Posts Tagged ‘Frugal’

Holiday Crafting Inspiration or the Amy Clark Craft Factory of 2010

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

There has been a lot of holiday crafting happening this year and I can’t wait to show you some of the things I have been working on! First up, is this beautiful yarn ball wreath! Does anybody remember seeing this one in our notebook? I thought this would be the perfect craft to do a little stash busting in my yarn collection and a great wreath that would look cute even after the holidays.

day one

four hours later, off to bed with glitter in my hair and third degree burns.

the next day, three more hours of gluing to go!

I did not anticipate how long this wreath would take, the amount of supplies that I would need, or the cost of all those ornaments and Styrofoam balls.  It took about seven hours of hot gluing with lots of time spent making the little yarn balls.  It also took about twice the amount of supplies that I had anticipated. That said, isn’t it stunning and worth every ounce of effort?

Looking for more holiday wreath ideas? I have hung my beautiful Kimba-inspired wreaths for the holidays again. When spring comes my little sugared lemon drop wreath will be hung again for another year on my front door. What can I say? Handmade wreaths make me so happy!

I am so proud of how the wreath turned out and a huge thank you to life through the lens for the crafting inspiration.

I had my best friend over for a holiday craft night and we cranked out dozens of these rolled rosette hair accessories and felted loopy flowers that were featured in our notebook. I bought a little fabric for these, but also decided to use fabric from Emily’s worn out and stained summer dresses from last year. The same idea could be applied with fabric from thrift store finds that don’t fit your child, but would be the perfect material for a cute embellishment in her hair.

I made her a few headbands, but we soon found out that headbands and glasses don’t go together so good, especially the wide headbands I bought for her hair.  They are cute enough though that I just might have to wear the headbands for myself. I decided to use some of the clips I had leftover from my hair bow making days and apply them to those instead. They worked out beautifully. I was able to make a few of these to go with her holiday dresses this year.

Thanks to Happy Together for helping us look a little fancier this holiday season!

We also cranked out tons of these easy No-Slip Bookmarks for gift-giving this year that were also featured in the notebook. I use my bookmark daily and I have to say that it truly holds the pages of my book well without wrinkling my books.  It helps to have a friend that can operate a sewing machine too since I am a sewing school drop-out.

These would make beautiful stocking stuffers or are a perfect gift to keep on hand for last minute giving. I gave these to the kids I read to each week with a book for the holidays. These are so fast to make and are a great way to use up any leftover ribbon you might have laying around.  The most expensive part are the cute buttons, but they are a fun way to personalize these bookmarks.

Thanks to Maryjanes and Galoshes for this easy craft that has added a little something special to my gift-giving this year!

I made this beautiful red scarf for my brother who had gotten a new gray winter coat this year. I am going to have to cast another one on the knitting needles for my husband who was so kind to model it for me.  For more pattern inspiration, be sure to check out my Knitting Trendy Gifts of Warmth.

Merci Scarf

Pattern: Merci Scarf by Susan Rainey

Needle Size: US 8 Needles (I used size US 9 needles, which created a little bit wider scarf, but you could use the US 8′s that are recommended)

Yarn: Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky Weight in Molten Lava (2.5 skeins)

Notes: This scarf is so simple and fast to whip up that it would make the perfect gift to give to any man in your life. The pattern is one that you can complete while watching your favorite shows on television and is almost impossible to get off track.  This yarn was also perfect for creating a really warm scarf, perfect for our Midwest winters.  This pattern is perfect for a beginning knitter or for a last minute gift for someone special in your life!

I knitted two more ruffled scarves and another Republic Hat for gift-giving. I forgot to take a picture of the hat and other ruffled scarf, but they did turn out so pretty! These ruffled scarves are definitely a statement piece, meant to add a punch of femininity to your winter coat! I made one in this light gray for my best friend and then one in a charcoal gray for my sister.  Now I want to make one in a couple other colors for myself!

