this interview with her as much as I enjoyed asking all of my questions.

Question & Answers with Jessica Seinfeld


Pardon if I gush a bit, but I adore your new book! Is this something that you have wanted to do for a long time? What/who inspired you to create this book?

I wish I could say there was a thoughtful and grand plan behind this book! The truth is that it came from desperation. Hiding vegetables in my children’s food was the only way I could get through mealtimes without arguments and stress. My children were certainly the motivation – their refusal to eat vegetables was the problem that had to be solved - but my inspiration was my own mother and grandmother. They were both working mothers who managed to put home cooked meals on the table every night. They taught me how to cut corners, prepare efficient and healthy meals in under 20 minutes, which is now the model I replicate in my own home. Now it’s a way of life.

Has healthy eating always been important to you or was this a new lifestyle change since children?

I grew up with a very health conscious mother, who has shopped at farm stands and food co-ops since I can remember. Eating healthy foods has always been second nature to me - it’s how I was raised. But I’m also desperately concerned about what I read about child obesity and related diseases and illnesses in this country. I became determined not only to not take care of my own kids, but to try to be part of a broader solution to a growing problem.

What is your biggest challenge with getting your children to eat healthy? How did you overcome this challenge?

The biggest problem I face daily is the prevalence of junk food that seems to follow all kids everywhere they go. I have to be vigilant and firm, but it’s hard to compete sometimes. Even if you can manage to avoid fast food and get to the grocery store, many supermarkets try to rope you into buying foods that have no nutritional value.

There’s a few things I do to try to cope.

- I won’t bring home food I don’t want my children to eat - chips, candy, sugared drinks. It sounds obvious, but the habits I set at home tend to get followed by my kids when they’re at school or playing with friends.

- I bake healthy treats. I’m not anti-treats – in fact, I have a sweet-tooth. But there’s no reason why great tasting cookies and brownies can’t be laden with things that are good for kids.

- I try to be smarter than the supermarket marketing executives. I shop carefully, read labels, and look for whole grains and non-processed food.

- Puree, puree, puree.

As a mom who is on the go a lot, what are some of your suggestions for getting your kids to eat healthy when you are running from activity to activity?

I try to always keep my purse stocked with food that’s healthy and balanced and never get stuck with hungry kids and limited options. That’s when bad food decisions get made. Being a mobile health-food store has it’s down side, of course - the crushed-up oat bran pretzels and string cheese wrappers at the bottom of my purse don’t exactly make me so fabulous - but at least I know my kids are getting a good snack.

If you could pick one thing that you want moms to walk away with, from reading your book, what would it be?

What you feed your kids matters. Don’t give up on yourself or them. You can have peaceful, healthy and delicious meals, and you can also never say, “eat your vegetables” again. With an ounce of preparation and the will to change, anyone can do it.

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Eat Your Heart Out Martha: Sugar & Spice Nuts

Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming! It is time to take your inner-Martha to new levels! Get out your crafting tools and let's get to work on some gifts, ladies!

I am going to try and share a gift each week of things that you can make for all those special people on your list. These ideas will be budget-friendly and EASY! I am far from crafty, so if you see a craft here, you know your child can probably do it!

I would also like to say that my instructions are written exactly like I would hope someone would explain the idea to me. I hate when I read instructions and they omit the basic steps for accomplishing something. I am a novice so I offer up novice instructions.

Today we are going to make some Sugar & Spice Nuts. These nuts taste like a little bit of heaven! My husband hates mixed nuts and couldn't stop eating these. That truly says a lot!

These are very easy to make, but should be made when it is not humid out. I made these on a hot ninety degree day and it took an entire night for them to dry. Never. Again.


I bought a can of mixed nuts from Aldi that were less than $2. I then took the label off (very carefully) so that I can use this label as a template for my new label.


