Friday, October 31, 2008

Freebie Friday: October 31, 2008

A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us with our freebie list this week. Be sure to get her latest round of coupons for your grocery shopping this week. We were also so excited to get to do an interview with Heather recently because we find her story to be so inspiring. I am hoping to do weekly interviews with bloggers to find out more about how they do their blogging & balance the activities in their life.

I will be heading out of town tomorrow through Sunday for the American Baby Faire in Chicago! If you are coming, be sure to find me over in the Kenmore kitchen, where you will get to see me demoing family recipes, kid's holiday crafts, and sharing tips for money-saving throughout the two days. Sunday morning I will also be appearing on the Chicago ABC news sharing two of my favorite yummy frugal snack recipes for kids. You can find all my contributions to the Kenmore team over here!

Happy Freebie Friday!


Health & Beauty


Dove Shine Therapy
Aveeno Lifting & Firming Night Cream

Food

Barnes & Noble Free Cappuccino (printable coupon expires 10/31)
Bear Naked Fruit & Nut Granola
Turtle Chex Mix Bar
Betty Crocker Potatoes

Entertainment

Canon Try Me Photo
Quamut Free PDF - Play Texas Hold'Em
KIWI Magazine Subscription
Slam Magazine Subscription

Home & Garden

Uni-ball 207 Pen
Hand Tote from Nature's Bounty

Pets

Greenies pet treats
Cesar Canine Cuisine

Upcoming Freebie Events:

NOVEMBER

1 - Home Depot Kids Workshop, make a Leaf Press
4 - Free Donut for Voters at Krispy Kreme
4 - Free Scoop for Voters at Ben & Jerry's 5-8pm
8 - Lowe's Kids Workshop, make a Semi Truck
22 - Lowe's Kids Workshop, make a Football Goal
23 - Free Dr. Pepper

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Big Give Makes The Front Page

I woke up to a very happy surprise this morning- phone calls & emails from our family letting us know that we had made the front page of the Elkhart Truth!

I was interviewed yesterday about our Big Give with Faith Mission and they wrote a wonderful story about what we are trying to do. A big thanks to Katie Rogers, the journalist who took the time to write about us, and the Elkhart Truth for giving us the publicity we need to make something BIG happen for Faith Mission.

I am hopeful that area businesses will read about this and want to help!

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MomAdvice: The Faith Mission Wish List

Wednesday evening we got to sit down with Mike Perez, the Development Director at Faith Mission, to discuss where we would fit in best with their mission to serve the homeless. In respect to his time and the wonderful people that are staying there we did not film within the shelter.

Mike took us on a tour of their facility and we visited every little corner and crevice of the shelter. We were able to come in around the dinner hour and see the 150 people who had come through to dine there that evening. We also were able to see all of the organization that goes behind serving and arranging the food for these meals and the incredible donations that come in to help with their free drop-in meals.

We visited their chapel and learned how they try to offer life-changing solutions through their in-house programs. Mike stressed that they try to figure out the cause for their homelessness and then decide a course of treatment so that they can live on their own. They offer classes and have a mental health program that helps their residence with addictions and mental illness. Their goal is to help give them the skills they need so that they are ready to take on a job, basic life skills (money management being one of them), & recovery support with a faith-based foundation.

After we toured the facility, we sat down and asked Mike how we could help them with what they are doing. He said the very best thing we could do for them, at this time, would be assisting them with their "welcome kits." A welcome kit is given to each resident when they come in to stay at the shelter.

Each Welcome Kit would consist of the following
:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Shaving Cream
  • Razor
  • Lotion
  • Body Wash
  • Deodorant
  • Washcloth
  • Towel
  • Shower Tote/Storage Container
I asked Mike to also think of what they might need on a grander scale, as they are in the process of renovating a new space for their women and this was his...

Dream Wish List:

Appliances needed for the 915 Benham project. All of the appliances need to be energy star rated and all in color white if possible:

  • 7- 2’wide Dishwashers
  • 4- 1’10” wide under cabinet Refrigerators
  • 4- 30”-32” wide standard Refrigerators
  • 10- small to medium handing microwaves

After we finished making our wish list, we headed over to my car where I had many of these:
EyeClops Night Vision Infrared Stealth Goggles ($68.88, Jakks Pacific)

And many of these:

Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker ($29.88, Jakks Pacific)

Made possible by my affiliation with this:

A big thank you to Walmart & their great 11 Moms venture as well as Jakks Pacific for giving me the opportunity to share these gifts with these incredible people. This is exactly the reason I am in 11 Moms and I am thankful for the opportunity to share within my community. These gifts will be given to the children when celebrating those special occasions in their life, like birthdays & Christmas.





Now that we know what we can do for them, we have made a goal to provide 50-100 kits (depending on our donations) and provide one appliance on their dream list.


Is it possible? I truly believe that anything is possible and my next steps will be:

1. Getting as much press involved as I can for our efforts.
2. Trying to raise donations to put towards the cost of our welcome kits.
3. Researching & finding the best price I can on the items for the kits.
4. Researching & finding the best price I can on one of the items on their appliance wish list.

If you have any suggestions for tackling this project, I am all ears! Has anyone bought in bulk like this? Any resources or steps you can recommend?

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Amy's Notebook 10.30.08

I hope you enjoy today's notebook and just wanted to highlight a few quick articles that might help you with your Halloween planning this week:

Scary Deals on Halloween Costumes (we have included recipes for Halloween face paints)
Oh, Glorious Pumpkin! (don't toss your pumpkin and try making some homemade pumpkin puree this year)
Activities Search (use our search function to find all the fun places to visit in your area)

Now on to our very official notebook...

***********************************

Another great refashioned cardigan idea (@ Early Bird Special)

These little mummy treat containers are so cute (@ Skip To My Lou)

I love this little pumpkin party (@ chica schmica)

This playroom makeover is amazing and I am loving the duvet cover (@ whatever)

This chalkboard pumpkin would be a cute little craft to do (@ The Crafty Crow)

I am loving these knitted cowls (@ What's That Gonna Be?)

I am downloading this great little pdf for getting your kids to eat their veggies (@ Let's Explore)

I want to make this Halloween wreath for next year (@ Scribbit)

These pumpkin pecan chocolate chunk cookies look like a winner to me (@ Bakerella)

These knitted slippers would keep my feet warm this winter (@ Astrid Knits Her Way Out)

These autumn leaf pies are so beautiful (@ not martha)

I need to work on being more productive with my emailing (@ Simple Mom)

I want to try making these confetti cupcakes (@ Coconut & Lime)

I love these ideas for staying warm through the autumn weather (@ Wisebread)

I am bookmarking these ideas for ways to use the internet while on vacation (@ Digital Bliss)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inspiring Moms: Heather at Freebies 4 Mom

Isn't it great to read how blogging moms got their start and how they make their new jobs work for them? I thought it would be fun to get the inside look on some of my favorite inspirational women who make reading blogs so much fun for me.

Our first interview is with Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom. Heather has a website dedicated towards providing the latest and greatest freebies, as well as information on sweepstakes offers, contests, and coupons.

As a longtime reader, I know that you quit your job to start devoting more time to Freebies 4 Mom and to your family. How is this transition working out for you?

I quit my part-time contract work out of my home as soon as I saw that the potential to make money from dedicating advertising space on my blog was there. I was determined to turn blogging into my part-time job and replace that part-time income from my contract work. That enabled me to start dedicating more time to it. There really wasn't much of a transition since I was previously working from my home, it just changed what I was spending time on. I love blogging about the freebies, and love that I can now call it my job and be my own boss.

As a work-at-home mom, what is your biggest challenge now that your workplace is in your home?

Setting time limits on my work on Freebies 4 Mom has got to be my biggest challenge. I love what I do so much that I could easily do it full-time, 40+ hours a week. But the reality is that Freebies 4 Mom is and will always be a part-time job for me with part-time hours. I have two boys (3 and 1) at home to take care of as well as the typical household responsibilities. Since the computer seems to be always calling for me, I'm having to turn it off more and close the door to the office. Setting time limits is always hard when you are self-employed doing something you are passionate about. The temptation will always be there to invest more and more time in yourself, but you've got to evaluate what other responsibilities in your life will suffer. I'm practicing saying "No" to myself and learning how to work smarter during the time I do have.


Is it difficult to keep up with all of the freebies that come out and how do you stay on top of what companies are offering?

I do not even attempt to keep up with everything. I simply highlight the best freebies that I find, those that I am interested in myself and think a majority of my readers would be interested in too. Offers expire daily, and I rely on my readers to tell me about expired offers so I can quickly update those posts. As my readership grows I'm learning how to rely on my readers as a resource for keeping me up to date with what's hot and what's not.


You were recently interviewed by Inside Edition, what did you do to prepare yourself for a television interview?

My opportunity to appear in a segment for Inside Edition happened so quickly that I had very little time to prepare. I first did a phone interview on the morning I received an email from them. That evening I followed-up for the interview with my "How to Get Free Stuff" tips which they turned into a printable resource posted on their website. The next day I found out that they would film my interview the day after. So I really only knew one day before that a camera crew would be inside my house to talk to me about free samples. I was truly scrambling to get the house in-order and gather up all of my free samples to use as props. I did manage to stop by the grocery store and splurge on fresh sunflowers. Beyond that I simply thought about potential questions and answers. It was a learning experience for me and it will help me if any future opportunities present themselves for interviews on or off camera.


Since you are the freebie queen, what is the best freebie you scored?

My favorite freebies are the edible ones because they are the most practical (and most delicious). My favorite is always changing, but one that sticks out in my mind is the gift basket I won from Philadephia Cream Cheese that contained lots of coupons for free bagels and cream cheese, cream cheese spreaders, and travel coffee mugs. This was a sweepstakes I entered that had lots of winners (6,000) and winning it inspired me to start blogging about sweepstakes with at least 1,000 winners. I love the big sweepstakes because they are really just like free samples with a chance to win instead of the first X number of people get the sample. It takes a little more dedication to win, but I feel it is a fairer way to distribute some great freebies.

