Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

New Ways to Save in the New Year

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Are you looking for new ways to save in the new year? I have you covered! Today you will find me over on The Goodwill Tips Blog sharing some strategies for ways to save your family in the new year.

There is something so renewing to know that a new year is beginning and that you have a whole new year ahead of you to start fresh. In February, our New Year’s goals may have already been forgotten, but today I want to encourage you to dust those goals back off and start anew again with a goal that is very dear to my heart… being wise with our funds. The goal that I have each year is to continue to reduce our spending and find creative ways to live our beautiful life on a small budget.

Perhaps it is a goal of yours too? Let’s explore some new ways to save in this new year!
Head on over to the article to read more!


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The Best Resources For Frugal Readers (And How to Make Reading a Priority Again)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

One of the things that I get asked the most is how I am able to read so many books each month and still manage everything else in my life. If one of your goals this year is to read more, I want to share with you how reading has transformed my life and how it can transform your life too!

The truth is, we all have the same hours in the day and we all choose what we want to fill them with.  Some days I fill it with managing the house and doing everything that needs to be done for my family, but there are days that I let it all go and sit in my favorite chair with my favorite book for an hour instead.

Here are some simple strategies I have used to carve in more time for my fictional reading life:

I Stopped Watching Television- When we dropped our television package, it was the greatest gift in time management I have ever given myself. Our television watching has now whittled down to about four shows a week that we really care about and the rest of the time our television is turned off. It has been so freeing to not feel like I have to dedicate time to the television to justify the bills that we were receiving.

Although watching news has never really been a priority to me, to not be detached completely from the world, I listen to NPR on the way into the gym each morning or while I am tidying up from breakfast. I know what I need to know about world news and local news and then I turn it off and focus on the books I am reading.

I Always Have a Book In My Hand- You will very rarely see me without a book in my hand and I find ways to make the most of every single little pocket of time I have to read my books. Whether I am coloring my hair, cooking, waiting for the kids to get off the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office, or standing in line at the grocery store, you will find me trying to devour a page or two of a book. With devices like the Kindle for your smart phones and tablets, electronic readers, audio books, and the endless supply of great free reading material  from the library, I am constantly trying to find a new way to sneak more pages in my day.

I Make a Goal For Myself- Every year I use GoodReads to create a reading challenge for myself. For me, vague goals of, “I’d like to read more,” usually yield mediocre results. With a number in mind, I know that I have something to work towards and to accomplish. Sometimes I reach my goals, this year, I did not. It doesn’t bother me if I don’t reach my lofty goals because the true point of the goal for me is just to read, read, and read some more.

You can connect with me on GoodReads and see what I am working on right now!

I Want to Be a Role Model For My Kids- I want my kids to model the good things that I do in my life and being a reader is one thing that I am proud of and that I want for them. I don’t want my kids remembering that I sat in front of the television and watched Toddlers & Tiaras every night or that their mom was never without her celebrity gossip magazines. I want them to remember that their mom was always reading, always learning, and also that she wasn’t afraid to tackle hard books and hard topics.

The results for me have been having two kids that are ferocious readers themselves. They beg to go to the library and they are just like me,  often walking into walls and doors because they have their nose in books. If we are going somewhere, they grab their books to take with them when we run errands and one of our biggest struggles is when we have to shut off the lights and our books at night. I love seeing them model me in this way.

I Read What I Want To Read- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

I Want to Be a Well-Rounded Person- I didn’t take a lot of advanced classes in high school like my husband so I was only exposed to excerpts of classic books, rather than reading them. As a woman in her thirties, I am reading these books for the first time in my adult life and I am proud that I am no longer intimidated by classical literature. I won’t let the hurdles of my youth stop me from being a well-rounded person and that is why you will often find me making a goal to read the classics.

I Want to Be a Great Writer- Great writers are great readers. Other writers constantly inspire me to be better at what I am writing. I found it a hard juggle to work on my own book and still squeeze in time to read. My pockets of time had dwindled, but I still tried to make it a priority because reading is that important to me.

Reading has changed my life and has shaped me into a better person than I could have been without the words of great writers. Books provide an escape, they challenge how I view the rights and wrongs in life, they take me to countries I may never visit, they make me weep, they make me laugh, and they made me dream that I could transform someone else with my own words. 

