Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.31.09

Welcome to the Apron Full of Giveaways where you can find all the best of the best in the giveaway world in one place.

This week we will be wrapping up our Quantum of Solace DVD giveaway. If you have not entered, please be sure to put your entry in by tonight at 8PM. We are taking a week off from giveaways to catch up on gathering all of our winners from the past two contests, but we will be back in full swing next week. In the meantime, be sure to enter the other great giveaways here!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons just showcasing them! 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!

(Photo Credit: fernfiddlehead)

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At-Home Hair Coloring Savings


I have been coloring my hair at home for years now, but only in the last year has it started to become more necessary. I will peek at my hair in the mirror or my hair will catch the light in the sun and I see those wiry gray hairs coming through. Ah, the signs of old age are upon me.

Hair color in the box has come a long way though and I have experimented with different brands and products that have come out when I have a coupon to go with them.

I have found though that I rarely have to pay for the regular price on my hair color though and let me share why:

1. Hair color is always on sale. If you look in CVS or the Walgreens flier, you will find that on almost any given week, they are running a special on hair color. Walgreens & CVS often will either give you a rebate on these products or some type of register reward. Wait for the sales on your favorite brands and try to stock up in conjunction with these.

2. Hair color coupons abound. Make sure to check your Sunday coupon inserts for coupons and cut these out to apply towards your purchase. If you can combine those coupons with a rebate/Extra Care Buck reward, you can often get your hair color for less than $5 a box.

3. Sign up for mailing lists. Sign up for the mailing lists for coupons and tips on coloring your hair. Clairol, for example, offers the Color Source Club where they send an email newsletter out with coupon savings towards your purchases and updates on their new products. By visiting the Garnier website, you will find they offer a newsletter with updates on free samples and special offers. Likewise, Revlon offers a website where you can sign up for a similar type of program and be notified of savings and samples.

4. Look inside & outside the box for savings. Often on the directions page, there is a coupon to take off money on your next purchase. Make sure to scan all over the outside and inside of the box for coupons and use these on your next color purchase.

5. Don't forget savings in unlikely places. One week my hair color was not on sale and I was not stocked on any extra boxes. Our local Bed Bath & Beyond though recently added a beauty section that is fully stocked on all of my drugstore needs. I walked in with a manufacturer coupon and combined that with the 20% off a purchase coupon and was still able to score my favorite hair color for about $5.00. I don't know if all of the stores offer this, but this is another option for coupon savings.

6. Check eBay for coupons. Coupons abound for the products that you use and it is a great resource for savings on the things you use most. When my children were babies, I often used eBay to get coupons for savings off our baby food. Now that they are getting older, I am now looking for hair color coupons. My, how the circle of life continues!

I recently happened upon a product though that has had me shouting it's praises from the mountain tops and I doubt I will use anything else since I have become so spoiled. It is the Clairol Perfect 10 Hair Color.

I had a coupon for this product and since I have used it, I can never picture using anything else ever again. There are two reasons why I love it.

1. The applicator makes it a lot less messy. I am one of those people that is a constant disaster and I can't tell you how many things I have ruined while trying to get hair color on my head. It almost became a joke because every time I would color my hair, we would have to buy a new shower curtain because I had slopped color on it.

2. It is done in ten minutes. That is it. By the time I get it on, it is time to rinse it off. It colors my hair that quickly.

It is not the most frugal choice always, but regularly priced at $12.99, it is still a huge cost-savings over the $50-100 charge that is being charged at most salons. If you can apply the cost-savings above, you can still get this hair color for the $5-8 price.

Too scared to color your hair at home? Don't be! It is really hard to fail at at-home hair coloring unless you are trying to color your hair drastically. If the look is drastic, go to the salon and have them do it, but for just covering a few grays, it can be easy to do at home.

What if you fail or you get a bad color job at the salon? I have found the best product for you for that too!
I once had a botched color job at the salon and I was desperate to tone down my bright hair. I found this great product that you can buy at Walgreens called Color Oops. Within five to ten minutes of putting this on your hair, it will tone down your color. If you leave it on too long though, it will strip your hair down to your baby hair. I would be very careful using a product like this, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures and this will work in a pinch.

Your best bet if you get a botched job at the salon? Going back to the salon and asking them to put a little toner on it. They should do this for free for you and guarantee their color services so make sure you ask this before getting your hair done somewhere how long their color-guarantee is.

Don't forget that no matter where you choose to color you hair, that the most important thing to do to maintain it is to use color-safe shampoos afterward. The same tips for savings on hair color apply to those hair color shampoos too. It has been a long time since I have paid full price for any hair care items by taking advantage of coupons and savings at the drugstore. If you are looking for an affordable brand option, Suave corners the market on inexpensive hair products. They have an arsenal of hair products that won't put a dent in your wallet. For example, Nexxus shampoo would cost roughly $8.79 for 14.5 ounces. Suave makes a knock off of this same shampoo for $1.92-2.49 for 14.5 ounces. Combine that with a coupon, and you have practically free shampoo that will keep your hair looking great!

I hope these at-home hair color tips will help keep your lovely locks looking great for a lot less!

(Photo Source: Compact Collection)

Related Links:

Overcoming My Fears: Cutting Hair

Open Your Own Beauty Shop

Do you color your hair at home? What products do you love? How do you maximize your color savings?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Redbox Code 03.30.09

Today's free Redbox code is 89ZQJ3. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

You can't beat a free movie rental so schedule some fun family nights and check out what Family Films are available.

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.. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

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Deliciously Light Banana Oat Bread


When I feel like I have mastered a recipe, I often don't go back and take a look at new recipes for that particular dish. After all, if you are making the best there is, why would you ever explore anything new? That is how I felt about my banana bread recipe. It was the perfect recipe and it has never failed me. It is not the most figure-friendly though and so when I ran across this recipe from Cooking Light, I knew I would have to try it. I modified the recipe to our taste and what we had in our cupboard and what came from that little experimentation resulted in this perfectly perfect absolutely amazing banana bread recipe that will be replacing my old version.

Despite using rolled oats, there is no weird texture to the bread, even without any soaking of the oats. The sprinkle of oats on top add just a little bit of chewiness and the bread is moist, but still light-tasting.

My husband likened it to a delicious oatmeal cookie and I was impressed with how clean it came out of the pans, how easy it was to cut, and the beauty of the light golden color with the dusting of oats on top.

The original recipe called for white sugar and had no spices. I substituted the white sugar with brown sugar and added cinnamon. I had half-and-half in my refrigerator and added 2 teaspoons of vinegar to it to replace the buttermilk.

Did I mention this recipe is also very frugal? No butter in the recipe and very little fat, bananas that were going to make their way into a trash can, and cheap generic oatmeal! And yet, despite all of those factors, it would make an amazing little gift packaged for a special person in your life!

The recipe that is written below is my adaptation of this bread and I hope you will enjoy it half as much as our family has!


Deliciously Light Banana Oat Bread

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup mashed banana (approximately 2 1/2 per loaf)
1/3 cup buttermilk (I substituted with half & half with 2 tsp of vinegar to sour)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine banana, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a small bowl or measuring cup. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, in the pan, for about 15 minutes (I left mine in longer and it was fine). Remove the bread from the pan after 15 minutes and cool thoroughly on the rack.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Family Night Activity: Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2009 is upon us and I wanted to encourage you all to enjoy a family night celebrating Earth Hour. Earth Hour is March 28th from 8:30 PM-9:30 PM this Saturday.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote.

Our family celebrated Earth Hour last year and my son still talks about it. It was definitely one of our favorite family nights ever and a great way to share about caring for the earth.




I had been looking forward to Earth Hour all week and sharing this experience with my family. We talked to Ethan about why we were celebrating Earth Hour and how much fun we were going to have. Since Earth Hour was between 8-9 PM last year, it was a special treat for the kids to stay up late and spend the hour with us.


The kids took a bath by candlelight, which they thought was a super fun treat! We filled the tub with lots of bubbles and threw in a couple of whisks and spoons from the kitchen. They whisked up bubbles to their hearts delight and sang fun songs by candlelight.

Ethan thought he looked pretty cool in front of the candles so he took some time out of his busy schedule to pose!

After our baths, we enjoyed a yummy snack while Ryan & I made shadow puppets on the wall for the kids. They thought these were hilarious and super cool!


Ethan had so much fun, he asked if we could celebrate Earth Hour every day! This gave me an opportunity to share with him easy ways he could celebrate AND save the earth. We talked about doing our recycling, turning the lights off when we aren't in a room, and not being wasteful. Since this family night was such a hit, I hope we can do it with the kids again. Not only did the kids have a blast, but it was super frugal, while being extremely memorable for all of us!


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Freebie Friday: March 27, 2009

Another big round of thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us this week with our Freebie Friday list. Heather has a great new list of fresh grocery coupons to help save on your grocery bill this week. She also has highlighted a great list of sweepstakes where the odds are good that you could win a coveted prize. Thanks, Heather!

Don't forget to visit the Apron Full of Giveaways for over a hundred great contests on the web where you could get lucky once again!