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MomAdvice's Big Give: Kickoff

I am just speechless by the response that we have received already from each of you on our Big Give mission. The emails, the donations, the comments, the messages, the blog entries that have been written truly moved me to tears yesterday. I felt like I was taking a risk putting this out here, but now I know how good it feels to be sharing this with all of you and to know that you want to make a difference in your own communities (and even in my little town) has been an incredible gift.

Today is the first vlog in our series sharing about our Big Give. Before I began this, I knew that I would need to call them and see if Faith Mission would even accept our help. What would they need? What could we do to make their days a little better? Who did they serve?

I was extremely nervous and went into an immediate sales pitch of myself and what I hoped to do for our local shelter. It was a careful balance of not wanting to over commit and disappoint them, but wanting to also exude confidence that I could get the backing that we needed to make a Big Give happen.

The response from them was incredible and I knew that we had picked the perfect charity to work with. Not only were they excited about anything we could do, but they were excited to bring us in so we could immediately see what they really need and to help us better understand their mission.

Tonight we will be heading to Faith Mission to get a glimpse into their day and we have received permission to take some video footage so we can share it with all of you! I can't wait to share more with you about the charity as our family works towards making this Big Give happen!

In short, step one for us was contacting the charity and seeing how we could fit in with their missions and goals.

On a much lighter note, don't you love this dorky expression that I have on my face? Why does it have to appear like this. You will also notice someone dropping in on my party halfway through. Wouldn't you wonder what was going on if your mom was sitting at the kitchen table talking to herself? Again? Well, maybe that doesn't happen in your house... My house also looks like it was hit by a tornado. Remember that little person that is crashing in on my video? Yup, that is exactly what happened. This is my real life- dorky expressions, a house that has been hit by a tornado, & talking to myself. Enjoy!


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Monday, October 27, 2008

The MomAdvice Big Give: Faith Mission of Elkhart, Indiana

Image Credit: femuruy

Recently Ron Hudson, from Immediate Influence, created a list with the top 50 most influential women in social media, and to my surprise, I found myself listed as #8 on that list. I don’t mention this to brag, but I mention this because the list claimed that we were not only influential, but that we were also very powerful women.

With power comes great responsibility though and I don’t feel like I have been using my internet powers for all the good that I can. I have quietly been taking care of myself and my family and reaping the rewards that come along with it- free trips, free products, and great connections.

My muscle is weak, but I want to flex it a little bit right now because I owe it to myself and I owe it to my community.


You see, my hometown is filled with factories with laid off workers. My town is filled with families who can’t pay their bills. My town is filled with hungry children. Don’t believe it? My hometown was featured in the New York Times recently and they stated this, “Elkhart, near the Michigan border in an area known as Michiana, is the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy. Its main industries, the manufacturing of recreational vehicles and motor homes, have fallen apart over the last year because of high gasoline prices. That has taken down ancillary businesses like R.V. parts suppliers and storage warehouses. The jobless rate in Elkhart has increased more than in any metropolitan area in the country; it rose over 4.8 percentage points from August 2007 to August 2008. According to labor statistics released this summer, nearly 10,000 people were out of work, a rate of 9.3 percent.”

My family is made up of blue collar workers who work hard for a living and they all live in uncertainty if their jobs will last. My family members have been laid off, they have been worried about health care, and they are swallowed by medical bills. Likewise, surviving a year of my husband being laid off was one of the hardest times in our marriage, the hardest time in our finances, and the hardest time as a parent. We have made it through, but many families can’t.

I want to do something big for our local shelter. I want to give what I can to help the families who are not able to have a bright Christmas. I want them to have something to look forward to.

It is hard to put it out here in black and white because now I have to do it. I am gathering the names of all the PR people who have contacted me to do product reviews and giveaways to help me make something happen in my town. Even if we do not receive help from anyone, we have reserved money in our savings to do something on our own. We are hoping though to make a bigger difference than that though and have high hopes that our prayers and dreams will come true.

If you are in PR, if you are a business that can donate, I ask that you email me (amy@momadvice.com) and tell me what you can do for our local shelter. I will include and publicize any business that contributes to my give through our website and blog, along with a special shout-out on The MotherLoot for the entire month of January. It will be the first entry that anyone sees for that whole month and it will say, “Thank You to these Powerful Companies.”

In addition, if you are a blogger who can share about our efforts on your blog or if you can contribute in your hometown and dedicate an entry to us, we will thank you in a blog entry for making your own charitable efforts.

Our local shelter, Faith Mission, has an urgent need for the following items:


• Towels
• Pillows
• Deodorant
• Disposable Razors
• Shaving Cream
• Kleenex
• Cough Drops
• Aspirin

• Non-Alcoholic Cough Syrup
• Alka-Seltzer
• Pepto Bismol
• Tums
• Body Lotion
• Cologne
• Conditioner
• Hats & Gloves all sizes


Want to give financially? You can donate to our cause via the following link. We've set no minimum amount. Your heart will determine that:







I will be video documenting our journey and sharing our triumphs and struggles as we work on our big give and I really encourage you to follow us as we learn more about our shelter and the need that lies within our own community. You can follow our videos as we add them here:


Watch the Mission Unfold:

MomAdvice's Big Give: Kickoff
The Faith Mission Wish List
Big Give Makes the Front Page
Big Give Makes Big Strides

With power comes great responsibility, how can you flex your powerful muscle in your community?

Here is our banner and if you will be sharing about our big give efforts or if you are doing a big give in your town, please link up to our entry and we will give you FREE advertising on our blog for the month of January. We want to see pictures and hear your own inspiring stories in your town. We want to make a difference and we know you do!

Here is the code for the button, if you would like to place it on your blog:

<a href="http://www.momadvice.com/blog/2008/10/momadvice-big-give-faith-mission-of.htm">
<img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.momadvice.com/blog/uploaded_images/Big-Give-772087.png" style="margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 190px; height: 112px;"/>
</a>


To make it easier to track participants, just add your name to the Mr. Linky below. Feel free to use the banner for your blog or for your particular entry.

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Redbox 10.27.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 93NCA5. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

The Incredible Hulk
As soon as Hollywood started letting its superheroes show their conflicted side, it was just a matter of time before the fantastic, slow-burning Edward Norton was chosen to play one. In this intensely action packed thriller, Norton brings to life the huge green one – and all the confusion that comes along with it.

The Strangers
In just about the creepiest darn thing since the Blair Witch, two young lovers are slowly terrorized in an isolated cabin by three people in burlap masks. The crime is completely random, and the scary factor here is very high. Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler play the couple fighting for their lives against... who knows?

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Who better to interview fanatics than the hilariously deadpan Ben Stein? Here, the former host of "Win Ben Stein's Money" (and, it should mentioned, trusted Nixon advisor) hosts a documentary in which he sets out to ask the hard questions about the Intelligent Design theory to its most fervent believers.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones is more than just back – he's passing the Jones legacy (of getting himself into a pickle with his mouth, then getting out of it with his bullwhip) onto the next lucky generation. In this summertime hit, Harrison Ford (as Jones) and Shia LaBeouf (as the son he didn't know he had) go after a magical artifact.

War, Inc.
Turaqistan is the fictitious country. Tamerlane is the fictitious evil corporation that's about to wage war there if the country doesn't let the corporation build an oil pipeline. John Cusack, Dan Ackroyd, Hillary Duff and others star in this controversial satire about the tight relationship between business and war.

Stuck
After hitting a homeless man with her car following a long night of partying, a young successful nursing home care giver has to choose in an instant whether to save her promising career or save the badly injured victim. Mena Suvari stars in this tense thriller.

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Bloggy Giveaway: $15 Starbucks Gift Card & Land's End Fleece

I am so excited to be participating in the Bloggy Carnival again!

For this giveaway, I am including two things to keep you nice & toasty this winter- a $15 Starbucks gift card & a beautiful Sherpa Fleece Pull-Over from Lands' End (retailed at $39.50).

Here is a little information about the Sherpa Fleece:
  • Their thickest fleece
  • Feminine fit
  • Cotton/jersey lined for comfort
  • Half-zip style looks great and helps regulate body temperature
  • TEMPERATURE RATING: 0°/10° Fahrenheit. Over layering pieces, this Sherpa Fleece Half-zip will keep you warm in 0° weather; over a light layer, in 10° weather.
The winner can choose their favorite color & size. Can't you just picture yourself all warm and happy in this?

And I know you can picture yourself totally drinking this?
To enter, please leave a comment and tell me one thing you are doing right now to survive the economic crisis. I am looking for creative ways that you save money! Please leave a comment by Friday (10/31) at 8 PM EST to be included. Only entries that follow the guidelines will be entered.

After you enter here, be sure to visit all of the hundreds and hundreds of giveaways that are happening right now over at the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival!

Good luck everyone!
**************************
I just wanted to let you all know that we are offering another great giveaway to our readers! Two lucky winners will receive a copy of Build-A-Bear Workshop for the Nintendo Wii. This is a family-friendly game perfect for young children. The game is for children three and older. Put your entry in over at The Mother Loot today! The contest ends October 28th at 8PM EST!

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November '08 Menu Planner

Here is our month of meals for November. I will be posting some new recipes throughout the month so please be sure to check back if a recipe is not listed! I hope that some of these ideas will help with your own menu plans this month!

I will also be working on some holiday recipes and will be sure to share those as well. November can be a tough month to plan with the holidays so I am starting this a little early this month. The cost to buy the supplies and everything needed for lunches & breakfast came in at approximately $200.

