Friday, May 29, 2009

Freebie Friday: May 29, 2009

Thank you all for visiting each week for all of your freebie needs. This would not be possible without the fabulous Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, and her assistance creating this list. This week Heather has a great round-up of her coupon sources and you can catch her today on the Tyra Bank Show sharing about ways to score freebies. Way to go, Heather!

Don't forget to swing by and enter for a chance to win the new Aurora Photo Editing Software for our contest this week! There are not very many entries in and I would love to give it away to you.

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone!


Health & Beauty

Bodycology soap, lotion & mist (Walmart)
Aveeno Nourish hair care (Walmart)
Hawaiian Tropic sun care (Walmart)
Kiehl's Shaving Cream Swap (bring to store to swap)
Aveda for Men (free sample at salon)

Food

Yogi Tea
Sun Crystals natural sweetener (Walmart)
4C Totally Light2Go drink sticks
Baskin-Robbins soft serve (for teens)

Entertainment


Regal Free Family Film Festival
Kids Bowl Free
Family Days Out activity guide
Kids Airport Diversion Guide
Disney Customized Maps

Home & Garden

Preschool Academics printable workbook
Lego Smart Kit (for educators)
Morton Salt Home Water Test Kit
Bike Maintenance (free Quamut of the week)

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

MAY
30- Lakeshore Learning Store - make a Memorial Day Medal 11am to 3pm
30- Walmart's Free Ice Cream Day - free full-size servings of ice cream treats 11am to 4pm
30-31 - The Home Depot Home Improver Workshops - 4 different topics

JUNE
3 Free Root Beer Float at Sonic 8-Midnight
6 - Friendly's Free Ice Cream Day Noon to 5pm
6 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop make a hardware sorter 9 to noon
13 - Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a putting green 10 to 11am
19 - Orange Julius Free Light Smoothie Day
21 - TCBY Father's Day - free cup or cone for dad

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Finding Beauty in the Ordinary

When we moved into our house, one of the things that I really wanted to change about our house was the landscaping. There were, however, many more pressing concerns though that required our funds and attention- a leaking roof, a monstrosity of an air-conditioner, cosmetic updating that made the space more livable. All of these repairs have trumped the landscaping funds for now and we have been doing things little by little in our yard.

One of the things I have disliked the most though has been one of our side beds. It is filled to the brim with giant ferns. The ferns are enormous and I have to mow through them to cut the grass. I don't find them all that attractive and they keep popping up in my other beds. Each year I have vowed that I am going to rip them out, but my efforts usually end up on other things and I forget about it...until the ferns pop up the next year.

When we had the original owner out to our house last summer, she commented how pleased she was to see those ferns there. They came from her father's lake cottage and she brought some back each time she went. Her eyes were misty as she told me how happy she was to see each of those ferns there and she shared with me her happy memories of planting them and the summers with her dad. I began to see the ferns in a different light than I had before. To her, they were a thing of beauty and held wonderful memories of her family's summers.

Last night I brought bunches of them in and started putting them in recycled single-size coffee jugs. They looked so pretty all fanned out that I started putting them in each room, adding a touch of green here and there. I marveled at how beautiful they were and how they added that little bit of life I needed to my living space.

Frugality is a lot like that though, isn't it? Sometimes it takes seeing all that you have through another pair of eyes to appreciate all of the bounty you already possess. My yard was filled to the brim with vases of green and all I had to do was pick it from my own backyard. Yet, each year I grumbled about mowing around them, shaking my fist as more ferns popped up.

Sometimes it just takes someone else pointing out the beauty for you to appreciate the ordinary.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Can We Make a Fun Summer List?


Experiment: Can we make a fun summer list?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 06.05.08

Materials Needed: Please see whatever for instructions on making a summer list. We bought a sheet of poster board and used a Sharpie to make ours. Our kids decorated the list by coloring on it.

Results:
We absolutely loved making our summer list last year and it gave us all something to look forward to. Last year we checked off all but one box on the list, which I think was pretty darn good. The kids were excited to make a new list again and I was excited to see what new ideas we could come up with.

We try to keep the ideas as inexpensive as possible and take advantage of any and all free opportunities in the summer. There are so many great free things to do- free museum days, free summer book programs, and free camps/park activities.

If you don't know what is free to do in your community, start checking the museum websites, looking to your library for guidance, and checking your local parks department for free things to do.

Here is what we have up our sleeve for this summer...

Summer List ('09):

1. Go to the movies
2. Go to the water park
3. Go to the Field Museum
4. Ice cream sundae night
5. Go to Soccer Camp (a free camp sponsored by a local church)
6. Attend VBS
7. Have an Earth Hour night
8. Run through the sprinklers
9. Make homemade slushies
10. Go to the beach
11. Sleep over with our cousins
12. Go to the library (sign up for the summer book program)
13. Go to the zoo
14. Go to the Air Zoo museum
15. Sleepover at Grandma & Grandpa's house
16. Campfire night with marshmallows
17. Make milkshakes
18. Plant our garden
19. Have a picnic
20. Go to the park
21. Homemade pizza & movie night
22. Go to Chuck E. Cheese

Conclusion: We can't wait to tackle our list again and our list hangs in our kitchen so we can check it off as we enjoy doing items on our list. I hope you can make a fun list with your kids this year. It helps add to the anticipation of all the summer has to offer!

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

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

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

Rules for Participation:

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

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

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Amy's Notebook 05.27.09

This is a wonderful list of 20 scrapbooking tips (@ {A})

These lemon butter cookies look delicious (@ Sweet Life in the Valley)

I like this tutorial on how to shape pretzels (@ The Kitchn)

My children & I are going to have to make some of these sweet little garden markers (@ Crafty Crow)

This buttermilk white bread looks like it would be wonderful for toast in the mornings (@ Wise Craft)

I would never think to decoupage a lamp (@ design sponge)

These are amazingly cute teacher gifts to give and I love this idea for linoleum printing (@ the long thread)

I love this bento box birthday bash (@ Secret Agent Josephine)

Here is a great round-up of grilling tips for the grilling season (@ Chow)

I want to try these strawberry sour cream scones with brown sugar crumble (@ The Kitchn)

Another scone recipe I would like to try- snickerdoodle scones (@ Baking Bites)

This is a great list of family traditions you could start (@ Simple Mom)

We will have to try this recipe for homemade Gatorade this summer (@ The Homespun Heart)

I love this post on keeping accessories in the home simple (@ The Inspired Room)

I like these easy tips for painting your kitchen cabinets (@ Nesting Place)

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 05.26.09

Retro apron pattern $6, from leilaandben

Welcome to our weekly list of giveaways. As we do each week, we hope that you can list your giveaways and contest with us. In return, we hope our visitors will come visit your site and that we can showcase all the great giveaways on the web.

This week we will be closing out our giveaway of the Wisebread book, "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget." Even if you don't win this giveaway, I hope that you can check this book out for oodles of frugal tips.

Today we are kicking of a new giveaway and offering you a chance to win the new Aurora photo editing software. If you are looking for a new photo editing software alternative, this is a contest you will definitely want to check out.

Feel free to also add your links to our Drugstore Dish, where you can review & share the scoop on items found at the drugstore! This is a new weekly on the site!

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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New Family Tradition: Campfire Night

I decided to start a new family tradition in celebration of our son's last day of school... a campfire family night. What better way could you end your school year than a fun night of being together over toasted foods!

We have had this fire pit for years, but have not attempted any cooking on it until now. Sitting by this little fire pit is one of my favorite things about the summer though and it gets a lot of use in the evenings at our house!

I had been holding onto a gift card for Target from one of their prescription gift card deals. This gave us the money to put towards our supplies for our fun night together.

We did not have any roasting forks, but found them in the camping supplies at Walmart along with a log that would burn for three hours. If you have these things though, no investment is needed other than food!