Health & Beauty

Juicy Juice Shining Moments House Party
All-Bran Pink Lemonade Fiber Drink Mix (Walmart)
Bruster's Free Baby Cone (for children under 40")

Entertainment

Storyline Online (children's books read by actors)
Seventeen Magazine 6 issues (StartSampling)
Ioda SXSW Opening Day Bash Sampler (11 free song downloads at Amazon)
Grey Gardens Advanced Movie Screening (select cities only)
Canon Try My Photo
Interview Magazine (1 Year)

Home & Garden


Cottonelle Toilet Paper & Wipes (Walmart)
Gain (Sam's Club)
Chore Wars (try the free version)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.
MARCH
28 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Yard Mobile 10 to 11am
28 - Lakeshore Crafts for Kids - Royal Crowns 11 am to 3 pm

APRIL
4 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a window birdhouse 9 to Noon
4 - Michaels The Knack - 3D Monsters vs Aliens crafts for kids 5-12 from 10 to 2pm
4&5 - Museums on Us - Free admission for Bank of America account holders
6 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free small coffee
7 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free medium coffee for all 39-year-olds
11 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Birdhouse 10 to 11am
15 - Taco Del Mar Free Taco
15 - MaggieMoo's Free Single Scoop of Ice Cream
18 - Michaels The Knack - Spring Critters for kids 5-12 from 10 to 1pm
23 - Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day
26 - National Pretzel Day - free pretzels at Pretzelmaker and Pretzel Time

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Simplifying Home Organization Resource List


A big thank you again to Stephanie Vozza, from The Organized Parent, for joining us today for our show. I hope you got a lot out of it and we can't wait to bring more great guests to you on our show!

Here is the resource list from today's podcast:

The Organized Parent- Be sure to check out Stephanie's website for oodles of smart & stylish organizing tools for moms. Stephanie said her top seller is this chic File Tote that was featured in Family Circle Magazine.

Wuduplz- This is text messaging service that Stephanie uses to get her older child motivated to help. You can text your children and let them know what you need assistance with around the house. Now that is a brilliant way to send a chore list!

Organize Your Week- This was one of the original articles I wrote when we began the website five years ago. Although I have tried other methods of organizing my week, I always fall back on this great plan and I definitely recommend trying this in your house!

Free Weekly Planner Download- Be sure to visit our Resources section for your printable needs. In addition to our great Weekly Planner Download (filled with loads of room for all your most important engagements), you will also find a great Menu Planning Sheet that would be a lovely addition to your fridge!

20 Tips for Finding Your Routine With Kids- I had to highlight Tsh's excellent article this week, on Simple Mom, because it falls in step perfectly with finding organization in your week. Be sure to read this article to give you more great ideas for establishing a good routine!

On next week's show...

Next week on MomAdvice Simplified we will be discussing how to simply capture great photos! I am so excited to be joined by photographer extraordinaire, Mishelle Lane, who blogs at Secret Agent Mama. I had the great pleasure of meeting Mishelle at Blissdom '09 and couldn't wait to have her on our show as a guest.

Mishelle will be sharing her tips for purchasing the right photography equipment, some ideas for capturing our busy children, and how to get out of the manual mode on our cameras.

This episode will air next Thursday (April 2nd) at 2PM EST.

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplifying Home Organization


This week on MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, we will be joined by Stephanie Vozza, the Founder of The Organized Parent and organizational expert, and she will be giving us simple and affordable techniques and tools that moms can used to stay organized in our home.

Stephanie knows that most mothers have been in the workplace (or still are) before their “mom lives” began. She also recognizes that in corporate and home offices, there are tools and standard practices to structure a workday. But when it comes to organizing your personal life, it’s every mom for herself!

Stephanie is going to guide us in this journey towards getting our mom lives as organized as our corporate lives were. That podcast will be airing today at 2PM EST so if you are looking to get your life organized again, be sure to tune in for that episode.

Just for our listeners, we will be giving away a product from The Organized Parent to one lucky caller. Please tune in for this fun and exclusive giveaway!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notebook Experiment: Can I Make a Delicious Oatmeal Cookie?


Experiment: Can I make a delicious oatmeal cookie that the kids will love?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 02.05.09

Materials Needed: Please see don't call me becky for specific directions on how to make these Oatmeal Jumbo Cookies. I was able to find a package of pretty pink M&M's that support breast cancer awareness at our local Aldi. I also added peanuts for the nuts in the cookie, as was recommended by this blog entry.

Results: I really stink at making cookies. For some reason, no matter what I do, they always end up turning out horribly. Ask me to make you an amazing four course dinner though, and I will shine like a superstar. I guess you could say that Rachael Ray & I are very similar as I recognize that I am not a very good baker.

I decided to make the jumbo version of this cookie and it failed miserably. It got crunchy on the outside but never set up firmly in the center. The second batch was done by the teaspoonful and turned out pretty perfect except for the flat as a pancake look, even after refrigerating my dough. One peek at the expiration date on my baking powder made me realize that it might not be my cooking skills that are lacking, but instead the leavening agent was a little flat.

Regardless of this small detail, these cookies are absolutely delicious! They have no flour in them, but loads of oats, peanuts, peanut butter, and a little chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth. These cookies were excellent and I can't wait to try making them again with a fresh batch of baking powder.

If you are ever in a pinch though, I did find a great substitution for baking powder. You can substitute 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to substitute for your baking powder.

Conclusion: These cookies will make a fun lunch box treat for the family and I love the flavor combination of the chocolate and the peanut butter! I hope you can give these a try the next time you need to satisfy your sweet tooth!
**********************


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 craftster'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 03.25.09

I love this doily lampshade makeover (@ make grow gather)

These fabric Easter eggs would be so cute in my basket on my kitchen table (@ retro mama)

I am still wanting to make this lemony lemon cake (@ Smells Like Home)

I am dying to try this pie crust recipe (@ Scribbit)

I love this post on steps towards a more sustainable life (@ zen habits)

This herb marinated pork tenderloin looks delicious (@ Annie's Eats)

These freezer paper stencils are such a cute project to do with kids (@ Design Mom)

I love this list of ways to thrive in the kitchen with children (@ Simple Mom)

These greeting card made from a floppy disk is too cool (@ Build/Make/Craft/Bake)

I am going to have to try this recipe for old-fashioned homemade pancakes (@ My Wooden Spoon)

These allspice crumb muffins look like a delicious treat (@ Annie's Eats)

I want to try this brine for pork chops (@ The Kitchn)

I love this post on baking bread (@ down to earth)

I want to have a spring time tea party (@ The Inspired Room)

I will have to try this recipe for homemade cocktail sauce (@ Coconut & Lime)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.24.09

Why should girls have all the fun? This apron is too darn cute and is available from etsy seller gagiepagiepuddingpie for $17.00. I know my son would look so handsome in this one. To purchase, head over to her shop and check out the great selection!

Now for our giveaways for the week! Our Twilight DVD giveaway is ending at 8PM EST tonight so make sure to get your entry in. We have ten copies of the movie to share with our readers so don't forget to enter to win. This week we are offering a chance to win one of ten copies of Quantum of Solace from Hollywood Video.

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons just showcasing them! 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!






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Play It Again, Momma: Rainy Day Survival Kit

Spring is almost here in Indiana and with it comes those rainy days! I will be working on restocking our little suitcase for those days ahead and I hope this offers a fun idea for keeping your children entertained when the bad weather strikes!

I have been wanting to work on this project for some time, and since it was miserable weather all weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to tackle this project. I went to Goodwill and found a plain leather suitcase for $5. I gave it a good scrubbing, when I got it home, and proceeded to decorate it with some knick knacks from my craft supplies. I tied a big bow on the handle and made it look super cool for the kids. If you have older, children, you could invite them to help you! I applied the buttons and ribbon with my trusty hot glue gun.

Hmm... I wonder what could be inside? Let's take a peek, shall we?

It might not look like much to you and me, but to my kids...well, this is a good couple of hours of enjoyment. Inside here I have coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, pipe cleaners (yes, I told you it wouldn't look like much to us), a 100 piece puzzle, little spinning princess tops, yo-yos, dinosaurs, a little jewelry set with a crown, board games, quiet instruments, and books. Some of the items were "new" and purchased from the thrift store, some were items that I had been rotating and storing because no one was playing with them, and some of them were purchased from the dollar store. I would say even with the cost of the suitcase, there is probably about $15 of stuff invested here, but it is OH SO WORTH IT!

You could pick activities based upon how involved you really want to be with this. If you are looking for a little sanity break, I would suggest putting things in there that they could enjoy playing with by themselves or with their siblings. If you are looking for a good time to bond with your kids, put things in there that you can do with them like board games or stuff for art projects. If you are super smart, you will have a case of each- momma needs a break suitcase and momma wants to be your awesome friend suitcase.

This is such a hit in our house! Ethan keeps asking if it is wet on the ground because he wants to play with this special stuff. Pretty sad when your kids are begging for rainy days, but it makes me feel like this was a great idea and a great way to keep them occupied! Being a Midwest girl, I am sure I will have plenty of days to really use this. If I lived in Seattle, I might have to have a few hundred of these so they wouldn't get tired of the same old stuff.

Might I just add that this would be a great birthday gift for a child and would be a wonderful addition to a grandparent's house too! I am thinking this would be something fun that I could put together for my nephews or would be a great way to store a little girl's dress-up clothes. The possibilities really are endless.