Beautifully Ruffled Lace Scarves

Pattern: Ruffle Lace Scarf by Suzie Blackman

Needle Size: US 10 Needles (40″ circulars)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Heather Gray

Notes: If you want a scarf that is wildly impressive, can be created with a single ball of yarn, and looks like a million bucks than this would be the perfect gift to give this holiday season. It is a very mindless knit, but is an INSANE amount of stitches, especially in the last two rows (over one thousand stitches!). The beauty of this scarf though is that you only need to know how to knit, purl, and yarn over to create it.

The twisting is created by knitting the scarf length-wise, rather than width-wise and through the series of yarn overs. As pictures above, you can see that it is really hard to see your stitches, let alone if it is actually going to twist. The good news is, as you cast off, you will see that scarf naturally twists, making that beautiful ruffled twist.

This one is definitely a statement piece and is also a statement of your absolute love for whoever you might make it for!

I followed the pattern that is linked above, but added four more rows to give the scarf a fuller appearance. I repeated rows 11-14 two times before I started rows 15-16. I am really glad I did and love the lush fullness of this scarf.

Here are the finished teacher scarves that I made! Each one had a $5 Starbucks gift card tucked into the pocket that was created in the scarflet. Next time I make this, I will have to write on the label though that these were scarfs. The teachers thought they might be hats…which I guess you could do too!  Regardless, I got such wonderful compliments and tried to make each of them unique with flower embellishments or different unique buttons and colored embroidery threads on each one. We also made one for our babysitter who has been a true Godsend to my family and helped me manage the day-to-day of my site by caring for Emily one afternoon a week. She is my secret weapon of productivity on the site. I wish you all could have a Miss Janie for Christmas!

Anthropologie-Inspired Scarflets

Pattern: Anthro-Inspired Scarflet (available as a free Ravelry download with your free Ravelry membership) by Kim Seio & Lydia Flowers (optional, for embellishment) or cute buttons.

Needle Size: US 8 Needles (straight) for both the flowers and the scarflet

Yarn: Premier Yarns Chunky Weight in Pristine (scarf) & Yarn Bee Boucle Traditions in Black

Notes: I followed the sizing and increases that ilikecookies(another Ravelry member)  had shared in her pattern. She said, “Increased until 30 stitches, worked 15 rows even until ribbed section and knit 15 rows of ribbing to make a slightly larger scarflet.”

I added a black Lydia Flower (size small) with a red button center to finish it or colorful buttons with contrasting embroidery thread to finish! For more pictures of these, please visit this post.

I finished all of my knitted gifts with these homemade gift tags. I used my Silhouette Craft Cutter and used the rounded rectangle template to make these simple tags out of ivory cardstock that I had leftover from our treasure boxes we made this year. As a holiday treat to myself, I bought myself a personalized stamp from Babyjewels (an Etsy seller) and I have to say, it really added that professional touch to my gifts!  They have one for knitters and one for crocheters too. She is on holiday vacation, but you can be emailed when she comes back.

Here the gifts are all lined up. Next year I will have to do a video tutorial on my signature bow. Every gift should have signature bow on them and I have perfected my signature bow over the years. When I ran out of ribbon this year my husband proclaimed a “state of emergency.” He sure is a funny guy.

The gift factory is closed until next season!  I hope you have had great success crafting your own gifts and are continuing to get lots of handmade inspiration on MomAdvice for your holiday giving needs!

Giveaway Results: Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent for One Year

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Thank you all for your entries! We would like to congratulate Michelle S. (Commenter #202) on winning our Cheer for a Year Giveaway! Happy Holidays to you all!

Editor’s Note- Don’t forget to enter our Tassimo T20 Coffeemaker Giveaway from Monday (valued at $139),  our $1,300 Prize Pack from The Talk, and our Nintendo Wii with Family Game Night 3 Giveaway. Check back tomorrow for more!!