This family night, of course, requires a lot of supervision. The kids had a wonderful time though roasting their hot dogs over the fire. Some of our hot dogs were toastier than others, but the kids thought it still tasted great.



No meal on the campfire would be complete though without the s'mores. They couldn't wait to get through the first portion of the meal so that we could snack on these. Perfectly toasted marshmallows sandwiched between graham crackers & chocolate, made for the best gooey snack ever.

It was such a fantastic night for all of us and a fun night off of cooking for me. We have decided to make this a yearly tradition because it was such a wonderful way to start our summer together.

Do you have any end-of-school traditions with your children? I would love hear what you do to celebrate this kick-off to summer!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Graduation Day

Ethan,

We are so proud of you, Ethan! You did it! You graduated kindergarten with flying colors and wowed us all this year. I can't believe you are reading, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and doing it all with that boundless energy that we so admire!

I was sad to see you on that big yellow school bus on your first day of school. I clung to the side of the bus as you assured me that it was all going to be okay. You were so right. You did great and I could not be more proud.

This is just the beginning, son! You are going to do so many great things, meet so many great people, and touch people's lives in great ways. God has a purpose for you and I can't wait to see that all unfold.

xoxo,
Mom

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The Only Corn on the Cob I Will Ever Make Again

I stumbled upon a technique for cooking corn on the cob that I had never thought to do before. As I state in the title though, this is the only way I will ever make corn on the cob again so you should definitely try it.

I will began by openly admit that I don't always buy the best quality corn that I could buy. Maybe that is why I am more open to splurging on these additional ingredients to achieve a better tasting vegetable. If corn is not in season or you are worried about the flavor of the corn, I would definitely recommend these small additions to your cooking water.

Since you are adding butter to the water, I didn't even need to add a pat of it to my corn. It coats the corn cobs and gives you the buttery taste without the messy butter drips. Love the taste of a good sweet corn? The addition of milk and sugar adds the sweet taste to the corn that is sweet, but not too sweet.

I can't recommend this recipe enough and hope you can give it a try this summer. If you don't believe my guidance on cooking, seeing my son down three ears and beg for more is a great testimony to this tasty goodness.

Milk Boiled Corn on the Cob (adapted from this recipe on Recipezaar)

6-8 ears corn, husks and silk removed
water
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (optional and to add to the water)

Fill a large stock pot half full with water (use a large enough pot to hold all the corn). Add in the milk, sugar and butter. Bring to a boil, then add in the corn cobs. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow corn to cook for 7-8 minutes or until just tender, depending on size of corn try not to over cook the corn as it will become tough. Using long tongs remove and place on a plate or in a bowl, then cover with foil until ready to serve. Serve with butter and salt to taste (optional as I think this has the perfect flavor).

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Freebie Friday: May 22, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! A huge thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for her assistance each week with our freebie list. On Heather's blog this week, you can enter to win a Skype Pack (worth over $100) and the new round of Cellfire coupons. Be sure to head over there today and check it out!

Enjoy your freebies this week and have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty


Garnier Ultra-Lift Pro deep wrinkle cream (Walmart)
All American Stetson for men
Kotex Overnight (Walmart)
Lactaid (Sam's Club)

Food

Blue Bunny Frozen Yogurt Treats (free after rebate this weekend only)
Hunt's Ketchup (coupon book by mail)
Mars Free Chocolate Friday

Entertainment


Apple Camp (free workshops for kids 8-12)
TakeLessons (free download music lessons for kids)
Coldplay Live Album (free download directly from Coldplay)
Parenting Early Years (digital magazine subscription from StartSampling)
Cycle World Magazine (1 year subscription- Free Biz Mag)

Home & Garden

Skype (free video calls on your computer)
QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition

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

MAY
22 - Disney "Christmas Carol" Train Tour - starts tour in LA, finishes Oct. 30 in New York
23 - Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a Ready 2 Go Kit 10 to 11am
23 - Lakeshore Learning Store - make an autograph book 11am to 3pm
30- Walmart's Free Ice Cream Day - free full-size servings of ice cream treats 11am to 4pm

JUNE
6 - Friendly's Free Ice Cream Day Noon to 5pm
6 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop make a hardware sorter 9 to noon
13 - Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a putting green 10 to 11am
19 - Orange Julius Free Light Smoothie Day

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Play it Again, Momma: Sponge Ball Fun

It is that time of year again and I will be making another batch of these little sponge balls for the kids. If you don't have a clothesline, these are fun to just squish in a bucket of water or play with in your child's water activity table.

My once-a-year Martha Moment is here! These sponge balls are courtesy of Martha Stewart Kids Magazine (and a double inspiration from Betz White who was featured in one of my notebook entries).

I hit the Dollar Tree and got two packages of sponges to make our creations. I followed the instructions and cut two sponges into fours and then stacked the two sponges on top of one another with alternating colors. If you buy two packages, you will have enough alternating colors to make six sponges with different colors in each. Then, simply tie the sponges off with a long piece of floss and knot it a few times to keep it in place.


Here is my plastic ice bucket filled with these sponges. The colors are so beautiful that I wanted to spend an afternoon photographing this pail of sponges. Do we stop there and let the kids play with them like this though? NO!

You could say that I am even more inventive than Martha this time! Now take an old drop cloth or sheet and use painter's tape, a permanent marker, or paint to make your bull's-eye. Squares are much easier with the painter's tape so we have a nice square bull's-eye for the kids.

Now hang your game up on the clothesline (or wherever else you can find). We weighed the bottom of the sheet down with clothespins. This sheet is also folded in half to give it a little more weight. Of course, when the wind starts blowing, give the kids extra points if they can still hit it.

Not challenging enough? Have one of your kids stand in front and block it.

For some reason, that was one roadblock too many for this toddler.

You can also grab two at a time or a whole handful of them. Make it more challenging by backing the kids up further from the mark. Our point system was 10, 20, and 30 points depending on the size of the square they hit. (PS- I promise I feed my children, they just have extremely high metabolism)

An afternoon of water fun cost us $2 in sponges, but this is a game that I hope we can play many more times together.

What is one of your favorite frugal summer activities?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Can I Give the Gift of Homemade Cleaners?


Experiment: Can I Give the Gift of Homemade Cleaners?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.15.09

Materials Needed: Please see Jolly Mom for cleaning recipe ideas and supplies needed.

For each of these little kits I bought two empty spray bottles, a little feather duster, a microfiber mitt for additional dusting, a mini-brush set, and a bill organizer. For making the cleaners, you need only vinegar and a mild dishwashing soap.

Results:
We had two gift occasions coming up this week that I need to make gifts for. My brother just moved into a new apartment and I am attending a baby shower for a new mom who is moving into her first home. What is more practical than a kit for them to tidy up their new digs?

I hit the Dollar General to get the supplies for each of these. The buckets are drink buckets from the picnic supplies, and all of the rest of the goodies were found in the cleaning supplies. I also hit the stationary section and found bill paying organizers that would be perfect for someone moving into their new place with new utilities.


I made two of my favorite cleaning recipes for two spray bottles for the gifts:

All-Purpose Cleaner

Mix together two tablespoons of mild dishwashing soap and two cups of water in a spray bottle and give it a shake. Use these anywhere that you would use a commercial all-purpose spray. This cleaner is particularly great for countertops, bathroom surfaces, and high chairs.

Glass Cleaner

Mix together one part white vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on your mirrors and windows and dry your windows with newspaper. The newspaper is great for lint-free drying and is a great way to repurpose some of those old papers you have laying around.

I attached recipe cards tied with raffia to the buckets so that they can make more of these inexpensive and earth-friendly cleaners for their home. My hope is that they will see how easy it is to make your cleaners at home and see that it can save them some money in the process.