November Menu Plan

1. Easy Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce
2. Chicken Parmesan With Spaghetti
3. Pasta e Fagoli with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
4. Turkey Burgers with Oven Fries
5. Skillet Ziti with Chicken & Broccoli
6. Yeast Waffles with Scrambled Eggs & Orange Juice
7. Homemade Pizza Night
8. Weeknight Skillet Fajitas with Tortilla Chips
9. Herb Baked Tilapia with Rice & Steamed Broccoli
10. Spaghetti with Meatballs (make extra & freeze for later)
11. Roasted Chicken with Buttered Noodles & Baby Peas
12. Chicken Flavored Chops with Mashed Potatoes & Corn
13. Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein with Rice
14. Parmesan Chicken Drumsticks with Mashed Potatoes & Corn
15. Deep Dish Pizza with Homemade Breadsticks
16. Beef Tacos with Tortilla Chips & Carrot Sticks
17. Meatball Subs with Oven Fries (meatballs pulled from freezer)
18. Piggy Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs & Orange Juice
19. Italian Chops with Spaghetti
20. Meatloaf Muffins with Mashed Potatoes & Broccoli
21. Roasted Balsamic Chicken, Jasmine Rice, & Baby Peas
22. Homemade Pizza Night
23. French Toast, Bacon, & Orange Juice

Snacks: Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Biscotti, Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Muffins, & Vanilla Scented Granola

**Check out I'm An Organizing Junkie for a menu planner extravaganza, posted each & every Monday for your weekly inspiration!**

**************************
I just wanted to let you all know that we are offering a brand new giveaway to our readers! Two lucky winners will receive a copy of Build-A-Bear Workshop for the Nintendo Wii. This is a family-friendly game perfect for young children. The game is for children three and older. Put your entry in over at The Mother Loot today! The contest ends October 28th at 8PM EST!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Freebie Friday: October 24, 2008


A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, on scoring a national interview with Inside Edition on her fun & freebie lifestyle. We can all say, "we knew her when..." Be sure to read her best of post where she highlights all the really good stuff on her website! Congrats, Heather!

We will be doing interviews with some really inspiring blogging mamas so be watching our blog each Wednesday for interviews with the best moms in the blogging world! Heather is my first interview and I am so excited to share it with you!

Health & Beauty

Upcoming Freebie Events:

OCTOBER

Free Night of Theater
Hormel Chili Master @ Walmart (enter zip for dates)
25 - Border's Halloween Spooktacular 2-4pm
25 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics, make a Pumpkin
25 or 26 - All You free sampling event 10am-4pm @ Walmart
28 - Free Tacos at Taco Bell 2-6pm

NOVEMBER
1 - Home Depot Kids Workshop, make a Leaf Press
4 - Free Scoop for Voters at Ben & Jerry's 5-8pm
23 - Free Dr. Pepper

**************************
I just wanted to let you all know that we are offering a brand new giveaway to our readers! Two lucky winners will receive a copy of Build-A-Bear Workshop for the Nintendo Wii. This is a family-friendly game perfect for young children. The game is for children three and older. Put your entry in over at The Mother Loot today! The contest ends October 28th at 8PM EST!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Notebook Experiment: Can I Make Applesauce In My Slow Cooker?

Experiment: Can I make applesauce in my slow cooker?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 09.25.08

Materials Needed: Please see A Year of Crockpotting for the full instructions on ideas for completing this task. I followed the instructions exactly, but doubled the recipe to make a bigger batch. I also employed the use of a blender to make the applesauce even smoother. My family has weird texture issues so that is why it was a necessary tool in this experiment. NORMAL people can handle apple chunks (like myself), but my children cannot.

Results: Today's experiment got to happen because I have a very thoughtful and sweet neighbor across the street who brought me all of these beautiful apples. They have a friend that is a farmer so she brought over a big bag of apples for our family to enjoy. I was so excited to put them to good use and could think of no better way than making some of that homemade applesauce in my slow cooker.

I peeled and chunked up the apples for the slow cooker, and poured a little lemon juice over them to make sure that they didn't brown. It takes me a loooong time to peel apples. I have one of those apple thingamabobs from Pampered Chef, but sometimes that takes just as long so I skipped it. I need to work on my knife skills anyway.

Since the house was already going to smell like apples, I put the apple peels and cores in a freezer bag so I could break them out when I want the house to smell nice. I love to put these in a pot with water and cinnamon and simmer them on my cleaning day.

Here's my apples all cut up and ready to go. I sprinkled the cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla on them and added my water. I put the slow cooker on low for about five hours, and then checked the apples. They mashed easily so I gave them a good mashing and then put them in the blender to make it smoother for my strange eaters.

I served the applesauce with a rosemary stuffed chicken in my thrifted clay cooker, some herb buttered noodles, & mashed potatoes. My husband declared it a Thanksgiving feast and we dug in.

And the kids gobbled it up...except the applesauce. The color was a brown color instead of their usual yellow because of the addition of spices and brown sugar. I used my marketing background and promoted my product as best I could ("Oh, this CINNAMON applesauce is so delicious, isn't it Daddy? I have never tasted such good applesauce in my life!")

I fooled no one. Which was fine by me because my husband & I could have polished off the whole dish and not ever share it with anyone.

Conclusion: I might try this again without the spices and see if it goes over better with my children. If you have picky eaters, be aware of the color difference and don't be scared to employ the use of a blender to make it smooth as pudding. Hopefully your family is better sports about trying something new than mine. Regardless, GREAT recipe and thank you to A Year of Crockpotting for sharing all of her slow cooker endeavors.

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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!


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Amy's Notebook 10.23.08

These tagged baskets are adorable (@ Soule Mama)

I love this cooking birthday party theme (@ sweet fine day)

My son would love decorating spooky houses (@ little momma & company)

I wonder if my kids would notice the peels if I made those no-peel apple cake (@ 4 Reluctant Entertainers)

These pumpkin swirl brownies would be a fun fall treat (@ Smitten Kitchen)

This pumpkin pie fudge would make a nice addition to my holiday gift-giving list (@ Annie's Eats)

Using the apple corer to fill cupcakes is a brilliant idea (@ The Kitchn)

I am really intrigued by this turkey burger recipe (@ Serious Eats)

This cereal box matching game would be fun for the kids (@ plum pudding)

I loved this article on how to brew coffee in your hotel room (@ Budget Travel)

This pumpkin cheesecake would be a great Thanksgiving treat (@ Baking and Books)

I want to make a tutu for Emily to play dress-up in (@ Problem Solvin' Mom)

These heart-shaped magnets are so precious (@ flipflops & applesauce)

I need to learn how to crochet so I can make this washcloth (@ Crafty Leftovers)

These pumpkins made from photographs are so cool (@ Photojojo)

This bathmat made from rags is really amazing looking (@ Coco Knits)

I love these ideas for a pumpkin party (@ Let's Explore)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happiness Is...Meeting Someone I Admire

Finally, a picture has surfaced of myself & Miss Paula Deen! As you can see from my face, I am getting ready to start bursting into tears because I admire her so much. The story of her investment of $200 into a business to pull her family out of debt is so inspiring to me. If she can do it, couldn't I do something just as amazing for my family?

Thank you to Classy Mommy for sending me this picture. I have a feeling that this memory is going to provide some motivation for me to do something great someday!

Do you have a goal in mind for your home business or for your finances? What provides motivation for you? How do you maintain your focus towards your goals?

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Play it Again, Momma: Fun Family Game Nights

Our family loves to play board games and after we had children, we began to play them a lot more. We are usually home more in the evening, so we pop some popcorn and catch up on our television shows while we play.

I try to get our board games at our local thrift store because it is a great way for me to try them out without making a huge investment. Sometimes I buy games and we discover that it isn't something we would want to play over and over again. When they cost us only $1.50, it makes it much easier to donate it back and try something else out.

You might be able to do this without even making a small investment by checking with your local library. Our library actually has games and toys that you can rent for your children. We were able to try some games out for our son and found that he either didn't like them or they were way too advanced by just checking them out for a week. We were able to return them and then try them at a later date with him, when they were more age-appropriate.

Starting your own game collection does not have to be expensive. If you don't have somewhere that you can buy them secondhand, ask for these as a family Christmas gift or ask for them for your children as birthday gifts. Some of the best childhood games are Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Memory, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Life, and Clue.

Games are a great way to bond with your family and are a inexpensive "date night" with your spouse. We try and devote (at least) one night a week towards playing a game together and enjoy playing these games on the weekend.


These are a few of our favorite games:



1. Rummikub: This is a game that my husband loved to play when he was growing up, and now he has me addicted to it too! The game is intended for ages eight and up and can be played with two or more players. With rules similar to gin rummy, Rummikub is a classic tile game that's guaranteed to get at least a million kid-hours of use in any family. Players take 14 numbered tiles and try to get rid of them as fast as possible by creating runs (for example, 7-8-9) and sets (7-7-7). The link provided is for their deluxe edition (which we do not have). This deluxe edition is cleverly designed so that the four plastic tile racks fit together to form a carrying case for the game.

2. Scrabble- What is not to love about this game? Intended for two players or more and recommended for ages eight to ninety-nine, you can play this game for years with your children. The game has been improved with a swivel board (less stretching required!), raised holders to rest the tiles into, and a bag to store all of the tiles. This is one of my personal favorites and we play this a lot in our house. Don't forget to purchase a copy of the Scrabble Dictionary and store it with your game board. Take some time to study some words and really beat your opponents! Want to see what Scrabble obsession looks like? Rent the movie, "Word Wars." It is all about the Scrabble championships that are held and people who attempt to make a living from this sport.

3. Upwords- Along the same vein, this is another fabulous word puzzle game, but with a twist. You build words just like Scrabble, but you can build up and up (five letters high) to change words into new words. The more you stack, the more points you earn. I think it is more challenging than Scrabble, but the scoring is much easier to do. This game is for two players or more and recommended for ages eight and up. This game can be a powerful tool when your children are beginning to read because it can help teach them how to change words using different letters. Consider it a cheap version of "Hooked on Phonics" and a game that they can enjoy for years after they have learned to read!

4. Skipbo- This was my favorite game growing up and my sister & I would play this for hours and hours. Created by the makers of UNO, this card game is a delight for anyone of all ages. The game is a sequencing game of skill and strategy intended for two players or more and ages seven and up. Players create sequential stacks with cards on the board, the first player to use all the cards in their stack wins. The deluxe edition has a board with placeholders for all of the stacks of cards and score sheets to keep tabs of the winners. I love this game because it is easy to still have conversations while playing, making it a great game to socialize with other couples.

