Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 28: 'Tis the Final Day of No Spend! Rejoice!


I am so proud of our family and what we have accomplished on this No Spend Challenge. I can tell you that we spent $55 overall for the month. $10 was spent on my trip to Blissdom and $45 was my recent trip to New York. I am sad that the total was not $0, but we did the best we could with some unexpected travels and expenses.

Let me share with you a little bit about what our family learned through our No Spend Challenge.

  • I am more resourceful than I gave myself credit for. Committing to stay within our grocery budget was more difficult than I had expected. I did not realize how often I ask my husband to stop off at the store for one or two items for dinner. I found that many times I could whip up some really great cooking substitutes for the ingredients I needed or I was able to make those items I would have bought.
  • Cooking every night is harder than I thought. I love working from home, but it can be challenging to get all my work done and get dinner on the table. Often I am in conference calls or working on a project until my husband gets home. I do love to cook, but I also love the occasional break so I can just relax. I realized during this month how often we actually do eat out. Trying to be inventive in the kitchen every single day was a challenge. I discovered that a box of macaroni or sandwich night was a wonderful way to still give myself a night off without spending money. I also learned the art of stretching a meal as far as it could go, reinventing it, or even double-batching meals helped give me the nights off I needed when I was working.
  • I can still give to others. Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don't have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don't have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days. That is why I am so proud to tell you that I was able to provide five meals for others during this month and hosted countless engagements at my house caring and serving my friends and family. You don't have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like small gestures to me means a lot more to someone than you might think. We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.
  • My social calendar needs some revising. I never realized how many of my social engagements centered around spending money. Meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing lunch for a play date, sharing coffee with a girlfriends are just some examples of things that are typically on my calendar. I will admit that I was a little bummed to miss some of these activities, but I was determined to approach this challenge creatively. We hit the library, we went to our friend's houses for play dates, we packed our lunches, and I hosted my friends at my home instead. What I found was that I had a deeper connection with the people in my life when I could sit at my kitchen table and our children played at my house then I would have at a play area where I am running around after my kids and dealing with crowds.
  • I feel more grounded when I am home and not spending. Since we weren't out spending money, we ended up spending a lot more time at home. I suddenly had the time to tackle all of those projects I didn't think I had time to do. In fact, I had time for things that I loved to do. I haven't read a whole book in probably a year and this month I read four entire books in one month. I baked bread. I weeded through things that needed organizing in my house. I actually got caught up with laundry a few of those days. I hung out with my children. I finally felt centered. I felt like a calendar addict who was just given permission to take four weeks off. That first week I felt the withdrawals, but by the second week it began to feel wonderful. I used my “No Spend Challenge” as my excuse to detach myself from anything and everything so I could just relax and do the things I truly enjoy.
  • The best things in life really are free. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Giggling with my friends over coffee. Playing those dusty board games. Helping others around me. Snuggles from my sweet children. Good music. Dancing with my kids. Knitting. Soaking in the tub. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.

Overall, I am really proud of how well we did with our challenge! There were two things that people wanted to know when our challenge was over...what did we do with our saved money and what was the first thing I was going to buy when I could spend again?

I am happy to tell you that with the money saved, we were able to put down a deposit to refinance the interest rate on our home and moved from a 30 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage, saving our family $90,0000 in interest. That is an investment that was worth every penny invested.

And what is the first thing I want to buy after this challenge is over? I scheduled myself for a good haircut, I am giving myself off a night from cooking, and I'm getting a little yarn fix over at Hobby Lobby. It is the little things that I missed, but the No Spend Challenge brought us great perspective and I am so thankful for the lessons I have learned from this experience.

Please feel free to rejoice with me. Toot your own horns about what you learned from this experience. Heck, I would be honored if you just gave me a pat on the back for my resourcefulness this month- I want to celebrate, friends!!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Bursting With Excitement for Twilight Fans Everywhere!

I am wrapping up the final book in the Twilight series. I just haven't wanted it to end, which is why I have been savoring these last few pages. This will be the end of some of my best reading in a long time. If you would have told me that I would be sitting on the edge of my seat reading a young adult vampire novel, I would have laughed at you. I have never been into the vampire books or anything that would resemble this genre before, but I somehow got sucked in. It is a book series that transcends generations and all my mom friends are equally as excited about these books as myself!

And this is why I am bursting with excitement to announce to you today that I am partnering up with Walmart on a very exclusive and exciting project. I am going to be hosting a BlogTalkRadio show with Taylor Lautner, AKA Jacob, on a very special interview while they are on location for the second film ("New Moon"). I will be co-hosting this on the “Stardish Radio” program March 9, 2009 at 9 pm (EST). Speaking from the set of The Twilight Saga’s New Moon, Taylor will take questions from fans “logged in” to BlogTalkRadio with host Jo Ann Kubasek (Stardish Radio) and myself. I will definitely be updating you as details arise about this exclusive interview and I hope you can be a part of this with me!

Walmart has launched a Twilight site for you to get the scoop on the DVD release, e-bites (instead of e-vites) that you can use to host your own movie party at home, and loads of exclusive fan gear at really affordable prices. Walmart plans to give fans thirsting for more Twilight a good reason to be at its 24-hour stores late Friday evening, Mar. 20 as they await the midnight DVD movie release. Among store activities will be ideas and products for fans looking to host their own Twilight viewing party. And, especially for Twilight super fans, Walmart has reserved special exclusive Twilight gifts for those first 50 fans in line to purchase the DVD movie at each 24-hour store.

In addition, customers can visit the Twilight pages on Walmart.com to see new behind-the-scenes movie footage and to download a widget that tests their knowledge daily with Twilight story trivia.

Many of the Eleven Moms will be offering exclusive fan gear gift packs and other great Twilight giveaways. I know we are all equally excited about this fun program and getting to be part of this fun adventure with the movie!

And if you haven't read the books, perhaps you will now!

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Freebie Friday: February 27, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! Please swing by and leave Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, some get well wishes. Since she is feeling under the weather, she is extending her giveaways by a week so be sure to get your entry in to win. A BIG thanks to Heather for her assistance each week on Freebie Friday.

Since I was out of town, I wasn't able to post our Apron Full of Giveaways, but we will be back with this round-up next week. In the meantime, be sure to enter to win a year's worth of Campbell's Chicken & Stars Soup complete with a handy little thermos!

Enjoy your freebies and weekend, everyone!


Health & Beauty


Kashi Frozen Entree
Parent's Choice Infant Formula (Walmart)
Metamucil (Walmart)
Benefiber (Walmart)
Land 'O Lakes Simple Goodness House Party
Dairy Queen (for bloggers)
Ile de France Cheese (for bloggers)
Bob Evans Free Kids Meal & Drink Offer (sent via email after you sign-up for the club)

Entertainment

Upcoming Freebie Events:


Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

FEBRUARY
28 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a 48 race car
MARCH
7 - Bruster's PJ Day - Free single scoop waffle cone if you wear your PJs
7 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a HD Raceway
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a Tabletop Basketball

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 25: A Sweet Little Pick-Me-Up


The month is coming to a close and this last week has been dragging a bit for me. I think that is why I was so touched when I got the most wonderful package in the mail that was totally unexpected and unprompted. In it were these beautiful little felt pins and the kindest note thanking me for featuring her site in the notebook entry. It was so kind that it brought tears to my eyes and I want to publicly thank Kimba, from A Soft Place to Land, for sharing this sweet gift with me. She makes the most beautiful handmade things in the world so please, please think of her when buying your next gift and head over to her wonderful Etsy Shop to pick up a pin for someone special in your life. It will make any outfit you have special and I have somehow found how to work one of these pins in with everything I wear. Even my aprons. Or my sweat pants. Or my television appearances. Thank you, Kimba, from the bottom of my heart!

As if that wasn't enough, I got another completely unexpected package in the mail. It is the boxed set of Anne of Green Gables. I hang my head in shame and tell you I have never read these books and I have never watched the movies. In fact, I think I was clueless that I was entering a contest on Metropolitan Mama and was just commenting on family films we had recently seen. I am horrible about entering giveaways and rarely enter them so that is why it was like a wonderful surprise when I found out I won.

I love a little pick-me-up when I am down, don't you?

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Simplify the Bedtime Resource List

Thank you all for joining me this week on MomAdvice Simplified and the discussion on simplifying the bedtime routine. I just wanted to gather up a resource list, from today's episode, to help you manage the bedtime hour a little easier. You can still listen to today's show, just by visiting the BlogTalkRadio widget on the left. I am having some weird audio problems on today's episode so the first five minutes cut out, but we are working to fix this, as we speak!

Bedtime Bootcamp- Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect and Dr. Marc Weissbluth are proud to present Bedtime Bootcamp to help parents establish healthy family sleep habits. Dr. Weissbluth is highly regarded among parents for being one of the biggest names in sleep-training, and now parents can participate in what is quickly becoming all-the-rage online: Bedtime Bootcamps, hosted by Dr. Weissbluth himself. Each week for four weeks, Dr. Weissbluth will post a challenge on Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com where parents can discuss with the site’s community of parents, and apply what they learn at home. From implementing techniques to wind down after school, cook healthy dinners that promote good sleep, ritualize bath time and story time, Dr. Weissbluth will help parents get a good sleep routine in place, and he’ll answer their questions online along the way. He’ll even comment on parent’s routines if they post them on the site.

Sleep Rules- These are the rules that Dr. Weissbluth recommends for getting your child to go to bed and stay in bed. These guidelines, in particular, are designed for children who are over 2 1/2-3 years old.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child- One of the country's leading researchers updates his revolutionary approach to solving--and preventing--your children's sleep problems. Dr. Weissbluth outlines proven strategies that ensure good, healthy sleep for every age. This distinguished pediatrician and father of four explains with authority and reassurance his step-by-step regime for instituting beneficial habits within the framework of your child's natural sleep cycles.

Sleep Deprived No More- Although there are many books on getting baby to sleep, Sleep Deprived No More focuses on someone else who isn't getting any rest — the mom! Organized trimester by trimester both during and after pregnancy, this guide is straightforward, accessibly written, and easy to navigate so moms can quickly get the help — and rest — they need. Covers sleep conditions common to pregnancy and afterward: In addition to erratic feeding schedules causing moms to lose sleep, there are many sleep issues specific to pregnancy and new motherhood, including Restless Legs Syndrome, Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and more. Tips and tricks for making it through the day: Mindell also gives moms the lowdown on how to catch up on sleep and stay focused throughout the day, even if you're waking up every few hours at night. Includes sleep advice for baby, too: Included also is the author's expert advice on the best ways to get baby to sleep through the night, making this an all-in-one resource.

Great Sleeping Tips- These are some of the tips that I highlighted in today's episode that can help you get your child to sleep.

Just Call Me Ticketmaster- This is the rewards system we used to get our son to go to bed nicely and head to school nicely and is a fun variation on the Sleep Rules Chart that Dr. Weissbluth recommends.


On next week's show...
I have a very exciting episode scheduled and a guest that I think you are really going to enjoy hearing from on simplifying the after-school chaos. Olympic gymnastic champion, Mary Lou Retton, joins our show to discuss how she simplifies and deals with the after-school chaos in her home. As a mother of four girls, she offers helpful real-life tips she uses with her family, and supplies a game plan that will help you conquer after-school chaos. I would love if you would join us as we discuss making after-school time easier for your family.
This show will air on March 5th at 2PM EST!

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplify the Bedtime Routine


On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, we will be joined by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago and founder of The Sleep Disorder Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a practicing pediatrician.

Is bedtime an hour of stress in your house? Are you constantly battling with your children at bedtime? Are you struggling with getting sleep yourself?

Dr. Weissbluth will be joining us to share his expertise to help with those bedtime blues. Dr. Marc Weissbluth & ParentsConnect are proud to present Bedtime Bootcamp to help parents establish healthy family sleep habits.