Related Links:

Spring Break '08 Cost Breakdown

A Drizzly Saturday

Fruity Play Dough

Summertime Planning

Is anyone else looking forward to the spring weather? Do you have any big Spring Break plans this year? Please share!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Redbox Code 03.23.09

Today's free Redbox code is HG7W56. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

I also some really great news for Redbox fans! You can now get a free movie code each Wednesday for the month of March just by visiting the new Redbox blog. This blog will give you some insight on the new releases that are coming out and reviews and information on all the movies available by visiting your local Redbox.

Every Wednesday during the month of March, if you visit the Red Blog, you will find a free movie Wednesday code!

You can't beat a free movie rental so schedule some fun family nights and check out what Family Films are available.

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.. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

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Boxed Wines: An Eco & Wallet Friendly Choice


I feel hesitant posting my personal thoughts on wine. After all, I am the girl who thought that Arbor Mist was the best you could buy for your money for years. Through the years though, my husband and I have become adventurous with trying new wines, I have been to countless wine tastings, and I love nothing better than a good glass of wine at the end of a long day with the kids.

While we both love wine, we don't necessarily desire the same kind of wine. I am a girl that gravitates more towards a good Chardonnay while my husband is a Merlot fan. Considering we are the only two wine drinkers in the house, the wine would sometimes go to waste because it was not used in the time span it should have. To me, there is nothing worse than throwing money down the drain so I have been looking into other options.

A few months ago though, I was watching the Today Show and they had a wine expert on to discuss the comeback of the boxed wine. "Boxed wine? Blech!" I thought. The expert continued on though to point out that these wines have come a long way and are a great affordable option for families.

We decided to put this theory to the test and began buying and sampling boxed wines instead. I even had the good fortune to receive a few boxes for my review from a couple of great wine companies, which helped add perspective on the different varieties that are available for families.

Why are boxed wines a better value and better for the environment?

Your Wine Lasts Longer- Remember the scenario that I shared about where I was dumping wine down the drain? Well, that doesn't usually happen when you buy boxed wine. The wine is stored in a Mylar bag with a spout attached. When you pour from the spout the bag acts as a vacuum, which means the wine doesn't oxidize. An opened box can last for four weeks rather than spoiling in just a day or two.

Boxed Wine is Better for the Environment- Top wine producers are trying to reduce their carbon footprint — that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation of wine —and selling the beverage in alternative, lighter packaging instead of heavier glass is one way that they can make that change.These boxes of wine are ideal with some boxes reducing waste by nearly 90 percent of the equivalent bottle.

It Saves Space & Is a Hit at Parties- I took a box of wine to my Bunco night and it was the first thing to go on the table of wines. While some might consider it tacky, that pour spout is quite handy and makes filling your wine glass a breeze. These boxes can hold four bottles or more, but take up a lot less room. If you are short on space or you need something to bring to your next party, I highly recommend the boxed wine alternative.

Wine for Cooking Is Right at Your Fingertips- Many of the dishes I make call for wine in them and these boxes of wine are a cook's best friend. I no longer have to open a bottle for a dish and let it go to waste, I can now just pour it right out of the box and it costs a lot less than the wine I was buying to cook with.

Boxed Wine is Much More Affordable- You can get a box of wine for a far lower cost than you could get in a bottle. Check the side of the box to see how many bottles are contained within it and then divide that to get your cost per bottle. Some of the best boxed wines I sampled cost roughly $5-6 a bottle, making it much more affordable than even the sale prices on bottled wines.

Now that I have hopefully convinced you that it is a better deal, here are my top picks for best boxed wines on the market. I am happy to report that Epicurious also agrees with a couple of my choices!


Of all of the wines that I sampled, the Black Box wines were consistently the best of the best. The Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot are the best that they offer and they are elegantly packaged. The Cabernet Sauvignon has received a Double Gold award and the Merlot was listed in the Top Ten Best Buys by Wine Enthusiast. Best of all, this one was available at our local Walmart and I have also heard that Sam's Club members can get it for an even lower price. If I was just venturing into the world of boxed wines, the Black Box wines would be a great place to start.


Banrock Station Chardonnay is one of the best bangs for the buck and they now offer their wine in a 3L (the equivalent of four bottles) box. This Chardonnay is an excellent deal for the money and is recommended as a great budget-friendly wine by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Of all of the wines that Banrock Station offers, their Chardonnay is by far the best and is a great wine to bring to parties and a night in with friends. Even someone who is not a wine expert will recognize the hint of green apple and the crisp taste that comes through in the Chardonnay. This wine is particularly great for Pinot fans because this wine seems to mimic many of the flavors you would find in a good Pinot.

When they would run a sale on this wine, we would buy it in the six bottle quantity to get a discount at our local grocery store. I never knew that they offered this wine in a box and I will now be looking for this eco-friendly alternative to my bottles. It really is that good!

Hardys Stamp offers a variety of great tasting budget-friendly boxed wines. While we were not a fan at all of their boxed Riesling, I can say that I truly loved the Merlot. Hardys Stamp Shiraz is also well-known for offering a rich and full flavor. Epicurious shares that the Shiraz, "evokes warm blueberry pie, with hints of vanilla ice cream and toasty American oak, and just enough tannin to balance the ripe berries." Overall, I would definitely recommend sampling the red wines that are offered by Hardys Stamp because the flavor was such a great surprise and will now be added to my top list of the best of the best in the boxed wine market.


One wine that I really wanted to pass the test was the Target Wine Cubes. We tried several different wines from Target and I just was left feeling disappointed. I loved the chic packaging and I certainly spend enough time in Target to want to pick it up there, but these wines were definitely not my favorite. If you are going to pick up a box of wine at Target, go for the Pinot Grigio because it is the best that they offer. In 2007, the Wine Cube Pinot Grigio won a double gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Again, I love the packaging on the product, but the wines just weren't my favorite.

If you are a wine drinker, I would definitely recommend giving boxed wines a try! Once I started sampling boxed wines, we have never gone back to the wines in the bottle. I can't wait to continue our adventures in tasting and I look forward to more boxed wine products from future companies. I believe that more boxed wines are going to be offered as wineries begin to recognize that even the best wine drinkers love a good wine bargain!

(Photo credit: Paul Olson)

Have you ever given boxed wines a try? Please feel free to offer your recommendations for a great box of wine!

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Whole Wheat Hamburger & Hot Dog Buns


I love to make homemade hamburger buns for our sandwiches and have been wanting to try a recipe for whole wheat buns. For my first attempt, I think these buns are absolutely delicious and fit the bill perfectly. They are not too dense, but can handle a messy sandwich like a Sloppy Joe or Chicken BBQ perfectly. You can substitute the shortening with canola oil to make these a bit more heart-healthy.

I look forward to making these again and again for our family!


Whole Wheat Hamburger & Hot Dog Buns
(courtesy of Bread Machine Magic)

1 cup water
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (can substitute with canola oil instead)
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons yeast


Place all ingredients in bread pan, select Dough setting, and press Start. (Vital Wheat Gluten is optional but the bread will rise higher with it.). When dough has risen enough, the machine will beep. Remove bread pan, and turn out dough onto a floured countertop. Gently roll and shape the dough into a 12-inch rope. With a sharp knife, divide dough into 8 pieces for hamburger buns or 12 pieces for hot dog buns. Grease a baking sheet. Roll pieces of dough into balls and flatten for hamburger buns or shape into 6-inch rolls for hot dog buns. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm oven 10 to 15 minutes until almost doubled. Preheat oven to 400°F Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown (be careful mine cook pretty fast). Remove from oven and cool on racks. When ready to use, split buns horizontally.

**These will keep in plastic bag in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

Related Links:

Getting to Know Your Bread Machine

Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Do you make homemade hamburger or hot dog buns? Please feel free to share your recipe!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Read Our Family's Story in Redbook

The April issue of Redbook is out and I am so pleased with the results! If you aren't able to snag a copy, they have made the article available online and you can read more about our debt-free journey.

My real-life friend and fellow Eleven Mom, Lynnae at Being Frugal, was also featured and you can read about her own story here.

A big thank you to Jonathan Sprague, Kathy Friend, and Gabrielle from Camellia Cosmestics for all helping me look and feel like a superstar.

It was a wonderful day and I will never forget it. I am so proud to have been featured for our family's financial choices and I hope we can inspire others to live a debt-free life and celebrate!

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Freebie Friday: March 20, 2009

A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us this week with our Freebie Friday list. Be sure to take a peek at Heather's scoop on earning money through viewing ads and her sweepstakes feature where she gathers the best sweepstakes on the web and puts them in one great post for you! Her readers, in particular, seem to have the best luck so be sure to read that list!

While you are browsing around, take a moment to enter our new contest and win a copy of the new Twilight DVD and visit our Apron Full of Giveaways and get your name in for all of these great giveaways on the web.