Great Reading Resources To Get You Started:


GoodReads or Shelfari- Goodreads is my ultimate resource for keeping me motivated to read daily. I use it for my yearly reading goals, to keep track of books that I want to read in the future, and to rate and review books that I have finished reading. The best feature is the barcode scanner that you an use to scan books to quickly pull them into your to-be-read or reading virtual piles.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

What Should I Read Next?- One of the big hurdles with reading is finding the perfect reading material. What Should I Read Next? allows you to put in the name of your favorite author or favorite book and then gives you a reading list of similar reading material that it thinks you would like based on your preference.

Paperback Swap or Bookmooch- Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- Amazon offers oodles of books for free for your Kindle or you can download the free Kindle app for your phone or tablet to read your books on. Explore this free list when you are in need of a new book to read!


Be sure to visit our Great Reads section to get you started on selecting great books to tackle!

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DIY Rosette Bib Necklace Tutorial: Valentine’s Day Link-Up Party Fun

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and today I wanted to show you how to dress up a plain t-shirt with a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace. This tutorial for a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace will help you make a pretty piece of inexpensive jewelry that you can wear year after year to spice up an item you already have in your wardrobe for Valentine’s Day.

Supplies Needed

A simple chain or bead necklace (in the jewelry supplies)

Jewelry cutting tools (if needed to trim the sizing of your chain)
Fabric (you can use scrap fabric or buy inexpensive fabric quarters)
Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
Blow Dryer

Editor’s Note:I found my supplies at Walmart because I was already at that store shopping and they cost approximately $5 (if you don’t count buying jewelry cutting/shaping tools, hot glue gun, or scissors which I already owned).

1. Begin by measuring and cutting 5 strips of fabric into 1 1/2″ strips. The length can be determined by you. I used the length of the fabric quarters that I bought for this size rosette, but you can adjust to the sizing of your choice. I chose two different fabric prints for mine, but you can certainly do all the same color, if you prefer!

2. Add a knot to the end of your fabric to begin the start of your rolled rosette.

3. Begin twisting your fabric, adding small dabs of hot glue to hold the twisted rosette in place. Keep twisting and dabbing with glue until you get almost to the end of your fabric or until you reach your desired sizing.

4. With the end flap of your fabric, add a dot of hot glue to the back of your rosette, and then fold it behind to secure it in place.

5. If you have any gobs of hot glue (which is very easy to see with plain fabrics), use your blow dryer on a low setting to get rid of any hot glue strings or to slowly melt the glue a bit to pull it off with tweezers.

6. Glue your rosettes, in the center,  onto your piece of felt in a necklace arrangement. Make sure you leave the edges of the felt loose to tuck your chain behind it.

7. Use your scissors to trim the felt around the flower. Secure the flowers with a little more hot glue between them to help hold them together into one piece.

8. Secure your chain with hot glue between the layer of the rosette and the felt.

9. Trim your chain to the desired length and add the ends to your chain, if needed.

You can begin wearing your beautiful handmade necklace immediately! I wore mine for our annual Valentine’s Day Bunco night with a black top and red patent leather belt! It’s such a fun way to spice up items you already have in your wardrobe and could be made in a variety of colors, depending on your holiday occasion!

I do love Valentine’s Day around here and here are a few other fun Valentine’s Day projects you can spy on MomAdvice! Tomorrow I will be sharing an elegant Valentine’s dinner you can share on a budget!

DIY Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Red Velvet Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream
Valentine’s Day Yarn Wreath
DIY Coffee Filter Flowers
Rolled Rosette Rings (to match your necklace)
Peppermint Marshmallows (cut them in hearts!)
Be Mine Fluffy Cake Doughnuts

Today I also happen to be  helping host the 2nd Annual Valentine Week Party! Last year’s week long event ended in a great party with 275 Valentine’s Day projects added!

This is really HUGE my friends! You can add your Valentine’s projects on any of the blogs and be seen on ALL 9 of them! That’s over 100,000 readers that will see your projects!

Meet your hostesses…

Now, it’s your turn to showcase your Valentine’s Day Ideas to the Party, simply click on the little blue button where it says “add your link” and your posts will show up on ALL NINE BLOGS! How cool is that? I can’t wait to see what projects you have been working on for Valentine’s Day!!

