Friday, November 28, 2008

Funny Friday: Support Your Firefighters

For a good laugh today (and if you've braved Black Friday, you're going to need it) click here. And remember to support your local firefighters. They need it. :-)

Temporary Christmas Insanity Syndrome (TCIS)

Alas, the Christmas shopping season is now upon us, so I thought it would be prudent to address a serious problem plaguing Christmas shoppers everywhere: Temporary Christmas Insanity Syndrome (TCIS).

I recently read an article in a magazine (I get a lot of magazines for free, so I get all kinds of great stuff from them) describing one woman's struggle with that sort of temporary insanity that comes when we start our Christmas shopping. She was perilously close to spending $200 for a dollhouse that her daughter wanted, despite the fact that she wasn't even planning on buying it for her in the first place and it was WAY out of her budget. But her daughter just had to have it- it was her dream, her one and only Christmas wish! How could a mother deprive her? Well, luckily this woman came to her senses, and her daughter survived Christmas without the coveted gift. And actually, she not only survived, she had a very happy Christmas.

The article really made me reflect on times when I have been in similar situations- after all, it's relatively easy to deprive yourself of something you want, but your children? And there's something about Christmas- you want it to be magical for them, and you want them to feel nothing but joy. But is buying a truckload of gifts the way to accomplish that? And will one gift really make or break the holiday?

So after much thought and stern talking-tos with myself, I present the following as an antidote to TCIS:

My Declaration of Independence From Temporary Christmas Insanity

1. I will set a strict budget of $50 for each child, and the price of their gifts shall not exceed $50.

2. I will understand and remember that my children are too young to care about how much money I spend on them. The Dollar Store is my friend.

3. I will make Christmas more pleasant for them by NOT inundating them with tons of gifts. I will thoughtfully select a few quality toys that I know they will enjoy and appreciate.

4. I will recognize that my self-worth and my value as a friend is not based on the monetary value of the gifts I give to others, but on the way I serve them throughout the year.

4. I will emphasize the true meaning of Christmas, and both encourage and demonstrate acts of kindness for others.

5. I will set an example for my children by showing my love to them and others in ways that don't cost money- acts of service, heartfelt notes, and loving words.

6. Whenever I feel the need to spend an exorbitant amount of money, I will take a breath, step away from the situation, and re-read this Declaration.

I encourage all of you to write your own Declaration in preparation for Black Friday. If I knew how to do a Mr. Linky, I would put one in, but as I do not, I will instead invite you to leave a comment with a link to your Declaration.

Don't let TCIS claim another victim. Together, we can make a stand. ;-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free "Inspire" Perfume Sample

Christina Aguilera has a new perfume out called "Inspire". For a free sample, click here.

I love to try new fragrances...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tis the Season for a CVS Coupon Giveaway!

So last week's giveaway was kind of a bust (well, not for Melanie who won the scarf!) but I am not despairing! Instead I am doing a new giveaway for CVS coupons!

As usual, these are coupons for $3 off a $15 purchase at CVS, and they are NOT printables- I cut them out of a local publication. They expire 12/31/08, so you can use them for your Christmas deals. 

Two lucky winners will each win one coupon- to enter, simply leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite recent post was, and why you liked it. The deadline for comments is 9:00pm tomorrow (Wednesday) night, so don't delay! I will choose the winner shortly thereafter and they will be notified via e-mail- so make sure you leave me an e-mail address or blog so I have some way to contact you!

Have a beautiful thrifty day!

Makeover Monday: Thanksgiving Leftover Pie!

This Thanksgiving, make-over your Thanksgiving dinner with this great recipe. I saw this in a magazine awhile back, and I thought it looked so yummy and was such a great way to repurpose a Thanksgiving meal! It will give you all the energy you need on Black Friday...

Thanksgiving Leftover Pie:

Layer the following in a pie pan or casserole dish:

- stuffing (press into the bottom of the dish)
- turkey  (pour a little gravy on top...yumm!)
- green beans, corn, carrots, or whatever other vegetable you may have
- mashed potatoes (spread across the top)

Heat well, then cut into slices and serve warm.

It's a slightly different kind of makeover, but it is relevant to the holiday and things have been a little crazy around here so I haven't had a chance to get down and dirty and clean out a "scary place." I'll make that my goal for next week!

Have a beautiful thrifty day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Swag Bucks Update!

Search & Win

So if anyone is curious about my venture into "Swag Bucks" that I talked about last week, I just wanted to share that it has been 1 week and I now have 25 Swag Bucks! Once I reach 45 I can get a $5 gift card to! Or I can wait for 115 and get a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card. Or I could wait even longer and get even better gift cards... :-) If you want to see how one mom financed nearly her entire Christmas with Swagbucks, click here. But be sure to come back here and use my link if you want to sign up! ;-)

And just so you know, I don't spend hours online searching just to win Swag Bucks- I do probably an average of 20-30 searches a day. I also don't have a bunch of people who signed up under me- only 3, and only 1 of them has been using the search engine and winning Swag Bucks (she got me 5 of my 25), so really and truly this is an EASY way to get free gift cards! Not to mention it's kind of fun- you'll just be doing your random searching when suddenly a Swag Buck pops up! So exciting!