5. Yahtzee- A classic game of dice that has been around since 1956 and is still played in millions of homes today. You can play alone (which I don't think would be as much fun) or with more players. The ultimate in this game is to actually get Yahtzee or five of a kind. This game is so much fun and also a great teaching tool for children. Children can learn basic addition and subtraction, as well as sequential ordering.



6. Monopoly- I had never played this game until high school, and I can honestly say that my husband is always the winner, which is why we don't play it as much! This game is a great teaching tool in money-management and in buying real estate. We have a couple of different versions of this game, but my favorite is the Dot Com Monopoly, which we purchased when Dot Coms were ruling the world. Few of the companies on the board exist anymore, which makes for interesting conversation and fond memories before the dot com bomb hit for computer nerds and geeks alike!


We have many more games in our collection and the last time I hit the thrift store, I picked up another stack of new ones. Our collection keeps growing and we hope to have a game collection that our kids will enjoy someday with their friends. In a day of technological bliss, game nights now seem "retro." Why play on a board when you can just grab your game system or play a computer game online? I hope that board games will last the test of time because they can be an essential part of family bonding and creating a family night to remember!

What are your favorite games? Any games that I should be adding to our collection?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How Do I Become a Product Review Blogger?

One of the questions that I get asked the most is how people can receive free products for review. I have been reviewing products for a few years now, but only more recently did we expand our review section into The MotherLoot where it could receive separate attention from the work that I do here.

Really, anyone that has a blog can move into the product review niche. I just wanted to share some things that I wish someone had shared with me when I began receiving products for review and some ins and outs of the product review niche. Of course, folks that focus solely on product reviews may have some stellar advice that I can't offer you here, but I will certainly try my best.

Start reviewing what you have. If you have not done any product reviews before, one great way to begin venturing into the world of reviews is just reviewing the items you already have in your possession. Look around at the things in your home and review the items that you would hope to receive for your blog. Want to review the latest drugstore products? Start a blog by reviewing what you use in the morning to get ready. Want to own the latest technology gadgets? Start with the laptop you are working on. Of course, you want your niche to fit well with your site so try picking products that would interest your readers. As a family blogger, our readers are interested in the latest toys and tools to make their days easier & more productive. I started by sharing tools that I used to clean my home, not intending to ever receive products from companies. Many companies saw my comments about their own particular products and my experiences with them, and I would begin receiving requests to send me products. That is truly how all of this started for me, just writing about my experience with items in my home.

Put together a set of terms for review.
When companies contact you to review one of their items, be sure to have a standard procedure for reviews. Here are some examples of procedures you could use:
  • It is a requirement by our company that we be able to keep the product that we are reviewing.
  • It is requested that we be able to offer one of your products to our readers in a giveaway.
  • We require a fee from your company in order to do a review.
  • We request that you provide a discount code for orders that can be placed online.
  • We request items that fit with our readers. We are a _____ site that caters to _____. Please make sure your product matches the efforts on our site.
Make sure that your terms are very clear and that the company understands what is required of them. These terms can be made visible on your website or you can just have a document ready to go and email the companies that you are interested in working with.

Streamline your product review process as much as you can. Now that you are receiving requests for products, what are some ways that you can streamline the process? My suggestions truly come from trial and error through my past experiences with companies.

  • Set up a seperate email address for your product reviews so you can keep track of what is coming to you. If it is set up in a different email address, set up an automated response that lets the company know that their request has been received. At this time, it is also appropriate to say, "We receive many requests for products and will try to respond to you in a timely manner. If you would like your product to be immediately seen I would like to provide our advertising rates." This will give the company an option to pay you for prompt attention and lets them know that you have received their request without them hounding you repeatedly through emails.
  • Word your mailing address so you know if you requested the product or not. I won't give away my secret, but I have a very separate wording for products that I request. There have been weeks where we receive product after product and I can't remember what I requested and what I did not request. Establishing a specific mailing address that lets you know it is an item you genuinely wanted to try will help you when multiple mailings start coming in.
  • If you are doing a giveaway with a company, request that they mail the product directly to the winner. Trust me, it is so much hassle to have the product shipped to you and then reshipping it to the winner. It is expensive, not timely at all, and one extra step that you don't want to be dealing with.
  • Keep track of that paperwork. Keeping the winner(s) information in a file along with the PR contact who handled the giveaway will be of great help to you if there should be a snafu with getting shipment to the winner. Hang on to this information for awhile because I have had errors occur months down the road. At this point, it can be time-consuming trying to hunt down that person who forgot to mail shipment to my winners.
Decide how you will handle products that you don't like. Of the twenty requests or so we receive each week, we only pick one or two items for the review site because I try to pick things that we would actually enjoy reviewing. Because of this very reason, you won't see a lot of negative reviews on our site because it is products we really know we will love. There have been the occasional bad products though and we try to review those honestly. There are times though where I have chosen to not do a review and emailed the company privately instead. One company in particular sent me a giant box of their cleaning products that caused me to go into a fit of asthma when I tried them. Rather than bash them publicly, I sent them an email and said, "I am sorry, but these products did not work for me. The scent in them was too strong and caused me to have an asthmatic reaction. I am happy to review them, but wanted your company to be aware." Instead of posting a review, they took my feedback privately and forwarded it to the team who developed the products with the recommendations that they come out with an unscented line."

Don't forget to stay true to yourself & your site. It can be easy to get caught up in all of the loot, but you need to remain true to your readers and the intentions of your site. Our website is family-focused and shopping for family needs fit with our site. Shopping did not fit with a frugal blog though so that is why we chose to move the reviews to its own separate section of the site. If you are conflicted on if it is a good move or not, try to be more heavy with the giveaways rather than the reviews themselves. Nothing makes a reader happier than that email from you letting them know that they won something on your site. It keeps people returning to your review blog if you are sharing the products with others.

Another way that you can stay true to your mission is by donating the items to charity or participating in charitable drives in your community with the items you have received. I am working on a big donation to our local shelter and am so thrilled to be able to pass on some of these wonderful products to others. The items that reflect our mission and goals will be reviewed, but the majority will be donated or given back to our readers. I feel lucky to be able to give in ways that I could not necessarily do on my own and I hope that others can benefit from our relationships with these companies as much as we have.


Do you have any tips or questions on product review blogging? Leave them here and we can start discussing!

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Speaking of product reviews & giveaways, I just wanted to let you all know that we are offering a brand new giveaway to our readers! Two lucky winners will receive a copy of Build-A-Bear Workshop for the Nintendo Wii. This is a family-friendly game perfect for young children. The game is for children three and older. Put your entry in over at The Mother Loot today! The contest ends October 28th at 8PM EST!!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Redbox Code & Sam's Club Membership Deal

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is PK66H8. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

You Don't Mess With the Zohan
Former Israeli assassin who fakes his own death so he can move to New York and pursue his dream of styling hair in gratuitously short jean cutoffs? That's Adam Sandler for you, who you can always count on to deliver the goods in totally absurd ways. Rob Schneider and John Turturro co-star in this whacky comedy.

The Happening
If they rated movies based purely on their otherworldly eeriness, every M. Night Shyamalan movie would be rated X. Surprisingly, this thriller – starring Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher in the midst of a mysterious psychological force threatening all humans – is M. Night's first Rated R movie. Find out why.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins (the deceased father on Six Feet Under) stars as a widowed college professor who's simply going through the motions. But on a trip home to New York, he discovers two lively immigrants have moved into his apartment, and the friendship he forms with them might just open his future right up.

Kill Switch
You knew that Steven Seagal could act (and break pool cues over your head), but here he stars AND wrote the screenplay. Seagal plays as a famous homicide detective who follows a demented serial killer's trail to Memphis, where he must negotiate a seedy underworld of sex and violence.

Iron Man
The unfairly cool Robert Downey Jr. takes on the role he just might have made for: a superhero with a sense of style. Here, he plays Tony Stark, a billionaire war profiteer who becomes a do-gooder/world-saver after escaping captivity with the help of a hand-built flying iron suit. Gwyneth Paltrow co-stars.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Jason Segal, Kristin Bell and Russell Brand star in this hilarious (and frequently uber-embarrassing) comedy about a heartbroken slob who travels to a Hawaiian resort. There's pretty much no one there – except for his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend, and tons of awkward laughs.

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I just wanted to let you guys know that Sam's Club is offering a special offer on their memberships to show people how they can save with a wholesale club membership. I spoke with a gentleman at our store & they said that they are offering these memberships on the weekends, but I am posting the official press release that states that you can sign up all week long. I believe they have set-ups only on weekends with computers displaying the savings, but you can visit your membership services desk to take advantage of the promotional membership. If you aren't sure about which club to go with or if wholesale club shopping is right for your family, please visit our EXTENSIVE article on wholesale club shopping that breaks down the ins and outs of the wholesale club membership. Regardless, this promotional deal would be helpful for a family who is trying to save money for their holiday shopping.

Cost of a membership versus this ten dollar deal, makes this a higher cost membership if you were considering signing up for a year, but for ten dollars you can decide if a wholesale club membership is the best deal for your family.

We only have a Sam's Club in our area so this is the only club that we can choose from. We do use our wholesale club for diapers, baking supplies, and frozen food purchases. For us, it does make sense, but each family needs to decide for their own individual needs.

Here is the official scoop:

For the first time in its history, Sam’s Club is offering a $10 membership good for 10 weeks --through the end of the year --for families and businesses not currently members. Beginning Oct. 17 through Oct. 26 consumers can visit any Sam’s Club to sign up.

Sam’s Club launched a national radio campaign this week and plans newspaper advertising to support the $10 for 10 weeks campaign, which features 10 reasons for joining. USDA choice meats and $4 generics along with generous food demos at Sam’s Club were called out in advertising. Seasonal merchandise and all the decorations required to trim a tree for less than $100 as well as holiday photo cards as low as 35 cents a piece also made the list.

“We know we can easily demonstrate the value at Sam’s Club in just one shopping trip, said Mike Turner, Vice President, Membership at Sam’s Club. ‘With a temporary 10 week membership we’ll be able to give those who sign up a good chance to see what we can do for them everyday, and through the holidays.”