The new label can be made out of anything, but I had some wallpaper border that I had bought from our thrift store that I thought would be perfect for this occasion. The border was just wide enough and it was more durable than wrapping paper or other types of paper that I would normally use. It had pretty French writing on it so I just cut that portion off and left the roosters for another project. Too bad I don't know French...maybe someone knows what this says? Hopefully something beautiful and meaningful, but if not...oh well! A whole roll of this stuff only cost me a quarter so that was a double bonus! Take that old label and use that as your template and trace it onto your paper (whatever type you chose!)

Now, take a glue stick and put glue all over the back of the paper. Wrap your new paper around your canister and make sure that the bottom is all lined up, nice and neatly!

Finally, you can tie a bow around your beautiful masterpiece and make your yummy Sugar & Spice Nuts. Follow this recipe for making the nuts and prepare them exactly as instructed.


When your nuts are completely dry, break them apart and place them back in the tin. I also added a piece of wax paper to line the interior of the canister so that they wouldn't stick to the bottom or the sides of the can.

This would make the perfect gift for: Postal workers, beauticians, coworkers, bosses, teachers, the person-who-has everything, and as a pretty hostess gift!



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WSBT-TV: Tips for Staying Warm in Cool Weather

Well, you are going to get a glimpse inside our home since this morning's segment was taped at our house. The segment that aired today discussed ways that you can keep your home warm without raising your heating bills. Lucky for me, my segment timed perfectly with our weather cooling down or I think this one would have been a dud! According to this week's weather forecast, my tips might be put to good use this week out here in the Midwest.

For additional tips on getting your house ready for the cool weather, be sure to visit my article on Winterizing Your Home.

Sound Off: What do you do to get ready for the winter weather? What is your average heating bill in the winter months?

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Best Birthday Cupcakes in the World


My sister-in-law's boyfriend celebrated his birthday Friday night. To help out with the evening's festivities, I offered to make the cupcakes for his special day. I found a recipe in my favorite cupcake book, "Cupcakes from the Cake Doctor" and picked her "Best Birthday Cupcakes" recipe.

These cupcakes are as close to a bakery cupcake as I will probably ever make. They are light and sweet, but not too sweet. They have a great consistency and are perfectly moist and sturdy enough to hold up to a good dose of yummy frosting.

I will probably never search for the perfect birthday cupcake again after sampling these. I paired the cupcake with her Chocolate Syrup Frosting which was the perfect way to top this delicious cake.

No more searching, ladies! This is THE cupcake for every celebration. Enjoy!!


The Best Birthday Cupcakes

24 paper liners
1 package plain butter recipe golden cake mix (I subbed with white and loved it!)
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Syrup Frosting (recipe to follow)
Colored sprinkles or candy cake decorations for garnish

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line cupcake cups with liners. Set the pans aside. Place the cake mix, cream cheese, sugar, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend on low speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds, until the ingredients are well blended then stop the machine and scrape down the sides. Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should be smooth and thickened. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way full (You should get between 22-24 cupcakes). Place the pans in the oven. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 24-27 minutes. Remove pans from oven and place them on wire racks to cool for five minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool fifteen minutes before frosting. Meanwhile prepare your frosting...


Chocolate Syrup Frosting

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate syrup in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined (about 30 seconds). Stop the machine and add the sugar, milk, and vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Use to frost your cupcakes.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pretty Menu Plans

I thought I would take the plunge and do a big day of grocery shopping for our entire month. This took a couple days of planning and picking our menus for the month. I really thought it would be a great idea until I actually got to the store and realized that loading and unloading my groceries was a little like a complicated game of Tetris. Nothing fit in the cart and nothing fit in my car. The only thing motivating me was the knowledge that I would not have to do this again for another twenty-nine days. I used to only shop once a month, but had gotten into the habit of shopping every two weeks with my husband's past pay schedule. The new payment schedule motivated me to just go ahead and get it done all in one trip. Am I crazy? Maybe a little bit!

Inspired by my dear friend Monica, I decided to pretty up my menu plan this month. I found a cute pumpkin to add to my planner and now my menu plan looks organized and cute too!

As we have been going through the meals, I have just been highlighting them to remind me what meals we have left to eat and I can see what we have already eaten. I incorporated lots of new dishes and several of our old favorites this month. I am hoping I will have lots more recipes to share and that I can keep us on budget with our dining out category.