Health & Beauty

Bare Escentuals free 10-day bareMinerals foundation and brush (in-store offer)
Celine Dion Sensational fragrance (Walgreens)

Food

Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend

Entertainment

Dish Network 2 free pay-per-view movies
Redbook magazine (2 free issues from StartSampling)
Time Mine magazine
American Baby magazine
American Photo Magazine
Woman's Day Magazine

Home & Garden


Bear when you complete Gift Registry at USA Baby
Bread Breakthrough Recipe Book (Fleischmann Yeast)
Campbell's Tomato Seeds (with code from can of soup)
$25 Staples Gift Card (for teachers & schools)
Tips for Financial Security by Kim Danger (free eBook)
Homebrewing (free Quamut PDF, register for free download)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.
MARCH
20 - Borders Twilight DVD Release Party - starts at 10 pm
21 - Lakeshore Crafts for Kids - Colorful Kite 11 am to 3 pm
21 - Toys 'R Us Little People 50th Birthday Party - free Little People DVD 12 to 2pm
26 - The Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop - Floor Tile Basics 7 to 8:30pm

APRIL
4 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a window birdhouse 9 to Noon
4 - Michaels The Knack - 3D Monsters vs Aliens crafts for kids 5-12 from 10 to 2pm
4&5 - Museums on Us - Free admission for Bank of America accountholders
6 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free small coffee
7 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free medium coffee for all 39-year-olds
18 - Michaels The Knack - Spring Critters for kids 5-12 from 10 to 1pm
23 - Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day
26 - National Pretzel Day - free pretzels at Pretzelmaker and Pretzel Time

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Simplifying Your Money Management Resource List





Another big round of thanks to Julie for joining us in this half hour and sharing her expertise on money management. I hope you will be able to pick up her book and learn more about our emotional responses towards money and how we can improve our lives through these discoveries. The player above highlights the past few shows, but you can visit MomAdvice Simplified where all of the shows have been archived and be listened to or even downloaded to your iPod!

Here are some of the resources that were highlighted in today's episode:

The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth from the Inside Out- Julie offers valuable advice in this book on understanding our emotions behind money and how to gain control of our finances. Please be sure to check out her book or visit her site for more details about what this book has to offer!

CheckFree- Julie discussed automating those bills to make it easier for moms. If your bank does not offer free bill-paying services, CheckFree is a great option that has worked for my family for years. It is a free bill-paying service and they have the relationships with the companies. I am sent an email alert when bills are due and I pay each of them manually. You can also set it up to automatically take it out of your account. Feel free to share in the comments below if you have found a great service through your bank or a third party service that has worked for you.

No Spend Challenge- This was a challenge that our family embarked on to get our finances back on track. Scroll to the bottom to start the journey from the beginning and don't be scared to tackle a no spend challenge of your own.

Free Monthly Budget Sheet- You will find this great budget sheet to be helpful to your family in getting those family finances back on track. Visit our resources section for many downloads to help with your home management needs.

On next week's show...

Next week we will be joined by Stephanie Vozza, the Founder of The Organized Parent and organizational expert, she will be giving us simple and affordable techniques and tools that moms can used to stay organized in our home. Stephanie knows that most mothers have been in the workplace (or still are) before their “mom lives” began. She also recognizes that in corporate and home offices, there are tools and standard practices to structure a workday. But when it comes to organizing your personal life, it’s every mom for herself! Stephanie is going to guide us in this journey towards getting our mom lives as organized as our corporate lives were. That podcast will be airing next Thursday at 2PM EST so if you are looking to get your life organized again, be sure to tune in for that episode.

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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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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Making Our Grocery Lists

We have had another crazy week with travel and sick children. I hope you will enjoy this post for a creative, frugal, and green way to keep your children entertained!

Experiment:
Can making a grocery list with my son provide entertainment for one hour and be educational too?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 05.08.08

Materials Needed: Please see plumpudding for specific directions on how to complete this experiment. We used some leftover recycled paper from our computer paper to put the lists on and this week's grocery advertisements.

Results: Ethan really needs to work on his writing skills and needs some practice cutting with scissors so we adapted this activity to prepare him more for these skills. We are also in the pre-reading stage where he is sounding out and beginning to write his words. I wanted to work on all of these skills so we made the list in two ways.

The first lists that we made, I just had him cut out what he would want on his dream grocery list. I divided the piece of paper in half and had him add the pictures to one side of the page. In the opposite column, I wrote the word of the item and then I made a line so that he could write the word underneath.

On the second list, I divided the paper into two columns and then wrote down the grocery list. He sounded out the words, to try and figure out what they said, and then drew his picture to accompany them.

When we were done with our list, Ethan played in our little kitchen and shopped for food items off of his list, matching pretend food items with his pretend list. Then he made me pretend dishes to eat and charged me money for them...because that is how we roll!

Conclusion: This activity was great and helped us work on the skills that we need to work on, in preparation for next year's big move to kindergarten. This activity kept him busy for an hour and gave us an opportunity to really work together on his reading and writing skills. Thanks, plumpudding for this great idea!

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


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 craftster'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 03.18.09

I want to make this beautiful spring wreath (@ A Soft Place to Land)

I love this personalized tote bag tutorial (@ a sister for the bean)

I would have never thought of covering stains on a skirt with fabric yo-yos (@ Craftzine)

I adore this sweet little pincushion tutorial (@ Etsy)

These iced oatmeal applesauce cookies look delicious (@ Mad About Martha)

This is a great tutorial for spring cleaning your sewing machine (@ Craft Nectar)

This wishing well is such a sweet little treat for children (@ Here We Are Together)

I still want to try making doughnuts with the kids (@ The Artful Parent)

I want to make this lemon bread recipe (@ i have to say...)

These chocolate mint cupcakes would be a wonderful treat (@ Simply Recipes)

I am going to have to remember this chip clip idea the next time we play cards (@ Parent Hacks)

I love this idea for a thrifty flower girl dress (@ Like Merchant Ships)

This fish and chips recipe looks so good (@ Coconut & Lime)

Here is another fish recipe I would like to try- Sicilian-Style Cod (@ Serious Eats)

These banana espresso chocolate chip muffins look like a wonderful addition to any brunch (@ Annie's Eats)

This is a great little tutorial on growing potatoes in a trash can (@ DIY Maven)

I adore these little pretzel shamrocks- definitely making these next year (@ On a Whim)

I love this cute little bag of beans (@ The Purl Bee)

This recipe for barbecue sauce looks yummy (@ The Perfect Pantry)

I like these tips for how to frost a cupcake (@ The Kitchn)

I love this top ten napkin fold techniques (Yes But No ButYes)

There are so many fun new knitting projects in the spring issue of Knitty (@ Knitty)

I am going to have to see if this recipe for banana muffins with streusel topping are better than my recipe (Genesis of a Cook)

I love this t-shirt makeover (@ Banana Frog)

I think these lemon cookies look so delicious (@ plumpudding)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.17.09


I am back from Austin and just trying to play catch-up on all of my email, laundry, and phone calls. Thank you all for your sweet travel wishes and I can't wait to share my pictures from our SXSW adventure. I came home to a sick child and a mounting amount of to-do's, but I am so happy to be home with my children again.

We are wrapping up our great LeapFrog Tag Reader giveaway so make sure to get your entries in by 8PM EST! We also have a new giveaway up for ten copies of the Twilight DVD.

As an aside, this is the coolest apron in the world. Can someone please make this for me?

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons just showcasing them! 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: filsetficelles)

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The Cost of a Homemade Happy Meal

I admitted to you that we had a problem eating out too much and one of the places that I have felt we spent far too many dollars over the years is McDonald's. It is just down the road, it is inexpensive, and it is quick. I will say that it is also not good for me, not always warm, and I never feel that great after eating it.

I wanted to show you the cost difference on a store-bought Happy Meal versus the cost on a homemade Happy Meal. I do use the term "homemade" quite loosely because I am purchasing the chicken nuggets so if you wanted to save even more, you could definitely make a batch instead.

McDonald's Happy Meal

4-Piece Chicken Nuggets
Apples
Reduced Fat Milk
Small Toy

Total Cost of Store-Bought Happy Meal- $3.19 plus tax (this is in Indiana, costs may vary depending on location)

Here is my homemade version for my children that I made for them. I have included exactly what would be included in the meal, but made at home.

Tyson 100% All Natural Chicken Nuggets- 45 per package, cost $6.55 (at our local supermarket, price may vary- I had a great coupon that I will not include in the total!)
4 Piece Nugget Equivalent- .15 each x 4= $.60

1 Gallon of Milk- 16 cups in 1 gallon, cost $1.99 (current price at our local Aldi)
1 Cup of Milk Equivalent- $.12

Apple Slices- 3 pounds for $2.99 (current price at our local Aldi)
Apple Slices- $.25 (generous amount considering how few are in the package)

Total Cost of Homemade Happy Meal- $.97


While $2.22 difference might not seem like much, if you times that by the amount of children that you have in your family plus the amount that you spend on your own meals, there is a huge cost savings to making even your own fast food at home. We try to stick to the $1 Double Cheeseburgers, but Trent, at The Simple Dollar, breaks down the cost of making those double cheeseburgers at home and found that even that price could be beat.

For me, it is hard to get out of the mindset that I shouldn't have prepackaged foods in my house. We keep our grocery budget low by making things at home. If I am out of commission or we have had a hectic night, I am often wishing that we had a few more convenience foods in our house.

A couple of bags of chicken nuggets in the freezer for these nights would still be more cost-effective than running out to McDonald's.

And to my poor math teacher that had to tutor me every single day after math class, I would like to thank you for believing in me and working with me over those difficult years in high school. Who would have ever dreamed that I would be putting together a story problem daily that makes my husband shake his head and roll his eyes at me? I have become obsessed with the subject I hated the most so thank you, Mr. Rossi, for never giving up on me! Thanks to your thoughtful tutoring, I have become a human calculator and can crunch numbers on diapers, price per ounces on cans, and dare I say it...even Happy Meals that would make you so proud.