Anyway, if it can work for me, it can totally work for you. And if you sign up under me, I get more bucks even faster...hee hee hee...So if you think it's something you'd like to try, click here. Signing up is super easy- all you need is a name and an e-mail address. Start today and have your friends sign up under you and by Christmas you (and I!) could have some pretty sweet gift cards...

Have a beautiful thrifty day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spiritual Sundays: Giving Thanks

I feel sometimes like nearly all of my Spiritual Sundays posts are about things I am thankful for, so this one might be a bit repetitive, but hey- Thanksgiving is this week! What else am I supposed to write about?? So here goes!

I am thankful that my feet hurt, because it means that I was on my feet all day at church in service to God's children.

I am thankful for my messy house, because it is a roof over my head, and I am blessed to live in a society where I can enjoy an abundance of material goods (more than I need!).

I am thankful for the unceasing noise and racket (and mess...did I mention the mess?) that fills my house every day, because it means that I have two active and healthy and intelligent children whom I love so much.

I am thankful to be driving 6 hours for Thanksgiving, because it means that I have a good relationship with my family, and I have a car that will safely take me great distances.

I am thankful to be so busy each day because I am doing things to help my family, and I never feel useless or idle.

I am thankful that I have to go cook dinner, because it means I have food in my cupboards and in my refrigerator, and I have the ability to cook it and create a meal for my family.

I am thankful for missing my husband each day, because he is a wonderful, devoted man who is out working hard to provide for his family, and it means he will come home at the end of the day happy to see me.

I am thankful for all of the struggles I face each day, because I know that with each struggle I am becoming stronger, and more like my Savior. I am thankful that He gives me these opportunities to learn and grow, difficult though the growth may be at times. I am thankful to have this blog where I can share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings with so many other people out there who are just like me. I am thankful for my life, every last bit of it, good or bad, because it is mine, and it is a gift from God, and I celebrate His goodness every day.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Feature!! Funny Friday!

I love to laugh, and I think it is the best stress-relief around. With the holidays coming on in full swing, I think we could ALL use a little stress-relief in the form of a good laugh! So every Friday I will post something that made me laugh, whether it is a website, a joke, or just a funny story. Let's all let loose and have a chuckle together!

For this, my first week, I would like to share one of my favorite blogs with you- it is called "Lovely Listing." This blog showcases bad real estate photos and the author writes some very interesting captions for them. One of my favorites was this one- I actually laughed so hard I cried- and I had been in a bad mood to start with! My other favorite is starring plastic lawn furniture...

Have a beautiful thrifty day, everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Easy Deals of the Week: Need Batteries?

Welcome back to Easy Deals of the Week, where I show you how to get a great deal using only coupons from last Sunday's paper or coupons you can print from your computer- or no coupons at all!

First up is CVS:
Duracell Batteries- Buy $20 worth, get $15 ECBs (which you can use like cash on your next purchase)
Buy 4 packs at $5.29 each = $21.16
Use $5 off 2 tearpad coupon from the store (ask a sales associate if you don't see them- I got mine from behind the counter)
Spend $16.16, get $15 in ECBs (which you can then use to do this deal again, only without the coupon b/c it's limit 1 coupon per customer)
You can do this deal 3 times!

Zantrex-3 energy drink - $4.99, get $4.99 ECBs
Free after ECBs

Walgreens, Food Lion, and Kroger were pretty sparse this week, so the only other deals I can recommend are the ones still going on at Wal-Mart. For the complete rundown on those, check out Money Saving Mom's list here.

Did you get any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Scarf Winner!

Well, it worked out to be a 50/50 chance at the scarf, because I only got 2 comments! But Melanie and Jenna, I truly appreciate your participation. Melanie is the winner of the random drawing (all two pieces of paper to pick from), so congratulations!

*Sigh* I gotta get more people to read my blog...maybe next week I'll give away some more CVS coupons!!

If anyone is out there reading this, what kind of giveaways would you like to see on my blog in the future? Offer Extended

Hey slackers out there! Don't worry- you can still get a sweet deal from through 11/24! Just click below... 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Giveaway: Handmade Scarf for a Princess!

Many thanks to my little girl for choosing the yarn and modeling this scarf for me!

It's time for another bloggy giveaway! I thought that since the weather is turning colder, it would be fun to do something warm and cozy, so I made this scarf for one lucky little princess out there. It is sized for a toddler or preschooler, and the colors are various shades of pink, orange, and green. It is very fluffy and warm!

If you have a princess that would just look adorable in this scarf, here's how to enter to win- leave me a comment and tell me which of my posts from the last month was your favorite and why. Be sure to leave an e-mail address or blog where I can contact you if you are the winner. I will randomly choose the winner at 9am on Thursday 11/20. 

 I love getting feedback- that's how I improve my blog! I get useful comments, and you get a free scarf! Everyone's a winner! Best of luck to you all...have a beautiful thrifty day!

$2 Gift Certificates are Baaack!

Just call me your personal hookup, because I just love to share these deals with you! Once again, they're doing their best deal yet-
That's right- a $25 gift certificate to a great restaurant for a mere $2! And again, yes, you do have to spend at least $35 to use one of these, but still- $12 for a $35 meal is not half bad! And that means that anytime you have $10 to spare, you can go on a great date or take your family out for a nice meal. To read about my great date using one of these, read this post.