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The Best Paper Snowflake Templates on the Web

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Winter days can be long with kids, but paper crafts can be a fun way to keep little hands busy with items you already have. Today I want to showcase the best snowflake tutorials we found on the web as a fun winter craft to break up those long winter days. Good old-fashioned paper snowflakes don’t have to be old-fashioned. In fact, there are so many fun snowflake tutorials with current fun characters that, I bet, you will have a hard time choosing where to start.

How to Make Basic Snowflakes

Step 1: Fold your  paper in half diagonally to make a triangle.

Step 2: Now, fold the triangle in half so the pointy corners meet.

Steps 3 and 4: Fold your triangle in thirds.

Step 5: Cut across the bottom of your paper so it is straight.

Step 6: Cut your folded paper so it looks like the triangle above. Then unfold it very gently. Be careful, these tear easily!  Decorate, embellish, and make your snowflake stand out. After all, no two snowflakes should look alike!

(If you are looking for a printable you can use, I like this design-your-own snowflake printable)

If you are looking for a template to create snowflakes, here are a few of our favorites: 

Snowflakes for Little Kids (but don’t tell her that!)

Little hands will benefit from less complex designs that will help them feel more accomplished with snowflake cutting. Mom & Dad may have to help guide the cutting process through the layers, but little ones can help to accessorize their snowflakes with a little sparkle, glitter glue, or crayons/markers, even if they aren’t able to cut them all by themselves. Cutting skills can be challenging with kids and I find this activity to be one that helps challenge them, but also can be fun at the same time.

Happy Dots Snowflake (Pictured Above)

Simply Snow Snowflake Pattern

Cork Stamped Snowflakes

Coffee Filter Snowflakes (a thinner medium for small hands)

Snowflakes for Big Kids (Rock On, With Your Bad Selves!)

Even if your kids are big, cut-outs in the center of the designs can be tricky even for the most skilled adults. I use my self-healing cutting mat and a utility knife to try to cut out eyes and mouths on these super cool snowflakes. As you can see, there is nothing old-school about these snowflakes!

Angry Birds Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

Star Wars Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

More Star Wars Snowflakes

Classic Snow Crystal

3-D Snowflakes

Thanks so much to Walmart for challenging me to craft up some snowflakes with my kids. It turned into a morning of smiles and delight  as watched our snowflake creations unfold.

Happy snowflake-making, friends!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

What is your favorite winter craft to do with your kids?

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The Good Life For Less #GNO Twitter Party (Tuesday 01/08)

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

I am so excited to get to be participating in my first Twitter Party with Mom It Forward to promote my new book, “The Good Life For Less.” As you can see, I am not happy about it  at all (ahem).

This virtual party will be hosted on January 8th from 9-10 PM ET and will give you the chance to participate in a great chat on frugality and how to truly achieve the good life for less with CELEBRITIES. Yes, I said it, the celebrities in my life happen to be the superstars in the frugal world.

I was asked to pick a few friends to help assist me with my talk. It wasn’t hard to think up a fantastic dream team panel, but to expect them to spend a Tuesday night on Twitter with me seemed impossible. Of course, you know you have awesome friends when they agree to do this for you to help promote your project. I want to give each of them a shout-out because ALL of their blogs should be on your must-read lists!

Savings Lifestyle (Andrea Deckard)

With a motto like, “Save on what you need. Spend on what you want,” you know that you are in for a real treat! Stay up-to-date on coupons, savings at the grocery store, take advantage of great freebies, and learn to achieve a beautiful life for less. Andrea is an all-around fantastic person and I am so lucky to call her my friend!

Hoosier Homemade (Liz Latham)

If you aren’t following the Hoosier Homemade you are missing out on a real treat..and I mean treat. She is famous for her cupcake skills, but is also an all around jack-of-all-trades when it comes to making a beautiful home for less. You will absolutely love this site and did I mention that she is a fellow Hoosier girl?

Deal Seeking Mom (Tara Kuczykowski)

If you coupon, you know my friend, Tara! Tara has a fantastic coupon site filled with just about every deal on the internet. It is a site I reference frequently when making my purchases and I highly recommend you do too. The best part? She is one of the sweetest people I know.

Frugal Upstate (Jenn Fowler)

If you are looking for a blog that truly gets back to the basics of frugality and achieving the good life for your family for less, you will definitely want to visit Jenn’s blog. It has everything you need from menu planning advice, great recipes to share around the table, and fantastic DIY projects. Jenn knows a lot about a frugality and is a trusted frugal resource for me!