Dr. Weissbluth is highly regarded among parents for being one of the biggest names in sleep-training, and now parents can participate in what is quickly becoming all-the-rage online: Bedtime Bootcamps, hosted by Dr. Weissbluth himself.

He joins my show this week to share some tips for nailing the bedtime hour and I can't wait to share them with you.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar! Check back after the show for our resource list so you can explore all of the great links to book and advice that we share during our half hour.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 23-24: The New York Edition

I am back from The Mike & Juliet Show and am trying to recover from a terrible head cold that I caught on my way out there.

You can watch the segment here on Work-At-Home Scams. I am sure I don't have to tell you that I am disappointed that I did not get to share with women what a wonderful resource MomAdvice.com could be for helping moms navigate working-from-home. My soul purpose to leave my family for two days was to be able to help educate women on work-at-home scams and showcase a true work-at-home success story. Time ran out and I am very sorry for that because I had a lot to share.

You can't control live television, I have discovered, and sometimes the opportunities pan out and sometimes they don't. I once did a news segment on behalf of a company and they would not agree to say my website and the company I was representing because it was too long. After hours of preparation and a sleepless night trying to get ready for it, that was my first taste of how things different things can be, particularly when you are working with a show that is not local.

As I stood backstage this week, I talked with another one of the guests about that mystery shopping scam that was highlighted in the segment. I told her that there are legitimate opportunities out there and that I would be happy to share with her real information on mystery shopping. Perhaps, that was my moment and the reason for me coming there or maybe my story will help another mom who is struggling financially and looking for work. It is desperate times like these in the economy, when people find themselves victims of these scams because they are trying to put food on the table for their families.

I spent $45 on this trip on just eating. It was one of those things that I obviously could not control, which makes me sad since I had done so well on the No Spend Challenge so far. I am bummed, but I am still proud of how well I have managed this month with three out-of-town trips.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Amy's Notebook 02.25.09

I love these little knitted duck slippers (@ Scribbit)

These triple chocolate brownies look delicious (@ Chocolate on My Cranium)

I love this portable camping lantern made from a recycled peanut butter jar (@ Made by Cynthia Rae)

I want to try these chocolate chip angel food cupcakes (@ Baking Bites)

This is a great tutorial for making shoe bags (@ betz white)

This yoga mat bag made from an old pair of pants is brilliant (@ CRAFT)

I want to try this chocolate chip cookie recipe (@ Joy the Baker)

These broccoli calzones look so delicious and I love this how-to video on shaping calzones (@ Baking and Books)

I bet my children would love these cinnamon waffles (@ Annie Eats)

These are some great ideas for affordable architectural personality (@ The Inspired Room)

This mudroom makeover makes me happy (@ whatever)

This is a great post on how to talk money (@ Simple Mom)

I want to bookmark these thirty things you can make as inspiration for this next month (@ Tip Nut)

I have never seen anything in my life like this micro-knitting. Unbelievable (@ whip up)

I want to make some of these homemade breakfast burritos as a quick breakfast in the morning (@ The Simple Dollar)

I can't wait to try this new waffle recipe (@ Serious Eats)

I love this post on what the author loves about her kitchen (@ Food Woolf)

This quick color makeover is so smart! (@ Small Notebook)

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Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Waffles That Are Light As Air?

Experiment: Can I make waffles that are as light as air?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 02.25.09

Materials Needed: Please see Serious Eats for the full instructions.

Results: I loved all your feedback last week on my failed pretzel experience. I thought it was important to share that I can totally flop in the kitchen just like anyone else. I have had many failed experiments over the years, but I probably do not share those as often as I should. I try to only showcase the tried and true recipes, but there are those days where the cooking isn't very stellar in this house and I want to share that with you too!

That failed experiment though did not stop me from attempting another recipe in the notebook. As soon as I saw this recipe for waffles, I knew that I wanted to try it. I love my waffles, but often wish that they were not so dense so that is why I was intrigued by this recipe. I decided to make a double batch, hoping they would turn out and make a fun breakfast for the kids out of the leftovers.

There were several things that made this recipe different from others I have tried. There was no vanilla in it, no sugar even, and it required you to separate the yolks and whites in the egg, whipping the whites until they were at the stiff peak stage. After mixing the batter together, you then fold in the egg whites which created a lot of volume and airiness to the batter.


This combination of ingredients was absolutely perfect and folding in the egg whites helped to create the perfect balance of crispness and airiness that I have been looking for in a waffle recipe. The lack of sugar in the recipe also made it so the waffles were not so sweet and could be heavily coated in homemade pancake syrup without making them too heavy.

Best Waffles Ever (Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg whites
Procedure

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.

2. In another bowl beat egg yolks slightly. Stir in milk and oil.

3. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (should be lumpy).

4. In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up).

5. Gently fold egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white, Do not overmix.

6. Spoon waffle batter into your waffle iron, making sure not to overfill it.

7. Serve with real maple syrup and unsalted butter.


Side Note
- I doubled this recipe for my family of four and we had enough for three extra Belgian waffles


Conclusion:
I will make these waffles again and again because they were absolutely perfect. They truly were the best waffles ever and I look forward to serving these again for a fun brunch or weeknight meal!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!
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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 Wednesday 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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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Five Commandments for Blogging


Starting this website has been a lesson in success and failure for me. When we started doing this site, I would have never dreamed that I would become so devoted towards something like this or lovingly refer to the site as "my other child," but something about writing and sharing in this way has really clicked with my life right now.

When you enter the world of blogging, people can start their blog with several different ideas for what they hope to gain from the experience. Some use their blogs to share about something they are passionate about (photography, sewing, politics, cooking) and use their blogs to vocalize their passions. Some bloggers are parents who use their blog as a way to keep family up-to-date on everything that their children are up to. Still other bloggers enter the blogging arena as storytellers and they share their beautiful prose or funny stories with the world.

What you shouldn't enter into this equation with is the hopes of earning wild and crazy money. I will be honest with you and say for the first year or so, I had little more than $20 a month to show for my efforts. If I was doing it for the money, I think I would have abandoned this gig a long time ago. No, money shouldn't be a powerful motivator for blogging because few actually bring home enough to even cover a trip to McDonald's...and yet, we continue to blog. We blog for burgers, we blog for pennies, and some of us blog for not a single dime. I respect all of those scenarios.

This year has been a bit of a new experience for me because new opportunities have come my way and I have been trying to keep the careful and beautiful balance that I am desperately trying to create here. Regardless of what has been thrown our way, I have tried to not compromise my content or to lose focus on why I started blogging in the first place.

Some things that I have discovered about myself....

Thou shalt not exploit thy children for money.

I love my kids so much and I would never ever want to exploit them in any way. Our family is the most precious thing in the world to me and I will never use them negatively in my writing. I try to be a positive parent even when stuff gets tough and I don't want them looking back on things I have written and be mortified that their mom shared the stuff that I did. Gosh, if my mom wrote about some of the stuff I did when I was a kid, I would have been so hurt by that. I have even tried doing funny mommy stories and it just didn't work for me because I am a private person and it didn't feel comfortable for me. Blogging about parenting solutions or ways that we save our family money felt like a more comfortable platform for me and that is why I leaned towards it. It felt true to me and true to what I try to share with people. My mommy stories are better shared around a cup of coffee with my girlfriends than through the internet.

I recently was approached by a bigwig site to write a guest post and complain or rant about my kids and I know it would have boosted my traffic considerably. I turned that opportunity down and have had no regrets. I hope people see that writing in a positive way can be just as wonderful as writing negatively. In fact, I would much rather read someone who gave me solutions rather than to focus more negative attention on the problems I have. My life is not all rainbows and sunshine, but I hope to create a little piece of that for our readers. It makes me feel better about myself if I can be a positive person and surround myself with this positive community. I have had slow growth because of some of these decisions, but I would rather have ten really amazing people read my work than fifty who come to hear me rant and complain daily.

This is not to discredit all of the people out there who do that, but I knew I had to be true to myself and true to my kids to create the type of environment that I wanted in my life.

Thou shalt not worship the loot or the people who give it to you.

When I first started getting products, it felt like Christmas. I would fall over myself thanking people for the things they sent and making sure that they really loved my review. "Does this sound okay to you, PR person? I hope you love the review I wrote! XOXO, Amy" This was wrong of me and wrong to do to my readers. I would take anything that anyone wanted to give me, and I would write a glowing review. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I look back and know that it didn't feel right and wasn't cohesive with the parenting site I was trying to build.

I am now very hesitant to take any loot because 1) I don't want the PR people writing me over and over again to see if I wrote what I was supposed to as soon as I received it. 2) I don't want so much stuff in my house.

I have learned to request only the things that our readers will really and truly love and I took it a step further...I give you guys as much loot as I can. If a company sends me a product now, I ask how we can benefit our readers. To me, this feels like a win-win solution and it makes me a lot happier to hear how much you are enjoying the stuff than to write about how much I am enjoying my stuff that you can't have. If the reviews all seem glowing now, it is because I only pick things that I know I will like. For every ten things that come our way, we pick two of the best ones and feature those. Since we are more choosy, it results in fewer opportunities and sometimes fewer reviews to read, but I would rather preserve the quality of the things I can share on and give them away to others. If the company doesn't do a giveaway with us, most of the products do end up getting donated to charity. I will admit that I have kept products too that our family would use, but we try to review items in all age ranges and if my kids are too old for a product or we are out of those stages (or not in those stages) we share them with others in the community. It feels good to do that and I hope to be able to do more of that.

Thou shalt not allow the blog to rule thy life.

It is hard to not let the blog rule your life...or reading other people's blogs, or reading blogs about blogging, or listening to podcasts about blogs, or reading books on blogs. Basically, blogging can be a giant hole that can suck up your time and it can be easy to forget why you blogged in the first place. Let's use my blog, for example, because I am narcissistic like that and love to talk about myself. I started blogging because I wanted to share ways that we save our family money and to show inexpensive solutions for homemakers. I also knew that I wanted to be a better mother and to be a "fun mommy" and share our ideas for things I do with my children. Now if I am on the computer all day and blogging all day, I end up doing none of those things. I am not being a fun mom, I am not saving money for our family, and I bet I can't get dinner on the table because I was too busy on the computer all day.

I have learned to take advantage of nap time and after the kids go to bed to do my work. The majority of the rest of the day has to be focused on my family life. I try to jot down ideas or even start drafts of things that I want to write about, but those posts might be weeks or months down the road before I get the time to do them. I do the best I can and I am realizing that our readers will still be there if I write three times a day or three times a week.

Thou shalt not hog the spotlight or forget to network.

I have discovered that a big part of whether or not a blog is successful is really based upon the network and the community that they build. Even though I think really good writing and a good design are the most important things, the networking comes in a close third. You can have a fabulous blog, but if you have no one reading it, then it is just a private show for you. Where do you start? Start commenting on other people's blogs and networking within a community of people who will find your stuff interesting. If you blog is about photography, for example, start commenting and linking to the people that you admire most. Do a round-up of great stuff about photography. Highlight blogs that illustrate points you are making in your own entries and email the people that have enjoyed reading to tell them what a big fan you are. Don't spam them, but tell them what their work means to you. Offer feedback, share questions you have (which they could use for future material and even link back to you) and just be a groupie to the people you really love. In turn, they may link to you or might highlight you in an entry.

Thou shalt be open-minded towards things other than blogging.