Great stocking stuffers, people...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Makeover Monday: A Welcome Closet!

Messy stuffed closet before...

Clean empty closet after!

This Makeover Monday post will be a little bit different, and I'm hoping over the next few weeks that I have more Makeover Monday posts like this- because I need to! Since the weather has gotten colder and we've had to wear our coats more, I have realized that stuffing them into the closet and yanking them out with stuff falling on you the whole time is NO FUN! So it was time to crack down and do something about it.

My hubby and my kids got in on the action, and as a family we managed to get it all cleared out. We used 2 bags- one for trash, one for giveaways- and one box for items to be put away. The rest of the items were things that actually belonged in the closet (the smallest group by far!) and so they got put back. 

All in all, it took us less than an hour to do, and it is so nice to have a little breathing room in there now! We assigned one shelf of the shoe organizer for each family member, and we discovered a plethora of empty hangers for guest coats- that's right, guest coats! When we have guests over, we can actually open the closet without shame and hang their coat! Just in time for the holidays.

Okay, so here's your challenge- find a part of your house that needs a decluttering makeover, and get to it! Give yourself an hour, or if you don't have an hour then do it 15 minutes at a time. I'm just going to keep plugging away over the next few weeks and you'll get to see all of my hidden messes...and all of my clean accomplishments! 

For more on decluttering, check out Are you going to send your clutter packing this holiday season? Leave a comment and share your game plan!

Gift Cards- Just in Time for the Holidays!

Search & Win

Hey guys, I was just on MoneySavingMom and I saw this post about SwagBucks- this is a search engine site that actually gives you points to do a search. What do you do with the points? Redeem them for merchandise and gift cards! Apparently it's pretty profitable!

I didn't waste any time and I signed up- you can too, just go here to sign up. It's free and you start earning points immediately. I love it when I can do something I always do anyway and it earns me money! 

Once you sign up, you can invite your friends to sign up and increase your earnings (that's what I'm doing right now- can you tell?). Let me give you one more link in case you missed it- sign up for SwagBucks and get free stuff and gift cards!!

Again, it works just like a regular search engine (like Google) and it's free to sign up. Check it out!

Spiritual Sundays: Help from the Source

I had a feeling when I took this picture that it would end up on a Spiritual Sundays post... ;-)

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in our church we have no paid clergy. Our bishop, teachers, and all auxiliary leaders are extended a "calling" in which they are asked to serve in a particular position. There is no set length of time for service, you simply serve until you are asked to serve elsewhere. You can accept or decline a calling, but all are encouraged to pray about their callings, as we believe they come not from church leaders, but from God.

Over my time as a member of the Church, I have had the opportunity to serve in many callings, and it has been a blessing to me and to my family. Most recently, I have served with the youth in the Young Women organization, and currently I am serving as a leader for the children in the Primary. My service in the various positions has taught me many lessons, but the one that stands out most to me is this: when you are doing what God wants you to do, He will help you more than you could possibly imagine.

I have had so many instances where I have found that to be true, and it is a lesson that everyone can learn, not just those giving service in a church. Every mother has a sacred calling from God to raise His children, and every father has a calling to lead and provide for his family. These are all things for which the Lord will give us guidance if only we ask. It brings to mind the words of a favorite song, called "The Word" by Christian singer Sara Groves-

I've heard every devotional, been every place emotional 
Tried to hear new word from God and I think it's very odd
That while I attempt to help myself my Bible sits upon the shelf
With every promise I could ever need

And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be

People are getting fit for truth like they're buying a new tailored suit
Does it fit across the shoulders? Will it fade when it gets older?
They throw ideas that aren't in style in the Salvation Army pile
And search for something more to meet our needs

But the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be...

I love those words because I see myself in them- when I struggle with problems with my children, when I have difficult family relationships, I have a tendency to want to consult Dr. Phil's latest book or watch Super Nanny. I'm not saying that those aren't useful sources of information, but wouldn't our Father maybe have the best angle on our problems? After all, He knows each of us personally, and not only does He know us but He knows everyone in our lives, and not just our outsides, but our insides too. 

I'll go back to my church calling as an example, simply because it is there that I have seen the most obvious difference between when I ask for His help and when I try to go it alone. I will never forget the Sunday that I was supposed to teach the children and I prepared my lesson all by myself- without divine help- and it just didn't feel right. I couldn't put my finger on the problem- it just didn't quite feel right. So I gave my lesson and it was fine, but it wasn't anything special.

Fast forward to the next week when one of the other leaders, who had been out of town the week before, was teaching the children. Well, she had prepared the exact same lesson as me (we go by a monthly theme and we are free to prepare our own lessons within the theme). It was then that I realized why the lesson hadn't felt right- it was because she was the one who was supposed to give it. Heavenly Father knew that and He was trying to tell me and I just didn't listen. I can't help but wonder what lesson He would have had me teach that day, and what the children and I may have missed because of my stubbornness.