The Happy Housewife (Toni Anderson)

If you want to know anything about anything, than I am sure you are familiar with my friend Toni and her site, “The Happy Housewife.” This website has everything from how to manage your home, how to manage your family budget,  how to feed your family, how to score the best deals at the grocery store, and even advice on homeschooling your kids. I guarantee that once you start browsing this site, that you will lose many hours in your day just soaking all of that knowledge in. I adore Toni and am so thankful to call her my friend!

Party Topic

Join Amy Allen Clark (that’s me!)  who is the author of The Good Life for Less@MomItForward, and our panel of experts as we chat about frugal living. The party will be held on Tuesday, January 8 from 9-10 p.m. ET (8CT, 7MT, 6PT)Click here to see details about the giveaway and enter for a chance to win.

Party Details

Jot down some questions that you would like to ask us and be prepared for a fun night on frugality. I am so excited to be giving away more books and also would love to acquaint you with our new Book Landing Page where you can grab all the information you need about my book, sign up for our new newsletter, and find out where I am headed for book signings! 

I’m also excited to share that Mom It Forwardwill be covering ideas from, “The Good Life for Less,” in a four part series! How cool is that? Visit the site to learn more about our frugal journey and what you will find in the book!

I never made it out of my pajamas yesterday because I just sat at my computer in complete awe at the stir that all of you created with this book. Pictures were being posted all over IG and Facebook of you running out to buy your copies at your local bookstores, the shares from my family’s big day at the bookstore went completely viral, and the words from people who had already read it… There are just no words to how overwhelmed with emotion we were.I am just a gal, in a small town in Indiana, preaching a little message about simple living and I never dreamed that we would be experiencing a moment like this. Thank you all for your love and support of this project! I could not do it without you! The Amazon sales rocked my world yesterday as well as all of those beautiful pictures of you heading to your stores to make my dreams come true! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Looking forward to chatting more at the Twitter party!

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Our Top 12 Posts of 2012

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

What a wonderful year 2012 was for our site and our family. MomAdvice continues to grow & I can’t wait to share with your our best posts of this year.  Today I wanted to highlight our top 12 posts from 2012.

Do I thank you enough around here? I never feel like my thanks is sufficient enough for all of your love and support for us. 

Thank you for sharing our site with others.

Thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for your comments.

I can’t tell you what they mean to me.

Here are the top 12 posts that happened on MomAdvice this year:

1. How to Dye A Faded Pair Of Jeans

Our top post this year, by a LONG shot, was my tutorial on how to dye your old jeans. With over 205,000 views, this one went viral and that box of Rit fabric dye was, perhaps, the best purchase of the entire year! Not only did I get a “new” pair of jeans, but this post grabbed the attention of a lot of new readers that were looking for some ways to freshen up a few tired pieces in their closet. This tutorial explains a variety of methods of dying your clothing and the comment stream continues to grow as readers share their own success stories with fabric dying.

2. How To Be a Pinterest Superstar

I am so excited to see that my guidance on growing your blogs through Pinterest proved to be valuable information to other bloggers. In this article, I share everything I have learned about getting your content and readership to grow through Pinterest. If your New Year’s goal is to harness the power of Pinterest, I can’t recommend this article enough for growing your audience. 

3. Rainbow Cake in a Jar With Cloud Frosting

Anything in a jar, to me, is absolutely delightful and delicious. For the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, I share a recipe for making beautiful little rainbow cakes in a jar and my recipe for a perfectly fluffy cloud of frosting to top these festive little cakes. The best part is that  these can be made from items you already have lurking in your pantry!

4. The Good Life For Less

Well, the excitement around here must be contagious because our 4th most popular page this year is for my first book, “The Good Life For Less.” I’m so excited to share that it is now available on store shelves! I would be, of course, be honored if you bought a copy and I am so excited that this was one of your top destinations this year on the site!

5. How to Ditch Your Cable Bill

Oh, we were a radical bunch this year as we said goodbye to our family’s astronomical satellite television bill. Apparently, I’m not the only one who wanted to say goodbye to it because this was a frequently visited article for many of our readers. After a year without cable, I can’t tell you how much happier we are. We are especially enjoying the savings we are experiencing by changing the way we watch television.