Once you have built your community and have a great blog, other opportunities might start coming your way. Some of these might be paid gigs (speaking engagements, spokesperson opportunities) and others might not be paid gigs (television and print interviews, providing quotes for articles, reviewing products). Realize that whatever you do, you will be representing your blog/site and you will want the things that you say and the things that you do to reflect what you are doing in these other opportunities. For example, if I am a blogger who shares about cleaning & caring for your home, I wouldn't want to go on the news and discuss the pros and cons of fast food. It just wouldn't work together! When these opportunities come your way, make sure they are a good fit for you and what you hope to convey to others. Be open to those great paid opportunities, but understand that many opportunities don't pay out. I look at the unpaid jobs as opportunities to prepare myself and practice for the paid opportunities. If you do something for your local news, save it and when a paid opportunity comes along you can say, "You can view my segment here and see how I do on camera." That opportunity might not have paid anything, but it gives those paid gigs a better chance of happening because they can see exactly how great you are. Once that happens, you might start realizing that you get paid... just in a more roundabout kind of way. (image source: nbklx17)

What is one of your commandments for blogging?

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Heading to New York City- Set Your DVR's!

I am very excited to share with you that I am on my way to New York City today to be a part of The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet. I will be sharing about work-at-home scams for moms and how to avoid being a victim.

This show will air on Tuesday morning on your local Fox stations. You will have to check your local listings for the airing time. For my local friends, it will air at 11AM EST on Fox-28.

I hope you guys will be able to catch the show and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you!

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Day 22: Showing the Snow Day Whose Boss

We received another foot of snow outside so it was another snow day at home. What do my boys do on a snowy day like this? They bundled up and headed outside to build the world's largest snow fort and then record themselves with the camcorder destroying it. I would show it to you, but my little guy has a pretty shaky hand. Each time he let out a giggle, it would shake and lose focus from what they were showcasing and I am sure it was one of those things that would only be funny to us. It was so cute to watch them out there though and see Ethan laughing until he couldn't breathe. I was spying on them through the window, loving how enraptured my kids are with my husband.

Emily & I snuggled together on the couch and watched a little Food Network. I then got busy making the cocoa, some homemade waffles, and getting the table set for a warm and yummy dinner.

Wouldn't you know in the middle of cooking that I realized we had run out of syrup. I felt a little panicky, but then remembered that I am a resourceful girl, and pulled the ingredients out of the pantry to whip up some homemade pancake syrup. I love when I am able to make something at home instead of having to run out and buy it. We now have plenty of syrup and we didn't even have to spend any additional money to make it.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Total Comfort Food: Italian Vegetable Soup



One of my favorite things in the world is a delicious bowl of soup. After my visit to Campbell's and a recent article that I read in All You Magazine about soup being a great way to consume less calories during your lunch hour, I was inspired to make a big batch of soup for myself. And when I say myself, I mean only me. No one else in my family likes soup so I am able to eat a batch of this for a week or even freeze it to eat over the course of a couple of weeks.

This soup was in my Slow Cooker Menu Planner, but I wanted to make it a little lighter for the lunch hour. By omitting the ground turkey and using small pasta shells and increasing the liquid a bit, I had the perfect balance for a filling soup that wasn't too heavy plus it is a great way to get in all those yummy veggies.

The soup did seem to absorb a lot of the broth so if it got too thick, I would just add a little beef or chicken broth to thin it out when reheating it.

This is definitely comfort food at it's best!

Italian Veggie Pasta Soup

3 carrots - chopped very small

4 stalks celery

2 cans diced tomatoes - do not drain (I used the petite diced)

2 cans red kidney beans - drained

4 cans beef broth

1 jar spaghetti sauce

8 ounces noodles - I used the small past shells

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and saute vegetables for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Sprinkle these liberally with salt and pepper. While these are cooking, in a separate pot boil water and cook pasta shells until they are just cooked (about 5-6 minutes). Drain the pasta water, but do not rinse the pasta. Set aside. Next add diced tomatoes (do not drain), kidney beans, beef broth, and spaghetti sauce to the pot with the vegetables. Allow this to cook for an hour or so, until the veggies are cooked through and the flavors are incorporated. Add the pasta right before serving to the pot. Dish up and serve with a crusty bread for dipping.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Days 20-21: Snowy Little Days



Snowy day. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Snuggles from my sweet girl. Boots and footed pajamas. Dancing with my kids. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.


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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Day 19: '70's Bunco Style

I seriously cannot imagine missing a month of Bunco, but knew that I would have to sit out this month with the No Spend Challenge.

My girlfriends would not hear of it though and said that they would let me keep my money if I came to play with everyone. My concern was that everyone would feel like I was the charity case, but no one wanted me to sit out. They had all sorts of reasons to justify the spending ("Isn't Bunco as important as paying the mortgage and phone bills?"). With everyone's sweet insistence, I decided to throw in my $5 to play and hoped that I would win it back so no one would have to pony up my money for the games.

The disco ball for our Bunco night was something that had been gathering dust in my basement for the past five years. I brought it to a White Elephant Gift Swap for my mom's group and soon realized that my White Elephant in my house was one of the more sought after prizes. My friend Jessica won it and put it to work for a '70's Bunco night.

The delicious fondue pot and dippers.



The hot '70's attire. Mine came courtesy of my closet, others found their great finds at Goodwill!

The utter relief that I won my money back fair and square so no one had to pay for my Bunco money. Phew!

My amazing Bunco Babes who wouldn't think of letting me not join them for a fun night out!

Thanks to my Bunco Babes, I was still able to enjoy a fun No Spend night out with the girls!

Related Links:

Kentucky Derby Bunco

Retro Housewife Bunco

Wedding Bunco

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Freebie Friday: February 20, 2009

I would like to thank Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for her assistance on our freebie list for the week. Heather has a GREAT resource list of free ideas for entertainment for families and a wonderful list of birthday freebies this week. Be sure to read these- you won't want to miss it!

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone!


Health & Beauty

Electrolux donates $1 to Fight Ovarian Cancer (for every virtual cupcake sent)

Entertainment

Pregnancy magazine (10 digital issues from Coverleaf)
Film-Metro (free movie screenings)
Freepeats.org (local forum for free baby, kid & maternity stuff)
Freecycle.org (local forum for all kinds of free stuff)
CraigsList.org (local forum, look at "Free" category under "For Sale")

Pets

Help Your Pet, Get to the Vet $20 Voucher (up to 1,000 given away each day)
Halo $5 Coupon (can get 1-2 free cans with coupon)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

FEBRUARY
21 - Thomas & Friends Playdate at Toys 'R Us 11am-1pm
21 - Elmo's Birthday Party at Borders 2-3:30pm
24 - IHOP National Pancake Day 7am-10pm
28 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a 48 race car
MARCH
7 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a HD Raceway
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a Tabletop Basketball

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Simplifying Your Accessories Resource List

Another big thank you to Sarah Morgan for sharing her wise words of wisdom on choosing great accessories for our outfits. Thank you also to everyone who was able to catch the show and provided such fun entertainment on our chat board as you listened to our interview.



As promised, here is our resource list from today's podcast:

eenamaria- Here is where you can find all of the latest and greatest styles from Sarah Morgan's wonderful handbag line that she will be sharing this month with QVC viewers. If you would like a first-hand review, you can read our review on her I Mean Bizness Travel Tote which is perfect for a working woman on-the-go!

The Budget Fashionista- I wanted to share about The Budget Fashionista because Kathryn happens to be one of my favorite budget-minded fashion bloggers in the world. She offers great tips for accessorizing your outfits on a budget. Be sure to check her Shopping Guides for great guidelines on budget-friendly shopping and her book, "How to Be a Budget Fashionista" for more great tips.

Free Diaper Bag Checklist- You can find this practical checklist for keeping your diaper bag stocked with everything you need for your daily outings with your little one. We have provided additional check boxes so you can personalize it with whatever you might need.

On Next Week's Show...

Is bedtime an hour of stress in your house? Are you constantly battling with your children at bedtime? Are you struggling with getting sleep yourself? Dr. Marc Weissbluth, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago and founder of The Sleep Disorder Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a practicing pediatrician, will be joining us to share his expertise to help with those bedtime blues. This show will air on February 26th at 2PM EST!

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplifying Money Management


This week on MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, we are joined by Julie Murphy Casserly to discuss tips on simplifying money-management. Julie will help us identify our preconceived thoughts and feelings about money, how to overcome negative thoughts and put ourselves on a path to a positive financial future. Julie is a CLU, ChFC, CFP® and a 14-year veteran of the financial services industry and author of the new book, The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth from the Inside Out.

Julie’s mission to “financially heal America” by helping people understand their emotions behind money, and how these attitudes affect how they earn, spend and save – or, conversely, accumulate debt. She delves into the emotion and psychology behind her clients monetary issues.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar! Check back after the show for our resource list so you can explore all of the great links to the books and advice that we share during our half hour.

During this podcast, we are going to be offering one lucky listener a copy of Julie's book! I know this would be an invaluable tool for money management so I hope you will tune in live to hear Julie's wise words for understanding our feelings behind our spending.

Julie will be joining us live so if you have any questions you would like me to ask her, please leave those here in the comments and I will ask them on the air!

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplifying Your Accessories


On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, we will be joined by Sarah Morgan, the handbag designer behind the new eenamaria handbag line, who will be sharing tips for simplifying our accessories. Sarah joins us to explain what to look for in a good handbag, how to care for our handbags, what we should carry, and how to spot those fake purses.

Sarah has not only been nominated twice for the Fashion Group International’s ‘Rising Star Award’, but she will be airing her new line on QVC this February. With her placement on QVC Sarah hopes to share her new collection with women who are modern, confident and strong women on-the-go.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar!

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Day 18: A Little American Idol With Your Homemade Enchilada?





It has been a busy week and I really need to unwind. I decided to whip up some chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce, Mexican rice (will share recipe later), and lemonade for an evening on the couch with my family. We needed this. I needed this. A little quiet, a lot of good food, and some Simon.

I am pretty proud of how we are doing so far with the No Spend Challenge. I will not say there hasn't been temptations, but I have been doing my best to ignore them as much as I can.

How are you all doing with your own challenges? I hope it is going well! I think of all of you that are doing the same thing as me and wishing we all lived close so we could have coffee at my house.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Amy's Notebook 02.19.09

I want to try these mini icebox cookies (@ Blissful Kids)

These Madlibs Valentines are genius & so are these busy activities for kids (@ Design Mom)

This dark chocolate butter cake screams delicious (@ The Farm Chicks)

I want to try this five minute pizza dough (@ Nini Makes)

This cinnamon swirl cake sounds yummy (@ Craftzine)

I love this idea for LEGO party invitations and ideas for using what you have are amazing (@ Like Merchant Ships)

I like this old book that is turned into a picture holder (@ DIY Maven)

This vintage-inspired Valentine's Day Tree is darling (@ Huber Hof Academy via The Crafty Crow)

I need to learn to crochet so I can make this cute little heart hat (@ The Hook and I)

These miniature apple pies are so precious (@ Twig & Thistle)

I want to try this recipe for cut-out oatmeal cookies (@ jane's apron)

I am going to have to use this site to print out some paper dolls for my daughter (@ Betsy McCall)

I love the way these cupcakes were decorated and I want to try this recipe for funfetti cake (@ Annie's Eats)

I am going to have to make this homemade hot fudge sauce sometime (@ Smitten Kitchen)

I love these tips for fast entertaining (@ 4 Reluctant Entertainers)

I want to host a soup swap sometime (@ The Kitchn)

I have to try these homemade marshmallows (@ Mom Faves)

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Day 17: Play Date Heaven

I packed my coffee and a lunch for two. Emily and I headed over to my friend Jessica's house for a fun play date and visit with our friends. Emily was pretty tired when she got home, but we made it home in time for...


Another play date with another great friend. I actually met my friend Renee (@ReneeCrabtree) through Twitter, if you can believe it. She was my first friend that I made virtually that I met up with in real life. She saw me tweeting about knitting and said she wanted to learn. I offered to have her over and teach her and we have been friends ever since. And her knitting? Amazing! She has been doing lace patterns and whipping up things I haven't even dreamed of trying.