Time and time again I have struggled to prepare a lesson and just felt like I was getting nowhere- like I was trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle that I didn't have all the pieces for, and the pieces were mixed in with pieces from another puzzle, and I didn't have a picture of what the completed puzzle should look like anyway so I didn't even know what exactly I was trying to accomplish! But I have learned that when I pause and say a heartfelt prayer asking Heavenly Father to guide my efforts that I may serve Him and His children in a way that is pleasing unto Him, and speak the words that He would have me speak, and give the lesson that He would have me give, it is like I am given a brand-new puzzle, where every piece fits together perfectly and creates a beautiful picture.

So here, in a brief summary, are a few tips for asking for help from the Source:

- Pay attention to your heart. Your head may tell you that you have what you need to solve a problem or to give a lesson or whatever the case may be, but that nagging feeling may be telling you otherwise. Listen.

- Don't be afraid to start over. Once you get that feeling, you may think that you're too far along the path you've already set for yourself using your own devices. Don't be afraid to stop on the path and get on your knees. If the Lord shows you a different path, then trust in Him and change your route.

- Be still and listen. Sometimes when we pray we spend a lot of time talking to God but not much time listening for His answers. Whenever I am praying for guidance, I make sure to do it in a quiet place, and then I have a few moments of quiet meditation after my "Amen." In my mind, I imagine letting my thoughts just float, and allowing the Lord to capture and bring me the ones that He wants me to act on.

- Let God speak to you in His own way. Sometimes I hear complaints from people that they don't think they ever get answers to prayers. My response? Tell God you can't hear Him! I have had times when I've felt like no one up There was listening, so I simply prayed, "Heavenly Father, I really need an answer here and I feel like I'm not getting one. Please show me in a way I can recognize and understand." He has never failed me on this, and as your relationship with Him grows, His answers will become more familiar to you, and the lines of communication will become clear.

- Say Thank You. It's easy to get excited when we receive an answer to our prayers, and to just run off to solve our problem. Just don't forget the One who gave you the answer, and thank Him for His kind mercy.

In closing, I will share some more of my favorite words from "The Word" by Sara Groves, which she took from the book of Romans:

And neither death nor life nor present nor future nor depth nor height can keep us from the love of Christ
And the Word I need is the Word that was, that brought the Father to dwell with us
In the Beginning
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be.

Can you tell the difference between when you ask for help and when you don't? I would love to read your comments about this!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some Spooktacular Michaels Deals

Don't you love it when you stop in a store for something you need and stumble upon an AWESOME sale? Well, that's what happened to me today! I was just going to Michaels for some supplies to make Christmas ornaments, and lo and behold, all of their Halloween stuff and most of their fall florals were 80% OFF! 

Well, I just had a grand time and loaded up my basket. All in all, I got the following:

-  Tall (faux) potted mums- $4 (usually $20)
- 2 small beaded candle rings- like a wire vine with sparkly beads and leaves- $0.79 each
- 2 large beaded fall wreaths- $1.39 each
- 1 metal halloween sign- $0.39
- 4 Kids' halloween craft kits- $0.29-$0.39 each
- 1 large container of foam halloween stickers- $1.59
- 1 wooden "Spooky" sign- $0.49
- 2 sheets of halloween rub-ons- $0.19 each
- 2 antique brass-looking leaf votive candle plates- $0.79 each
- 1 apple spice scented jar candle- $0.20
- 5 "take out" halloween treat boxes- $0.20 each
- 1 halloween scrapbook embellishment- $0.20
- 1 sheet of halloween window clings- $0.20

So for about $16 I was able to stock up on lots of fun stuff for next year, so we can have even more fun getting ready for Halloween! I also have plenty of items that I can use to make gifts and goodies, and even some stuff that will still work for Thanksgiving decorations this year! I LOVE cheap stuff, and when Michaels does clearance, they REALLY do clearance! Yay Michaels!

Have you found any great post-season stuff on sale? Leave a comment and share!

Friday, November 14, 2008

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...Knit Scarves!

My mom taught me to knit when I was a teenager, and after I had knit half a scarf I promptly went off to college and forgot how to knit completely! 

Fast forward to my first pregnancy...with no children at home, and no job (we had just moved) I decided I needed to take up some kind of maternal hobby, and knitting fit the bill. Since my memories of the skill were rusty to the point of being nearly nonexistent (I knew it involved yarn of some kind...?), I went out and bought myself a kit which consisted of a how-to book, a set of needles, and some other useful little knitting tools, which I still don't know the name of. 

To shorten this long story, it took only a few sessions of scrutinizing the detailed drawings to crank out my first scarf, which ended up being a Hokie-colored creation for my Virginia Tech student brother for Christmas. After that I went on to create scarves for friends, more family members, and even my kids and my friends' kids! 

The point is, even if you don't know how to knit, all it takes are some needles and some yarn (a skein is $2.50-$6.00 at Wal-Mart or craft stores- cheaper if you can find it on sale) and a little patience with a good book, which you can check out from the library for free. If I can do it, anyone can! I have also read, by the way, that studies have shown that knitting can have the same physiological benefits as yoga. It's quite relaxing- just the cure for the stress of the holiday season!

The other point is that everyone loves scarves- I made one for my husband which he likes to wear to stay warm when he goes hunting (and sometimes I steal it out of the closet to wear because it is SO soft and warm...shh, don't tell...) and another one for my friend's 2-year-old, which she didn't take off for quite awhile. I also figured out how to make little matching miniature hat and scarf sets that I give as winter baby gifts, which are not only quite practical, but also ridiculously cute and very fast to make, as they are about one-third the width and half the length of an adult-sized scarf. 