Conclusion: This would make a fantastic graduation gift, a sweet gift for a new bride, and a fun gift for a college student getting their first place. I will definitely be making more of these in the future!

Related Links:

Happy Homemaking the Homemade Way

Thrifty Graduation Gift Ideas

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

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

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

Rules for Participation:

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

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

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Amy's Notebook 05.20.09

I love this small garden inspiration (@ shelterrific)

These watermelon jigglers look so delicious (@ Gourmet Mom On-The-Go)

I am going to have to try these peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies (@ Baking Bites)

This headboard makeover is great (@ A Soft Place to Land)

I really like these tips for throwing a homemade pizza party and I adore this chalkboard fridge (@ The Kitchn)

This crustless quiche with spinach and mushrooms would make a fantastic brunch (@ Joy the Baker)

My daughter would love this mermaid Barbie birthday cake (@ My Sweet & Saucy)

This plastic bottle jump rope would be a fun summer craft (@ zakka life)

This pineapple grilled chicken looks amazing (@ Home Ec 101)

These reclaimed dining chairs are beautiful (@ Crafty Nest)

I want to try these Chicken Parmesan Burgers (@ Annie's Eats)

I like this post on how to save money on dirt for your raised beds (@ Like Merchant Ships)

These spaghetti dogs are absolutely hilarious (@ plum pudding)

I love this cake stand greenhouse (@ Small Notebook)

This pom pom garland would be a lovely spring addition to our home (@ A Bit O' Shine)

I am going to have to check out these free resources for summer activities (@ The Simple Dollar)

This travel resource list is another set of links I am going to be checking for our next trip (@ Wisebread)

I love this ten minute pillowcase apron (@ betz white)

These potted banana breads are darling (@ Style Me Pretty)

These responsibility charts are a wonderful idea (@ I'm An Organizing Junkie)

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drugstore Dish Starts Today!

Our first Drugstore Dish airs today! We are talking about razors and I share my thoughts on the Schick Intuition Razor.

Please feel free to link up your old entries to start out with and share your thoughts on items you can find in the drugstore. We would love a link back too as we kick off our new feature! I am hoping to drive traffic back to your sites so I would love your participation!

I hope that this is a useful feature to you in choosing items for your stockpiles and homes! Thank you!

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7 Tips For Leading a Balanced Blogger Life

(Photo Credit: Criss Cross Circus)

I have been talking to a lot of bloggers recently that have been asking my advice on blogging and balance. It can be tough to come up with great content week after week and still maintain your home and family activities.

My life is very busy with two small children. We have family obligations, business obligations, church obligations, friend obligations, and volunteer obligations... as most families do. I am thankful for all of these things that shape my life!

On top of those obligations though are my work obligations. As my site grows, the obligations grow too and that is when your life and your blogging can easily become out of balance. In this last year, it is something I have been really working on improving because my family is so important to me.

I would love to share with you some of the tips and techniques I have been using this year to help me lead a balanced life. I hope that they will offer some inspiration to those of you who are feeling tapped out and tired.

(Photo Credit: Michael Sullivan)

1. Schedule Working Hours- Some people might be surprised to know that I rarely write during the week. I have regularly scheduled time on my calendar on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings where I complete 90% of the work that I need to get done for the week. There are times where time sensitive items have to be scheduled during the week, but for the most part I rarely am working on my blog during weekdays.

Anything that I can get done during working hours, I do my best to get it done. Even tiny detail items like choosing a picture and title for time-sensitive entries is done during my scheduled work hours. These tiny details can easily suck up an hour's worth of time so I know that anything I can get done during my work sessions will free up more time for me with my children during our week.

You can also schedule everything to appear at the same time each day. On here, for example, each entry is typically scheduled for 7:00 AM and publishes as scheduled in the morning. Now you all know that I am actually still laying in bed while all of these entries are posting. Did I deceive you with my supposed morning productivity? I hope so!

The information that I write is not time-sensitive so freebies/deals/coupon sites could not adapt to this schedule, but you could try to supplement deal information with how-to information that could be set up within your own working schedule.

(Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine)

2. Cut Down on Distractions & Set Limits- It is very easy to become distracted when doing your work and these distractions can slow down your pace. When you schedule your time to work, shut down social networks and other websites and tackle that to-do list with as little interruption as possible.

You know what your distractions are and what can take you away from the task at hand. Make it a goal that when you are working that you will try to tune all of the distractions out until you have completed your tasks.

Likewise, set limits for yourself on how much time you spend on social networks as they can definitely suck up a great deal of your day if you allow them to. For me, I try to not spend time on Twitter or Facebook on the weekends. I use my weekends to work and spend time with my family so I try to sign off of these networks on Friday and return back to socializing on Monday.

If you are looking for more information on staying on task in business and in life, I encourage you to read "The Power of Less," by Leo Babauta (founder of ZenHabits.net). It is a very quick read, but has helped me greatly in increasing my productivity while leading a fuller life. I found this book at the library and my husband and I both read it and got some great tips from it.

3. Slow Down Your Blogging Schedule- For me, this is one of the most difficult challenges because I love sharing new information with my readers. What I don't realize though, is how few of you have read me every single day since I began blogging.

Don't be afraid to shake the dust off of those entries in your archives and use them during the week. I do my best to reuse one article each week to give me a day off from creating new content. You could also utilize guest bloggers once a week or even dedicate a post that will share with your readers things that other people are writing.

Whatever your blogging schedule, routine has been essential in keeping my creativity flowing and knowing what to tackle throughout the week. On our blog, we typically offer recipes on Monday, crafts/things to do on Tuesday, highlighting others in our Notebook entries & tackling a project highlighted in the notebook on Wednesday, a Play it Again, Momma entry on Thursday (where I revisit an old entry), and freebies on Friday. Of those items, I am actually coming up with truly new information two or three times a week.

If at anytime I feel that something is too much or not working with our family schedule, it is my blog schedule to tinker with. I shared with you that my podcast would not work with our summer schedule and I switched our notebook entry to a day that fit better with my family life.

Remember that it is your schedule to switch, but know that whatever you set up your readers will begin to expect from you. It used to bother me when people would email me because A, B, or C had not been posted during the week. I began to realize that even if it was my schedule to switch, it is also imperative to let them know when and why I make these changes. Communication and consistency is the best way to keep your readers coming back for more!

(Photo Credit: Jennifer Rensel)

4. Figure Out What You Are Worth- My business coach offered this sound advice to me when we first began our sessions together. She encouraged me to figure out what my time was worth and then choose what was the best use of my time based on that dollar figure. Now that I am able to grasp how much my time is worth, I am better able to say no to things that do not bring in the money or the website traffic that I need for the opportunity to be lucrative.

If I am not sure if an opportunity is worth my time, I try to give it a thirty day evaluation. Within 30 days, I am able to take a look at my past month of web traffic and it can showcase whether or not an opportunity has brought in the traffic needed for it to be lucrative.

How do you figure out what your time is worth? As someone who is self-employed my worth varies from month to month, but I do have a dollar figure in mind when I am approached for an opportunity. The best way to figure out what your time is worth is to start tracking your time for one month and figure out how many hours you are working during a 30 day period. Now evaluate all that your site is bringing in during the month (even a rough average is great). Now you can use those numbers to figure out what that hourly rate is. This should give you a rough idea of what your time is worth and if an opportunity is worth that amount of time.


5. Limit the Extras- Just recently it seems that I have gotten a lot of opportunities to travel for my work. It is a wonderful opportunity to get to go into a company and see how they work or sit in a round table discussion about their products and services.

The pitfall of traveling though is that I am away from my children and my life begins to feel out of balance because I am not able to keep up with my normal routines. Going away for even two days can put my household routines behind, my work schedule can become interrupted, and I become stressed.