6. The World’s Greatest Homemade Bubbles Recipe

If there is one thing my kid’s love, it is this homemade bubble recipe. Neighbor kids flock to our home in awe of their super awesomeness and moms will be begging for your secret. This super easy recipe was a popular one on the site and replicated in many a home!

7. Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

This recipe was created and has been devoured in my home weekly since its development. If you crave a thick & hearty soup filled with brown rice, veggies, and a tomato broth, then this soup is the one for you! This was a popular one for many of our readers with food allergies and I am excited that we were able to cater to that need a bit this year.

8. How To Make Glow-In-The-Dark JELL-O Jars

Science project plus edible treat? This is a win-win situation, people! This post got so much love that JELL-O even featured it on their site (which thrilled me to no end!) My kids got a kick out of making this treat for Halloween and we loved sharing the science behind their spooky glow.

9. The Best Books Read in 2012


I absolutely love sharing my reading lists each year and I can’t wait to continue sharing book reviews with you in the upcoming year. I take this list so seriously that it keeps me up at night the night before, worrying that I made the wrong picks for you guys. I have been getting oodles of messages though, from many of you, sharing how much you have already been enjoying off of this reading list. I am already tackling the next round of books, as we speak, for another “best of” list for next year!

10. Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Who wants to buy stuff you can make? That is why you come here, of course! My homemade enchilada sauce recipe is one of my favorite DIY creations in the kitchen. Once you make this enchilada sauce, you will never buy that jarred stuff again!  If you haven’t tried this recipe yet, I highly recommend it!

11. How to Knit Great Chemo Caps for Charity

I have, sadly, knitted far more chemo caps for people I know than I would have ever wanted to this year. If you are a knitter and looking for some tips on making really great chemo caps (that will actually be worn) than this post is just the post you will need to get started. I share everything I have learned from selecting the right yarns, to selecting the right patterns, to adding a little “sparkle” to your hats. I am so happy to see that this was a post that you have been referencing!

12. How to Make a Homeless Care Package


Last, but certainly not least, our Homeless Care Package post was our final top post of the year. We were so excited to be able to create these homeless care packages for those in need in our area and we shared a free printable list of supplies as well as a local resources sheet that other families could use to replicate our giving this year. Our family made giving to charity one of our top priorities this year and we look forward to giving back more to those in need in 2013.


What would you like to see featured in 2013 on our site? I would love to hear your ideas for posts as I begin planning my editorial calendar for the year!

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Christmas Gift Ideas Under $25 For the Ladies

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Christmas gift ideas under $25 can be a hard budget to achieve. Today I wanted to share with you 12 great Christmas gift ideas under $25 that would be perfect for yourself, a great gift for your girlfriends, a sister, or a mother.

These ideas are actually something that I have been thoroughly enjoying this year and believe you will to! I only like to promote smart shopping so these have all been carefully hand selected and are gifts I believe anyone would love!

Small Homes Grow Tight Families Print- One of my favorite pieces of art in our home is this print that reminds me of our commitment to live in a smaller home. I ordered this for our house and it is now one of my favorite things in our home. You can personalize it with your own address and choose your own colors. Supporting Etsy sellers is always on my holiday to-do list for unique and thoughtful gifts. ($15)

Rice Cooker- If there is one appliance that gets a workout in our house, it is our rice cooker. If you eat a lot of rice or quinoa in your house, than this is a fantastic appliance to give or get. I put the steamer on the top to work for our family’s veggies and the bottom is where I make our brown rice. Once you have one of these little gadgets, you will realize just how much easier your dinner hour is and wonder how you ever lived your life without it. ($16.99)

Edie Bauer Polartec Power Stretch Gloves- I have gone through and lost a ton of pairs of gloves over the years, but I always am careful with this pair because they are my warmest and most comfortable pair. If you are looking for the perfect gloves to receive or to share, than these are the ones that I would recommend. My best friend had a pair and then she told me about them and I ran out and got a pair for myself. If you have a hard time keeping track of your gloves like me, you will love the little links on the side that click them together.  ($19.99)

Fleece Leggings (in charcoal and brown)- If there is one item that is my go-to item in the winter, it is my fleece leggings. If you have ever worn cheap leggings, you know how cold your legs can get without a warm layer. These are thin, but lined with fleece so it basically feels like you are running around in your pajama pants. I wear these with my sweaters, with my dresses, and with longer tunic tops. I am giving these to all of the ladies in my life this year and can’t recommend these enough. Once you wear these, you will never go back to cheap leggings again!