My third point (I'm awfully pointy today, aren't I?) is the reason I decided to save this gift for last- I know that many people don't know how to knit, and this holiday season I want to encourage all you beautiful thrifty people to learn something new. It doesn't even have to be knitting- find a craft that you have always wanted to try, or just improve upon a skill you already have and use it in a new way. Just be brave and find a way to celebrate your creativity and bless someone else with a gift from the heart.

All right, I'm done with my preaching- if you like the scarf pictured above and have a little girl on your gift list who you think would just look adorable wearing it, then check back on Tuesday for a special giveaway! I will be giving away a scarf just like this one, handmade by yours truly. And you never know, in the coming weeks I may host a few more giveaways of some of the other "Twelve Days of Christmas" items you've seen...

By the way, now that the Twelve Days of Christmas have come to an end, I will resume Makeover Mondays and continue to throw out more beautiful thrifty holiday ideas. Be sure to check back often for shopping tips, decorating tips, recipes, and fun wrapping ideas! I will also be introducing a new weekly feature (I just love weekly features!), so don't miss it!

Did the Twelve Days of Christmas help you with your Christmas list? Leave a comment and share your gifting plans!

New Promo! And Friday Night is Date Night... has another promo code just in time for the holidays- $25 gift cards for $3! Just click on the link below and stock up for stocking stuffers or future date nights...

Now take 70% off $25 Gift Certificates and check out our New Inventory! Use code DESSERT and pay $3 through 11/17/08.
My hubby and I took advantage of the last great offer and we had a WONDERFUL date in downtown Richmond. The best part is that we got a full 3-course meal for about $15! When you use the gift cards (which are printable, by the way), you have to spend at least $35 to use them, so you get a BIG meal! I ordered one of the most expensive things on the menu at the restaurant, and since I knew we would need to order dessert as well to exceed the $35 mark, I only ate half my entree and saved the rest for my lunch the next day- two meals in one!

In short, the restaurant was great- wonderful atmosphere, fantastic food, and excellent service. We spent the rest of our date exploring Canal Walk and window shopping in some of the great boutiques and antique shops in the Cary Street area. It was a great, inexpensive date thanks to!

You have 3 days to get this deal...don't wait! I know I'll be stocking up!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...Music to My Ears!

Did you know that mix cds are not just for teenagers in love? I think that a mix cd is a great way to show someone how you feel about them, and you don't have to be 15 to do it! Not only are they perfect for romantic relationships, but also for friendships and even for kids! 

- Do your kids have favorite songs on lots of different cds? Make a "(Child's Name)'s All Time Favorite Hits" cd.

- Have some fun memories with friends associated with certain songs? Create a "Remember When...?" cd for your best buds.

- Do you have a friend that sometimes needs a pick-me-up? Make a cd of upbeat and inspirational songs, for when you're not around to give him/her a pep talk.

- "Have I told you lately that I love you?" - make a cd that reminds your sweetie how much you love them.

With internet sites like iTunes, it is easier than ever to collect songs for a cd. Just set up an account, purchase the songs you need for $0.99 each, and download them to your computer. Then just burn them onto a cd! And actually, you don't even have to purchase the songs if you don't want to- just load the songs from your own cd onto your computer, and then you can burn them onto another cd.

Don't forget- personalization is key. Have fun with the label, and be sure to include brief notes on why you selected the songs you did for the recipient. With a few heartfelt messages, a mix cd can be a gift for someone to cherish for years to come.

  Give the gift of music this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Easy Deals of the Week: Hair accessories, baking powder, and cereal!

It's time for another Easy Deals of the Week, where you can snag great deals using only coupons from last Sunday's paper, or coupons you can print from your computer!

Let's start with Wal-Mart- since Wal-Mart doesn't run weekly sales, this deal will probably be good for quite awhile!

Goody Ouchless Hair Accessories- Wal-Mart prices start at $2.12
Final Price is $0.12! Great for stocking stuffers!!

Now on to Walgreens....

Clabber Girl Baking Powder- on sale 2 for $1
Use $1 off 2 coupon from Sunday (11/9) paper
Free after coupon!

Kelloggs cereal (Frosted Mini Wheats, Smart Start, Special K, and Raisin Bran)- on sale 4 for $10, get $2 in Register Rewards when you buy 4 (use like cash on your next purchase)
Use $1 off 1 coupons (there were 2 that would apply) from Sunday (11/9) paper or this $1/1 printable coupon
Final price is $1 each after coupons and Register Rewards!

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for these great deals!!

Have you found any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Free Photo Book from Snapfish!

I just happened to be watching Oprah today and she is giving her viewers a free photo book from Snapfish! Just go to and check it out! :-)

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Hand Print Poems!

This is just a quick example of what it might look like- I just traced my daughter's hand print and colored it in, and it's not framed- yours will look much prettier!

I made these a few years ago for all 3 sets of our parents (all the kids' grandparents). I simply used finger paints to get the kids' hand prints on a sheet of white cardstock, then I printed out this poem on another piece of cardstock. I matted the poem and the hand print side by side on a darker color piece of cardstock along with the child's name, date, and age, then purchased a $5 frame from Wal-Mart and framed the whole thing. The grandparents all loved them, and still have them hanging in their homes.