I am now being more selective about those extra opportunities that come along and picking things that will benefit my readers the most, relationships that I would like to form with specific companies, and paid opportunities. I have also made the decision that one trip a month is all that I feel I can handle and it has to fit our criteria for that opportunity to come into fruition.

This doesn't just apply to travel though, this also applies to all of those extras that can take me away from spending time with my family. Things like guest blogging for others, product reviews that are not a good fit for my audience, and many of the unpaid extras that I would have done before have been greatly reduced in efforts to remain balanced.

6. Develop Household Management Routines- What does household management have to do with blogging? In my opinion, it has everything to do with feeling balanced and running a successful business out of your home.

Just as I suggest scheduling working hours, developing a schedule for your home management will free up the time that you need to spend with your family. Don't go overboard with your routines, but develop a rhythm that will make those day-to-day tasks more manageable.

Make sure that your work area is a pleasant place to be by tackling those piles of papers and creating a space that will allow you to be the most productive you can be. Add this time of clearing your desk as part of your weekly routine so that you can be the best blogger you can be in a distraction-free zone!

If you are looking for home management inspiration, my weekly routine can be found here. There will always be things that can get in the way of those tasks, but I do my best to stay within this routine so that my home life can remain balanced.

(Photo Credit: Peacock Modern)

7. Allow Room for Creativity in Your Schedule- The best thing that I have started doing for myself is giving myself an hour to do whatever I want with absolutely no guilt whatsoever. I use this time to knit, read, craft, or listen to music.

Before I was doing this, I would go to bed with my stomach in a ball and my head swirling with all the things I needed to get done the next day.

Do something that is creative or calming to you that hour before you head to bed and see how much balance it can bring back into your life. I feel no guilt about it because the more creative I am the more inspiration I can offer to others.

Out of all of these tips though, the one thing I can tell you is that if you are not living a great life offline, it will be difficult to live a full life online. You have to be living, loving, and engaging with your friends and family in order to feel completely balanced.

If your well is tapped dry, sit down with a notebook and jot down ways that you can bring balance back into your life. It will be the best thing that you can do for yourself and everyone will benefit from it- your readers, your family... but most of all, YOURSELF!

Are you struggling with balance? What helps bring balance to your life? Do you have any questions on my blogging routine? Please share or ask away!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 05.19.09

($18, available from Linwood Avenue)

Welcome to this week's Apron Full of Giveaways list. As always, feel free to list your great giveaways or enter to win in the contests listed below.

This week our Bob Evan's coupons giveaway ($40 worth) and our e-book giveaway for Healthy Homemaking will be ending at 8PM tonight. We also will be closing out our Maybelline Pulse Perfection giveaway at this evening so get those entries in quick!

Today we are celebrating Wisebread's book launch and sharing two copies of this great new book with our lucky readers. This book shares 10,001 ways you can live large on a small budget- you gotta love that!

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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Monday, May 18, 2009

An Elegant Strawberry Salad

In my opinion, there is nothing that says summer more than all of the delicious fresh berries you can be snacking on. I happened upon this fantastic recipe for a Strawberry Romaine Salad in my AllRecipes Dinner Tonight cookbook and could not wait to make it.

You will have to envision the poppy seed dressing coating the romaine blend though as it is not pictured here. I took this dish to a carry-in and put the dressing on just before we ate it so the lettuce stayed nice and crisp.

This salad would make a perfect accompaniment for a night of grilling out or a perfect side for an elegant brunch. The salad is sweet, but not too sweet, with a perfect merriment of yummy flavors from the burst of strawberries to the bit of bitterness from the spinach. I plan to make this often this summer and hope you can try it too!


Strawberry Romaine Salad (courtesy of AllRecipes Dinner Tonight Cookbook)

Salad Mix (1 head romaine lettuce, 2 bunches of fresh spinach)
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

In a large salad bowl, combine the romaine, spinach, and strawberries. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, milk, and poppy seeds. Shake well and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until evenly coated.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Freebie Friday & Maybelline Pulse Perfection Giveaway

Thank you all for entering our giveaway. I would like to congratulate our winners, Denise & Laura on winning this great giveaway. Our winners have been contacted and we look forward to doing many more giveaways in the future! Thank you!

Thank you so much for visiting each Friday for your weekly dose of freebies. A big thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, should be said as she provides a great freebie list for us each and every week. This week Heather is sharing tips for more Huggies Rewards & some really great clearance deals at Victoria Secret.

Don't forget to swing by the Apron Full of Giveaways to get your entries in for all of the incredible contests that are running on the web this week.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!


Health & Beauty

Food

Kellogg's All-Bran Promise Packs
Sun Crystals Sweetener (Walmart)
Mars Free Chocolate Fridays (starts at 9am EST)
Dreyer's Ice Cream Block Parties (1,500 neighborhoods win)

Entertainment


*Kids Summer Reading Programs*
Scholastic Summer Challenge
Barnes & Noble Summer Reading
Half-Price Books Feed Your Brain
Borders Reading Challenge
Pottery Barns Book Club
TD Bank Summer Reading

Home & Garden

Staples 20 Free Resumes & 40 Free Business Cards (ends June 13)

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

MAY
16 - Shane's Rib Shack - first 100 get free ribs
18 - DiGiorno's Flatbread Melts - first 100,000
22 - Disney "Christmas Carol" Train Tour - starts tour in LA, finishes Oct. 30 in New York
30- Walmart's Free Ice Cream Day - free full-size servings of ice cream treats 11am to 4pm

JUNE
19 - Orange Julius Free Light Smoothie Day

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Next week I will be kicking off a new fun feature on The MotherLoot complete with a linky list for you to participate in each Thursday!

As a self-confessed drugstore junkie, I admit that I am addicted to drugstore shopping utilizing all of the free & cheap deals from the drugstores. I always wonder though if a product is really for me and even when using my Extra Care Bucks, I would love to know if it is worth the cost of time, storage, and the use of my register rewards!

I will have a new review feature each Thursday that my fellow drugstore junkies can participate in. Join me each Thursday for the "Drugstore Dish" and share your opinions on those great products you are scoring when doing your CVS & Walgreens shopping.

To kick it off, I am giving away to TWO lucky readers the new Maybelline Pulse Perfection Mascara today. This is Maybelline New York’s first-to-mass vibrating mascara delivers 7,000 vibrations per minute in 7 synchronized actions so lashes are transformed to perfection. This product is not out in stores yet, but will be sold in exclusively in Walmart nationwide starting on May 28th for $14.95.

To enter, tell me one of your favorite brands/items to buy at your drugstore or if you are a self-confessed drugstore junkie too! This contest will end on Tuesday (05/19) at 8PM EST and our winner will be chosen at random. Please only one entry per person and don't forget to check back on Thursday for our very first Drugstore Dish linky list!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

MomAdvice Simplified: Canceled This Week

I am sorry to say that I am going to have to cancel the podcast for this week because I was not able to secure a speaker for our podcast today. We also are suffering from end-of-the-year craziness in our family with school coming to a close, making my time more limited.

I so enjoy doing these podcasts, but I think it would be best to take a break from the show for the summer. It will be difficult to do these shows with both kids home and my daughter not napping anymore. There is a great deal of work and effort that go into each of these episodes.

If you guys really enjoy this, I can definitely consider picking it back up in the fall when the kids are in school and I am able to devote a little more time to it.

In all honesty, we are trying to enjoy a relatively schedule-free summer and this would free up some time for me to spend with my children this summer. Being a mom is quite the juggling act, isn't it? I am trying to learn to prioritize my commitments and hanging out with my beautiful kids this summer is #1 on my list. I hope you understand!

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Play It Again, Momma: Lots of Chores for the Clark Kids

Chores are an important task in the Clark household and one of the benefits about our children getting older is that they can pitch in more. Since most chores seem to fall in the lap of mommy, I am thrilled that chores haven't lost their novelty yet and that my son loves to help mommy get things done around here.