Related Posts:

Boo to McDonald's
Cracking the McDonald's Coffee Code

Is anyone else plagued with the human calculator syndrome? What has surprised that is more cost-effective to your household budget?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Baked Salmon With Lemony Rice Pilaf

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish and I couldn't wait to try this recipe out. It mimics the same flavors as the Herb Baked Tilapia, but offers the addition of the lemon seasoning to add a unique twist to one of my family's favorite meals.

Our whole family really loved this dish and I loved adding a side of the homemade Lemony Rice Pilaf since the fish had the hint of lemon flavoring throughout it.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as our family did!


Baked Salmon

1 lb salmon fillets (I used the frozen fillets from Aldi Supermarket)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Lawry's Lemon Pepper
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Fillet salmon and place skin side down on a glass baking dish. Spread a generous amount of mayonnaise; cover entire top of fish. Sprinkle liberally with seasoned salt, cheese and dry bread crumbs. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, uncovered (with the frozen fillet portions, fifteen-twenty minutes should be plenty of time). Place under broiler until top turns brown.

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, March 13, 2009

Freebie Friday: March 13, 2009

At this moment, I am flying in a plane and heading to Austin for three days with my husband to South By Southwest Interactive. I would love to kindly thank my sponsors- Abbott Zone Perfect and Walmart for sponsoring me so I can learn more great tips and tricks to make my website successful.

A huge thanks also to Johnson's, Tyson Foods, and Fast Fixin' for supplying food and products for my family in my absence. It was great to not have to worry about food or restocking the first aid kit (we shall pray no one needs it) thanks to these thoughtful inclusions from these great companies.

And most importantly, thank you Grandma for watching our kids so my husband & I can run away on a geek honeymoon. It is our first time attending a conference together and we are both so excited about all we will learn while we are there and all our great friends we will see.

One more huge round of thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for generously sharing her freebie list with us each week. Aren't we lucky? Be sure to enter Heather's Yo-Plait Yo-Plus Giveaway and her list of new Cellfire coupons to use on your Kroger shopping.

Don't forget to enter our amazing LeapFrog giveaway. We are offering one lucky winner a LeapFrog Tag Reader plus five books AND another set to give away to your local library all just for pledging to read to your children. Our Twilight giveaway is really rocking with over $150 worth of movie loot for you or a super fan in your life. We also have our weekly Apron Full of Giveaways where you can find all of the latest giveaways on the web. How cool is that?

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone!


Health & Beauty

Caress Evenly Gorgeous Body Wash

Emergen-C

Entertainment

Mandy Moore song download from new album Amanda Leigh
Seven Mile Breakdown by Taylor Hicks (free song download at Amazon.com)
Sacred Sounds Music free MP3s
Rosetta Stone Irish Language lessons (thru March 19)
Carnival House Party
Monsters vs Aliens free movie poster at Office Depot


Home & Garden

aerie Any One Undie Free (in-store coupon, no purchase required)
Lucy Free Socks (in-store coupon, no purchase required)
Red Gold Tote Bag (OH and WI residents only)

Upcoming Freebie Events:

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

11-14 - Pottery Barn Kids Sing Along
14 - Toys 'R Us Barbie's Birthday Bash - Decorate a Barbie Party Hat Noon to 2 pm
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a Tabletop Basketball
20 - Borders Twilight DVD Release Party - starts at 10 pm
26 - The Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop - Floor Tile Basics 7 to 8:30 pm

APRIL

4 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a window birdhouse 9 to Noon
4&5 - Museums on Us - Free admission for Bank of America accountholders
6 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free small coffee
7 - Seattle's Best Coffee (and Borders) - free medium coffee for all 39-year-olds

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Simplifying Your Grocery Day Podcast & Resource List





A HUGE thank you to Aviva Goldfarb for joining us this week on MomAdvice Simplified. I hope you can take a half hour out of your day to listen to Aviva's advice on simplifying your grocery day. Aviva has some really excellent advice for what to stock in your pantry, meal ideas for those crazy nights when you don't know what to fix, and ideas for how to streamline the menu planning process.

Congrats to our lucky winner, Genevieve, on winning a 6-month subscription to the menu planning service. We hope it relieves the stress of planning for their family.

Here is today's resource list from the show:

The Six O'Clock Scramble- This is Aviva's menu planning service that you can use to plan your family meals. Each recipe is tried and true and will include a grocery list to make those grocery trips easier.

The Six O'Clock Scramble Cookbook- Aviva shares her recipes and menu plans in this handy cookbook and I would definitely recommend that moms check this out for some menu planning inspiration!

Grocery Shopping- This article gives you some quick & easy tips for simplifying your grocery day and staying on track with your budget.

35 Ways to Save on Grocery Day- This is my absolute favorite post on ways to save with links back to recipes and tips for ways to save money on your groceries.

On next week's show...

Next week This week we will be 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.

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplifying Grocery Day

On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, I will be speaking with Aviva Goldfarb on simplifying our grocery day. Aviva is the author of the book, “The Six O'Clock Scramble” and founder of TheScramble.com and I am sure she is going to be sharing a wealth of information for our listeners.

Aviva
will be sharing some of her tips for making dinnertime healthier while saving time and money along the way. She will also be discussing time-saving tips for planning your dinnertime meals in advance, how to maximize your time and budget at the grocery store and how to waste less food each week. I am really looking forward to sharing that interview with you!

Please be sure to tune in because Aviva is going to be sharing with our readers a chance to win a free six-month membership to The Six O'Clock Scramble dinner planning services just for those who listen in!

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.

Aviva will be joining us live so if you have any questions you would like me to ask her, please leave them here and I will try to squeeze them into our show!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Are Homemade Bubbles Better?

I wasn't able to get to any experimenting this week so I wanted to share one of my favorite experiments with you that I have completed so far. If you haven't tried this recipe, I swear it is worth those little moments of effort!

Experiment:
Can homemade bubbles trump our dollar store variety?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 05.29.08

Materials Needed: Please see Sparkle Power for specific directions on how to complete this experiment. I was able to find the glycerin behind the pharmacist counter at Super Target. The container of glycerin was $2.69 for four ounces. I also mixed my bubble solution up in an old milk jug (inspired by Frugal Dad's uses for milk jugs) which made it easier to pour and store our homemade bubble solution. The bubble wands were found at the Dollar Spot at Target.

Results: Is it just me or are the dollar store bubbles horrible? My son is able to blow bubbles with these, but my daughter really got frustrated because she couldn't seem to blow any bubbles before her wand would need to be dipped again.

I was really excited to try this recipe for bubbles and couldn't wait to mix up a batch of these for the kids.

I followed Candace's suggestions and actually mixed these up the night before so the ingredients had plenty of time to incorporate. I had some pink dish soap in my pantry so I used that- your bubbles will be whatever color of dish soap you choose.

The next night, we spent an entire evening blowing bubbles and everyone had to take a turn waving the wands through the air to make the giant bubbles. These bubbles were so amazing that our neighbors came over to ask where we had gotten the bubbles from. I couldn't wait to share the recipe with them and pass it on! After seeing our bubble pictures, my mother-in-law is even going to make some of these for her own house so the kids can blow these bubbles over there too.

Conclusion: Homemade bubbles rocked the socks off of the dollar store bubbles. Thanks to Sparkle Power for such a fun recipe. I will never buy those bubbles again and I hope it is a recipe that we can pass down through generations!


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


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 craftster'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 03.11.09

I love this idea for creating placemats (@ Wise Craft)

I enjoy getting a glimpse into extreme home makeovers to inspire my home (@ The Inspired Room)

This revamped storage shelf is darling (@ ohdeedoh)

I like these place card holders made from recycled corks (@ Lifehacker)

I really needed this reminder to focus a bit more on those sinking funds (@ Simple Mom)

I need to find some fun things around the house to spray paint (@ A Soft Place to Land)

These crunchy oven baked fries look delicious (@ Joy the Baker)

If I could eat spicy food, I would be indulging in these lotsa hotsa tacos (@ Make & Takes)

These homemade corn dogs look like a fun treat (@ chaos in the kitchen)

This woven button coaster is so chic (@ Craftstylish)

I love this post on breaking the frugal rules (@ The Small Notebook)

I want to knit up some of these candy-striped washcloths for the holidays (@ Knit With KT)

On the flip side, I love this post on discovering the necessities in your home (@ Money Saving Mom)

I want to make this Amish Friendship Bread starter sometime (@ Skip To My Lou)

I love this kitchen island makeover (@ Nesting Place)

I won't give up on trying to make pretzels (@ The Artful Parent)

I want to try these silver dollar pancakes (@ Serious Eats)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.10.09

Welcome to The Apron Full of Giveaways for this week. We have a couple of great giveaways going on this week that I can't wait to share with you. You can enter this week in a contest for a case of the new V-8 V-Fusion and a great little L.L. Bean V-Fusion tote bag, but you will need to hurry and enter by 8PM EST tonight!

Our latest giveaway is for one Green LeapFrogTag reader + 5 books (chosen by LeapFrog) for personal use, as well as an expanded-memory LeapFrog School Tag reader + 10 books (chosen by LeapFrog) to donate to your local library.

We are also giving away two Twilight gift packs to two lucky readers!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons, but feel free to check out the Etsy seller to find out how to buy these cute aprons and apron patterns! 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: Becky Striepe)

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Ask the Frugal Momma: Throwing a Baby Shower on a Budget?