You can get more creative with this if you want, and use patterned paper and embellishments to dress it up. My main recommendation is to actually brush the paint on the kids' fingers (rather than letting them dip their hands in the paint) because it doesn't waste as much paint and it makes for a much cleaner handprint.

And here's a bonus art project for the kids if you want another idea for a fun grandparents' gift- last year I bought an 8x10 photo mat, and I had the kids paint it however they wanted. While they were painting, I took a photo of them doing it. Then I had the photo blown up to an 8x10 size and used the mat they painted to frame it. It really captured the moment, not only with the finished product but with the photo showing the fun they had creating it. 

Only 2 Days of Christmas left...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...Family Memory Game!

This was one of my favorite Christmas gifts so far. My husband has a large family (he is one of 10 children, and most of his brothers and sisters are married with children), and they are spread out all over the country, from Boston to Kansas to California and a few places in between. Needless to say, we don't get to see each other all that often. So one year I made these family match games for all of my nieces and nephews. 

A month or two before Christmas, I sent out an e-mail calling for family unit photos- the whole family, if there were kids, or just the couple if there were no kids, or just the person if they were unmarried. I then had several wallet-sized copies of each photo made (very easily done through and began making sets of cards, each set containing two copies of each family's photo.

Once I had the photos, I used scrapbook paper and glued the pictures to the white side using a glue stick specifically for photos. I found that the best way to do this was to glue the photos down prior to cutting them. Then I used my trusty paper cutter and trimmed each photo to the edges. Then I used my corner rounder (available at any craft store) and rounded each corner.

While it may seem like it took a long time to make 10 sets of these, it actually didn't take very long at all once I got the hang of it. I also included a slip of paper with each one listing ideas for games that could be played using the cards:

- Guess who? Go through the cards and try to remember each person's name.
- Remember When? Take turns choosing a photo and say something you like about someone in the picture, or say something fun you remember doing with them.
- Memory- Lay out the cards face down, then take turns trying to find a match.
- Story Time- Take turns picking out a card, and then make up a story starring you and the person whose photo you picked.

I also made a little "bonus gift" with the photos by matting them and attaching them to a pretty piece of patterned paper, which I then framed with the family name and date and presented to my husband's parents. It's hard to get a whole-family photo these days, so that was the next best thing. 

I got a great response from doing these cards- they were simple, fun, and they helped to strengthen family bonds even across the country. Now when the cousins get together, they feel like they know each other a little better, because they've been "playing together" all year! I also appreciated the fact that these were very inexpensive to mail to the more distant family members.

Even if you don't have a large family, you could do these cards simply with individual photos. You could even include photos from different events (Halloween, birthdays, vacations, etc.) and have fun remembering the activities you did together. This is a great way to spread a little family love at Christmastime.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...Mix in a Jar!

This is a gift that has been around for awhile, and it is perfect for those people on your list who are just too busy to cook from scratch, because all they have to do is to add a few "wet" ingredients to the dry mix and voila! A tasty treat for the time-deprived.

You create a Mix in a Jar for nearly any recipe that is primarily made up of dry ingredients and where the wet ingredients are common (eggs, butter, water, etc.). Simply layer the dry mix ingredients evenly into the jar in an attractive way, and then put on a lid, and tie with a ribbon or tag that indicates the type of mix and the amount and type of wet ingredients to add.

You can do anything from cookies and pancakes to soups and breads. For lots of great recipes, check out Razzle Dazzle Recipes.

One of my personal favorites is this Oatmeal Mix recipe- I love this recipe because it is versatile- you can use it for several different tasty recipes- and because it makes the BEST pancakes EVER!

Oatmeal Mix Recipe:

- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
- 3 cups rolled oats

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Stir in brown sugar. Mix well. With a pastry blender (or not ;-)), cut in shortening until evenly distributed. Stir in oats and mix well. Put in a large airtight container. Label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 10-12 weeks. Makes about 9 cups mix.

And here are a few recipes you can attach to this mix for the recipient...

Oat Pancakes (my favorite!)

- 1 1/2 cups oatmeal mix
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 egg, slightly beaten

In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal mix, water, and egg. Blend well. Let stand 5 minutes. Cook on a hot oiled griddle about 3-4 minutes, until browned on both sides. Make 12-15 4-inch pancakes.

Oatmeal Muffins

- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- 3 cups oatmeal mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter muffin pans. Put oatmeal mix in a medium bowl. Combine egg and milk in a small bowl. Add all at once to oatmeal mix. Stir until just moistened; batter should be lumpy. Fill prepared muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Makes 12 large muffins.

Oatmeal Cookies

- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 3 cups oatmeal mix
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease baking sheets. In a small bowl, combine milk, vanilla, and egg. Put oatmeal mix, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl. Add liquid ingredients all at once and stir until just blended. Stir in raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 10-15 minutes, until edges are browned. Cool cookies on racks. Makes about 24 cookies.

Happy 100th Post! And 100 crazy facts about me...