Do I know that the novelty will wear off soon? Of course! I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here are some reasons why chores are important in my house:

- I am grooming my child to someday be a self-sufficient adult. I don't want my kid going to college and not knowing how to make himself/herself a sandwich, do a load of laundry, or have to be dependent on the people around them.

- I want my kids to know that we are a family unit and in a family unit, it is important for everyone to pitch in. Occasionally, I will hear my son say that he is "bored" with chores or "too tired" to help me out. That is tough luck in this house because everyone has to put forth an effort so that we can ALL enjoy having a clean and organized home.

- Chores are a great teaching opportunity. Sorting clothing by colors teaches your child to group colors together, folding clothing helps them build fine-motor skills, working at a fast pace (setting a timer for completing certain tasks) can be a fun way to exercise.

- I want my son to be a catch someday. Yeah, I am looking waaaaayyyy down the road, but that is sometimes in the back of my mind. What girl would not want to marry someone who knew how to wash his own laundry, could whip up a lovely dinner for her, or who picked up after himself? Those are attributes that would have been on my list when choosing a mate and I want my son to have those kind of attributes too...not only for himself, but for whoever he might end up with someday.

Here are what chores we do in our house:

- My son ( 5 yr old) has to get himself dressed in the morning, put his pajamas in his hamper, and make his bed before coming downstairs.

- He helps me prepare the evening meal and helps set the table for our dinner.

- Emily (2 yr old) & Ethan both have to help pick up their toys before they go to bed in the evening. We put on fast and crazy dance music, set the timer for ten minutes, and the whole family pitches in to pick up the playroom.

- On house cleaning day, Ethan is responsible for picking up his room for me to vacuum and dust it and he has to make sure the playroom is in order. We typically clean while my daughter lays down for her nap so this is a solo operation. I have moved my cleaning day to coincide with our Friday night family night. Basically, it is total bribery and we have to get the playroom picked up so that they can have a pizza and a movie with mommy and daddy. It works out really well.

- Ethan sorts our laundry. I line the hampers up and the baskets and he sorts the laundry for me. He also helps fold the laundry when I wash it.

Here is what I had to overcome in order for this to work in our house:

- Teaching chores is a tedious process, but it is worth the time and effort spent. It took him awhile to get the hang of sorting the loads so we would start with a "question" pile which saved us all time. If he didn't know where something went, he would put that in a separate pile and we would talk about each item as we threw it in the correct basket.

- Things will not be done perfectly and I needed to get over that. When my son helps fold the laundry, it is not going to look like I folded the laundry, or like when I set the table, or have all the toys exactly where I would have put them. This is when you take your "mommy dearest" issues down a notch and enjoy being a mom and having someone to help you.

- I try to use our chore opportunities, not as a time to direct, but to talk with my kids. As we work on putting dinner together and setting the table, we talk about our day at school. It isn't always this way, but I try to reserve this special time with them.

What chores do your children do and what are their ages?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Wall Art?

Today is a repeat experiment since I was working on finishing up baby blankets this week. If you haven't seen this experiment, it was a definitely a fun one and I still have the art hanging in our family room and office!

Experiment: Can I Make Wall Art?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 08.21.08

Materials Needed: Please see Simple Mom for the full instructions on this task (originally taken from Mt. Hope Chronicles). I had two places in my house that was in need of some art so I thought I would attempt this craft. I hit a local scrapbook shop and picked out some scrapbook paper for my project. I then headed over to Michael's and picked up Mod Podge and the canvases to do the work on. I also splurged and purchased a circle punch so that I would have nice and even circles. I am lousy at cutting and this made the work go so much faster. I will use it to make our gift tags for Christmas gifts this year and banners for birthdays. See how I can justify any purchase as an "investment opportunity?"

Results: My husband & I put together our design and then I glued them onto the canvas. After gluing them and letting them dry, I used a sponge brush and brushed the entire canvas with the Mod Podge to create a smooth surface. I did two layers of the Mod Podge on top and this created a nice sheen to the pictures and made the project look more finished

I had a window that I wanted surrounded by art and these turned out great. The ones for our family room incorporated the reds in them, and had a little tribute to our favorite date nights together. Can you find it?


The one I created for my husband's office. He loves anything to do with fonts and is a proud collector of them (can you tell I married a web guy?) so I made this one as a tribute to his font fascination.

Conclusion: I absolutely loved this craft and am thinking of all the other art work I could create for our walls. I often feel limited by my crafting abilities so this easy project was right up my alley. Thank you Simple Mom for the great suggestion!
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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

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

Rules for Participation:

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

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

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Amy's Notebook 05.13.09

I love these embellished lunch totes (@ Skip to My Lou)

This Chicken Marbella recipe looks absolutely delicious (@ Not Martha)

These toddler pants fashioned from men's shirt sleeves is genius (@ Love in the Mommyhood)

These cinnamon raisin bagels look delicious (@ Smitten Kitchen)

I want to bookmark this gluten free bread for my friend's who have allergies (@ A Foothill Home Companion)

I love this post on whether or not a warehouse club membership is a good deal or not (@ Money Saving Mom)

I have been inspired by this DIY patio project (@ Remodeling This Life)

This lemon chicken with rice looks delicious (@ Serious Eats)

This homemade hand scrub would make a wonderful hostess gift or sweet gift for a friend (@ Craftzine via Good Life Eats)

This tutorial for flower collars is absolutely adorable (@ katie did)

This leftovers log would be great for tracking what is in the fridge (@ The Kitchn)

I want to make some of these easy cinnamon bites (@ 4 Reluctant Entertainers)

This spinach & ricotta frittata would be a delicious brunch dish (@ Food Blogga)

I have been inspired to paint my garage door (@ The Southern Family via Nesting Place)

I adore these glass tiled pendants (@ The Idea Room)

I love this list of 20 pocket-change ideas for a date night (@ Small Notebook)

This knitted cardigan is so cute! (@ Ramblings of a Knitting Obsessive)

This DIY J Crew Astrid Sweater is something that I think even I could tackle (@ Mighty Girl)

I need an ice cream maker so I can make this cookies and cream ice cream (@ Annie's Eats)

I love this creative and frugal idea for an end table (@ The Inspired Room)

Another yummy rainbow cupcake you could bake (@ Baking Bites)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Apron Full of Giveaways 05.12.09

$47, Available from Snappy Shop

Welcome to this week's Apron Full of Giveaways. Please feel free to share your contests here or visit this list to enter to win some of the best contests on the web.

This week we have two great new contests running that I definitely think you should enter. We are giving away $40 in coupons for Bob Evans products to one lucky reader and we have five e-books to giveaway on healthy and sustainable living from Stephanie at Keeper of the Home. Do not miss these great giveaways!

This week on MomAdvice, we have one really great giveaway closing out at 8PM EST tonight! for a brand new upright bagged vacuum from the new Hoover Platinum line. This fancy new vacuum from the Hoover Platinum Edition would have your floors looking like new in no time and I have one to giveaway to one lucky winner!

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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All Knitted Up: Sweet Baby Blankets

All of my girlfriends are pregnant it seems and so my knitting needles have been quite content at clicking away on baby blankets for each of my wonderful friends.

Each gift is lovingly wrapped in tissue paper and tied off with ribbon from my craft supplies. I love finishing these gifts off and giving them all of the work and love I have put into them. It is quite an incredible feeling, particularly because I have only been knitting for a year. I would have never dreamed how much I would be able to do with this little hobby and how much it would enrich my life. Truly, if you have a friend who can teach you such a hobby or a class in town that you can take, I encourage you to give knitting a try.

If you are a knitter, I would love for you to be my friend on Ravelry. My username is momadvice and I try to keep my little notebook updated with the current projects.