Amy,

I am turning to you for some advice about an upcoming baby shower that my husband & I are co-hosting because I know what a budget savvy and creative person you are!

A roommate of mine from college is expecting her first child in May. After asking her several times if anyone was throwing her a shower and her saying no, we offered to co-host a couple's shower with a guy that works with her husband and his wife.

So here's where I get to the dilemma...she e-mailed me the guest list this week and there are 30 couples on it...that's 60 people!

I need some advice for how to pull of the kind of shower that they deserve, but on my budget!! I feel like we have to feed all of these people and provide adult beverages, but I don't know how we could do that for less than a small fortune!!

Sincerely,

J.


Thank you so much for your question and I am so happy to offer a little advice on your baby shower! As always, if you have any questions that you would like to send me, you can email them to me at amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I would love to share any expertise that I can offer.

Here are a few tips and tricks for throwing a fun baby shower on a budget:

Keep The Decorations Simple

You can burn through a lot of money quickly just on the decorations so one cost effective way to decorate is to decorate with item's that the mother can use or by making a few sweet handmade items.

One of my favorite decorations for a table centerpiece are diaper cakes because it is a special gift for the new mommy and it can double as an attractive centerpiece for the occasion. You can visit my easy instructions and a little cost-breakdown and my tips for how to make these inexpensively.


(photo credit: Wendy Copley)

(photo credit: Janice)

Make a baby clothesline to hang near the food table or behind where the mother will be opening her gifts. Pick cute coordinating items and then give them as a gift to the mother at the end of the shower.

(photo credit: Jaime Compton)

A simple, sweet banner can double as a decoration later for the child's nursery. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate at all, in fact, the simpler the better. If you know the mother's nursery colors, try and coordinate the banner to the baby's future room. For a simple banner tutorial, I love this cute square banner, a bunting made from newspaper, and for the ambitious a knitted bunting. The possibilities are endless and could be made from supplies that you already have on hand in your crafting supplies.

Inexpensive Food to Feed the Masses

If you have a large group to feed, you could stick to between meal times and just provide fun snacks or a fun dessert table. Appetizers will go a lot further than a meal will. If you would like to do a meal, a brunch can be a really cost effective way to entertain and is a classy way to throw a fabulous spread.

Spinach Balls

Bite Sized Sandwiches with vegetable & fruit trays

Mini Quiches with an elegant salad (photo credit: chanmelmel)

Breakfast Casseroles & a Festive Punch

Mimosas (photo credit: K Santos)
A Creative Cake


Instead of doing an elaborate cake, offer guests mini-cupcakes in sweet pastel colors with a creative cupcake topper. These cupcake toppers from papertreats are just one example of cute homemade toppers that can decorate your cupcakes very creatively and that will make them sparkle when your cake decorating skills are lacking. If you are really ambitious, you could make your own cupcake picks with the baby's initial stamped on them or even something more elaborate like this. Check a scrapbooking supplies store or a craft store to find cute paper and embellishments for your project.

Remember that you can freeze cake ahead of time, so you can crank out those cupcakes even the week before and keep them in the freezer. I like to decorate the cake while it is still frozen because it helps reduce the amount of crumbs that can collect in your icing. Ice them the day before and assemble them on pretty cake stand or make your own cake stands for a thrifty and creative alternative.

You will need to modify the length of time you cook your cupcakes for cooking mini-cupcakes. Follow the instructions exactly, but just cook your cupcakes for half the time. Keep an eye on them just because they will cook quickly!

Here are some of my favorite cupcake recipes:

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting

The Best Birthday Cupcakes in the World

Fun & Games

I may be the minority, but I am not a fan of baby shower games. With sixty people in attendance, you are going to have a hard time pulling off an organized activity. Spend that time socializing or do a game like these that will not require everyone being quiet and sitting in a circle.

(photo credit: Emma Black)

Have your guests email you a picture of them from when they were a child. Print out copies of the pictures and make it a party game to Guess Who? is in the pictures.

(photo credit: the higher nest)

How about a Baby Shower Price is Right card and choose the closest winner on how much common baby items would cost?

(photo credit: nhearon2003)

Of course the simpler the game, the easier! Why not throw candy in a clear jar and have your guests guess the total amount? With large group activities, the simpler the better! The bonus with this game is that this game can double as a centerpiece!

Parting Gifts

In a party of this size, I do not think people will be expecting to take home a party favor. Everyone is going to be happy to be included and will just be enjoying the celebrating. Concentrate your efforts on the food, cake, and entertainment and your guest will leave with the wonderful memory of the occasion rather than a gift that they probably will not use.

Consider your shower and any of the centerpieces and decorations your gift to your friend. If you want to add a special gift that she can use, give her a basket of thank you cards and stamps which she can use to thank all of her guests for their thoughtful gifts!

Good luck with your shower and I hope these ideas will give you a good starting point for a festive and frugal celebration!

(Photo Credit: Picture 1- Jerusalem)


Do you have any tips or advice for the hostess for throwing a great budget-friendly shower? I know she will really appreciate it!

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Redbox Code & Bonus Codes This Month

Today's free Redbox code is F3T9L6. This code can be used all day until midnight at any Redbox location.

I also some really great news for Redbox fans! You can now get a free movie code each Wednesday for the month of March just by visiting the new Redbox blog. This blog will give you some insight on the new releases that are coming out and reviews and information on all the movies available by visiting your local Redbox.

Every Wednesday during the month of March, if you visit the Red Blog, you will find a free movie Wednesday code!

You can't beat a free movie rental so schedule some fun family nights and check out what Family Films are available.

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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Huge Twilight Giveaway Results & Interview Tonight!

Thank you to ALL who entered our Twilight Giveaway! We had over 1,100 comments which was so great to see the support for the movie and the podcast.

Prize Pack #1

Our winner was chosen at random and I would like to congratulate Holly Urbanek on winning.

Holly said, "I am a huge Twilight fan. Definitely Team Edward! I love Jacob, but Edward is beyond amazing. My favorite book was actually the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun that I read on Stephanie's website."

Prize Pack #2

Our winner was chosen at random and I would like to congratulate Deenee on winning a copy of the movie!

Deeenee said, ""I am SOOO Team Jacob!! Hearing Taylor Lautner on blogtalkradio just now reinforced my love of alll of the twilight books, especially New Moon, where Taylor/Jacob takes center stage. I am soooo excited to see New Moon and I'm definately going to see it at midnight when it comes out. By the way, the interview was awesome and it was really cool to hear the real Taylor Lautner speak his mind. :)"

We can't wait to send out their prize packs to our lucky winners. If you didn't win these giveaways, don't despair! We are giving away TEN more copies of the movie so please hurry over here and get your entry in today!


Tonight is the big night for our exclusive podcast with Taylor Lautner. I have partnered up with
Walmart on this exciting project to interview one of the stars from the movie, “Twilight” based on the Twilight book series by Stephenie Meyer. I am going to be co-hosting this BlogTalkRadio show with Taylor Lautner, AKA Jacob, on a very special interview while the cast is on location for the second film ("New Moon"). I will be co-hosting this on the “Stardish Radio” program at 9 pm (EST) TONIGHT.

Speaking from the location 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.


To kick off this exciting event, I am offering two exclusive giveaways this week to get your Twilight party started!


Prize Package #1- This prize pack will include all the fan gear you could ever imagine. This prize pack is valued at over $150!


Prize Package #2- Will include a $25 Walmart gift card that will cover the expenses so you can buy the Twilight DVD completely guilt free.

Your Multiple Entry Options. Choose one or Choose Them All!

For each item that you do, you can leave one extra comment to enter. Each comment is one entry.

1. To enter, please leave one comment and tell me which Twilight book was your favorite, or if you are on Team Edward or Team Jacob, or what super fan you would give this prize pack to (if you aren't a fan yourself)!

2. Subscribe to my feeds. Subscribe to my blogs,(pick one or subscribe to all three) then leave a comment letting me know you have subscribed.

3. Follow me on Twitter. I need more friends and love seeing what you are up to. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, read this entry for what it is all about and sign up for a free account. My Twitter name is @momadvice. Once you have followed me, leave a comment and let me know that you are my latest and greatest friend!

4. Tweet about this contest (include contest link, #11momstwilight and @momadvice in your tweet). Leave the link to the tweet in an additional comment. You get one additional entry per tweet. This can be done up to one time per day until giveaway is over.

5. Try a Notebook Experiment. Each Wednesday we post a Notebook of fun ideas from other blogs. If you attempt one of those ideas, and add your name on Wednesday to my linky list with a link to a Notebook Experiment that you tried, you can get an extra entry. This will be posted on Thursday so start your engines and do something creative with your families this week. Once your name has been added to the list, you can leave a comment and let me know what Notebook Experiment you completed. Here are some examples of my past Experiments and a link to all the notebook links that you can choose from.


Our winners will be chosen at random
. Please leave your comments by Tuesday (03/17) at 8PM EST.


You can also enter to win this contest by visiting the other Eleven Mom's websites! Good luck to all the fans and I look forward to sharing this interview with you tonight!

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CVS & Walgreen's Deals 03.08.09

I have been taking a break from my CVS shopping because I was fully stocked on everything and because of our No Spend Challenge. I wanted to hop back in the game with the hot Huggie's Diapers deal this week and because I was running low on a few essentials.

Here is what I stocked up on this week for our family!