My little 5-year-old self

In blogging tradition, in this my 100th post, I will divulge to you, my readers, 100 odd facts about myself. In no particular order:

1. I was born in Fairfax, Va.
2. Part of my growing-up years were spent living on a horse farm in Ashburn, Va.
3. I didn't actually learn to ride horses well (at more than just a walk or slow trot) until I was in college.
4. My horse's name when I was a kid was Joker.
5. Joker was in love with our MUCH younger horse named Harika.
6. Riding poor old Joker bareback was quite uncomfortable, as he was very bony.
7. My mom used to give us kids a little tiny bit of salt on our hands so we could lick it off like the horses.
8. My mom is my best friend (and not just because of the salt!)
9. I went to Mary Washington College, now called the University of Mary Washington
10. UMW's football team is undefeated.
11. UMW doesn't have a football team. ;-)
12. I majored in Historic Preservation.
13. I graduated from MWC in 2004, on the same day as my 1-year wedding anniversary.
14. My husband is awesome.
15. I received my bachelor of arts degree in Historic Preservation.
16. I once worked as a telemarketer selling newspaper subscriptions.
17. I was one of the lead telemarketers, and I actually wrote a new script for the company to use on cold calls.
18. During the summers in college I worked at Colonial Williamsburg.
19. I dressed up in costume and did outdoor retail sales.
20. When people would say, "Are you hot?" I would answer, "Well, are you hot?" "Yes." "Okay, now look at what you're wearing and then look at what I'm wearing. I think you know the answer."
21. My favorite question from a tourist was, "What time is the noon parade?"
22. It's hard working somewhere where everyone you talk to is on vacation.
23. I love CW and I would actually go there on my days off to tour the historic homes.
24. I also love to tour the James River Plantations.
25. I think that historic preservation is a lot like playing pretend when you're a kid.
26. When I was a kid my brother and I would play Arctic Explorers whenever it snowed.
27. My brother and I also made paths in the forest on the mountain behind our home and built forts out of logs and branches.
28. We also both loved to build with Legos.
29. My brother is now an architect.
30. I have always dreamed of writing a book.
31. I love to read books.
32. My favorite authors are Orson Scott Card, Stephenie Meyer, and Nicholas Sparks.
33. I love to get book recommendations from friends.
34. I love the smell of books, and I like to stick my nose in the Book Drop at the library and take a whiff before I put the books in. ;-)
35. I also like the smell of basements and fresh laundry.
36. Laundry is one of my least favorite chores.
37. I hate dishes even more.
38. Pretty much any chore that must be done daily or else my house will be gross is a chore I hate.
39. But I kind of enjoy vacuuming.
40. I have a dog named Buck whose shedding issues cause me to vacuum a lot, so it's a good thing I don't mind doing it.
41. I have a black cat named Skye who still looks like a kitten even though she's 6 years old.
42. I got Skye as a Christmas present when she was a kitten and she was wearing a little red collar with a bell on it.
43. Skye drools.
44. One time right after we got Buck he randomly jumped into my lap while I was sitting in an armchair.
45. Buck is a German Shepherd/Lab mix. It was quite a surprise finding him in my lap.
46. I have kept a fairly regular journal since I was in 8th grade.
47. My journals are my most valued earthly possession.
48. When I was in high school I had a friend who read my journals (with my permission) when we went to camp, and it was like she was reading a best-selling novel- she couldn't wait to get to the next entry!
49. I have considered turning the more interesting parts of my life story into a novel.
50. When I don't write in my journal I feel like I'm losing parts of my life. Sometimes I have gone back and read an entry in my journal about an event I would have completely forgotten had I never written it down and re-read it later. If I don't remember it, it might as well have never happened.
51. I have a life list of goals I would like to accomplish.
52. Someday I want to go the Kentucky Derby.
53. Someday I want to learn to play the violin...and the piano.
54. I really want to find that list because there were a lot of things on it and now I can't remember half of them...
55. When I was in college learning to ride, I was selected for the college riding team.
56. In one competition, we were tied with another team to win regionals, and my class was going to be the tie-breaker. They didn't tell me, and I came in first which gave my team the victory.
57. I felt a little silly that it all came down to me, because all I did was walk/trot.
58. I miss riding and I wish I could do it more often.
59. This is a really long list.
60. I have played the flute for 17 years (not the whole time, that would be exhausting)
61. I remember how cool it was when I got good enough that playing was more fun than work
62. I was the flute section leader in high school.
63. In our first section meeting I gave all the floutists a small laminated card with my name and phone number on it so they could reach me if they had to miss a practice.
64. After that I was forever known as "Lamination Girl."
65. My marching band was awesome, and band geeks rock.
66. I was also a choir nerd.
67. In my high school, choir was actually cool, because it was a nationally acclaimed madrigal choir and we got to dress up in medieval costumes.
68. I miss being able to use my musical talents in performance.
69. I sing Primary songs for my kids sometimes.
70. My kids usually tell me to stop singing.
71. I don't stop singing, I just sing louder.
72. Sometimes my son will cover his ears when I do that.
73. One time I lulled an entire room of children to sleep by singing, but maybe I just bored them to slumber.
74. I love to sleep.
75. I have to shower before I go to bed- I can't stand to sleep feeling dirty.
76. I am pretty good at dream interpretation.
77. I am very grumpy in the morning, but I prefer to wake up early rather than stay up late.
78. I only pulled an all-nighter once in college, and it was to finish a final project for my art class- a self-portrait. I was painting from a photo, and I was so focused on the details that I wasn't really looking at the whole thing. I stopped for a moment to rub my eyes and take a break, and when I looked back down I jumped because I saw myself staring back at me.
79. I'm pretty good artistically when it comes to copying things from photographs, but not so good with things from my imagination.
80. My favorite color is burgundy.
81. My favorite kind of food is Chinese food, or anything asian except sushi.
82. I am a total chocoholic.
83. All I need to be perfectly content is a comfy couch, a good book, and some good dark chocolate (like Dove).
84. My favorite upper-end chocolates are Lindt (truffles) and Ghiradelli (squares)
85. Someday I dream of making a chocolate cake using brownies for the cake, fudge for the filling, and melted chocolate (which would solidify into a hard shell) for the topping. Mmmmmmm.....
86. I wonder- Is it possible to OD on chocolate?
87. I also love cotton candy, and my hubby buys cases of it for me from Sam's Club.
88. I also really like to drink the juice from a can of black olives.
89. It was a family tradition growing up for me to put olives on each of my fingers at Thanksgiving. 
90. The olives break now when I try to get them on my fingers. My fingers are too big. 
91. So I've taught my son how to do it so he can carry on the tradition. He thinks I'm weird.
92. I'm almost done with this list.
93. I have never ever thrown up before.
94. I cannot stay underwater for more than 2 seconds without holding my nose.
95. I love to jump on trampolines- it makes me giggle.
96. Gummi worms also make me unusually happy.
97. I love to dance, but I am NOT good at it.
98. I also love to play tennis, but I am even worse at that.
99. I kind of suck at sports in general.
100. I am done with this list!!!!