Best of all, she is a work-from-home momma and has two kids around the same age as my children. It is so good to have a friend who can understand the trials of working from home and juggling the children. I am very thankful for my friendship with her and look forward to our knitting dates more than I can say.

Good friends. Good coffee. Good yarn. What more can a girl ask for?

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Pretzels Like Auntie Anne's?

Experiment: Can I make pretzels like Auntie Anne's?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.29.09

Materials Needed: Please see maya made for the full instructions.

Results: Remember when I mentioned that I totally failed on a notebook experiment? Well, this is the experiment that I did not end up doing well.

I thought it would be fun (my husband would say ambitious) to make my hubby some heart-shaped pretzels for a special Valentine's Day treat. One of his favorite things in the world is soft pretzels and I thought this would be a wonderful way to show him how much I loved him, particularly during our No Spend Challenge month. I mean, what says I love you more than baking for someone?

The first mistake I made was not using the recipe that maya made had used. I actually used this recipe and used my bread machine to make the dough instead of the stand mixer. The dough was difficult to roll out and kept balling back up together.

After finally maneuvering it into a heart shape, I then had to try and put them in the baking soda solution. My mistake, throwing in too many and leaving them in far too long. When I took them out, I started to wonder if it would have been better not to have put them in the solution.

I'm all like, what in the hay happened to these pretzels?

At this point, I keep pressing on. After mixing dough, shaping dough, dipping dough in baking soda solution, letting dough rise, and getting ready to bake them again there is no way in heck I was going to do that again. And my kitchen was the biggest disaster you have ever seen-flour everywhere, dirty pots and pans, baking soda spilled all over my stove. I was worried, but I was going to wrap up this horrible idea of a project.

Delicious? This picture might be deceiving!

I took the hot pretzels out of the oven. The bottoms were brown, the tops were still doughy. I stuck them back in for two more minutes and melted butter. Yup, another pan! I brushed the butter on top and ran one down to take a picture of it. It actually looked yummy! I gave my husband the first one and he devoured it. He ate a second. Maybe I was a success.

Then I took a bite and I literally spit it on my plate. It tasted like baking soda through and through. Meanwhile, Emily has happily ate almost the entire pretzel and then suddenly looks at me with utter disgust and hands her pretzel back to me. "I no like this, mommy." I think the cinnamon and sugar threw her off from the disgusting taste.

I didn't cry as I surveyed the damage in my kitchen and hurled the poor excuse for pretzels in my trash can. It is the thought that counts, perhaps, but I shall never think this thought again.

Conclusion: I will never ever make pretzels again. I will leave this task to the highly trained people at the mall and I will pay six dollars (or whatever outrageous amount is charged) to have someone else do this for me.

Call me lazy, but some things are better left to the professionals and this is one of those tasks I can't see myself repeating.

If you have made pretzels before, please feel free to share your tips! What has been your biggest cooking disaster?


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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!
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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 Wednesday 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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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Apron Full of Giveaways: 02.17.09


I am looking forward to seeing everyone's giveaways and being able to give our readers a chance to enter all of the great contests that are running this week.

We have two great giveaways that are closing out at 8PM EST this evening. One is for a "He's Just Not That Into You," soundtrack and hoodie from the new hit movie that is out. The second is a $50 bundle of sewing patterns from You Can Make This! that is sure to score big with the crafty mommas who visit our site.

Our new giveaway today is an exciting one! I have TEN Blurb book gift codes to giveaway for you to create your own book. Be sure to enter for your chance to win. With ten codes to share, the chances are high that you might be the lucky winner.

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, "MomAdvice (Children's Movies)."

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

To enter, please follow the links below. (photo credit: crafty nature)

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Day 16: Playing in the Kitchen




While Emily played with some of her homemade play dough, I worked on making dinner and tidying the house. Of course, there is no fun in having a meal and not sharing it with someone else so I called my parents to see if they would like to join us for dinner. I worked on making my Rotini with Turkey Meatballs, garlic bread, and even managed to make some Oatmeal Muffins (still testing recipes, but I promise to share a really good one when I find it!)

They were so excited to get to spend time with their grandchildren and we looked forward to sharing a meal with them. Sometimes the days feel longer without me running around so much and having some company during the evening helps to break up the length of the day. Best of all, we can spend as much time as we want together while relaxing in our own home. No waiter to give us the boot and I won't even ask for tips!

This No Spend Challenge just gets better and better.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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BlissDom '09 Recap

Meredith from Like Merchant Ships

Tsh from Simple Mom


Jamie from Blonde Mom Blog

Lindsay from Suburban Turmoil

Leslie from Mrs. Flinger

Christine (From Dates to Diapers), Colleen (Classy Mommy), & Tara (Deal Seeking Mom)

Alli, our master of ceremonies, from Blissfully Domestic & Mrs. FussyPants

I cannot rave enough about how wonderful BlissDom '09 was. For me, it was a little like church camp where I got to hang out with some of the most inspiring women in my life, gab a bit in our jammies, profess our mad love for one another and our blogs, and I almost wanted to cry when it was all over.

There were two things that I took away from this whole conference that I want to share with you because they have impacted me greatly. So greatly, that I find it difficult to figure out the right words to say it.

1. I am doing something right.

For the first time in my MomAdvice career, I finally felt like I was doing something right. I felt proud of what I have accomplished and knew that I could not picture myself doing anything else except this. I have never felt more validated than I felt meeting and talking with all of these great women or felt more secure that what I was doing had helped someone else.

I was a little scared and overwhelmed when I arrived. This was my first conference ever and there were so many people. I secretly just wanted to run in my room and hide. I was also feeling a little sick from not eating and a day at the airport. Michelle, from White Trash Mom, immediately convinced Casey, from Moosh in Indy, to take us to Subway and get us something to eat and I then leached on to her for dear life and made her introduce me to all her cool friends. Oh, and did I mention Mrs. Flinger & White Trash Mom were my roommates? I know! How lucky am I?

By the end of the day, I was sitting down and making friends with anyone who would talk to me. Many felt like old friends that I had known my entire life and some were people I had met before. Each person inspired me more to be better. To push myself a little further. To try a little harder.

One of the true highlights for me though, was sitting at a table with Shannon, Tsh, & Meredith and just talking shop with them. Such wildly smart & successful women that have inspired me greatly and I was sitting with them. I kept waiting for them to ask me to leave the table, but they never did. Those moments were precious to me!


2. I have much to still do.

There are many things, more focused on the business end, that I need to be doing. I am not doing all that I could be doing for myself and for my business. There is still a land of opportunity out there and if I want to succeed, I do need to get my ducks in a row.

Instead of feeling defeated about my list of what I could do, I am feeling empowered. I have lots I can still talk about and still share on which means I have a few more years in me to keep doing what I am doing right now. And it feels good to know that!

What I have discovered is that attending a conference has really ignited me and pumped me up. It was a great way to learn how to do things in new ways and shifted my focus towards the business of running my site.

I was so proud to get to speak and moderate a panel at this conference. What an amazing moment for someone who was attending her first conference. I hoped only that I could share an ounce of great advice that the women on previous panels had shared.

Thank you to everyone who made this moment possible for us- it was an experience I will never forget!

(For more BlissDom pictures, visit the Blissdom '09 Flickr Group)

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Redbox Code 02.16.09

Today's free Redbox code is M7DM23. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

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.

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Day 15: Birthday Parties Without Spending a Dime


We received a birthday party invitation this month and I was a little worried what we could offer to the birthday girl. I am always thankful for my small stash in our gift closet when times like these arise, and headed straight to my closet for this occasion.

In the stash of gifts, I found a book, a few homemade hair bows, and a cute little iron-on transfer for a t-shirt to give her. If I had been more ambitious that morning, I would have definitely made a container of play dough, but my time was limited that day.

The kids had an amazing time at the party and our hostess provided pizza and cake which was a special treat for the kids. The children played until they were near exhaustion and I heard barely a peep on our way home. Sweet quiet!

I now realize that I don't need to go so overboard with party gifts and that my simple gifts can be just as much appreciated.

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Bow Ties With Sausage, Tomato, & Cream


Would you like to prepare a dish that is going to totally wow your company? Maybe you are looking for a restaurant-quality dish, but one that can be whipped up on a weeknight? Well, then I have the dish for you!

I have had this recipe in my recipe box for years, but hadn't tried it yet. I don't know why I let it gather dust for so long because it was a hit with every single person in our family. It is a great balance of cream and tomato and the sausage adds a great burst of flavor in each bite.

I tried to make it a little more figure friendly by substituting regular sausage with Italian turkey sausage and substituted the heavy whipping cream with half & half. What resulted was a dish that was still rich and elegant, but shaved a little bit of the fat off of the equation.

I hope you can give this recipe a try in your rotation. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Bow Ties With Sausage, Tomato, & Cream

1 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (removed from the casing)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (can omit/decrease if your family doesn't like spicy dishes)
1/2 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or half & half to save on calories)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, cream, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day 14: A No Spend Valentine's Day Celebration

I will admit that I really did not feel like cooking this Valentine's Day. I spent the entire day working on a Notebook Experiment (which I will share with you on Wednesday and which I failed miserably at) and I was tired of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen.

I really didn't want to eat out of the pantry though so I threw the ingredients in the bread machine to make my pizza dough and cut all of the little pepperonis into hearts to make the kids smile.

I called the kids to the table and no one commented on the hearts.

"Ethan, look! Mommy made hearts for you & sissy for Valentine's Day? Do you see them? Aren't those cool! It's because I love you so much!"

He started to smile and then pointed to one on the pizza, "That one isn't cut right. It looks like a circle."

Regardless, they all enjoyed the homemade pizza and then we spent the evening playing on the Wii together as a family. The rest of the evening was spent sacking out on the couch with my sweetie and savoring those quiet moments after the kids go to bed.

Maybe we will go out next year... or maybe we will do this same exact thing again, minus the cooking marathon!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 13: Giving To Others When You Have Little To Give


Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don't have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don't have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days.

I had planned to make a meal for a girlfriend who just had a new baby. It is such a joy to get to bring a meal to a new momma and know that I helped make her day a little easier. Our mom's group provides meals to new moms and I try to sign up as often as I can because it is one thing that I feel so good about doing and nothing brings me more pride than cooking for others.


When I got home, I was tired. It was a long day of running around, returning email after email, and fielding phone calls. I put on a pot of soup for our supper and heard a knock at our door. It was my neighbor and she had come over to see if Ethan wanted to come over and play. The children immediately made themselves at home in my house and I told her to head home and they could play here instead.

As she stood in my kitchen she said to me, "Wow, something smells so good!" While the kids played, I hurried up to make the soup and put it in a jar to run over to her house. She was so surprised and thankful and it was a great reminder to me.

You don't have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like a small gesture to me means a lot more to someone than you might think.

We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 12: Shopping Day is Finally Here

I never did use my free coffee coupon at the airport and decided to save it as my reward for good grocery shopping. I love to give myself a little reward for staying on budget. It is usually a giant Diet Coke for a $1 at McDonald's, but I thought I would use my coupon instead and stay true to the challenge.

The grocery shopping took much longer than I had anticipated though so once again I find this coupon is still waiting for me for when I need a little pick-me-up.

I budgeted $250 for groceries and I spent $219, leaving me just enough for our milk money for the rest of the month. I tried to cash on the coupons that I have been hording for a rainy day. I hope that we can stay on budget and I can prove to myself that with good discipline and thoughtfulness that we can put away more money than we thought.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Freebie Friday: February 13, 2009

A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for assisting us with this week's list of freebies. Heather shares a great list of free Valentine's Day printables for families and how to earn money in market research studies. Those are just two of many great features on her site this week. Of course, visit her site all week long for oodles of freebies! Thanks, Heather, for all you do for moms!