Here are a couple of the projects that I have been working on:






Lemony Bon Bon Baby Blanket

Pattern: Sweet Bon Bon Blanket by Suzanne Middlebrooks (available as a free download for Ravelry members)

Needle Size: US 9 Needles

Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby Solids (in Lemon) & Baby Bee Lambie Pie (in Snuggle) for smaller pattern between the solid yellow. Only one skein (455 yards) was needed of the yellow and I used only 1/4 of a skein in the Baby Bee yarn.

Notes: I absolutely love this pattern and am planning to make more blankets with other colors like it. It is very easy to follow and also easy to see where you get off track because of the way it comes together. The furry yarn adds texture between the different pattern rows, but it was difficult to work with and stay on track for the kfbf combination when weaving back into the regular yarn. I still would do it again though because I love the texture that it brings to the blanket.

This pattern is still a great one for a beginning knitter and the only stitch I did not know was the kfbf combination, which I found how to do on You Tube. Because of the width of this blanket (a cast on of only 96 stitches) it comes together very quickly and it makes a beautiful chevron pattern with a garter edge.



Project Linus Security Blanket

Pattern: Project Linus Security Blanket Pattern found in, "Knitting for Peace"

Needle Size: US 9

Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby Solids (I don't have the color name, but it was a baby blue with white mix)

Notes: This pattern has been highlighted before, but I couldn't resist sharing another blanket that I made from this pattern. My best friend is expecting her third child and specifically requested this pattern after seeing my pink version for another dear friend. This is the world's best pattern for a beginner in teaching how to do yarn overs. Although it looks complex, there is only one row of "pattern" and then it has a row of purling and a row of knitting. It adds a beautiful scalloped edge to the blanket and looks far more impressive than it really is. It is a larger blanket (with a cast on of 144 stitches for the smaller size) so this one does take a bit of time, but it is an easy pattern to do while watching television because of the two basic rows within it.

Below is the video that I used for figuring out how to do the kfbf combination:

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Last Weekly Redbox Code

Today's free Redbox code is 6A43JK. 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.


Unfortunately, this is the last weekly Redbox code! Here is the official letter that was sent out to their Redbox customers:

Dear Redbox Customer,

The word is out that you can take home new release DVDs for only a $1 per night from the big red box. We know you know, because you've saved that dollar as part of redbox' Free Movie Mondays promotion, which is ending after May 11.

However, since so many of us could use an extra buck these days, redbox is going to keep the free flicks coming once a month throughout the summer. Beginning June 1, redbox will send a free movie code to your phone on the first Monday of the month as a thank you for using redbox.

So start thinking about what you are going to do with those 3 extra dollars this summer – pool noodle... 6 piece McNuggets® and honey... 64 oz cherry icie... And we'll keep thinking up new ways to delight you – Hollywood's newest releases, online reservations, movie reviews, witty remarks... seriously, it's endless.

As new coupon codes become available, I will continue to post them! In the meantime, enjoy your free movie tonight!

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A Simple & Easy Basic Pizza Dough


This is where you remind me to take pictures of the food before I let my family dig in. Pizza is always a hit in our house and it is hard to hold off the family for blog photos, particularly for our Friday family nights.

While I love my Pizza Hut Pizza Dough recipe, I have been relying on my other pizza dough recipe these past few weeks because of the simplicity of this dough and how easily it rolls out and comes together. This is a fantastic recipe that I have adapted for my bread machine and it makes one delicious pizza. The recipe offers instructions for making the dough in a food processor (recommended by Bittman), by hand, or with a stand mixer. At the bottom, I offer how I am able to adapt this for the bread machine. Basically, you can make it with something or nothing at all, which is why this recipe is an all-around winner in my book!

Basic Pizza Dough (courtesy of "How to Cook Everything," by Mark Bittman)

1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea slat, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube. Process for 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can cu this rising time short if you are in a hurry or you can let the dough rise more slowly in the refrigerator for six to eight hours.

To make this dough by hand: Combine half the flour with the salt and yeast and stir to blend. Add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining flour a bit at a time; when the mixture becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, begin kneading, adding as little flour as possible- just enough to keep the dough from being a sticky mess. Knead until smooth but still quite moist, about ten minutes. Proceed as above.

To make this dough with a standing mixer: The machine must be fairly powerful or it will stall. Combine half the flour with the salt, yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 cup water; blend with the machines paddle. With the machine on slow speed, add flour a little at a time until the mix has become a sticky ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl (switch to the dough hook if necessary). Knead for a minute by hand, adding as little flour as possible, then proceed as above.

To make this dough with the bread machine: Add ingredients as follows- warm water, olive oil, flour, salt, and then add yeast at the top. Turn machine on and select the dough setting. When the machine beeps, you can roll out the dough onto your pizza stone/pan.

Amy's Friday Night Pizza Routine

1 ball of pizza dough
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup 5 or 4 cheese blend
Toppings of your choice
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is preheating, cook the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt in a pot over low heat for fifteen minutes. Bake the crust only for eight to ten minutes. Pull the crust out and then top with the crushed tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, 5-cheese blend, and toppings of your choice. Put pizza back in and cook for ten to twelve minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. To earn the coolest mom in the world award, be sure to serve this with some homemade slushies for a special treat.

Related Links:

Notebook Experiments: Will We Like Wheat Pizza Crust?

Freezer Worthy Pizza Sauce

Getting to Know the Bread Machine

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Freebie Friday: May 8, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday! A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us each week with this great freebie list. Heather is currently running FOUR great giveaways so make sure to get your entries in this week. You can also check out the latest Cellfire coupons that are currently being offered.

While you are visiting here, make sure to get your entry in for the fantastic Hoover Platinum Bagged Upright Vacuum that we are offering up for Mother's Day and visit our entire Apron Full of Giveaways for a weekly list of great contests all over the web.

Most of all, Happy Mother's Day to all of my wonderful mom readers. I hope you have a wonderful time with your families and you get loads of sweet hugs, kisses, and beautiful gifts showered upon you for all your hard work. You deserve these sweet rewards!

xoxo,
Amy

Health & Beauty

Food

Mars Free Chocolate Fridays (starts at 9am EST)

Entertainment


Susane Colasanti Book Sampler for Teens
Kids Bowl Free

Home & Garden


Scrubbing Bubbles Gift Pack
Office Max New MaxPerks Members $10 Bonus (ends May 9)
Staples 20 Free Resumes & 40 Free Business Cards (ends June 13)
EcoFont free download
BJ's 60-day Free Member Pass

Upcoming Freebie Events:

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

MAY

8-9 - The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal - Free Book Download
9 - Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive
9 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Planter 10 to 11am
9 - Lakeshore Crafts for Kids - Mother's Day purse 11am to 3pm
10 - TCBY - Free cup or cone for Mom
11-31 - Origins Mini-Facial & Sample - make an appointment
12 - Haggen-Dazs Free Flavor Day - free scoop of any bee-built flavor 4 to 8pm
14 - The Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop - Yard and Garden Maintenance 7 to 8:30pm
23 - Walmart's Sundae Event - free full-size servings of ice cream treats 11am to 4pm

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Simply Choosing Great Wines Resource List


We would like to thank Charlene, from My Frugal Adventures for sharing her wine expertise with us on MomAdvice Simplified.

Click above to listen to this episode at anytime or visit our sidebar on the left-hand side to listen to the episodes anytime throughout the week. These episodes are also available in iTunes format for you to take on the go!


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


Cheap, But Good (Wine That Is)- Charlene shares a lot of great information on buying inexpensive wine and how to spot those killer deals in your town!

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator- This is one investment that Charlene recommends as a great way to aerate your wine. It makes even an inexpensive wine taste better.

Vacu Vin 3 Piece Wine Saver Set- Paired with the wine aerator, this would be a wonderful gift to give a wine drinker in your life. The Vacu Vin helps to keep a bottle of wine fresh for up to two weeks versus a couple of days.