Pardon the Absence...

Hello again! I went away for the weekend with my family, so I decided to take a "blog vacation" as well. But I was thinking of all of you, and hoping you weren't missing my posts too much (ha ha). We had a lovely time up at Massanutten, and now I am home and feeling refreshed and ready to blog away! I plan to get the Eighth Day of Christmas posted today, and we'll just continue on from there!

I thought I'd share a few of our weekend photos with you all as well- Massanutten is a beautiful place, especially in the fall (even though it was past peak color). If you would like to spend a free weekend there as well (yes, free!), let me know and I can hook you up. It's a great place for a family getaway. We had a blast and we can't wait to go back!!

This tree was right outside where we were staying, and with the colors and the sunlight...I just had to snap a picture!

Me and the kids and another pretty tree

Daddy is just a kid at heart!

Just a random pic of a random road on the mountain. And yes, I know I need to clean my windshield!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...Signs!

I've seen the signs! Well, I've seen a lot of these signs, anyway, and they make a beautiful decoration in any home. I made this sign a couple of years ago, and it was easy and fun to do! All you need is a length of board, available in any home improvement store or lumber yard, some sandpaper, paint, and a few nice words. If you aren't great with lettering, you can use a stencil or adhesive vinyl lettering (like the one above) which you can have custom made at any sign shop, or even find a company to do it online (eBay has a lot of listings for these).

To create this board, I simply sanded down the wood, then painted it with acrylic paints (available at craft stores). After the paint had dried, I applied the vinyl lettering, then added some dimension by sanding down the edges and corners, allowing the natural color of the wood to peek through. Finally, I sprayed the whole thing with a sealing coat of varnish. It all took less than 3 hours.

These are easy to make in "bulk", and you can make each one as different as you want. For ideas on words to use, visit a home decorating store or craft store- they almost always have similar signs like these in stock, and you can snag some great ideas. You can also experiment with different finishes like antiquing or even a crackle finish. Just have fun with it and as always, keep the gift recipient in mind.

Ho, ho, ho! Have you started any holiday projects yet?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On the 6th Day of Christmas...Peek-A-Pockets!

It's the ultimate game of I Spy- a pouch filled with exciting treasures to discover! My mom made these for each of my children (Thanks, Mom!), and I have several friends who have made them before as well. Basically, it is 2 pieces of fleece fabric sewn together like a pillow, only one side has a window cut out, with clear plastic material sewn in. The pouch is then filled with tiny clear beads and miniature objects, such as toys, erasers, blocks, and beads in different shapes.

This particular Peek-A-Pocket measures approximately 7"x7", and has 47 items inside to be found, along with an attached laminated list of every item. A few of the items include:

- red rose
- black cat
- diamond ring
- soccer ball
- spider
- alphabet block
- flip flop
- jewel
- safety pin
- bell
- dice
- dinosaur
- car

These are so much fun for my kids, and I have heard great things about them from my friends as well. One friend said that one of these kept her 4-year-old busy for the entire length of a plane ride across country! And to be truthful, I had a hard time putting it down too...

This would be a great gift for any kid (or any kid at heart!). Much like the paper crafting tips from yesterday, if you're going to make these, the most economical way to do it is to join forces with your friends, or else make a large number of them yourself. That way you won't be buying a whole pack of erasers or beads and using only one. And don't forget to double-stitch- definitely a choking hazard if anything came out!

How is your Christmas "making" going?

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