In addition to the radio campaign, Yahoo! Finance columnist Laura Rowley, author of Money and Happiness, visited Sam’s Club locations in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix this week and suggests consumers should consider five things when looking for ways to save or cut expenses.

1. Start with the Basics - Housing and utilities, food, transportation and medicine.

-According to the government’s survey of costs, these are the top four budget categories for Americans and there are some easy ways to save big money over time without reducing quality of life.

2. Household Overhead – Take a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and review monthly income, outline a household budget and look for ways to “trim around the edges” – from cable to utilities to a cleaning or lawn service.

3. Hungry for a Deal – Plan ahead and create a menu for the whole week, which will allow bulk food purchases (which saves significantly off the regular grocery bill).

-When planning a meal, double the recipe and freeze the leftovers, or consider setting up a meal swap with friends.

-Crunched for time? Shop online. Sam’s Club has a service called “Click ‘n’ Pull” where members can shop online and pick up the assembled order 24 hours later.

4. Transportation Savings - Start by re-examining the families’ auto insurance plan.

-Comparison shop, raise the deductible, eliminate collision coverage on older cars, fill up at a warehouse club gas station; use gas websites

5. Cut Health Care Costs – Only about one-third of prescription drug buys are mostly or fully covered by insurance, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports.

-Always ask the physician for a generic equivalent of any prescription and comparison shop online.

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Chicken Enchiladas With Homemade Enchilada Sauce

I am still working my way through my month's worth of meals, and we finally got to try this really yummy & quick recipe from "The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook."

My family is not really into Mexican food and I have to ease them into new dishes, thus why the enchiladas are not smothered in sauce and cheese. Instead, I provided the sauce and cheese on the side so everyone could smother them (or not smother them as they like).

I really loved this homemade enchilada sauce because it was made from pantry ingredients. I also could adjust the spiciness to our own tastes (hold the cumin, 1 teaspoon of chili powder versus 3 tablespoons). That is truly the beauty in making your own mixes & convenience foods.

The entire family gobbled these up and the enchilada sauce on the side appealed to my children's urge to dip everything. These were absolutely delicious and we had just enough leftover to take in my husband's lunch this week.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas (Courtesy of "The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook")

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (1.5 pounds)
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
2 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (use provided recipe or 20 ounces in the can)
1-2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to four hundred degrees. Combine the chicken, 2 cups of the cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, the chiles and cilantro. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Stack the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until warm & pliable (approximately 1 minute). Spread the warm tortillas out over a clean counter. Place 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling, then lay seam-side down in a 9x13" baking dish lightly coated with vegetable oil spray. Lightly spray the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray. Pour 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the enchiladas to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar down the center of the enchiladas. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheddar browns, about five minutes longer. Serve, passing the remaining 1 cup of sauce.

Fast Enchilada Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chili powder (we adjusted to 1 teaspoon)
3 garlic cloves,minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Pepper

Heat the oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat until shimmering. add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar. Cook until fragrant, about fifteen seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Suave Glamour Reel Moments Event: Premiere Night

My last full day in L.A. was when all of the real excitement started happening. We began the day with a beautiful brunch at our hotel, the Sofitel, and what a brunch it was! Trays and trays of food- eggs, hash browns, fruit platters, croissants, egg sandwiches, yogurt with berries... it was beautiful.



This brunch was a chance to listen to a panel of the wonderful people who made the Glamour Reel Moments experience possible. Included on the panel were Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith (a first-time director); producer, Francesca Silverstri; Glamour Associate Publisher & Glamour Reel Moments Executive Producer, Leslie Russo; and Glamour Reel Moments directing alum & moderator, Andrea Buchanan. Thoughtfully, Michelle from Scribbit, used her Flip Camera to record the entire event so you can read exactly what was shared on this panel.

At the end, as we were leaving, I noticed that Kirsten was also heading out and in my nicest voice, asked if she would mind having her photo taken with me. Happily, she obliged and Michelle also felt brave enough to ask too- so here's our moment. Notice how teeny she is? Finally someone who I can see eye to eye with!


A group of us (Liz, Beth, Michelle, & Dawn) all decided to hit the road and squeeze in some site-seeing. Beth, from Role Mommy, caught all of the moments on her Flip Camera so you can view her funny video here. At least, I thought it was pretty darn funny, but it might be one of those things that you just had to be there!

We headed back to the Chinese Theater for the gals that hadn't gotten the opportunity to see it. I was so glad we went back because we were able to see everything that we hadn't gotten to see before because it had been blocked off for a premiere.
Another Camp Baby reunion- two in one week! My new BFF's- Liz, from This Full House, & Dawn, from Because I Said So.

Next we hiked it up to the Hollywood sign. When in my life will I ever get to do this again? I was loving the view, even though I am a little afraid of heights.

Liz enjoyed the view from very far, far away! Michelle, on the other hand, was tap dancing dangerously close to the edge giving us all heart attacks.




Next we dipped our toes into the freezing cold water of Santa Monica Beach. It was so beautiful there and I spent most of the time with my camera out taking tons of pictures. After that, we headed over to the pier and ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp before busting our tails to get back to our car, cutting our time way too short to get ready. We literally got back about a half hour before the cocktail hour so my look had to be pulled together quickly. I am pretty slow when I get ready so this was a stretch, but I wouldn't have changed anything about it.

Here is what my dress looked look- I just love this dress! I scored this dress through my wonderful & sweet friend, Kathy Friend, who writes over at Fashion Questions & Answers. She let me model in a premiere for a local boutique that opened in South Bend, Flourish Boutique. They gave each of us a gift card for modeling and I used mine to buy this little number. Kathy also loaned me some killer shoes so I would look even more stylish for my big night! Now that is a TRUE friend!

I headed down for the cocktail hour that was sponsored by Suave before we headed out. They thoughtfully made sure that we ate plenty since they knew it would be a long night for us!
We received our invitations and headed over to the Director's Guild Theater! I think I was shaking when we walked in.

Here was our big moment walking down the red carpet! Doesn't everyone look stunning? We were all so nervous and excited as we got our photo taken. (Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/Wireimage for Glamour)

Our view after our moment looked like this. Most of the celebrities walked by us though to enter the theater and that is where we got to see everyone- Matthew Perry, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, the entire Arquette family, Kirsten Dunst, and so many more celebrities. I so desperately wanted to ask for an autograph or just talk to them, but just stood in awe at what an amazing opportunity this was.

Then we headed into the theater to catch all the movies. You can watch them all on the Reel Moments website. All of the films were really great, but my favorite though had to be Streak, directed by Demi Moore!

The car came to get us and then we headed over to Chateau Marmont for the after party. There I bumped into Matthew Perry a couple of times, murmured a gracious, "You did a great job!" to any celebrity who turned in my direction and enjoyed circling the place a few times to make sure we saw everyone.

At the stroke of midnight, our car came to pick us up and we headed back to the hotel. As we waited for our elevator, it opened and one of the Jonas Brothers came out of it. It is as though our brains couldn't process it and as the door shut, Liz said she should go back down and see if she could get an autograph for her daughter.

I headed to my room to pack and the next morning made the long flight back to Indiana. I returned to pouring rain and realized that my cell phone was stolen from my carry-on luggage. The laundry lay waiting for me, the fridge was empty, the library books were overdue, and the diapers would need changing again.

My husband & children were snuggled up with me in the morning and Emily kept stroking my face, as though she couldn't believe I was there. The kids kissed and hugged me and my husband kept saying how glad he was to have me home.

That is when I knew that I was right where I belonged!

Thank you again to the entire Suave Team for making me feel so at home in California! It was an opportunity of a lifetime & I will never forget a moment of it!

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Freebie Friday; October 17. 2008

Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, is having an exciting week on her blog. The Inside Edition came to her home to interview her about free samples and her segment will be airing on Monday. Be sure to check your local listings for when the show airs!

Heather is also celebrating her first year anniversary! She is giving away 14+ items in 14 days! Visit her on her one year annivesary - Tuesday, October 21st for a very special one day giveaway!

Congrats, Heather, on all your achievements!

Health & Beauty

Always & Tampax (from Being Girl)
Always Infinity (Walmart)
TENA Overnight Pads
Prilosec
Garnier Wrinkle Treatment

Food


Cappuccino at Barnes & Noble (can only print 1st time accessed)
Warm Delight Minis (for new Betty Crocker newsletter subscribers)
Splenda Sweeteners
Orville Redenbacher's Mini Smart Cakes (Walmart)

Entertainment

Black River by Dean Koontz audiobook
Sports Illustrated Baseball Book
O at Home Free Issue (need a Start Sampling account)

Home

PUR Shopping List (Walmart)
Tide Total Care (from Univision)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

OCTOBER

Free Night of Theater
Hormel Chili Master @ Walmart (enter zip for dates)
18 - Michael's Haunted House Frame 10am - Noon
25 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics, make a Pumpkin
25 or 26 - All You free sampling event 10am-4pm @ Walmart

NOVEMBER
1 - Home Depot Kids Workshop, make a Leaf Press
4 - Free Scoop for Voters at Ben & Jerry's 5-8pm

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Suave Glamour Reel Moments Event: Days 1 & 2

When I am normally invited to PR trips, it is usually packed with information and meetings about the brand and what it is or is not doing for our family. There are discussions, speakers, noteworthy & (at times) tiring days filled with focus groups, but the Suave sponsored mommy event was NOTHING like any of that! Perhaps it was because they had so many moms within their company letting them know that all they would want to do if they had a few days away from the kids would be pampered and have time to themselves to explore the city. Other than a short little informal chat before getting my hair styled, you would have just thought the gals from the company were some wonderful friends who had great connections.

The company hooked us up with car service from our homes to the airports. They had to use a different car service than normal because apparently there are not a lot of great car services in the middle of nowhere Indiana. Imagine my embarrassment, when a fancy sedan pulls up and a man gets out dressed to the nines with a handlebar mustache to take me to the airport. In an ironic twist, the whole neighborhood apparently was outside for the event and the faces on my neighbors was the exact face I would have been making.