Sound Off: How often do you grocery shop? Why did you choose this schedule for shopping?

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Make Your Own Flavored Creamers: Mint Truffle Creamer

Flavored creamers are such a sweet treat to a great cup of coffee. I love to add a little cream to my cup of coffee in the morning, but the cost factor prevents me from indulging the way that I would really like to. Aldi carries a great fat free version of French Vanilla, which I have found is much more affordable than the creamers in the regular supermarket, but I would love to have a little more variation in my cup.

My new quest became figuring out how to make my own flavored creamers. I am not a big fan of powdered creamer so finding a recipe for a homemade version seemed almost impossible. Most recipes that I have found came in powdered form, but I wasn't willing to give up on figuring out how to make my own liquid creamer.

I finally happened upon a recipe and adapted it to fit my taste. Once I finish my first bottle of this creamer, I will start testing some other recipes, but this was a great start towards achieving the yummy flavor I love.

Although you don't get the same mouth-feel as you do with store-bought versions, you do achieve the great flavor that you are looking for from these (for a fraction of the price!)

I hope you can give this recipe a try! I can't wait to share some more recipes and I hope that this inspires you to make your own flavors at home.

Mint Truffle Creamer
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or make your own sweetened condensed milk)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (I used prepared powdered milk)
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3 Tablespoons peppermint coffee syrup (or more, depending on your personal taste)

Blend all ingredients together in your blender. Pour into a mason jar or your old coffee creamer dispenser. This creamer will keep up to two weeks in your fridge.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Freebie Friday: October 5, 2007



Health & Beauty:

Donate $5 to breast cancer research for joining the Viva Mailing List.

Always Pantiliners (designed for women sizes 14 and up)

Nivea Hand Cream

Complete Multi-Purpose Contact Solution


St Joseph Aspirin

Curel Ultra Healing Lotion

Jergens Moisturizer

Dove Advanced Care

Suave Professionals Products

Gwen Stefani's New Perfume

Maybelline SuperStay Silky Foundation

Vera Wang Princess Perfume


Food:

Dale & Thomas $20 gift card for joining their mailing list (Note- I haven't tried this yet so I am not clear if there is a minimum to buy or anything like that!)

Dunkin Donuts Coffee

Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis


Entertainment:

Philadelphia Style Magazine

Starbucks Song of the Day (check every day!!)

Wii Remote Jacket (must already have a Wii for this freebie)

SpiritLed Woman Magazine

Pumpkin Stencils

Home & Garden:

Trip Advisor Luggage Tags

Post-It 5 Sheet Sample

2x Ultra Tide

Car Care Guide

Sound Off:

If the best things in life are free, what is your favorite freebie that you have in your life?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Best Homemade Nonstick Spray In the World

I hate the gunk that is left behind from nonstick sprays. I tried using one of those pump misters that you can fill with your own olive oil, but I didn't find it performed very well.

The Oatmeal Waffles that I made last week were so yummy, but had to be practically scraped from the waffle iron. Shredded waffles don't look too appetizing, but I was still trying to figure out a good solution.

I ran across this recipe for Better Than Pam Spray. It sounded strange, but the reviews looked like people were pleased with the results. I made a double batch of this before I made my sticky Oatmeal Waffles and hoped for the best.

This is an answer to any cook's prayers! The waffles practically fell out of the waffle iron and there was no icky residue on my appliance, like those aerosol sprays seem to leave.

According to the poster, you can leave this solution on your counter top or in your cupboards. In the comments, she also offers a recipe to be used for chocolate dishes (no white residue!)

This stuff is the next best thing to sliced bread and a little goes a long way. Baste your griddles and cake pans with a basting brush and watch your dishes leap out of the pan with ease.

This recipe is so inexpensive so you will save some money at the grocery store too! I hope you can try it- you really won't believe how great the results are. I won't ever use anything else again!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Frugal Hacks: Getting Ready for the Unexpected Guest

My cleaning caddy needed a little reorganizing and as I was working on this yesterday, I began to think about my "faux cleaning" routine that I do before we have unexpected guests.