Flourish Boutique happens to be a site sponsor and  offers online shopping so if you don’t live around here, you can still partake in all of the amazing deals and steals that the store offers on their website. MomAdvice customers receive a 25% discount code. Just enter WEB25 when you checkout! ($16 BEFORE coupon code)

One Line a Day Journal- If you are anything like me, it is difficult to journal with such a busy life and schedule. I am absolutely in love with my One Line a Day journal because you have enough room to write a couple of quick sentences and at one glance you can see your sentence each day in a five year span on a single page. It’s fun to see how many sentences get repeated or what you did exactly one year ago in one spot. ($11.53)

Owl Mug- I bought this gift for myself on a girlfriend shopping trip, and it is one of my favorite things in my cupboards. You know when a mug is just the perfect size? Well, this mug is big and has enough room in it for loads of coffee and milk/creamer topping. I use this mug daily and would love to get a couple more in other colors, but even in a simple white it is a surefire day brightener ($10)

Warm Regards Tights- Now that we are moving down my list, you can see my love for all things fleece and warm. I bought two pairs of the Warm Regards Tights when I was visiting our local Francesca’s, on impulse,  because they were on sale 2 for $12. When I slipped them on, I realized they were lined in fleece and the best invention ever in the world for chilly church mornings. These tights make wearing a dress more of a daily event for me in the winter because I am toasty warm in these and my boots. ($12)

Spotify Premium Membership- I am a huge music lover and Spotify is where I listen to all of my favorite music and create my playlists for great music to listen to throughout the day. Unfortunately, I have the free membership so I have to listen to annoying ads throughout the day. Ever have an elegant dinner with your family and have a tampon ad blasting in the background? It’s a mood killer! I am hoping that Santa will be good to me this year and bring me a premium membership so I can take my playlists with me in the car and can take advantage of some ad-free listening. This would be a great gift to give to any music lover in your life ($9.99 per month)

Microwaveable Rice Pillow- You might laugh, but my rice pillow is my most favorite handmade gift that my mother-in-law made me for me a few years ago. These pillows are filled with rice and can be zapped in the microwave or popped in the freezer for a cold or hot pack for all sorts of body aches and discomforts. In the winter, I zap mine three or four times a day and put it on my feet while I work or knit. When I’m sick, it is the first thing I reach for to warm me up. There are a variety of Etsy sellers that you can buy this from although anything in a houndstooth pattern takes this thoughtful gift to another level ($22.95)

Celestial Seasonings Holiday Teas- My new favorite treat to myself is a cup of tea in the afternoon and I have fallen in love with these Celestial Seasonings Holiday Teas. It is just like drinking the holidays in a mug and my latest favorites are the Gingerbread Spice and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. These teas would make a great stocking stuffer or would be a fun addition to your grocery cart to take home when tackling all of those endless holiday errands ($2.99)

Picky Palate Cookbook- If you are going to add any cookbook to your Christmas wish list, can I recommend the Picky Palate Cookbook? This cookbook is filled with tried and true recipes that any picky eater would love. The cookbook offers beautiful photos and real family recipes that any home cook would love to create. Usually when I flip through cookbooks, I see one or two dishes that I might like to create. In this cookbook, there is not a single recipe I wouldn’t want to try making for my family. Jenny’s personality really pulls through in this book with her sweet spirit and references to her sweet family. I am lucky enough to call her my friend, but if she wasn’t, it still would be a cookbook that I would recommend buying for this holiday season! ($13.79)

The Good Life for Less- You knew that this would have to be on the list, right? I am so proud of this book and really feel like it would make a fantastic gift for anyone looking to live a beautiful life on a budget.  The book is filled with great recipes to share around the table, how to celebrate all of life’s big and small occasions, and how to do it all within a budget.

The book will be out on bookstore shelves on January 2nd (a slight shift in dates due to our reprinting), but is now available for pre-order.  Here are some options for great places to order it! I also encourage you to hit your local bookstore to pick it up! 


Barnes & Noble




What are you hoping Santa will bring you this Christmas? Any gift suggestions you would like to share?