It was a long day of flying, but the car service & an amazing Suave representative met me at the LAX airport to greet me and get me settled at my hotel. As we pulled up to the hotel...NO WORDS! Swanky and right across the street from the Beverly Center, the beautiful Sofitel. French & chic!

I checked in and tucked into my room was a beautiful basket with the most thoughtful inclusions. There were snacks, water, spa slippers, tons of really great Suave products, movies that included each of the directors from the movie event in some way, a map of the city, a listing of great places to visit, a pink Flip camera, and even a card with their contact information that we could tuck in our wallet. What a greeting! There was so much thought put into all of the things we would need including spending money for lunches & incidentals while we were sightseeing.


I didn't sleep the first night with excitement and the time change so I stuffed my silly with the ridiculously overpriced room service and anticipated the morning.

I started the morning out with coffee with Liz & Michelle. Unfortunately, they had to head to their salon appointment and I didn't know anyone else to hook up with yet so I spent the day alone until my salon appointment. I headed over to the Beverly Hills Center though to do a little window shopping, which was great!

As if my husband was not a good sport enough, he thoughtfully included a t-shirt for me that he won through a contest. My shirt, although backwards in the picture, says Los Angeles because he said he wanted me to look just like a celebrity.
Nothing says celebrity though like a big ol' scarf in the middle of the blazing heat. This addition is a $5.80 steal at Forever 21. Who says Indiana girls have zero style? The only thing I forgot in my packing were my favorite sunglasses because that would have certainly helped to complete the look. Off to the Beverly Hills Center I went...



Obviously, there was a lot of WINDOW shopping going on, but I browsed around the same affordable stores that we had at home until Liz & Michelle were done with their appointment. We got together to head over to the Chinese theater and eat a little lunch.

We couldn't really see anything because the theater was blocked off for the Max Payne movie event, but we still enjoyed walking around aimlessly and chatting. All of our chatting was mostly geared towards learning more about each of our blogs, how we were doing with our businesses, and more talking on blogging shop. It was so great to enjoy all that sunshine and have such great conversations.

I then went to get my manicure, pedicure, and have my hair done by stylist to the stars, Luke O'Connor, at Lukaro Salon in Beverly Hills. Luke was the nicest guy in the world and agreed that I had a good length and cut, but he just made my hair do exactly what it was supposed to. He said to use very little products and recommended a line of Suave products that would be best for me. Suave took all the pictures though so when I get those, I will be sure to post my transformaton photos when I get them.





Off to dinner! We went to the very chic & famous, Club Nobu I had never eaten sushi before, which is why this first course floored me. Isn't it supposed to be all rolled up and disguised with rice and seaweed? I made a pact to myself that I was going to try everything and I did. Every. Single. Dish. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but still preferred the rolls and cooked dishes more. We dined family-style and I swear there were sixteen courses so we practically rolled out of there after all of that good food.


Luke O'Connor himself dined with us! As you can see, he definitely improved my look a bit! He gave me a little swing to my hair that I certainly could not have achieved on my own. Here's hoping my stylist here will be able to keep up my Los Angeles style.

Tomorrow I will share more about our last and most exciting day!

In the meantime, check out all of the bloggers amazing sites. I think I made some of the best friends of my life- I feel so darn blessed!!
Beth Feldman

Dawn Meehan

Michelle Mitchell

Liz Thompson

Lianne Farbes

Cindy Bokma

Nadine Haobsh

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Amy's Notebook 10.16.08

I arrived back in town last night after a fun trip to California! I have so much to share with all of you and promise to do that really soon. Today I am suffering from jet lag and a bad case of exhaustion with an overflowing amount of work to do. I hope to be back in the swing of things soon. Until then, here is a picture of the Hollywood sign that we took after hiking it up to see it. I had the absolute best time and made some really great new blogging friends. I promise to share it all soon!

Since I am tired, I will skip the notebook experiment for this week, but we will be to our regular schedule next week!

I need to look through this Halloween round-up over here (@ Parent Hacks)

Have you ever heard of a dog poop composter? Very interesting! (@ shelterrific)

These chalkboard doors would be so nice in a guest room (@ Daily Danny)

This post on your life's passions really got me thinking (@ my happy little life)

I love this secret reading room (@ Nesting Place)

These photo card ideas are so brilliant (@ Chica Schmica)

This birdy snack shack is too cute (@ design sponge)

This light minestrone recipe looks like a winner for my lunches (@ Lost Button Studio)

I am hungry for caramel apples after seeing this post (@ 101 Cookbooks)

These cat cupcakes are adorable (@ Serious Eats)

This fishbowl pumpkin would be a cute little Halloween project (@ Bella Dia)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The Elvis Edition

Michelle from Scribbit

Liz from This Full House

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Play It Again, Momma: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody's business. I figured I was on to something and decided to give it a shot and figure out if I could replicate my Saturday morning experience. It took a couple of Saturdays to tweak this recipe, but I finally am satisfied with the results. Lucky for me, my family didn't mind being the guinea pigs so I have gotten this down pat for your dining pleasure!

To make my dough, I used the recipe from the homemade hamburger buns, except that I increased the sugar to 1/3 cup. I ran the dough cycle on my bread machine and when it beeped, I had the perfect dough for rolling.

I rolled the dough out into a 12x15 rectangle and then spread it with the following filling:

Cinnamon Roll Filling

1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this all over the dough and then use your hands to gently press the filling in. Take the edge of the dough and begin rolling it up. Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls (should make ten large rolls) and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone. Store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pull the rolls out and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches 400 degrees, immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees and put the rolls in the oven. Cook these for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the rolls are cooking, I just make a frosting out of powdered sugar and water (I don't measure this, but approximately 1/2 cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons water mixed together should do ya!) When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best warm)

Amy's Notes-

- The first time I made these, I put them on a pizza stone and they cooked very evenly. The second time, I popped them in a 9x13" pan and only the ones on the outside got done. I would recommend placing these either on a cookie sheet (with a nice lip) or on a pizza stone.

- When you slice the cinnamon rolls, you can slice them with a knife or you can use dental floss and cut them that way. I find the dental floss to be a little more tedious so I stuck to slicing with the knife and reshaping the dough afterwards.

- The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don't get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

- You can reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. Makes a great mommy snack with a cup of coffee!



Sound Off:
What is a favorite Saturday morning treat in your house?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Redbox Code 10.13.08

I arrived late last night in Los Angeles for the Suave sponsored, "Glamour Magazine Reel Moments." event. I woke up bright and early at 4 AM and was ready to start tackling the day. That is what a difference in time zones does for me.

I will be sure to post some pictures tonight and today I will be posting the last day from my Walmart trip. If you missed it, here is day one and two!

In the meantime, you can enjoy a little Hollywood life of your own! Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 7CB23W. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

You Don't Mess With the Zohan
Former Israeli assassin who fakes his own death so he can move to New York and pursue his dream of styling hair in gratuitously short jean cutoffs? That's Adam Sandler for you, who you can always count on to deliver the goods in totally absurd ways. Rob Schneider and John Turturro co-star in this whacky comedy.

The Happening
If they rated movies based purely on their otherworldly eeriness, every M. Night Shyamalan movie would be rated X. Surprisingly, this thriller – starring Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher in the midst of a mysterious psychological force threatening all humans – is M. Night's first Rated R movie. Find out why.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins (the deceased father on Six Feet Under) stars as a widowed college professor who's simply going through the motions. But on a trip home to New York, he discovers two lively immigrants have moved into his apartment, and the friendship he forms with them might just open his future right up.

Kill Switch
You knew that Steven Seagal could act (and break pool cues over your head), but here he stars AND wrote the screenplay. Seagal plays as a famous homicide detective who follows a demented serial killer's trail to Memphis, where he must negotiate a seedy underworld of sex and violence.

Iron Man
The unfairly cool Robert Downey Jr. takes on the role he just might have made for: a superhero with a sense of style. Here, he plays Tony Stark, a billionaire war profiteer who becomes a do-gooder/world-saver after escaping captivity with the help of a hand-built flying iron suit. Gwyneth Paltrow co-stars.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Jason Segal, Kristin Bell and Russell Brand star in this hilarious (and frequently uber-embarrassing) comedy about a heartbroken slob who travels to a Hawaiian resort. There's pretty much no one there – except for his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend, and tons of awkward laughs.

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Deliciously Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Before I left for my trip, I wanted to make sure that we had a yummy snack for the kids to munch on. I checked the pantry and had all of the ingredients to put together some mini-loaves of my favorite spiced pumpkin bread in the world. Smear this with a little butter and a cup of coffee, and you have the ultimate coffee shop experience at home.

This batter makes four mini-loaves so I was able to wrap one and put it in the freezer, leave two out for eating, and I gave a loaf of it to my mother-in-law who took a day off to help us with the kids while I am out-of-town. Wrapped in tin foil, I stamped a tag with a little thank you rubber stamp and tied the loaf off with a little raffia. I hope nothing says thank you and I appreciate you like a loaf of this pumpkin bread!

The best part about this bread, of course, is that all of the ingredients can be found and stocked in your pantry. The other great part is that it is inexpensive and easy to make. That makes it a winner in our house!


Spiced Pumpkin Bread


3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Follow My Trips!

Check out all the details on my trips by visiting The MotherLoot. I just posted our first day of activities there including tons of tips for throwing a frugal and delicious Thanksgiving dinner!

Not everyone was pictured here, as a few of our moms were flying in a little later. I will definitely be posting more pictures and sharing all that we learn on this trip on our product review blog!

Hope you can read it!

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Freebie Friday: October 10, 2008

As always, a big round of applause to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us with our Freebie Friday list. I couldn't do it without her! She rocks! Don't believe me? Be sure to check her coupon list for great deals and all week long for her freebies! Thank you, Heather!!