Health & Beauty

Red Dress Pin (American Heart Association)
Aquafresh Extreme Clean (under Savings & Special Offers)
Nicoderm CQ (Walmart)
Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse (Walmart)

Food

EAS Energy Bar

Entertainment

Family Circle Magazine 2 issues (from StartSampling)
Jim Brickman's CD Sampler (by mail from American Greetings)
Random House Book Downloads for Kindle owners (expires Feb. 28)
Living the Country Life Magazine Subscription
Metropolitan Home Magazine
Harper's Bazaar Magazine

Home & Garden

Valentine's Day On A Dime eBook
1-800-FREE411 (free 10 minute call on Valentine's Day)
Knitting Patterns (free Quamut pages during February)
Crochet Patterns (free Quamut pages during February)
USA Baby e-mom Rewards

Upcoming Freebie Events:


Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

FEBRUARY
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a jewelry box
24 - IHOP National Pancake Day 7am-10pm
28 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a 48 race car

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Simplify Your Wardrobe Resource List


Thank you to everyone who got a chance to listen on on our MomAdvice Simplified Podcast on simplifying our wardrobe. Kathy offered really great suggestions for organizing the closet, what classic pieces you should invest in, where you can skimp, and tips to help with successful thrift shopping. Kathy Friend is actually the spokesperson for our local Goodwill and that is why I thought she would be such a great guest for the hour. She understands that many of us do not have the money to buy expensive name-brand clothing, but she can help guide you on picking styles that will fit you best from your thrift and consignment shops. She has been an invaluable resource to me in my career and I hope you will enjoy this interview half as much as I enjoy sharing it with you!



Here are a few of the resources that were highlighted in the show:

Kathy Friend- Kathy offers her services both virtually and locally (in Michiana). Please visit her site for more details on hiring her to help you with your wardrobe.

Bra Fitting: When & How to Do It As I discussed in our show, I had been fitted for undergarments at our local mall. What I discovered, after having Kathy correctly fit me, was that I had been improperly fitted. This article will help guide you on getting the right bra and how to do the fitting yourself. Lesson learned by me...don't trust someone who only carries standard sizes because they will sell you what they carry.

What Is Your Body Type? This article guides you to help discover your shape and how to pick the clothes that will be the most flattering for you.

On Next Week's Show...

Next week we will be joined by Sarah Morgan, the handbag designer behind the new eenamaria handbag line, who will be sharing tips for simplifying our accessories. Sarah joins us to explain what to look for in a good handbag, how to care for our handbags, what we should carry, and how to spot those fake purses. Sarah has not only been nominated twice for the Fashion Group International’s ‘Rising Star Award’, but she will be airing her new line on QVC this February. With her placement on QVC Sarah hopes to share her new collection with women who are modern, confident and strong women on-the-go.

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplify The Wardrobe


On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, I am very excited to share that I will be gabbing it up with my real-life friend & wardrobe coach, Kathy Friend. You are going to LOVE her and the savvy fashion advice that she offers.

Kathy is the Fashion and Style Expert on the WSBT Morning Show, the Fashion Editor of Michiana FAMILY Magazine, and Wedding Day Magazine and a Contributing Editor for and Prom Night Magazine. She also writes for a national online magazine, Blissfully Domestic.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar!

I hope you will join me and feel free to chat with me in the chat room or you can even phone in your questions. If you are having trouble picking out the best clothes for you, if you struggle with finding undergarments that fit, if you don't know how to get your closet organized...then this half hour is just for you!

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Notebook Experiment & No Spend Day 11: Be My Valentine


Due to the MomAdvice Simplified podcast airing on Thursdays, I am going to be moving our Notebook Entry and Notebook Experiments to Wednesdays instead. I hope you will understand and will come back on Wednesday for these entries. Thank you so much for your patience!
Experiment: Can we craft up some Valentines?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 02.12.09

Materials Needed: Please see the long thread for the full instructions.

Results: Today's Notebook Experiment & No Spend Challenge picture are one and the same. Since we are not spending money this month, we have had to get creative with our Valentine's this year and are making them at home.

I loved the round-up of cute homemade Valentine's on the long thread and we decided to download and print the ones that she made available on her site. Unfortunately, we don't have a color printer so they are not nearly as cute, but they were free, which makes them the best kind of little love notes in the world.


Conclusion: This was a fun and free activity that I could do with the kids. Ethan is so excited to give them to his friends and I am so happy that we saved some money in the process. Thanks to the long thread for sharing such a sweet and fun little template!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!
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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 Wednesday 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 02.12.09

Due to the MomAdvice Simplified podcast airing on Thursdays, I am going to be moving our Notebook Entry and Notebook Experiments to Wednesdays instead. I hope you will understand and will come back on Wednesday for these entries. Thank you so much for your patience!

I am loving this round-up of printable Valentines (@ the long thread)

These Mexican tissue paper flowers are amazing (@ Pink Paper Peppermints)

This waffle recipe looks delicious and healthy (@ Sew Liberated)

These ribbon flowers are stunning (@ Etsy)

I want to try this no-knead pizza dough (@ The Wednesday Chef)

This heartfelt memory game would be a hit with my children (@ scrumdilly-do)

These cinnamon rolls look absolutely delicious (@ inside a black apple)

These sewn paper Valentines are beautiful (@ the purl bee)

I want to make this knitted French Press cozy (@ design sponge)

This Oreo Cake looks like it is to die for! (@ The Kitchn)

These dough conversation hearts are so cute (@ Kiddio)

Here is another great recipe for pizza dough (@ Day by Day)

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Gaining a Readership the Frugal Way


Q: How do you establish a reader base?

A: I am hopeful that I can help offer some advice to those of you out there who are trying to start a blog or website for profit. As always, I promise to be as honest as I possibly can and share any details about my work-at-home experience to help others.

Let's say that you start a website/blog and then you are left wondering, "How in the world am I going to get people to come to my corner of the internet?" You could obviously pay to advertise on websites that target the same audience profile, but usually when you are beginning your funds are often tight and it can be difficult to fork over money. After all, you are trying to make money for your family and you want to be as smart as you can with your dollars.

I will be very honest and say that I have never paid to advertise anywhere. In the beginning, we tossed around advertising on other sites to build our audience, but we just did not have the money to pursue the sites that we felt would fit our audience best. We are just now beginning to shell out real money to get our site known in the web-design community and to boost our traffic so I think it is very possible to have a profitable website without spending a huge amount of your profits to gain a readership.

But let's be frank, without a great and interactive audience your site just won't have that sparkle that keeps people coming back. You need an audience that can provide feedback for you not only as motivation to keep doing what you are doing, but also to also create a community of people who want to keep going back to your site over and over again.

Here are a few of the ways we have gained our readership:

1. Join like-minded communities- When we first started the site, I joined every Yahoo group that had something to do with personal finance or frugality. You will have to look into the guidelines for these groups, but usually you can have a signature line at the end of your posts. This is a great way to get your name out there, participate in a group of like-minded folks who will respect your ideas/opinions, and gives you an opportunity to peek into what other people are interested in on your topics.

With a signature line, I think it is important to keep it short, sweet, and to the point. None of us have time to read a paragraph of a signature line, but a link to your site/blog and maybe a quick quip underneath can get people interested in wanting to learn more about you and what you are doing.

My signature line could be:

Amy
MomAdvice.com
"Helpful financial advice for every mother!"

This is short, sweet, and to the point. You don't want to be booted out of communities for spamming them so make sure that when you are sharing on these sites that you don't continually drop in things that could qualify as advertising or make others feel uncomfortable. Understand the rules and play by them. People will respect you more for it and it is great fun to find a post that someone else has written about what a great resource your site/blog is without you spamming everyone to death.

If you are unclear about the rules, email the moderator and make sure. It is better to be safe than sorry!

2. Name Drop- And name drop often! This is something that I learned as I got further along in my career. I was so scared that I would lose my readers that I would never share about other websites or blogs. I thought I was keeping my readers secure in my grasp if I never gave them something to take them away from my spot. But then I realized that what I was doing was actually keeping my readership low and I was losing out on a lot of readers that might come my way.

I started doing the "Amy's Notebook" entry on Thursdays to highlight other blogs. I would share great things that I ran across on other sites and include them in a weekly round-up for my site. What ended up happening was that those blogs found out about me and would add me to their favorite links, would share my site with others, or would become a reader on my blog. All of a sudden, your name gets dropped in ten new locations and those ten locations have a whole slew of readers who never knew about you.

Better yet, when you name drop in a blog post, sometimes you don't even have to come up with content for the day. This can be great when you are suffering from a case of writer's block or you are too busy to write.

3. Share Your Content- One of the greatest ways that you can get readers is by sharing your content with other sites or print publications. If you are a blogger, many blog entries are the perfect length for ezines and newsletters.

Share content with sites that are going to bring in your perfect target audience. One easy way to figure this out is to look up a site that you really like (or your own site if you are already established) on Alexa and see what other sites they recommend. You will see "Related Links" on the left-hand side and you can click on that to see what other sites other people visit that are similar to your own. For example, here is the listing for our site. That can give me a good starting point for great sites that I could contact and see if they would use my content for their own site.

Sharing your content with competing and more established sites will give you the readership boost when and where you need it most. Not only can that be good for gaining readers, but it can also help establish relationships with other website owners that can be great for networking purposes.

You can also share your content through sites that keep a directory of articles for ezine and newsletter purposes. I would list mine on Ezine Articles and also send my articles to the website owners directly to make sure my content was making its rounds. Do be aware though that when you release your content out into the world that you relinquish the rights to choose where the content might be shared and you have much less control over how it appears and might have more difficulty tracking if your site is linked to that article. Some people don't mind doing this, but others are more protective of their work and like to have more control over where it is seen.

4. Update often- I love to read blogs that I know are updated often and always have something new for me to read. Updating can be difficult and working through a writer's block can be challenging, but this is one way to be sure that people know that you are always offering something fresh. This doesn't mean that you have to add a new entry daily, but even two-three times a week is good and keeps people coming back for more.

I am a big believer in quality over quantity though so don't update just to update. Likewise, don't crank out more of whatever you are selling, but decrease the quality of your workmanship. In a world that seems to consider quantity over quality, a quality looking site with quality content/goods is a rare gem.

5. Take theming to new levels-
When I first started out, one of the best ways for me to get readers was by participating in those group theme events. There are so many theme days that it is hard to know where to start, but chances are that you can find a theme that will relate to what you are up to on the internet. Sometimes it is even fun to participate in these events even if it doesn't exactly fit with your theme. A creative mind can always work a theme into what they are doing. Here are a few events to get you started:

Menu Planning Mondays
Tackle it Tuesday
Works-For-Me Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday
Thursday Thirteen
Frugal Fridays

Maybe you are someone who sells handmade aprons. You could participate in an event like Tackle It Tuesday and share tips for caring for an apron. Maybe you sell soy candles and you could come up with ideas for extending the life of your candles, making you a perfect candidate to participate in Frugal Fridays. Maybe you are an eBay Queen and are trying to make money by selling items online. You could share your tips for posting an auction on Works-For-Me Wednesday.

6. Comment & Share- One of the best ways to get people to come to your blog/site is by visiting other people's sites. I have made some of my best buddies and created some of our best networking opportunities by commenting on other people's blogs.

Make sure that you have created an account or made yourself reachable when you do leave an account. Leaving anonymous comments won't bring in an audience to visit you so make sure you set up an account. Our blog is through Blogger so you would need to create a free Blogger account and make an account that you can sign into and that will direct people to your masterpiece.