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Great Family Traditions to Celebrate the Holidays in a MEANINGFUL Way

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Christmas is my favorite time of year, but I know it can be a difficult time of year when finances are tight. I want to share with you how you can celebrate Christmas in a big way by shifting your focus towards great family traditions.

I have been getting a lot of questions on how families can celebrate the holidays when they don’t have the money to have the Christmas that they have been dreaming of. It can be stressful as a parent to not be able to have the holiday that you envision for your children, but a change in perception for the holidays can go a long way. You see, regardless of the economic turmoil, the holidays will never change for our family because our focus has turned to traditions rather than gifts.

When you make the switch to focusing on family traditions, there is a lot less stress in your life worrying about the gifts under the tree. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? For me, it is all about family, about creating memories for my children that they will never forget, and it is about the love that they feel from us as parents.

Here are some of the ways we have have simplified the giving process and our family traditions that have shifted our family focus during this financially stressful season. 

Image source: pinterest (unknown)

Simplify Your Gift Giving

Several years ago I ran across an idea for buying four gifts for your kids in the specific categories of something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It has been a tradition that has stuck and I hope that my kids will continue the tradition with their own children someday.  The kids love getting to help in the selection of the gifts from these four categories and I love the simplicity of shopping for these gifts We are blessed with a big family of generous givers so my children never have expressed disappointment that there are not enough gifts for them. In fact, this year they struggled to come up with four gifts that they really wanted.

Next year, we plan to give our children a Choose Your Own Adventure gift where they can select one fun family experience or a learning experience. Art classes, dance classes, a trip to a local museum, going to a fun show in town, going to a restaurant and a movie with mom or dad, or another coveted outing will be on the list.

We do this often with money gifted by relatives (last year was a family outing to the Nutcracker and cocoa at the local chocolate shop) to cut down on the excess in our home and to create a purposeful experience with our kids.

  Create Meaningful Traditions in the Kitchen

Christmas to me is all about the food and traditions that can be created (and consumed) in our house.Some of our favorite traditions happen to be making a batch of our favorite sugar cookies to decorate, baking up gingerbread donuts for a surprise treat, or consuming gallons of hot cocoa with homemade peppermint marshmallows on cold wintry mornings.

In our family, each Friday night in December, we make a homemade pizza and bundle our children up for an evening of looking at the holiday lights in the neighborhoods. We blast the Christmas carols on the radio and bring along popcorn for them to snack on while they enjoy all the beauty of the Christmas lights. To make it more fun, we let them pick their favorite pajamas to wear and they think this is hilarious to get to wear their pajamas in the car. This year I am also looking forward to a little Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunting on our tour of the lights.

On Christmas morning, I make cocoa and gingerbread waffles for the kids. As a special treat, I shape the tubes of store-bought cinnamon rolls into a Christmas tree shape and tint the icing green for the tree. We eat this together after we open the presents and the kids look forward to it each year.

While these traditions might not sound like much, our children look forward to them each year and we get just as excited as them for these special meals.

Caring for Others

Instead of focusing on ourselves, we try to do things for others around the holidays. This year our family’s holiday project was to create homeless care packages for the homeless in our town. It was such a great experience to do with our children that I hope to repeat a project like this each year with them.

Even if you are short on funds there are so many ways to give back that don’t cost a lot. Gather items for a donation to your local shelter, serve a meal to those in need, use your talent for crafting to benefit someone in your community, or take a peek at these painless ways to give back this season.

When my son was  small we would take them to the fire station with a box full of goodies. I loved seeing the faces of the firefighters light up when they saw our treats, but more importantly, is the light in your children’s eyes when they take them around to show them the fire engines. This is one of the best days of playing Santa I had ever had.

Filling the Stockings with Love

On the first day of December, I try to set out a basket and small slips of paper. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick it in each other’s stockings. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, which centers on family rather than gifts. If you have smaller children, have them draw pictures for each family member and jot down the sweet things they say about their family members. It is truly a highlight of my Christmas morning and brings us all closer together.

Countdown to Christmas

We have always counted down the holidays in fun ways with our kids. When my children were small we did a Christmas Jar full of fun activities for each day of December. We would fill it with fun and free activities- making a snowman, watching a holiday show on television, making a holiday ornament- anything that is inexpensive and fun for us to do together as a family.