Health & Beauty
Entertainment

Halloween on a Dime free eBook
Maran Illustrated free eBooks
Horse Print for October on Ziggity Zoom
Plenty Magazine from Pepsi (click on green monster)
Babytalk Magazine

Home

Freepeats Free Lifetime Membership (offer ends Oct. 12)
Teaching Activities (Creative Teaching Press)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

OCTOBER

Free Night of Theater
Hormel Chili Master @ Walmart (enter zip for dates)
11 - Arm & Hammer Essentials demonstration @ Walmart
11 & 25 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics, make a Skeleton & Pumpkin
25 or 26 - All You free sampling event 10am-4pm @ Walmart

NOVEMBER
1 - Home Depot Kids Workshop, make a Leaf Press

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notebook Experiments: How Will I Ever Stand Being By Myself?

Experiment: How Can I Ever Stand Being By Myself?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 08.07.08

Materials Needed: Please see The Simple Dollar for the full instructions on ideas for completing this task. Trent has a great list of fifty things you can do by yourself and you can pick any activity out of it for budget-friendly ideas that don't involve spending any money!

Results: I know that today's entry is a bit of a stretch, but I am leaving today for two trips and started packing my bags with things to do to keep myself entertained while I am waiting for my flight. What did I pack?


Well, I packed lots of yarn so I can crank out some knitted gifts while I am waiting at the airport. I picked this robin's egg blue and a soft pink to mix in with a brown stripe. I have done this notebook experiment before, but not in these hues. I need to start working on these and plan to give these as gifts with some homemade soaps that I am ordering through Etsy. I just love how modern the addition of the brown stripe made this dishcloths and I think they will be a real hit!

I was a little concerned that I couldn't bring my knitting needles on the plane, but I checked the guidelines and it said that knitters and crocheters are more than welcome to bring their supplies so I was very happy about that. Then I was worried about cutting the yarn, but saw that nail clippers were perfectly acceptable and after a couple of practice clips, I knew that I would have no trouble whipping up a few of these washcloths.

I have finally memorized this pattern so it makes it much easier to do it without so much thinking.

I also packed a few library books for reading...

Love the One Your With by Emily Giffin. I have never read her before, but I am really enjoying this book. Has anyone else read her? Do you have any recommendations for a favorite from her? So far I am really loving it!

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica is another one I picked up. I know nothing about this book, but I guess there is a Waiter Rant blog and that is where the book came from. I waited tables through high school and after I got married so I have a few rants of my own. I am looking forward to reading this and hope it is a great light read!

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue is one I am very excited to read. I read her first book, Slammerkin, and it was really good! Her first book was a very steamy historical fiction book that I devoured in a couple of nights so I am hoping this one is just as good.

I also tucked our Nintendo DS in with a few games that Nintendo sent me to review. They are trying to get moms to give gaming a try so they sent some really fun brain games and crossword type puzzles.

Conclusion: I think I will be able to be by myself, but I know I will miss my babies terribly while I am gone! I will still be checking & posting so no worries that you will miss anything! I can't wait to see everyone's experiments and be sure to see the entire list from last week!

********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Amy's Notebook 10.09.08

I love this charging basket (@ oh, fransson!)

These are some cute knitting & crocheting projects for Halloween (@ whip up)

It would be great to make some of my own boxes for our gift cards this year (@ Craft Leftovers)

This recycled scarf blanket is so cute (@ Daily Danny)

These pumpkin muffins look like they would hit the spot (@ flipflops & applesauce)

I am making some of this pumpkin spice cream cheese for my bagels (@ Pinch My Salt)

This candy corn hat is hiliarious (@ Material Whirled)

These paper pumpkin ornaments would be a great craft to do with the kids (@ Hostess with the Mostess)

These paper fortune cookies would make a fun addition to a gift (@ ohdeedoh)

These fall leaf rubbings would be fun to do together (@ maya made)

I love these thrifty Halloween decor ideas (@ Today's Creative Blog)

When I master knitting in the round I want to make this beautifully knitted hat (@ Soule Mama)

This idea for pounding golf tees into a pumpkin is so smart (@ Wondertime)

I love these ideas for handmade Christmas gifts (@ Handmade Homeschool)

These quick rolls would be great for weeknight meals (@ My Wooden Spoon)

This pumpkin cornbread would be so yummy with a big bowl of soup (@ The Recipe Girl)

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Family Day at the Pumpkin Patch






Our family decided to take a trip over to the pumpkin patch this weekend together. We decided to visit Amazing Acres in Edwardsburg, Michigan because we had heard so many great things about it. As soon as we pulled up and I saw the truly amazing varieties of pumpkins and gourds they had to offer, I just knew we made the right choice.

I loved that they had tons of wagons available so you could load your purchases right up into your car. The cobwebs gathering on a few of them just spoke of Halloween to me!

Can you see my favorite pumpkins peeking their heads out at me? I just loved all of these little pumpkins sitting in rows. I couldn't resist getting inside to takes some shots of them sitting in on the ledge. Pumpkins have to be one of the greatest subjects for photography, don't you think?

The first thing we had to do was take a hayride with the kids. For our family of four, the cost was $16 for a hayride and to visit the petting zoo.

They clang this old bell each hour to let you know that the ride is getting ready to start. We hurried over to make it for the very first ride of the day!



We were excited because our ride was the first one leaving so we got to stop and give the horses breakfast. The gentleman who gave us the ride turned and told us a little bit about each horse. "This horse is two years old and she likes to bite." To which Ethan loudly replied, "Just like our Emily." Everyone turned to our family and the guy asked who Emily was. "My sister," he said with a little grin. I guess we have a little pony in our family.

The hayride pulled right up to the pumpkin patch where the kids could choose a pumpkin for one dollar. We were told if anyone picked a cell phone out of the patch, they would receive the biggest pumpkin in the whole place. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find the poor guy's phone, but as frugal as I am, you can bet that I sure tried!

Some had an easier time finding their perfect pumpkin.

Others had to think and contemplate much longer before settling on the pumpkin of their dreams.

After our hayride, the kids loved spending time in the troughs filled with corn. Emily left with about four corn cobs in her diaper after they practiced making snow angels and jumping and swimming in the kernels.

We also couldn't resist seeing all the beautiful animals and the creative places they lived.

This little storefront was just for the bunnies!

All in all, we had an amazing day at the pumpkin patch, that I don't think our family will soon forget!

** If you want to see the whole set of pictures, you can see our Pumpkin Patch photos over at Flickr! Enjoy! **


Do you do have any special Fall family traditions? What is your favorite thing to do in the Fall as a family?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My First Notre Dame Game

Despite living minutes away from the Notre Dame campus and enjoying all that tailgating has to offer, I have never been to a game. I don't have the connections or finances to afford going to the game. It was one of those things that I always hoped to do and this weekend my day finally came.

My dad got two tickets to a game and a chance to dine for breakfast and dinner at a local country club through his work for free this weekend. My mom was his original date, but when I went on and on about how I have always wanted to go, she gave me her ticket so I could have a date with my dad.

Growing up, my mom & dad both worked and they equally shared duties with me. One parent worked nights and one worked days and I feel like I kind of got the best of both worlds. I am sure it was hard for their marriage, but it was great for a little girl who wanted to be the apple of each of her parent's eyes.

Since I returned home five years ago, there are few opportunities for my dad and I to have that time together anymore. His work schedule is intense, my life as a busy mom can be intense, and we both long for that quality time together.

I don't know who was happier in this picture, me or him. It was just what we both needed and I am so lucky to have a dad who shows me off like I am the next best thing to sliced bread, a mom who would give up her ticket so we could have this opportunity to be together, and a husband who would take care of the kids so I could have some special time with my dad.

This was the view from my seat- we were just behind the press and photographers for the game. I soaked this moment in for all it was worth- drinking in the beauty of the campus, savoring my moment in the sun, and at peace because my dad & I finally got some time together.

The pictures aren't great because I took them with my camera phone, but I won't forget any of it for a single second.

Go, Irish!

Thank you, Daddy, for bringing me with you- I will never ever forget it!

xoxoxo

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Welcome to the South Bend Tribune Readers

I just wanted to share with you an interview that I did with The South Bend Tribune, our local newspaper, on some of the newest happenings going on with our website. I have to say, my favorite part of the article is this right here. Nothing else mattered when I saw that they had a picture of Emily helping me work! Unfortunately, Ethan was at school during the interview so he missed out this time, but Emily loved helping pose!

The author of the article, Kim Kilbride, also included three of my tips for savings on her own blog at Frugal Finesse. Many thanks to the Tribune for featuring me!

In the article, I mentioned that I will be going on two trips this month that I am looking forward to. The first trip will be to Bentonville for my part in the Walmart Eleven Moms project. If you are interested in seeing the vlogs from other bloggers, be sure to visit the official site. I will be spending a few days learning more about their corporation and getting to meet all of the great moms that are helping in this project. I will fly home and turn around to leave for another trip that is being sponsored by Suave for Glamour's Reel Moments. They picked a handful of bloggers to come and be a part of the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles. I am so excited about both of these opportunities and looking forward to meeting just a few of my idols in real life and seeing some old friends too! I also can't wait to make new friends.

I have been frantically working on entries for the week that I am gone and getting all of our great writer's entries scheduled for the Family Bliss section of Blissfully Domestic.

All information related to my travels will appear on The Mother Loot, so that I can continue sharing about our regular old topics here! I hope that you won't even realize I am gone and would really appreciate prayers for safe travels & prayers for my amazing husband who has graciously taken a portion of his vacation time to help with the kids so I can do some traveling & networking.

Thank you all for being such big supporters of our site and for continuing to help our website grow. I am thrilled to say that we came in at #13 in the FIRE Finance Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs this month. What an honor to be among some of my favorite people! I am gunning for a top ten spot next time so please keep telling your friends that this is the place to find good stuff about penny-pinching.

I am making my rounds in the community too and just got the opportunity to speak at Evangel Heights United Methodist Church, sharing ten ways to survive the economic crisis. Thank you to their congregation for asking me to speak and I hope that I can do more of that in the community! I will be sure to post my ideas soon on this topic!

When I return, I plan to shoot some new segments for our local news. I would really like to do a section on our site and a segment for our news featuring Etsy sellers. I am working on some entries and a commitment towards having a handmade holiday. If you are interested in being featured, please send me an email at amy@momadvice.com with a link to your shop. I think this would be a fun feature for our product review blog as well as sharing about shopping through Etsy for your holiday gift-giving this year!