7. Start Locally- Local folks are going to be even more interested in you than the other people because you are part of their community! Don't be afraid to contact your local media and see if they might be interested in doing a story on what you are doing. Small-town communities are more receptive to this because there might be less to cover in your area. Check your local media's websites and see if they have a free local directory for businesses or if they have a community forum where you can chat with other local business owners.

Join a small business group in town, look on Meetup to see if you can find other people who are working from home, and join community organizations that will help serve as a networking opportunity. My mom's group, for example, has been an excellent way for me to get the word out about what I do. Not only do these women clue me in on things that will help my website be better, but they also let me guest speak on occasion and share my site with their friends and family. They have become my best fans and have helped me be better at what I am doing!

8. Participate in the Festivals & Carnivals- Participating in online festivals and carnivals can really help boost your traffic. These days they have an event for just about everything in the book and these can be a great way to draw more readers to your site/blog. Create an account on Blog Carnival and start browsing through the categories that fit with what you offer. Submit your articles through their entry form and schedule these events weekly on your calendar. I just submit all of my entries each Friday since most of my events have a deadline for Saturday or Sunday. Making this a priority can help you a lot especially when you are looking for new readers. Better yet, read the other entries for fresh ideas for content to your site or do a round-up of your favorite entries so readers don't have to read the entire festival/carnival to find the really great stuff.

These are just a few of my ideas for getting started with a reader base. As always, keep the questions and comments coming. I will keep answering them as long as I have questions coming to me! (image credit: Jen R.)

If you have an established site/blog, what were some of the best ways that you were able to get readers to come to your site, particularly in those beginning days?

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No Spend Challenge Day 10: Caring For What I Already Own

Yesterday I escaped the house and avoided all of the things I needed to do. Today, I began to tackle the mounting projects that have been looming. I whipped open the windows to circulate some fresh air into the house, tackled a few spring cleaning items, and tried to get our house back into shape. There is still much to do, but I got a good start on things.

I will admit it, normally I would have left to escape. Not necessarily to shop, but definitely to do something to get away. The No Spend Challenge has brought to light the fact that many of the busy things I do are just that... busy things. With no reason to spend, I can focus on taking care of the things I already possess. That is a good feeling!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Apron Full of Giveaways 02.10.09

I have been working hard on putting together some amazing giveaways for our readers this week.

We will be giving away this week:

Kimberly Clark Gift Pack Giveaway closing on 02/10 at 8PM EST

5- $50 Gift Cards (The last Mercedes post will run on 02/11) ALL the giveaways will close out on 02/11 at 8PM EST

1- iPod Touch closing on 02/14 at 8PM EST

You Can Make This $50 Gift Pack closing on 02/17 at 8PM EST

He's Just Not That Into You Movie Soundtrack & Hoodie on 02/17 at 8PM EST

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, "MomAdvice (Children's Movies)."

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

To enter, please follow the links below. (photo credit: cutiekatie)

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No Spend Challenge 9: Opening Pandora's Box

The laundry is laying in piles. The suitcase left unpacked. The bills lay in a stack. Do I address any of them today? Nope! I am sitting at my computer trying to play catch-up since I didn't have my weekend time to work.

I headed to my best friend's house this evening and left all the piles and to-dos for another day. She made me an amazing dinner that I didn't have to prepare. The kids played, we sipped coffee, and I knitted a little. Our children ran around until their cheeks were pink and they were sweaty and out of breath. And we sat at her kitchen table and gabbed until bedtime.

I headed home to do my work and put on my favorite free radio station- Pandora. This is a picture of what it looks like on my computer. Can you guess which radio station is my husband's in this shot? I bet it will make you giggle! He might murder me for pointing it out, but I can't resist!

A little catch up, a little Adele, a little quiet. The best things in life truly are free!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Anthropologie Inspired Knitted Capelet Take Two


Yup, I made it again because I loved the pattern that much. I am, in fact, working on a third one and I am afraid that I will never knit anything BUT these Anthropologie inspired knitted capelets again.

This one was knitted with Lion Brand Homespun yarn in a moss green. It happened to be on sale, right after the holidays, and I bought two packages of it for only $4 each! I was able to knit this pattern using only one of the packages so I am sure I will be able to find a good use for that extra yarn. The button was the second in the package of what I had used from before.

Don't be surprised if I never knit anything else again. I am working on one in black and was able to pick through my girlfriend's stash of antique buttons for the next one. You know, because every girl needs a black capelet. It goes with everything.

Details on Pattern: This is the Anthropologie Inspired Capelet from Peony Knits. I used size 11 (8.00 mm) needles and Lion Brand Homespun Yarn in Moss Green, purchased at Michael's. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it so I bought the inexpensive yarn.

Modifications: I added two inches to the length of the capelet and then added 5 rows of additional ribbing to the sleeves. It is a small pattern. I have a very narrow frame and am petite and this fit me perfectly. I would recommend modifications if you are busty or have a wider frame. This project did require some blocking, but came together quickly with instant gratification.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Redbox Code 02.09.09

Today's free Redbox code is 25CH63. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

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.

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No Spend Challenge Day 8: Recovery

I will have to share more about days 6-8 in a separate post since it will require lots of photo editing and captions, but I just returned home from Blissdom '09 and I had the greatest time with my girlfriends ever.

I will admit it, I worked it hard while I was at Blissdom. There wasn't a single drop of a moment that was going to be wasted while I was there. I almost didn't even want to go to sleep and just knock on random doors and see if I could meet more people. There were so many great bloggers there that is hard to even know where to begin, but the friendships I have made are lifetime ones.

The real question is, how did I do on a weekend away from my family on spending? I hang my head and tell you that I did spend money. My grand total for spending was... $10. I almost had made it through the whole weekend on just my little gift cards, but yesterday I started feeling bad midday and knew I would need to eat something before boarding my next flight. I got a sandwich and water that put me into the "spend" category, but I am still really proud. I was one of the lucky ones though- dinner invitations and even a fabulous breakfast out. I can't wait to share the pictures!

I feel so lucky and so very tired. My dancing shoes wore this girl out. I will admit though that I don't think I have ever felt quite so confident or free to be me! I was just super proud to be there!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Lemony Rice Pilaf

I can admit that I fall short on the side dishes. I can whip up a mean dinner, but then when it comes time to plan the side dishes I stick with Rice A Roni and raw or cooked vegetables. If I am feeling adventuresome, I might even break out the applesauce. Yes, the sides have been lacking the creativity that my main dishes offer.

That is why I was so excited when I saw this recipe for Lemony Rice Pilaf. My husband is a fan of the boxed rice mixes, but has never really went for any other ideas that I have put together for rice. While I love a burst of lemon flavor, he drags his heels about anything that is too lemony. With those facts in mind, I knew it would be a true challenge to convert him over to loving this Lemony Rice Pilaf.

It was inspected by everyone with disdain- flecks of fresh parsley, white rice with lemon mixed in. I held my breath and watched everyone scoot it around on their plate.

I leaned in to eat mine and my husband looked up and said, "This is incredible!" We all agreed it was the best rice side dish I have ever made and a perfect balance to the fish that I had served with it.

This rice is sticky, but bursts with flavor from the lemon and the chicken broth that is mixed in. The lemon in it is subtle, but gives just a hint of fresh flavor. The fresh parsley that was chopped up to mix in it gave it a fresher taste and a hint of color, which is always pleasing to the eye.

This is a recipe repeat for sure and I am so thankful to have freshened up my boring side dish!

Lemony Rice Pilaf (Courtesy of Recipezaar)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
3 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock makes this vegetarian/vegan)
1 grated lemon, rind of
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
fresh ground pepper

In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in rice, then stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley; taste and add pepper if you wish. Note: This reheats very well so you can make a double batch for another night, if you like!

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Friday, February 06, 2009

No Spend Challenge Day 6: Embracing the Freebies


The biggest challenge lays before me... tackling a weekend in Nashville without spending any money. I did admit that I might need to rely on gift cards a bit, and this is exactly why. I have saved two gift cards- an American Express gift card for $25 (given to me for bag check-in at another event and I carried my bag to save the card) and loads of gift cards for Starbucks given to me over the holidays. I imagine that these are going to get me by, but a lot of factors come into play here. Who will accept the American Express gift card? How much food will be at the Blissdom conference? And the fact, that I have numerous stomach problems that are aggravated by poor diet when traveling, how healthy can I eat with my gift cards?

I scan the paper quickly before I leave. I am horrible about coupons and don't generally spend a lot of time clipping them, but once in awhile you will find a coupon that makes it all worth it.

This coupon for a McDonald's free coffee is going in my luggage and I am hoping to redeem it at the airport for my morning cup of coffee. I love a coupon where a purchase is not required.

Fingers crossed that I can make it this weekend without spending a dime!
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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Freebie Friday & Bonefish Gift Card Giveaway Results

Thank you to everyone who entered! I would like to congratulate Fresh Girl on winning this giveaway!

Here is her plan for the gift card!

"Wow, I would love to win this great giveaway so I could give it to my brother and SIL. Money is extremely tight for them right now and they probably won't be able to go out for Valentine's Day. It would be wonderful to be able to treat them!"

We hope her family enjoys it and thank you all for taking the time to enter. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!



Today I am in the air and am on my way to Blissdom to meet all of my favorite internet superstars. My batteries are charged on the camera and my bag is packed for a weekend of fun with all my girlfriends. I can't wait to share some pictures with you.


While I am away, I wanted to offer one lucky winner a chance to win a $45 gift card to Bonefish Grill, to enjoy an amazing Valentine's Dinner on me. I only have one to offer, but many, many, many giveaways are currently running on The MotherLoot so don't despair if you don't win this one. While I am in the air, the latest Mercedes GLK post will be going live and you will have, yet again, another chance to win that $50 gift card. I love to share the loot with our faithful readers- so please enter!

On February 14th, if you dine at any Bonefish Grill restaurant nationwide, you'll get a free Lindt Excellence dark chocolate and tasting card outlining the Lindt Master Chocolatier’s "Five Senses of Chocolate Tasting."

To enter to win for the $45 Bonefish Gift Card, please leave a comment by Sunday (at 8PM EST) and let me know why you need this gift card. If you are a No Spend participant or head over and commit to the No Spend Challenge, you can put in two entries to win. After all, who needs a fun night out more than someone who has challenged themselves to save.

I will moderate the comments when I land in Nashville so please be patient- your comment will apear.

In the meantime, be sure to swing over to Heather's blog, Freebies 4 Mom, and get the scoop on all the freebies daily. Heather has a list of 6 ways you can get products for free that is definitely worth checking out! A big thanks to Heather for helping us with our list this week!

Health & Beauty

Napoleon Perdis Lip Gloss (free with coupon)
Bayer Aspirin Pill Tote
Underjams by Pampers

Food

Kitchen Basics "Cooking with Stock" Recipe Booklet
Metamucil (Walmart)
Benefiber On The Go (Walmart)

Entertainment

TNT Saving Grace House Party

Home & Garden

Right@Home Escape from Winter Gift Pack

Upcoming Freebie Events:


Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

FEBRUARY
7 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a trinket box with heart
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a jewelry box
24 - IHOP National Pancake Day 7am-10pm
28 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a 48 race car

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Simplify the Clutter Resource List

A big thank you again to Laura, from I'm An Organizing Junkie, for joining us today on MomAdvice Simplified. Laura had some really invaluable tips for cutting the clutter in our homes and ideas for making our lives more organized.

I completely forgot about the code word for the day for the podcast. I apologize about that- I am feeling a bit scattered today. If you email me at amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and tell me one frugal organizing solution that we recommended during the half hour, you will get an extra entry for the iPod Touch!

Here is the resource list from our show:

Menu Planning Mondays
- Join in on the menu-planning round-up each Monday on I'm An Organizing Junkie. Hundreds of people participate and it can help breathe some new life into your menu plans.