Great Tastes Made Simple & Great Wine Made Simple- These are books that Charlene recommends on learning more about wine and pairing wine & food together.

Riedel Overture Red Wine Glasses- Charlene recommends this stemware which is widely available and will make any wine taste better. She spends more money on her glassware than on the wine itself so these would definitely add to your wine experience.

Wine- Two of the wineries that Charlene recommends sampling from are Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Bogle Vineyards.

Boxed Wines: An Eco & Wallet-Friendly Choice- This is my article and recommendations for sampling great boxes of wine. They have come a long way, believe me!

On next week's show...

Nada! Would you like to be my guest on the show? We are looking for great guests to share ideas on simplifying processes for moms. I need you! Please email me at amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and tell me what you would like to talk about. Interviews can be pre-recorded to make it easier for our guests.

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Happy Mother's Day- Your Entry Got an Upgrade

Our giveaway with Hoover just got an upgrade. The warehouse accidentally shipped an extra Hoover Platinum Bagged Upright Vaccum and I am so excited that they are letting me keep it and give it to you! If you have already entered, there is no need to enter again. Just know that your entry got an amazing upgrade

I may be in the minority, but I think a brand new cleaning tool is a fun and practical Mother’s Day gift that would keep on giving and giving in our family. That is why I am so excited about this fun new giveaway that we are offering up for a brand new Hoover Bagged Upright Vacuum valued at $449.99!

I got a chance to review this and you can read our thoughts about this amazing vacuum here!

There are not very many entries yet, so the odds are quite good that I could be shipping this over to you. Head over and get your entry in. I know this would be a great gift to give you for Mother's Day.

Happy Momma's Day, everyone!

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MomAdvice Simplified: Simply Choosing Great Wines


On MomAdvice Simplified, we will be joined by Charlene, from My Frugal Adventures, who will be sharing with us her tips on choosing a budget-friendly wine. Charlene has over nine years of experience in the wine industry and brings with that a lot of knowledge on how to spot the best deals on great wines, what pitfalls to watch out for when choosing a wine, and how to care for and store wine so it will last longer.

She is incredibly knowledgeable AND budget-savvy at the same time so I know it will be a great episode to listen to when choosing great wines that won't break the bank! Best of all, she helped compile a really great resource list that will help you with a lot of your shopping!

I hope you can tune in! You can catch this podcast weekly at 2PM EST each Thursday afternoon!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mother's Day Bliss!



Can you guess what I got for Mother's Day? I am feeling a little giddy and geeking out quite a bit, but my husband upgraded my camera equipment as a gift to me. It still doesn't seem real that I am now the proud owner of a Canon Rebel T1i with an EF-S 17-55 mm lens. Yes, it was completely extravagant and not normal for us at all, but to his credit the lens was used by another photographer who happened to be upgrading his equipment.

When I asked him why he would spend that much, he simply said, "I believe in you and your business." He has been pricing, bidding, and researching for months what would be best to buy me, without disclosing any of it to me. He believes that this investment will pay off.

So if things start to shape up in the photography department around here, you will know why! These are my first shots and I haven't read the manual or figured a thing out yet, but I am already pleased as can be with what I am able to do with this upgraded equipment.

Thank you to my husband for believing in me and what I can do!

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Notebook Experiment: Can I Make A Pretty Wreath for Our Door?


Experiment: Can I make a pretty spring wreath for our door OR can I attempt one of the most craftiest crafts ever for Mother's Day?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry03.18.09

Materials Needed: Please see A Soft Place to Land for the full instructions. I did everything that was instructed by Kimba to create this beautiful wreath.

Results: This has to be one of the most ambitious projects that I have ever done, but it certainly does make for a great story.

My best friend & I decided to attempt Kimba's infamous lemonhead wreath after I featured it in our notebook. We agreed to split the cost on supplies and each make three of these wreaths- one for ourselves and two for each of the moms in our life.

First, we ordered SIX POUNDS of ping pongs. I swear, the guy that we ordered them from (off of eBay) thought that we were throwing the world's biggest beer pong tournament. I can't say that explaining we were making wreaths out of them cleared up any of the confusion. After we spent $65 to buy enough ping pongs, we then set off to buy the rest of the craft supplies to complete them.

Spray paint, flowers, glitter, adhesive, wreath forms, ribbon, hot glue- another $65 was spent to get these babies yellow and sugared for our front doors. Kimba never said that this was the most frugal craft, but wreaths are expensive and our mom's are worth it so we got the supplies and headed over to my house to start plugging away at putting these together.

Spray painting ensued, 144 ping pongs glued around each wreath, more spray paint, adhesive, glitter, attaching flowers, bow-making craziness. Two days of truly hard work, but my gawd, I was getting this craft done and they were going to be the best gifts in the whole dang world.

After all of the blood, sweat, and still picking the yellow paint out of my fingernails, here is our final look:




And one more picture that is exactly the same, but I deserve it after all of that work:



Conclusion: I am so happy with my wreaths, but trying to tackle three of these might have been a tad bit TOO ambitious. In all seriousness, I am so proud of these and I know my moms will absolutely love them. May I also say that if THIS happens to any of these precious wreaths, you may need to lock me up in the mental institution.

This will go down in history, as the most ambitious Mother's Day craft in the history of my life!

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

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

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

Rules for Participation:

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

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

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The Mother's Day Notebook Edition


Sometimes we need to offer our own families a little creative inspiration for Mother's Day. Perhaps, you need a few fun ideas for your own mother? Better yet, many of these wonderful ideas could double as teacher appreciation gifts for the end of the school season!

Here is my notebook of Mother's Day gift ideas for all of our sweet mom readers:


Photo Credit: Giver's Log

This hand soap featuring your kids' art would make a wonderful gift.


Photo Credit: A Spoonful of Sugar

A restaurant binder to organize all of those take-out menus and a gift card to a favorite restaurant would make a wonderful gift (@ A Spoonful of Sugar)


Photo Credit: design sponge

For a mom on the go, this tin travel picture frame made from an Altoid tin is absolutely adorable (@ design sponge)

A mix of new music for the mom in your life wrapped creatively in your kid's beautiful pictures.


Picture Credit: the object project

This Mother's Day corsage would be a lovely addition to any mom's wardrobe (@ the object project)

A bag of yummy coffee with a pretty coffee mug painted by your sweet children.

Photo Credit: Make & Takes

This project would be an easy one to do with your children- a beautiful etched glass vase (@ Make & Takes)


A coffee cup or waffle-weave dishcloth with a bottle of hand soap tied with a little raffia.


Photo Credit: Crafty Crow

Another adorable craft to do with your small children- sweet little drawer sachets (@ The Crafty Crow)
A little breakfast in bed is always appreciated by moms. How about some of these lighter than air waffles with a cup of homemade vanilla chai tea?


Photo Credit: zakka life

Here is another sweet little sachet for Mother's Day- these are filled with lavender (@ zakka life)

Photo Credit: Three Peas in a Pod

I don't know very many moms who would not appreciate homemade bath salts in a pretty jar (@ Three Peas in a Pod)

What fun crafts or gifts have you done with your children for Mother's Day? What gift has meant the most to you?

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Personalizing Our Home



Living Room Before


We have been living in our little tri-level home for over five years now. When I think back to the house we moved into, I can honestly say that there is very little that has not been touched and retooled. We have a few things lingering that will require some time and money, but our house barely resembles the home we moved into.

The very first room that we tackled was our front living room. We had never done any real painting before and chose a neutral color that we thought would look good on the walls. The art in the room said little about our family and more about Linens 'N Things. The color, just one tiny shade away from white and had pinkish tones to it that I just did not like. I did not have the heart or time to rethink our decisions, but five years later we have returned to that first room to revamp it.