Thanks again to the Tribune for our story and we hope we can continue providing great money-saving tips for families in this difficult time in the economy!

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Redbox Code 10.06.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is DGM314. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

Iron Man
In a summer of superheroes, Robert Downey Jr. might just have outshone them all. Here, he plays a billionaire war profiteer who has a charitable change of heart after escaping captivity with the help of a hand-built flying iron suit. Gwyneth Paltrow plays his lovely/brainy assistant.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Apatow ensemble magic continues! Jason Segal (as seen in Knocked Up) plays a heartbroken schlub who takes a trip to Hawaii to get away from it all – only to find his ex-girlfriend (yes, Sarah Marshall) vacationing there with her new rocker boyfriend. Kristin Bell, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand co-star.

Sex and the City
Been losing sleep over the last five years wondering if Carrie and Big will finally marry? a) Wow. b) Your wait is over! Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis all return in this feature length adaptation of the hit series about four (frequently) single girlfriends in New York.

Leatherheads
That's what players were called, back in the days when football was still a fledgling sport and – absurdly – leather was all the head protection anyone thought was needed. George Clooney and Jon Krasinski are the star players in an early football league, and Renee Zellweger is the sassy reporter who covers it all.

Deception
This is the tale of a bored-stiff CPA (Ewan MacGregor) who finds just the kind of danger he's looking for when he's brought into a private, anonymous sex club. But one of the club's more dashing, charismatic members (Hugh Jackman) might have other, more criminal plans for him.

Run Fatboy Run
In the five years since leaving his pregnant fiancee (Thandie Newton) at the altar, Dennis Doyle (the hilarious Simon Pegg) has watched his spirits drop and his waistline grow. But he finds one last chance to impress her and win her back – by pulling it together running a marathon. Hank Azaria co-stars.

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A Good Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

A good blogger would have had an incredible picture of this apple crisp, but a good daughter was too busy preparing it for her parents. There are times were life gets in the way of my food photography and this was one of those times.

I love my quick apple crisp recipe (scroll to snack #2), but since my cake mixes are being used for my new favorite peanut butter cookies, I thought this would be a good time to try making an apple crisp the good old-fashioned way.

I found a recipe that I thought would fit the bill perfectly for an evening with my parents. I prepared the skillet ziti with chicken & broccoli, a big batch of breadsticks, this apple crisp and some decaf coffee to polish it all off.

The dinner turned out delicious and this apple crisp was perfection. This recipe is not too sweet and the crumbly topping came together beautifully. I used Granny Smith apples because I like how sturdy they are and how they can hold up to just about any bit of baking. I am also fond of a tart apple with a sweet topping. I served the crisp with a big scoop of Cool Whip.


The frugal gal in me can never waste anything though and while I worked on the rest of the dinner, the apple peelings and cores were simmering away (in water) on our stove, sprinkled with a little cinnamon from the pantry. It smelled like apple pie all day as I tidied the house and got everything ready for a fun evening.

I hope you can give this recipe a try- it was a great way to polish a meal off.

Apple Crisp (The Good Old-Fashioned Way)

6 cups sliced, peeled apples
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup rolled oat
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place apples in a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine rolled oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake for 40 minutes or until apples are tender.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Freebie Friday: October 3, 2008

A big thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us compile our list of great freebies this week. Heather is hoping to spread the word about her website and wants you to help her! Please find out how you can make Freebies 4 Mom an even bigger success!

Do you have a birthday in Octobober? Why not celebrate by visiting Heather's updated list of great freebies for your birthday! Thanks, Heather!

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Pamprin (Walmart)
Schick Quattro razor for him

Food


Del Monte coupons (includes free product coupons)

Entertainment

Signing Time
videos at Totlol and YouTube
Kidthing (includes Mathketball game)
Zyrtec/Scholastic Dinosaurumpus book
Audible Kids (9 free audiobooks)
Storynory audio stories
Successful Living magazine
Ode magazine (AdPerk)
Field & Stream magazine (AdPerk)
Jumble Pie ebook
My Country DVD or VHS (documentary hosted by James DePreist)
Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine
Redwood Creek Chardonnay Poster

Home

Ziploc Fall Gift Pack
Arm & Hammer Be Green House Party

Upcoming Freebie Events:

OCTOBER

Free Night of Theater
Hormel Chili Master @ Walmart (enter zip for dates)
4 - Home Depot Kids (make a whistle fire truck 9 am to noon)
11 - Arm & Hammer Essentials demonstration @ Walmart
11 & 25 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics, make a Skeleton & Pumpkin
25 or 26 - All You free sampling event 10am-4pm @ Walmart

NOVEMBER
1 - Home Depot Kids Workshop, make a Leaf Press

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We started a new giveaway this week for $25 gift cards to Shutterfly! This contest is to help promote their new Share Site service where you can create a free site for your family and share your pictures through their website. Head over here to enter today to win!

Enter today to win a 10th Anniversary Harry Potter prize pack. We are giving away beautiful boxed sets of the Harry Potter series and the new anniversary editions of, "Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone" Please do not enter here, only entries over here will qualify.

Good luck, everyone!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Notebok Experiments: Can I Make Decent Brown Rice?


Experiment: Can I make a decent batch of brown rice that is edible?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 09.11.08

Materials Needed: Please see The Kitchn for the full instructions on ideas for completing this task. I chose to perform this experiment with long grain brown rice and followed the instructions as directed.

Results: I have to admit that I was intrigued by the idea of boiling the rice as you would boil pasta and wasn't sure if the rice would actually turn out good or not. I brought my water to a rolling boil and then salted the water before pouring in my rice. I followed the instructions on the bag and set the timer for 25 minutes and went downstairs to work. Occasionally I checked on it, but I didn't hover over it like I do when I cook the rice in a 2:1 ratio, like usual.


The idea of cooking the rice this way appealed to me for two different reasons. First, I never seem to get the right consistency with the brown rice and it is still always a little too chewy for me. I have also found that the top layer doesn't taste like the bottom of the pot, which might be because I am not spending enough time hovering over it. Second, I also have been known to burn the rice a time or two and I hate wasting food and cleaning a burnt pot.

The rice using the boiling water method cooked up beautifully and tasted more like white rice than the brown rice grainy taste that I usually end up with. I do have concerns that I am boiling out a lot of nutrients though so I don't think I would do this method all of the time, but it was much easier for me to get my lunch together today and make a huge batch without the measuring and hovering.

Conclusion: I definitely would try this method again and enjoyed my brown rice so much more. I think I might add a rice cooker to my Christmas list this year, but until then this is a great way to make a good batch of rice with a more consistent result.
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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Amy's Notebook 10.02.08

I am loving this little study center (@ ohdeedoh)

I love these fringed flowers on notecards (@ craftstylish)

This kid's art smock is the cutest thing ever (@ Don't Look Now)

This dressed-up vase & reminder to personalize gifts is really good (@ Grace Violet)

These oven mitts would make a wonderful hostess gift for Christmas (@ Skip to My Lou)

I am going to have to do this puppet show theater with the kids (@ Crafty Daisies)

These photo letter frames would make the coolest Christmas gift (@ Michelle's Messy Musings)

These Curious George Cupcakes would be so cute for a birthday party (@ justJenn recipes)

I would love to make a game with my son (@ SouleMama)

This chocolate chip pudding cake sounds divine (@ jane's apron)

This Halloween bag is the cutest thing ever (@ Scribbit)

I love this sweet idea for relieving preschool anxiety (@ Parent Hacks)

It is official- I am now craving this chocolate pie (@ Homesick Texan)

I want to try this pumpkin spice granola (@ Annie's Eats)

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We started a new giveaway this week for $25 gift cards to Shutterfly! This contest is to help promote their new Share Site service where you can create a free site for your family and share your pictures through their website. Head over here to enter today to win!

Enter today to win a 10th Anniversary Harry Potter prize pack. We are giving away beautiful boxed sets of the Harry Potter series and the new anniversary editions of, "Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone" Please do not enter here, only entries over here will qualify.

Good luck, everyone!

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

MomAdvice Monthly Recap: September '08

We had a record for the highest traffic ever this month so THANK YOU to everyone who has been sharing our website with their friends, families, and readers. We couldn't do it without all of you!

This month's top referrers were:
1. Freebies 4 Mom
2. Money Saving Mom
3. Twitter (and this is why you should use it!!)
4. Frugal Dad
5. Tip Nut
6. Dinner Tonight
7. Simple Mom
8. Walmart Money Saving Moms
9. Mommy Snacks
10. Marta Writes

This month's top articles & entries were:
1. 35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget
2. Mystery Shopping
3. Aldi Supermarket
4. Make Your Own Mixes & Convenience Foods
5. Picky Eater Dinner Ideas
6. Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner
7. Snacks For Mom: Do You Have Them?
8. Best Birthday Cupcakes in the World
9. Can We Survive a Money-Free Weekend?
10. Eat Your Heart Out, Martha: Bubbly Magnets

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Gardening for Fall


My flowerbeds have been looking a little tired. The long dry spell left my beds dried out and the Day Lilies were taking over the beds with their dried out leaves. It was time for some fall sprucing.


I just love adding some fall mums for a frugal bit of color. For $2.48 each (at Lowe's this week), I was able to brighten my bed up with a little bit of color. Best of all, the mums come back every year and when I see their bright colors start popping up in my beds, I know that it won't be long before my favorite season is here.I trimmed the Day Lilies down for the year. They could have lasted a few more weeks, but it made it easier to pick a good placement for my mums. I put eight mums into the front flowerbeds and marveled how something so simple can make a girl so darn happy!


I am still loving how we solved our barren spot in our lawn with this boxed in tree. I planted four mums in and cut our sad little Hostas down. I am hoping that they do better next year because they looked pretty sad this year. A fresh bed of mulch (an extra bag tucked in our garage from the last project) and my tree looks a little bit brighter.

How do you prepare your flowerbeds for fall? Do you plant again or just cut things down? I am a newbie gardener so I am always looking for tips!

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