Organizing Polly Pockets- One question on the chat was how to organize Polly Pockets and all of their pieces. Laura has a great solution for this that you should definitely check out.

Organize Your Week- This article offers some general guidelines for simplifying your week and routines. By doing this, you will have some time to cut the clutter. I also share my idea for setting aside one day to tackle the one thing you hate.

Simplify the To-Do List- Simplify the to-dos in your life and you will have more time to get organized.

On the Show Next Week...

Does your closet overwhelm you? What key pieces do you need in your wardrobe to look good? My friend and local fashionista, Kathy Friend, is joining me to share her tips for simplifying our closets. With her guidance, we can simplify our closets easily and make a list of what to look for when doing our thrift shopping or wardrobe shopping. Join us next Thursday (02/12) at 2PM EST for some ideas on Simplifying Your Wardrobe.

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Day 5: The Most Glamorous of No Spend Days




I am guessing that this is going to be the most glamorous of no spend days because Redbook Magazine came to my house for a photo shoot. I mean, it doesn't get more glam than that! I had the very fabulous and super sweet Jonathan Sprague (and his assistant Brittany) fly to good ol' Indiana to take my picture for a story that is slated to air in April.

The clothing and shoes? Those were borrowed and then styled by the best fashonista in town, Kathy Friend. The make-up artist? Gabrielle from Camellia Cosmestics. The set? My little home transformed into a studio set. The coffee? My little coffeemaker hummed along for me all day. My nerves? Shot.

We are sharing our family's journey into becoming debt-free with the Redbook readers and I can't wait to see how the story turns out. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish and this feels like a wonderful reward for all that hard work.

A big thank you to Kathy & Gabrielle for making me look fabulous, Jonathan for flying out here to take my picture, Becky for taking care of my Emily so I could accomplish this, and my husband for taking care of Ethan while his wife played dress-up!

I have a feeling, this is the best no spend day yet!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Notebook Experminents: Can I Make Starbucks Coffee Cake at Home?


Experiment: Can I make Starbucks Coffee Cake at home?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.22.09

Materials Needed: Please see Divine Domesticity for the full instructions.

Results: I have been looking forward to finding an opportunity where I could try out this copycat recipe for Starbucks Coffee Cake. I have never eaten it at Starbucks, but I have heard it is quite divine and I can never resist a good coffee cake.

I followed the instructions for this recipe exactly. I did bake the cake about five extra minutes to make sure that the topping wouldn't ooze into the cake. I also prepared the crumb topping with a pastry blender that I have in my kitchen for crumb toppings on cakes & muffins. It worked beautifully for this job and then I didn't have to get out the stand mixer to make the topping.

I waited until the cake was completely cool and then gave it a dusting of confectioner's sugar and then prepared for my event where I could serve it.

What event was that? Well, I actually hosted the first meeting for a little knitting club that I have been wanting to put together for quite some time. We had nine women who showed up for coffee, cake, and time to just sit in my living room and knit to their hearts content. We had women who were just starting out and plenty of experts in the group to offer guidance.

I got out my little stand and piece of tile that I picked up from the hardware store, and wrote down our menu on it- Starbucks Crumb Cake, Homemade Vanilla Chai, Homemade Hot Cocoa, or Decaf Coffee.

Everyone loved the coffee cake, but I think if I make it next time, I will probably reduce the crumb topping to half because it was a little too much topping for me. It was quite delicious though and looked very impressive for a get together. Best of all, the ingredients are always fully stocked in the pantry so it makes a true winner in my book!

The knitting night was a complete hit and it warmed my heart to look around and see all my friends knitting and gabbing together.

Conclusion: I can't wait to make this cake again and host another knitting night at my house. Next week I will show you what I have been knitting on! Thanks again to Alli, at Divine Domesticity, for sharing this recipe with me!


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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 02.05.09


I want to try this free pattern for a knitted grocery bag (@ Mason-Dixie Knitting)

These honey mustard glazed pretzels look delicious (@ Skip to My Lou)

These bitty button cookies would make a fun Valentine's Day treat (@ Grace Violet)

This kid's apron & chef hat pattern are so cute (@ making it fun)

This egg carton counting game would be a fun one to do with my daughter (@ Sparkle Power)

These are some great ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day with your family (@ Perfect Party Solutions)

I am going to have to try these tips for making chicken stock (@ A Singleton In the Kitchen)

This easy chocolate bundt cake looks like a fabulous dessert made from pantry ingredients (@ My Wooden Spoon)

I am going to have to try this recipe for homemade monkey bread (@ Baking Bites)

I need to freeze some cookies for a late night treat (@ Mighty Girl)

I love this green themed birthday party (@ Secret Agent Josephine, Hat Tip to Design Mom)

This organized recipe binder and oatmeal jumbo cookies look so great (@ Don't Call Me Becky)

These chicken fajita tostadas sound like a fun and fast weeknight meal (@ me & em)

These cut-out sugar cookies would be great for Valentine's Day (@ Crafty Daisies)

I am craving some homemade egg mcmuffins now (@ Cheap Healthy Good)

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplify The Clutter

On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, I will be interviewing a very special and favorite blogging friend of mine. Laura, from I'm An Organizing Junkie, joins me for this half hour of fun to share her tips for simplifying the clutter in our homes.

Laura will be sharing great tips for how to whittle down the clutter that plagues our lives. She offers thrifty solutions for organization, ideas for toy clutter control, and how to control those spots in our house that become a dumping ground for clutter.

Laura is a Christian work at home mom living in BC, Canada. She three kids (girl 11, boys 9 and 3) who give her plenty of organizing material to work with each and every day. She also admits she is addicted to organizing and loves sharing her tips with other moms.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar!

I hope you will join me and feel free to chat with me in the chat room or you can even phone in your questions. I think this is going to be another invaluable episode for moms and I am really excited about the information that we are going to share in this half hour.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

No Spend Challenge Day 4: Fun In a Box

This box has been sitting in our garage for the past six months or so and we like to get it out when we have had a particularly long day with the kids. We hand them a big recycled coffee can full of crayons and let them go to town coloring, creating, and pretending in this box. When they lose interest in it, the box is drug back out to the garage until another long day comes along.

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Play It Again, Momma: The Poor & The Sick


Is there such a thing as being sick on a budget? Our family seems to think so! We try to even address our budget when it comes to our illnesses in life. Here are some ways that you can save money when you are sick:

- Try home remedies before reaching for the cough syrup. There are tons of wonderful remedies that you can do that don't require a big expense. I am a big believer in chicken soup, a warm bath, hot tea, and lots of rest. The rest alone is sometimes enough for me to kick what is ailing me.

- If you need over-the-counter medications, try and stock up on these items when doing your drugstore rebates. Usually CVS & Walgreens both will run rebates on these medications and you can get them for free or really inexpensively. Other great resources are the Dollar General, the Dollar Tree, and the generic equivalents available at your large superstores. The best way to save a buck is to have your medicine cabinet stocked with these items before you are ill. A 24 hour drugstore with no sale will run you quite a bit more than what you would spend normally.

- Organize your medicine cabinet so you know exactly where your items are. We have a three drawer plastic container where we have our medications divided by ailment (cough/cold, pain relievers, stomach) and we put these in there. I get really mad at myself when I have run out to get a medication, only to find it days later in a hidden drawer. Keeping this and your First Aid kit organized are the best ways to know what you have on hand when sickness and emergency situations arise.

- When you go to the doctor, ask if they have any samples of the medications you might need. Sometimes, particularly with my children, I am able to get enough for a few days.

- If they don't have any samples, ask if there are any prescriptions that they could give you off of the $4 list or free antibiotics from your local retailers. Call around and price check before you fill your prescriptions and always ask if you can get the generic version of any medication.

- If you start to feel ill, try right away to get in the doctor for treatment. A visit during normal office hours will be a lot less expensive than an urgent care clinic.

- When choosing a doctor, ask about evening hours and Saturday appointments. Pick a doctor with extended hours and this alone can save you quite a bit. I love that our doctor's office is open until eight in the evening and that I have many more options for appointment times.

- If you do become ill, try after-hours clinics or places like MedPoint to get the care that you need (unless the illness is life-threatening). I have saved our family a lot of money by visiting these places instead of the emergency room. Just walking into the emergency room can put me in the negative, before I have even been checked, so these after-hour clinics can be a wonderful option for the frugal family.

- If your illness does require a hospital stay, make sure to check your bills. There are many expensive and unnecessary charges that can be added to your bill. This is one of those types where diligence will be your best defense in lowering your hospital bill. Don't be afraid to ask what the charges are and have them explain the vague & general charges. You don't have to be rude, but you can be very firm and polite when asking someone to explain what a "lab fee" is for. You are your own best advocate when you are educated about what you are paying for.

- Don't forget to set up your emergency account for these types of situations. Check into getting a flexible spending account for your medical expenses. Consumer Reports offers this advice..."If your company offers a flexible spending account for your out-of-pocket health-care costs, go for it--but don't go overboard." Flexible spending accounts are usually use-it-or-lose it accounts. Figure out a rough estimate and go a little under that. Don't know what to do with all that leftover money at the end of the year? Check out these 24 suggestions for spending your leftover flexible account money.

- The best way to stop yourself from getting sick is prevention. Exercise, take a daily multivitamin, and make healthy lifestyle choices. People who do these things save tons of money on doctor visits and medications. If that isn't a powerful motivator, I don't know what is!

(image credit: Bryan Warman)


Potential Monthly Savings: $20 or more

What are some ways you save money when your family is sick?

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

An Apron Full of Giveaways 02.03.09

Welcome to our our Apron Full of Giveaways! We have some really great giveaways to offer up this week that I am so excited to share with you. First, we are running a contest for an iPod Touch that you will definitely want to enter in. We offer six opportunities for entries so you have lots of options for getting your name in this contest.

Second, we are sharing our feedback on the Mercedes GLK and for each day I test drove the car, I get to give away a $50 Visa Gift Card. There will be five posts on The MotherLoot. If you want to enter each day, here is the breakdown of the dates the opportunities will be posted:

02/02
02/04
02/06
02/09
02/11

The giveaways don't end there though! You can enter to win a Gerber Backpack filled with a tin full of recipes and a new fabulous Kimberly Clark giveaway that you are not going to want to miss.

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, "MomAdvice (Children's Movies)."

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

To enter, please follow the links below. (photo credit: fleamarketstudio)

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No Spend Challenge Day 3: Glam Up The Lunchbox

No eating out means I need to pack up lunches for my husband. I normally do this, but have a desire to make these lunches extra special so he won't mind this No Spend Challenge so much. A sprinkle of fresh parsley and a little bit of grated cheese make his lunches a little more glamorous this month.

I truly adore cooking and I love when he opens up his containers at work, after a quick zap in the microwave, and his coworkers curse him as their stomachs growl in protest. I admit it, I am a total showoff and completely live for his work feedback.

"Did anyone say anything about your lunch?" I slyly ask. "WHAT? No one was there! They must smell this! They must!"

I live for little moments like those.
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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Redbox Code 02.02.09

Today's free Redbox code is D9P24G. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

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.

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Giveaways Galore!

In partnership with RGM and Mercedes, we got a chance to test drive the new Mercedes GLK for a week. We will be blogging about our experience this past week with their new budget-friendly SUV that they have come out with and we get to offer a giveaway for each day that we rode in it.

I wish I could give each of you one of these cars, but unfortunately that wasn't in the budget. Instead, I will be offering up a $50 Visa Gift Card to one lucky reader for each post. That is $250 in giveaways that I will be sending out to you.

You can watch the journey unfold as we received the car in the middle of a good ol' Midwest blizzard. When else would you want a good car to drive around that could get your husband to work safely?