Walgreens

Huggies Jumbo Pack Diapers- $10 per package
Buy $25 of participating products, receive $10 in Register Rewards
Printable Coupon (can print 2)- $5 off Gentle Care
Printable Coupon (can print 2, used 1)- $3 off Natural Fit
Total Cost (minus $10 Register Rewards & $13 Coupons)= $7.00 or $2.33 per package

Garnier Fructis Hair Care- $2.99 each
$2 Easy Saver Coupon
$1/1 Garnier Style Product, exp. 3-15-09 (in 2/8/09 paper)
$1/1 Garnier Shampoo, Conditioner or Treatment (in 2/8/09 paper)
Total Cost (minus coupons)- Overage of $.01

Garnier Fructis Hair Color- $5.99
$2 Easy Saver Coupon
$2/1 Garnier Hair Color Product (in 2/8/09 paper)
Total Cost (minus coupons)- $1.99

Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste- $3.49
$2.50 Easy Saver Coupon
$1.50/1 Coupon (March All You Magazine)
$.75/1 coupon (from newspaper)
Total Cost (minus coupons)- Overage of $.27

Coffee-mate Creamers- $2.49 each
On Sale B1G1 Free, Making them $1.25 each

Total Savings- $37.71
Total Spent- $25.62, $10 in Register Rewards
Final Total- $15.62



CVS

Diet Dr. Pepper (2 liter) $.74
Coupon for Free 2 Liter- $.74 (found in February issue of Maxim)
Total Cost- FREE

Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste- $2.99
Coupon $1/1 Crest Pro Health, exp. 3-31-09 (P&G 2/8/09)
$2 back in ECB
Total Cost- Overage of $.01

Secret Flawless Deodorant- $3.99
$1 back in ECB
$2/1 Secret Flawless or Flawless Touch, exp. 4-30-09 (V 2/22/09)
Total Cost- $.99

Vaseline Lotion (10 oz- look for packages that say 30% more)- $3.69
$2 back in ECB (limit of 5 total)
Vaseline Printable Coupon
$1.25/1 Vaseline Lotion Product, exp. 4-26-09 (V 3/1/09)
Total Cost- $1.13 for two or $56 each

Schick Quattro Razor- $8.99
$5 back in ECB
Total Cost- $3.99 (note: there is a coupon, but I did not have it)

Palmolive Dish Soap- $1.49
$1 back in ECB (limit of 2)
Total Cost- $.98 or $.49 each (note: there is a coupon, but I did not have it)

Coke 12-Packs 4 for $13
$3 back in ECB (limit 1 per household)
Total Cost- $10 or $2.50 per 12 pack

Total Savings- $25.95
Total Spent- $41.67, $17 back in ECB
Final Total- $24.67

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Yummy Mexican Rice

On our last chicken enchilada night, I decided I wanted to add a fun side dish to our meal. What goes better with your homemade enchiladas then a little bit of Mexican Rice? I can admit that the Mexican Rice is actually my favorite part of going out for Mexican food.

I found this little recipe and dug through our pantry for all of the ingredients. The tomato sauce complimented the enchiladas that we dipped in that homemade enchilada sauce better than anything else and I was able to modify the spices to our taste. I used white rice, but I may need to try my brown rice experiment and use that instead. This is a fun and inexpensive side dish and even our rice-haters ate it with great enthusiasm.

I think this will be a repeat performer in our house!

Mexican Rice

1 cup uncooked rice (not instant rice)
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped (omitted because of personal taste)
2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I omitted this ingredient because I didn't have any tomatoes)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth or beef broth (we chose chicken broth)
1 tablespoon chili powder (you can reduce this- I added 1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the rice and stir over medium-high heat until rice is golden brown. Add the garlic and chopped onion, and sauté until the onion just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder and salt, lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Rice is yummy and a frugal side dish! Do you have any favorite rice recipes you could share?

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Freebie Friday: March 6, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! A huge thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us with our freebie list this week. Be sure to check Heather's list of Cellfire coupons that can be used for your Kroger shopping this week and check her mail-in rebate tips for scoring some additional great deals on your grocery shopping.

Don't forget to enter this week in a contest for a case of the new V-8 V-Fusion and a great little L.L. Bean V-Fusion tote bag and check our Apron Full of Giveaways for links to contest all over the internet. Enjoy!



Health & Beauty

L'Oreal Paris EverPure Hair Care (log-in or register to request)
Gas-X Thin Strips
Kotex (Walmart)

Food


Bob Evans Caramel Mocha
Good Times Burger
Ted's Montana Grill Burger
Splenda
Dr. Pepper
Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis

Entertainment

Baltimore Orioles free ticket (during month of your birthday)
Mountain Homes magazines (1 free issue)
Saveur magazine (12 digital issues from StartSampling)
MotorBoating magazine (12 digital issues from StartSampling)
Yachting magazine (16 digital issues from StartSampling)

Home & Garden

Step into Spring Gift Pack (Right@Home)
100 Photos Scanned at iPreserve (short survey to qualify)
Ziploc Fresh Shield (Costco)
Juicy Juice Sippy Cup
Tide TotalCare
TBS MyBoys House Party
Hertz Weekend Day Car Rental

Upcoming Freebie Events:


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

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 9 to Noon
7&8 - Museums on Us - free admission for Bank of America account holders
10 - FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) 25 Free Copies of your Resume
14 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Make a Tabletop Basketball
26 - The Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop - Floor Tile Basics 7 to 8:30 pm

APRIL
4 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Make a window birdhouse 9 to Noon

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Simplify the After School Chaos Resource List





Thank you again to Mary Lou Retton for joining us for our podcast today. If you missed the show, please feel free to listen at your convenience and hear some of Mary Lou's great ideas for managing the chaos, after school snacks, and how she makes family time a priority in her house.

Here are a few of the resources that were highlighted in today's episode:

A Few Words About Convenience Foods- We talk a lot about how to save on convenience foods on our site. This post will showcase some of my ideas for making your own convenience foods and a few recipes to get you started. I have even explored if baby carrots are a convenience food because I love to maximize those grocery dollars as much as I can.

Schedule a Day in Your Kitchen- This post shares my idea on how I try to keep our grocery budget low by scheduling a baking day or prep day in your kitchen.

2008 Online Calendar Round-Up- This post is full of great online tools you can use to manage your day and/or your home business. Online calendars can be a useful tools for minimizing the stress of planning your day and your after school time.


Thank you to Tyson Foods for sponsoring a giveaway for our listeners and I loved getting to share some coupons with those of you who listened in. I am hoping to offer more fun giveaways in the future so please make sure to tune in live to take advantage of these fun giveaways!

On next week's show...

I have two exciting podcasts happening next week that I would like to share with you about. I am partnering up with Walmart on a very exclusive and exciting project to interview one of the stars from the movie, “Twilight” based on the Twilight book series by Stephenie Meyer. I am going to be co-hosting this BlogTalkRadio show with Taylor Lautner, AKA Jacob, on a very special interview while the cast is on location for the second film ("New Moon"). I will be co-hosting this on the “Stardish Radio” program March 9, 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. We are very excited about this opportunity and I am particularly excited because I am a mom and also a super fan of the books and I am so happy to represent the mom community and share about my own adoration for the books and the film Twilight. I hope you will be able to join me for that and again, it will be airing March 9, this coming Monday, at 9PM so be sure to mark your calendars.

On MomAdvice Simplified, next Thursday at 2PM EST, Aviva Goldfarb, Author and Founder of “The Six O’Clock Scramble” will be joining our show and sharing some of her tips for making dinnertime healthier while saving time and money along the way. She is the author of the book, “The Six O'Clock Scramble” and founder of TheScramble.com. She will be discussing time-saving tips for planning your dinnertime meals in advance, how to maximize your time and budget at the grocery store and how to waste less food each week. I am really looking forward to sharing that interview with you!



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MomAdvice Simplified: Simplify the After-School Chaos

On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, I have a very exciting episode scheduled and a guest that I think you are really going to enjoy hearing from. 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.

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.

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. During this episode, we are going to also be doing a giveaway with Tyson Foods that you will not want to miss!

I think this is going to be an 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, March 04, 2009

Post No Spend Challenge Confessions

There was a lovely and thoughtful discussion over at Northern Cheapskate on the difficulties that people would have had with the No Spend Challenge. I want to stress that it was a completely voluntary experience and that while I committed to a no spend month, I wanted people to modify it to their lifestyle and what they felt comfortable with. If a day was what you were comfortable with, if it is a habit you are trying to break, if a week would shed light on your finances- then those were all great and wonderful ways to implement a challenge in your life.

Most of the comments said how difficult it would be to not go on a spending binge after the challenge was over. What a valid point that is! I have also received some comments and emails since the challenge was over wondering if I was having problems with spending and if it will have saved me money in the long run.

The weird thing for me is that other than my little $15 in yarn excursion for some gifts I am working on, a hair cut (which typically happens each month), a necessary birthday gift for my husband, and my $1 Diet Coke that I buy myself after grocery shopping, I had no inclination to run out and spend loads of money.

Here is the weirder part... My husband's birthday is this week and I got him a watch for his 30th birthday (a killer deal that I scored off of eBay). I took it to the mall to get it engraved and they told me it would take an hour before it would be ready. I had all of this time to shop and instead, I took my daughter over to the play area, whipped out my knitting project, and just sat and knitted while she played for an hour.