Since I get to cover the entertainment category on Frugal Hacks, I thought it would be fun to share my quick tips for making your home look clean without really cleaning.

I am the first to raise my hand that I have been embarrassed when an unexpected person shows up and my house is a complete disaster. I try very hard to maintain things around here, but with two children under five, I often feel like all I am doing is damage control.

I am also a perfectionist and I hate for anyone to come over here without me being prepared for them. Even among friends and family, it is important to me to feel in control of a situation.

Having a website that helps moms stay organized makes me feel like I should be even more zealous in my attempts to keep up with the house.

Let's face it though, I am only human! We do the best we can throughout the week, but when that unexpected guest comes knocking, it feels good to have a game plan to fake them out with your cleaning routine.

I hope you get a chance to read the post and can share your own routines with me! As moms, I am sure we can all use a little help in this department.

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WSBT-TV: Saving Money On Laundry

Today on WSBT we discussed ways you can save money on doing your laundry. I will be posting an article on this topic a little later this week!

Sound Off: What are some ways that you save on laundry costs? Do you have any recipes that you use in your house?

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Freebies & It Isn't Even Friday

Don't just count on me for freebies on Friday because I love to surprise people occasionally with a fun freebie on other days of the week. How about some free music to start your week out right?

Starting Tuesday, Starbucks is giving away 50 million free iTunes downloads. The promotion is in honor of the launch of the new iTunes Wireless Store. From October 2nd to November 7th, Starbucks customers will receive a “song of the day” card, enabling them to download that particular song.

To get more information about this promotion visit their website!

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Perfectly Pantry: Oatmeal Waffles

I wish I had a picture of these waffles, but we gobbled them up way too fast. These are stick-to-your-ribs waffles that have tons of fiber and good stuff in them. I am usually hungry after having a waffle...that was not the case with these. I was still feeling full the next morning! For me, that is unheard of!

I love oatmeal so I was excited to try this recipe for Oatmeal Waffles. My family, however, is not big on oatmeal so I used my blender to grind the oatmeal into a flour and then added this oatmeal flour to these instead of the coarse pieces of oatmeal. If your family doesn't mind the oat taste, by all means, make as directed. I added ingredients and took away others and ended up with this recipe. I hope you can try it- they are delicious and taste great with that infamous Honey Butter.

Oatmeal Waffles

2 cups quick oats (grind if necessary in food processor or blender)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk (you can use prepared powdered milk)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons corn or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup sugar (or to desired sweetness)

Mix all ingredients together until there are no lumps. Pour batter into well-greased waffle iron and allow each waffle to cook four minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: If you make the batter ahead of time, be sure to add milk to thin it out. My batter became too thick to even put in my waffle iron so add some water until you reach the desired consistency.

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Not So Frugal...But....

A confession...of sorts! Pictured here is evidence of an unnecessary purchase that we purchased for our family. Was it needed? Nope! Did we want it REALLY bad and obsess about it for months? Yes!

The decision had been made that we would buy one for our family, as a family gift to ourselves, if we were able to find one that would be a good deal. Anything over $300 was not a good deal. Anything that was $150-200 would qualify.

We have been obsessing and watching eBay like crazy people. The auctions always ended higher than our goals and the auctions included a lot less than what we would need to play as a family. We started factoring in all that we would need and the amount of $500 was thrown around a lot. It was thrown around, but quickly thrown out of the equation since we have never spent that much money on Christmas or a game system.

I came home from a baby shower this weekend and my husband was standing at the door waiting for me. He had found one for us on Craigslist and the system was still available. For $200, we were able to get the game system, two of the nunchuk controllers, two of the remote controllers, one classic controller, the Wii Sports Package, and the game, "Zelda."

We have been in Wii heaven and it has been so awesome to see how much Ethan enjoys it too. I don't know who enjoys it more, but I imagine we will truly enjoy this game system in the winter months when we don't get as much outdoor activity.

What a fun early Christmas gift and what a fabulous deal for an incredible game system too!

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