Please be sure to get in your entries and I will be sure to highlight all these giveaways in our Apron Full of Giveaways round-up tomorrow!

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Menu Planning Monday 02.02.09

Here is what we made the past two weeks in our kitchen:

1. Parmesan Sage Pork Chops, Cheesy Orzo, & Baby Peas

2. Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein With Rice

3. Deli Sandwiches With Chips (shopping day)

4. French Toast With Orange Juice

5. Baked Salmon With Lemony Rice Pilaf & Corn (check back for these recipes!)

6. Baked Tilapia With Lots of Spice, Rice, & Corn

7. Ground Beef Tacos with Tortilla Chips

8. Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, & Corn

9. Rotini With Turkey Meatballs & Garlic Bread

10. Turkey Burgers on Homemade Buns With Baked Potato Wedges

11. Pizza Night

12. Turkey Meatloaves (Scroll Down to Meal #3), Mashed Potatoes, & Steamed Broccoli

Please Visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for some really great menu plans each and every Monday!

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Parmesan Sage Pork Chops With Cheesy Orzo


I have been stepping out of my comfort zone lately with my recipe collection and new recipes for pork chops was another one that I felt like I should tackle, I have my top three ways I like pork chops- my Ranch Pork Chops, the Italian Chops, & then the Slow Cooked Pork Chops. No other recipes seem to do it for me, but I had the ingredients hiding in my pantry to make this dish and thought I would take the plunge.

This has to be the best pork chop I have ever eaten in my life. The combination of cooking the pork chop in the butter with the olive oil helped keep the breading on the pork chop instead of stuck to the pan. The flavorful coating helps to keep the pork chop moist so you don't have the dried out chops like most recipes usually end up with.

The special ingredient that takes this over the edge though is definitely the lemon zest mixed in with the Parmesan cheese & Italian breadcrumbs. I saved the lemons after zesting them and squeezed the lemons ofter the hot chops when they came out of the oven. Sprinkling it with a little fresh parsley takes this from a boring flavor experience to a very exciting one. Pairing this with my cheesy orzo made for the perfect combination!

I would highly recommend making this dish as soon as you can! No one could stop eating it and the leftovers were leftover barely a night in our house.

Parmesan Sage Pork Chops (Courtesy of Recipezaar)

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I used the Italian bread crumbs)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
tablespoon dried rubbed sage
1 lemon, rind of, teaspoon grated (save the lemons for squeezing over the hot chops)
2 large eggs, whisked
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with
salt and pepper
4 pork chops, about 1 inch thick (can use bone in or out ones)
1/8-1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh sprinkle of parsley when you are done

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Mix in bowl, bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, dried rubbed sage and grated lemon peel. Then, on a plate put flour seasoned with salt and pepper; coat chops with flour. Dip in egg. Then dip in bread crumb mixture. Melt butter and olive oil in a oven-proof skillet. Brown chops until golden. Transfer to oven and bake until meat thermometer says 150 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Cheesy Orzo (Courtesy of Food Network)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1/2 small onion, chopped (I omit this ingredient)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans (14 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth or stock
2 cups orzo pasta (enriched rice may be substituted)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano (I just use Parmesan cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a 8 inch pot with a tight fitting cover over moderate heat. Add oil, onion and garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Add broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and return broth to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed and pasta tender. Remove lid and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. You favorite fresh herbs may also be stirred into the orzo or rice to strengthen the flavor even more.

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MomAdvice Monthly Recap: January '09


I just want to say a special thank you to each of you for visiting my website and sharing it with your friends, family, and your own readers. We had an amazing month and it is all thanks to you. I hope to continue offering support through our site, lots of giveaways for our readers, and a place where you feel valued and cared for. If there is anything you would like to see on here, please contact me (amy@momadvice.com) and let me know what you would like to see in the upcoming year.

Don't forget, you can subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogs and you can even subscribe to my article feed.

This month's top referrers were:

1. Freebies 4 Mom
2. Money Saving Mom
3. Twitter
4. Leaving Excess
5. Tip Nut
6. Facebook
7. The Dollar Stretcher
8. Becentsable
9. Deal Seeking Mom
10. Eleven Moms

Please take some time this month to check out each of their sites. They are amazing at what they do and we are thankful that we have such great supporters!

This month's top articles & entries were:

1. Frugal Carpet Steaming
2. Homemade Vanilla Chai
3. Simplify the To-Do List
4. Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients
5. All Knitted Up: The Anthropologie Inspired Capelet
6. Big Girl Room on a Budget
7. Hope
8. Quick Weeknight Dinner: Rosemary Chicken
9. The MomAdvice No Spend Challenge
10.Today I Am 31

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No Spend Challenge Day 2: Super Cuts

The boys needed haircuts and luckily I have become quite familiar with a pair of inexpensive Conair clippers. My husband and son each take a seat on my thrifted bench and I give my son a good old-fashioned buzz cut. Next, I work more cautiously on my husband's hair so he still looks sharp for his job. They both seem happy with their new looks and I tidy up the bathroom that is now covered in hair.

I look forward to the haircuts al fresco to help with the clean-up this summer.

Each time I do this though, I imagine that money all fanned out that I would have had to spend at the Super Cuts, and it makes me feel like a superstar.

Want to be a superstar? You can read my haircutting tips right here. Remember though, these tips don't come from a professional, but my boys look pretty great!

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Campbell's Blogger Event

I wanted to share with you a little bit about my quick trip out to Philadelphia. It was for the very first (and hopefully not the last) Campbell's Blogger Event. It was such an honor to be invited and help pave the way into the world of social media and blogging with their company.

I was in truly the best company, surrounded among some of the best women in the blogging business.

MomCentral.com, Stacy Debroff

Table4Five.net, Elizabeth Edwards

ThisMamaCooks.com, Anne-Marie Nichols

Busymom.net, Elizabeth Thielke

Thisfullhouse.com, Liz Thompson

Fromdatestodiapers.com, Christine Young

BecauseIsaidso.com, Dawn Meehan

Momtothescreamingmasses.com, Carmen Staicer

Momof3girls.net, Deb Steenhagen

Chicagonista.com, MJ Tam

I felt so lucky to have been invited and looked forward to my time in Philadelphia with the Campbell Soup Company. One of the best PR agencies in the world, in my humble opinion, Weber Shandwick, arranged our event and did an excellent job of fielding our calls as poor weather and flight cancellations from many of us made it difficult to get to our destination. We all arrived safe and sound though and settled into our wonderful accommodations for the night, to begin our day with Campbell's in the morning.

When we arrived we hung out in the lobby and got a kick out of what was sitting behind the receptionist. Hot water, juice, and tomato soup. Everything you might need while waiting in the reception area at the Campbell Soup Company!

We filed in for a breakfast with some of the wonderful people behind the company. One of the highlights for me was listening to Pat Montgomery, in charge of the Global Nutrition, share not only about their products, but also opening it up to us for discussion about our concerns about their products and how they could help us make the dinner hour easier. Many of the moms in our group shared their difficulties with all gathering around the dinner table, others had children suffering from severe food allergies, and other moms were looking for the best bang for their buck. I bet you can guess which category I fell under? Nothing was off limits and the time that they spent with us... invaluable and never rushed.

These were some of the images that they had gathered from moms when explaining how they felt about making dinners. The time bomb, no answers for dinners, complete chaos, and the feelings of being cornered were all voiced by the moms they surveyed. We all laughed, but agreed that dinner can often be a challenge for our families.

After our discussion, we got the opportunity to see how time intensive it can be to make chicken noodle soup from scratch and why they developed their product. Chef Tom Helsel, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and the American Culinary Institute, has been with Campbell’s for 10 years and shared his expertise on making the soup. One of my favorite tips that he shared was to parcook the noodles before making soup. It will help so that the noodles do not absorb the liquid from your soup, leaving the broth in the soup instead of in the noodles. He says that you can take it a step further, and parcook the noodles in chicken stock to help develop your soup flavor even more. The recommendation was for five minutes of parcooking and then rinsing them with cold water.






Next, we were guided through a taste test of their soups. They put out two soups- one that was low sodium and one that was not. We were challenged to take their taste test and see if we could figure out which variety was which. I love salt and I add a ridiculous amount of salt to everything that I eat. I didn't want to tell anyone that I had an unfair advantage, but couldn't wait to show off how knowledgeable I was. I was floored when I was completely wrong on both. While the company would not reveal their secrets, they were very proud to have matched the taste so successfully.

After the soup taste testing and a fabulous lunch and more great discussion on how Campbell's could provide great meal solutions for moms, we were taken on another fun tasting and got to try out the V8 V-Fusion Juice. They were all really yummy, but I navigated towards the more traditional Strawberry Banana & Peach Mango flavors. What can I say except that I am a total traditionalist!

We then got a chance to try making smoothies out of a variety of fruit, V8 juices, and nonfat yogurts. They were so delicious and I really enjoyed trying all of the juices. You can try them too and use a coupon at TryV8.com for a $1 off of the purchase price.

We slipped back to our rooms to get ready for a fun dinner out where I had some of the best gnocchi I have ever tasted in my life and discovered that they make varieties of white Bordeaux wines, which I had not known. The dinner was delicious and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world to boot.

Christine at From Dates to Diapers!

Dawn from Because I Said So!

Liz from This Full House!

Yes, it was another wonderful trip that I am so thankful I got the chance to be a part of. These trips feel like winning the lottery to me and I am always appreciative to get a turn to share my feedback with companies, particularly on food products. Thank you to the Campbell's team for greeting us with open arms and making us feel right at home in your kitchen. Another big thank you to Weber Shandwick for making all of these arrangements and bringing bloggers and companies together in a very authentic way.

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I'm Giving Away Something Big Today...


I will just show you a picture and you can decide if you want to enter or not! Head on over here to find out multiple ways you can get your entries in for this little Valentine's Day treat! The contest will end on Valentine's Day! Good luck!

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No Spend Challenge Day 1: Reduced Commitments

We begin the month by getting the calendar ready with the month's worth of activities. Normally, the calendar is overflowing with commitments and fun things to do with the kids. As I jot down the activities, I begin to see the many things that we won't be able to do. No playdates that cost money (meeting up at fast food restaurants, the mall, the bouncy house) and many solo activities that I would have loved to have been a part of (a mom's night out dinner & fundraising night at a local restaurant). I suddenly feel a little wave of melancholy and then a tad bit of guilt. I wanted to do this, it was my "grand idea" as my husband refers to this challenge, and day one has already greeted me with a little disappointment.

I think it will be time to get creative with my friends. Impromptu playdates at my house instead and coffee get togethers with my favorite friends at my house. I will have to embrace my New Year's Resolution this month for simplicty and maybe just enjoy some blank spots in those days instead.

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Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

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Will You Take The No Spend Challenge?

Today is the first day of my family's challenge to not spend money. Starting today, I will be uploading a new picture to our site and the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge Flickr group that has been set up. I can't guarantee I will be writing something every single day, but I will try to photo document our journey.

Again, you can tailor the challenge to your family and what you need to do. We bought groceries, some family's approach a no spend challenge by raiding the pantry. We chose a month, you can choose a week. Don't be limited by my restrictions at all!

If you are looking to eat from your pantry, I encourage you to visit 5 Dollar Dinners this month and visit Erin's frugal recipes to get some wonderful ideas. You can also visit our recipes, The Aldi Queen blog, or even our general food section for some inexpensive ideas to accomplish your challenge.

However you do it, whatever length of time you do it...heck, even if you fall off the wagon doing it, I am proud of you for trying!

For moral support among participants, please leave your name on the link list and let us know that you are participating. We can visit each other's sites and offer support as we take on a great challenge with many benefits!

To access all of the information on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge, please visit this link to read all of the entries!

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