She was so happy running around and talking to the children and counting the blocks on the floor, and reciting her 1-2-3's at the top of her lungs and I drank all of that in and worked on my project. There was no tug to shop... although I did feel a tiny tug to get a cup of coffee.

What did change is that the challenge did shed light on some problems that I have with my spending.

I now know that there are a couple of days that are harder for me with my work and I am trying to get dinner prepared ahead of time or work on slow cooker meals for those nights to reduce our eating out.

I realized that I need to scale back on outings that cost money and so I am choosing to do one thing a week instead of a few.

I am entertaining more because, frankly, my house looks better when I know I have people coming and it breaks my day up.

And most of all, it has made me conscious of my spending habits and how I can improve them. Even a money-savvy gal like myself, needed a little wake-up call into how we could improve our financial situation.

As for the economy and the negative impact I had on it by challenging others to a No Spend Challenge... well, I won't apologize for that and I know that might anger some people. I live in a part of the country that is particularly plagued with job loss and I am doing what I can to prepare our finances and make our situation stronger. My husband lost his job for a year and it took us five years to recover from that. I want to build a safety net for my family and not spending helped us gain perspective on how we can make that happen.

I might not have the influence of Oprah, but I still hope I made a difference on how families can improve their finances. And can I say to Oprah, I thought of the No Spend Challenge first? You know, just in case someone needs that information for historical purposes.


Are you reducing your spending to protect your family or are you increasing your spending to protect the economy? Do you believe it is an either/or philosophy?

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Notebook Experiments: Can I Make My Hotel Stay Better?

Experiment: Can I make my hotel stay better?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 10.30.08

Materials Needed: Please see Digital Bliss for the full instructions. This post was written by Angie, over at Blog Coach, so please be sure to check her site for additional great blogging resources!

Results: This month I have had more travel than I could imagine in one month for a busy momma. I have had this list bookmarked for a year now and while I was in New York last week, I knew that I would try out some of these tools to make my stay better.


iSerenity was perhaps my favorite resource on that list because I hate all the sounds from my neighbors and out in the hallways of hotels. In our house, each of us has a sound machine in our rooms so I really love having some type of white noise when I sleep. I tuned into the sounds of the ocean and it helped so much to cut down on the background noise so I could get some sleep. This would have been a great resource too when my children were smaller to help them sleep better too.



The other site that I used was Kukuklock. Is it just me or does anyone else have trouble figuring out how in the heck to set these alarms in the hotel rooms? A little manual would be helpful! I set my alarm on my phone in my room, but I like to have a back-up alarm just in case. I went ahead and set it to the rooster setting and it was as easy as pie to set.

I headed to bed and woke up to the sounds of the ocean with roosters crowing over the waves. Yeah, it was pretty freaky and I thought I fell into an alternate universe for a moment there, but it worked like a charm.

Conclusion:
I plan to use these sites every time because it helped me sleep better knowing I would wake up on my time and I could eliminate the background noises in my room. I hope you can check these out on your next trip!

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


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 craftster'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 03.04.09

I really love this post on the importance of family traditions (@ Pensieve)

This is the cutest princess birthday hat (@ Skip to My Lou)

These crooked coasters are beautiful (@ the long thread)

This zippered bird pouch pattern is too cute (@ betz white)

I love this post on gaining the motivation to exercise (@ Sparkle Power)

Making suncatchers in the wintertime sounds like a wonderful craft to do with the kids (@ Way Up High in the Monkey Bread Tree)

This shamrock brooch would be festive for St. Patrick's Day (@ A Fanciful Twist)

My family would go nuts for these meatball sliders (@ Smitten Kitchen)

I love this magnetic chalkboard made from a thrifted mirror (@ say YES! to Hoboken)

I want to make these bathtub crayons with my children (@ Pepper Paints)

This chandelier makeover makes me think I redo a lot of the light fixtures in our house (@ Vickie Howell)

This maple white bread sounds wonderful (@ The Wednesday Chef)

This 5 minute kite would be a great way to keep my kids entertained this spring (@ chica schmica)

This door organizer is a great way to keep things organized in your house (@ design sponge)

These leg warmers refashioned from a pair of knee high socks are so cute for your sweet babies and toddlers (@ My House Boutique)

I want to try this speedy sweet and sour chicken (@ Divine Domesticity)

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Depression Era Cooking: The Poor Man's Feast




My husband sent me the link to this series and I can't stop watching. Clara is an amazing woman who shares her tricks and tips that they used to stretch a buck in the Depression Era. Her stories are beautiful and her cooking tips are wonderful. I hope you can take a moment to enjoy this Poor Man's Feast that she shares in this episode and visit the Depression Cooking Channel to see more episodes!

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Play It Again, Momma: Getting to Know Your Bread Machine


You have been talking about bread machines and making bread. I am interested in doing this since I am home all the time and I love fresh bread.

I was at the Goodwill and saw many of them and they were kind of cheap, like 20.00 or less. I am dumb so help me out. Does the machine knead the dough and bake it and everything in the bread machine?

If I would purchase one at the Goodwill how would I know if it works or not?

I am interested. Please help me find a way in a new venture.


Signed,
Future Bread Maker

First of all, thank you for your question! The Ask Frugal Momma column can't happen without your questions, so please keep sending them my way. You can email any and all questions to amy@momadvice.com. We have had some fun topics and I am very excited to share with everyone!

Do any of you have bread machine gathering dust in your house? A lot of people buy these appliances and then end up donating them at their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity. Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket? And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. We use our bread machine almost daily, and spare ourselves the expense of fancy bakery breads. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday nights. This appliance makes our favorite pizza dough for our official “family night” together.

The purpose of a bread machine is to be able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

I am not a baker though and our days seem to be jam-packed with activities for our family. Taking the time to knead, rise, and bake bread…well, that hasn’t seemed to top the priority list at this point in my life. Lucky for me, there is an appliance that can do all the work for me and all I have to do is pull the finished loaf or ball of dough out.

To begin, all you have to do is put the ingredients in and select your setting. Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings. I find that the settings we use most on our machine are Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once.

A quick glance at grocery store prices though and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money. For example, our wholesale club has twenty-five pounds of bread & all-purpose flour for under $6 each. Two pounds of yeast will run you just under $4. What a difference compared to the prices in your regular supermarket!

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a clear jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire.

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Good luck in your quest to find a bread machine and I hope it is a well-loved appliance in your home!

(photo credit: Koropop)


Related & Helpful Information:

Hillbilly Houswife's Bread Machine Basics

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

My Favorite Pizza Dough (after much trial & error)

Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients

Homemade Croutons

Dinner is in the Bag

Adventures in Bread Making: Artisan Bread in 5

Adventures in Bread Making: Fiddlin' With Temperatures

Let's talk about it! Do you use a bread machine or do you make your bread the old school way? Feel free to share your bread machine recipes here!

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An Apron Full of Giveaways 03.03.09

Thank you all for joining me this week on our Apron Full of Giveaways. I apologize for my absence this past week. I was out of town and didn't have time to get this linky list up. We are back and in full swing this week and I look forward to sharing our giveaways with you this week. We have two great giveaways running with the Campbell's company. You can enter to win an entire year's worth of Chicken & Stars Soup, but the giveaway will be closing at 8PM tonight. You can also enter this week in a contest for a case of the new V-8 V-Fusion and a great little L.L. Bean V-Fusion tote bag. So fun!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons, but feel free to check out the Etsy seller to find out how to buy these cute aprons and apron patterns! 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: montessoribyhand, $11.95 for sewing pattern)

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Redbox Code 03.02.09

Today's free Redbox code is MS72K3. 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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MomAdvice Monthly Recap: February '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. Twitter
3. Deal Seeking Mom
4. Facebook
5. $5 Dinners
6. Make & Takes
7. Divine Caroline
8. Leaving Excess
9. Tip Nut
10. A Soft Place to Land

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. MomAdvice No Spend Challenge
2. Play it Again Momma: Gaining a Readership the Frugal Way
3. Cloth Diapering 101
4. Homemade Hamburger Buns
5. Ain't No Party Like a LEGO Party
6. Frugal Carpet Steaming
7. Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients
8. Play it Again, Momma: 5 Commandments for Blogging
9. A Sad Life for the Clark Kids: Lots of Chores
10.Parmesan Sage Pork Chops with Cheesy Orzo Pasta

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Chicken Wings With Honey BBQ Sauce

These wings...oh, these chicken wings. This picture does not do them justice, but maybe if I tell you that I really hate chicken wings and I would eat these any day of the week, it just might convince you to try this recipe.

Since we have been doing the No Spend Challenge, I only had a 1/4 cup of soy sauce left in a bottle and no other bottles in my pantry. I did have a bottle of Teriyaki sauce so I substituted half of the soy sauce with Teriyaki sauce instead and hoped for the best.

My husband looked up at me and said, "Whatever you did, do this every single time."

So I will and I am blogging it too so I don't ever forget it.

May I recommend a fun appetizer night with your family? After all, what is better than a ton of fun snacky foods and a good family flick?

Chicken Wings With Honey BBQ Sauce (updated)

3 pounds chicken wings
1 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced (I just used a tablespoon of bottled minced garlic)

Season wings with salt & pepper. Place frozen wings on broiler pan and broil for twelve-fifteen minutes on each side. Transfer wings to the slow cooker. Combine ingredients and pour over wings. Cook on high two hours or low for four hours.

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