As they have gotten older, our “use what you have” advent calendar still gives us the opportunity to do these fun activities, but fits a little bit better around our busy life. I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and you can grab an idea list for activities over here.

Wrapping It Up With An Inexpensive Bow

These are just a few of our suggestions for ways to make the holiday more special and more focused on your family rather than a store-bought Christmas tied up with an expensive bow.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to document these memories in some way so you can share them with your children. I started a holiday journal for the children and tucked in a copy of their sweet letters to Santa, their favorite holiday recipes, our holiday photo each year, and jotted down their favorite memories from the year.

My goal is to only leave my children a legacy of holiday memories, not a legacy of stuff under the tree.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Gingerbread Waffles
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
These gingerbread waffles are a fun treat to share on Christmas morning and taste just like a gingerbread cookie. Top them with festive sprinkles and whipped cream for a fun breakfast treat!
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
  • Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table
  1. Preheat waffles iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

What are your favorite ways inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays? I would love to hear about your family’s traditions!

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“Use What You Have” DIY Advent Calendar

Monday, November 26th, 2012


It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season.  You don’t have to have a fancy advent calendar to celebrate the advent season, in fact, I have a DIY Advent Calendar made from items you already have in your home. This free DIY Advent Calendar is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season without breaking the bank.

Today I wanted to share with you a “use what you have” Advent calendar that we created last year. It was such a hit that I plan to make another one for this year! This requires no pricey materials and is based around what the holiday season should be all about… being together!

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!


Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins

I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.

Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.

Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.


Here are 24 Ideas for Advent Activities

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Go to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack with a holiday movie.
5. Head to a holiday concert.
6. Decorate gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for your special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa in your local downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Make gingerbread waffles or gingerbread donuts for breakfast.
17. Wrap holiday gifts while listening to holiday music together.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights in your pajamas.
20. Deliver holiday treats to your friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Watch your favorite holiday movie.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Go caroling.
24. Do a holiday puzzle together

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

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Fun Halloween Costume Ideas For the Whole Family

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

We are looking forward to another fun Halloween! I wanted to show you our Halloween costumes this year. Outfitting the whole family in costumes can be a challenge, but we tend to embrace it with a lot of enthusiasm.

Emily’s masquerade ballroom gown has to be one of my favorite costumes we have ever gotten her. I found it at Marshall’s for $24.99. I hate spending more than $20 on a costume, but this is one she is planning to use for dress-up play and it is so beautifully made that I am sure we will find many uses for this elegant dress (complete with a hoop skirt, cameo necklace and little masquerade mask).

We found Ethan’s knight costume inexpensively online and I was excited that their requests coordinated this year. Of course, we always manage to make it coordinate for photos, even if it doesn’t always really work!

For a couple that doesn’t really watch a lot of television, we embraced the television themes this year with our costumes. Our favorite show happens to be, “Glee.” I might be alone in this one, but I can’t get enough of that show!  For our couple costume this year, we gleeked it out with a Glee cheerleader costume for me and my husband pulled off the Coach Sue Sylvester costume far better than I could ever imagine.

We partied it up in these hilarious costumes and every time I saw this man out of the corner of my eye, it put me in a fit of giggles. Of course, following this year’s rocking costume party, we were already brainstorming what we would wear next year.

I was able to find these costumes on clearance for $10 each. My best friend altered the costume a bit for me (because one size does NOT fit all). What a rock star best friend to sew my cheap polyester costume for me!

Our Bunco theme this month was also Halloween themed so my best friend and I schemed a costume from our other favorite show, “New Girl,” I have a serious girl crush on Zooey and her character, “Jess,” on this show. For this costume, I just raided my own little retro wardrobe, threw on my nerdy glasses, curled my hair and slipped on a pair of ballet flats. I had the picture frame in my craft supplies and use that like she does in the intro of the show.

Becky went as Cece, Jess’ supermodel bestie  on the show.  Of course she just straightened her hair and wore her most awesome model clothes from her own wardrobe with a killer pair of heels.

You have to love a costume you can create from found items in your closet.

Looking for more last minute Halloween costume inspiration? Be sure to visit my Scary Deals on Halloween Costumes and our easy DIY Halloween Costume round-up with eight great costumes for the whole family. Happy Halloween!

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