This lamp, for instance, was one of my least favorite pieces in the room. The lampshade was dirty from years of use and abuse from my children and the brass spoke of another era altogether. I purchased a $3.99 can of black spray paint and visited Hobby Lobby where I found a new lampshade (marked at $40, but on sale for $20) and gave this little piece a makeover.

This tired old lamp now looks positively perfect in my house. With the coat of black paint and chocolate shade, it reminds me of a piece I would love in Restoration Hardware. Notice the walls? That is the new color we chose Dutch Boy in Honey Bear. It was the perfect neutral yellow that brightened our room up and made it look more modern.




That Linens 'N Things art that spoke nothing of our family and our life has been replaced with three black-and-white 8x10's that I had printed at Sam's Club for a total of $4.38.

The first picture was taken just a couple of weeks ago of Emily's foot dangling as she was swinging in the air at the park. Her little lacy socks and Mary Jane shoes were too perfect not to photograph. It spoke volumes about Emily's girly-girl attitude even for a day of playing in the mulch.

The second picture, was a shot I took this fall of my entryway with all of the pretty fallen leaves and my sweet little white pumpkins. My favorite fall boots are resting in the corner after I had come in from raking.

The last picture was my most glamorous day ever- a photo shoot in my home with Redbook Magazine. Those shoes aren't even mine, they are my friend's, Kathy Friend from Flourish Boutique, who had supplied the wardrobe for the day. It was one of the most fun & exciting days for our family and that moment sealed the deal on our credit card free life.

I found beautiful picture frames at Hobby Lobby in black, to match our "new" lamp for $8 each. When you walk in, it brings people into a conversation about what those moments mean to us, who photographed them, and that our family is more than stock art from a home supplies store.

The furniture remained the same, but the curtains were switched to a cotton beige that would match the lampshade in the room. I found these for $19.99 at Target, but did four panels instead of two since this window is larger. The only other addition to the room was the leather ottoman resting next to our new personalized corner to add a little storage space for $59 from Target.

Faucet Before

Faucet After

Some of the changes we have been making, have been necessary ones because of the age of our house. A new roof was installed last summer and new gutters because they were broken, old, and leaking.

Little changes like a dripping and corroded faucet replaced with an oil-rubbed bronze one was a quick simple fix that brings me a lot of joy and less hassle when washing my dishes. We could have bought another white faucet, which would have been a lot less expensive, but it didn't speak of our personal taste or have our personal stamp on it. These add personalization to our space and with each project behind us, the house becomes more about us and less about the previous owners that owned it before us.

With each project, we are able to modernize the house that I thought said nothing about our family. As we complete these projects that personalize our space, I find myself falling in love with corners in our home that I never thought I would love.

What have you done to personalize your home that you are most proud of?

Related Links:

Patio Renovation on a Budget

Our Kitchen Makeover

Our New Double Workspace

After Photos: Making Our Home More Inviting

Maximizing Your Space

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Apron Full of Giveaways 05.04.09

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Andrus

Welcome to this week's Apron Full of Giveaways. Please feel free to share your contests here or visit this list to enter to win some of the best contests on the web.

This week on MomAdvice, we have onereakkt great giveaway closing out at 8PM EST tonight! Make sure to get your entry in for the Kodak Easyshare Wireless Digital Picture Frame. This would make a great gift to yourself for Mother's Day or for a loved one.

Our new giveaway this week is another great gift for moms- a brand new stick vacuum from Hoover! This fancy new stick vacuum from the Hoover Platinum Edition would have your floors looking like new in no time and I have one to giveaway to one lucky winner!

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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Monday, May 04, 2009

Presto Pesto Rice


My kids love rice as a side dish and I have been looking for recipes that can add a little sparkle to our typical side dish. When hosting my Chari-Tea Bunco night, I bought a large jar of pesto at Sam's Club for a Pesto Pasta Salad that I served. Since I had plenty leftover, we have been working it into other dishes throughout the week. One night I smeared bread with pesto and Italian cheese and let it sit under the broiler for a couple of minutes as a side with an afternoon salad. Another night, we feasted on paninis with pesto, turkey, and swiss on sourdough.

When I ran across a recipe in one of my cookbooks for rice with pesto, I knew this would make a lovely side with our herb baked tilapia. I honestly wasn't sure if the kids would eat it though since it did have a light green color to it. They ended up gobbling it up just like those rice mixes in a box and the pesto added delicious flavor as a side to fish. It felt a little more grown-up than the Rice-A-Roni and we all enjoyed this very much.

Rice With Pesto or Herb Oil (from "How To Cook Everything")
Serves Four

1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
1 1/2 cups basmati or other long-grain rice (I used white long grain rice for this)
2 1/4 cups water
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pesto or 1 cup fresh herb of your choice: chives, parsley, chervil, or cilantro, 1/4 cup canola or other neutral oil, & 1-2 tablespoons water if needed.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is coated with oil. Add the water and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.

After 15 minutes, turn off the heat under the rice, but leave the cover on. Wait 10 minutes, then stir in the pesto or herb oil. Check the seasoning and serve immediately.

If you do not have pesto: While the rice is cooking, rinse the herb and place it in the container of a blender or small food processor. Turn the machine on and gradually add teh 1/4 cup oil. Blend or process until smooth, stopping the machine now and then to stir down the mixture. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture; it should be the texture of heavy cream.

Related Links:

Yummy Mexican Rice

Lemony Rice Pilaf

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Friday, May 01, 2009

MomAdvice Monthly Recap: April '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 another great 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. Craftzine Blog
3. Deal Seeking Mom
4. Money Saving Mom
5. Nesting Place
6. Facebook
7. Twitter
8. Simple Mom
9. A Soft Place to Land
10. Feels Like Home

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. World's Greatest Homemade Slushies
2. Notebook Experiment: Homemade Bunny Bread
3. Roasted Green Beans
4. Simply Scoring the Best Freebies Resource List
5. Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
6. Notebook Experiment: A Chicken Cooked in Milk
7. Day Old Bread Gets a Makeover... Or Four
8. Fashion Forward Birkenstocks? Believe It!
9. At-Home Hair Coloring Savings
10.Throwing a Baby Shower on a Budget

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Freebie Friday: May 1, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday! A huge thanks goes out to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping contribute to our list this week. Heather came out with a REALLY great birthday freebie list so make sure you check her updated list for all of the latest and greatest in freebie goodness for your special day.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


Health & Beauty

Caress, Pond's, Degree (click on Offers For You)
Axe Just Clean shampoo for men
Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards
Sephora Birthday Gift (sign-up and visit store, no purchase required)
Zyrtec (Walmart)
Always Infinity (Walmart)

Food

Hellmann's (click on Offers For You)
Rita's Italian Ice (month of your birthday)
Captain D's (free meal for your birthday)
White Castle BBQ Pork Sliders (free with coupon)

Entertainment


LeapFrog Music CD
Baltimore Orioles (free ticket month of your birthday)
Wood Magazine (4 issues from StartSampling)
Oscar Meyer Top Tasting Dog House Party
TNT HawthoRNe House Party

Home & Garden


Dots $10 off $10 purchase

Upcoming Freebie Events:

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

MAY
2 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop - Wheel Barrow 9 to noon
2 - Free Comic Book Day
2 - Red Mango - free frozen yogurt 12 to 4pm
2 - Lakeshore Crafts for Kids - Cinco de Mayo sombrero 11am to 3pm
8-9 - The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal - Free Book Download
9 - Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic - Planter 10 to 11am
9 - Lakeshore Crafts for Kids - Mother's Day purse 11am to 3pm
12 - Haggen-Dazs Free Flavor Day - free scoop of any bee-built flavor 4 to 8pm
14 - The Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop - Yard and Garden Maintenance 7 to 8:30pm

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