Over the last few months I have had the incredible opportunity to work as the spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN detergent which has been a fun and exciting opportunity for our entire family. I have been working hard to share with moms easy ways to keep their clothes looking great for the back-to-school season, but my work doesn’t end there since a mom’s work with laundry and clothing is never done!

Today I wanted to share with you some easy tips for organizing your closet in under 30 minutes. If you are limited on closet space, like me, or you simply like to organize your clothes by season, I have a few easy tips to incorporate in your life to help keep your closets organized and fresh!

Pull All of the Clothing Out of the Closet- To begin organizing your closet, you really need to know what is in it. Begin pulling all of the clothing out of the closet and eliminate any items that have not been worn in the last six months, clothing that no longer fits, clothing that is no longer in season, or clothes that are no longer in style.

Organize Clothing by Color- Next put your items back into the closet and organize it by color and then by type. For example, put all of the black clothing together and then organize it by style of shirt (knit, blazer, sweater, cardigan, etc..) I have used this advice over the years,  that was offered to me by my closest fashion confidant, Kathy Friend. Sorting items by color makes it easier to find what you need quickly and also discover what areas in the color scheme needed a boost and what areas need some scaling back.

Repeat these steps above for your children’s closets and I am sure you will notice a true difference in how easy for you all to get ready in the morning!

Store Your Out-of-Season Clothing- Storage depends truly on the size of home you have and the space that you can use to tuck your out-of-season items away. In our house, Rubbermaid totes are our clothing storage option and I keep my personal (freshly washed)  out-of-season items tucked away in the basement, while the kids have two bins going all of the time in each of their closets.

With my children, one bin of clothing that they are outgrowing is stored throughout the year and can be added to as items are outgrown. I have been lucky enough to have a “bin exchange” program with my best friend and we trade bins of clothing with each other for our children. When a bin is filled, I pass it on to her in exchange for a bin of her clothing. With this exchange system, I can probably count on one hand the amount of items that I have had to buy my daughter this year. It is great if you can work something like this out with a friend and by keeping a bin on hand, it helps to keep your closets tidy and organized.

The other bin of clothing that is housed in their closet contains items that they will soon be growing into, sometime in that next year. This bins helps serve as a reminder to me on how much or how little I really need to buy for the upcoming year or season. If you do a lot of thrift shopping, consignment shopping, or hit the garage sales for your children’s clothing, an itemized list of items you have on hand and sizing can help reduce the amount of duplicate purchases.

Implement a Free-For-All Drawer for Kids- Maintaining organization in your house, let alone your closet, with small children is practically impossible. I have learned over the years to choose our battles, but I never knew what battles were until I met my strong-willed and wildly independent little girl.

It is because of her that I have developed the, “Free-For-All,” drawer. This nightstand is my daughter’s drawer that she can organize and do exactly what she pleases with it. Each day we were battling her about what she could or could not wear for school. Now we have compromised and this drawer is filled with all of her favorite nightgowns and pajamas. At the end of the day, she can do whatever she wants and where whatever she wants from this drawer, provided we are spending the day at home!

Make sure that if you have a drawer for your children, that it is the lowest one or a safe one to access. When my daughter began climbing on a chair to grab her favorite nightgowns and toppled the drawers on herself, we knew that she needed a drawer that she could access with a few of her favorite things in a safe location.

Donate Often- Make donating to your local thrift store or shelter a part of your weekly routine and just imagine how much space you can reclaim in your closet and home. I like to keep a bag or bin going all week long and add as I see items that we no longer need or have outgrown, that can be passed on to someone else. It is amazing how these little things really add up over the course of the week, and how much simpler my life has become thanks to ridding myself of clutter. Make it a part of your routine just like paying the bills and caring for your home each week and you will begin to see the power you have in transforming those cluttered corners and closets.

Switch to a Wallet-Friendly Detergent- Before storing those clothes for next season and when caring for those clothes for this season, be sure to look for a wallet friendly detergent to care for them with that will keep your clothes looking fresh and bright for this season (and many seasons to come).  Do a price comparison on the detergents in your store and I am sure you will find that Cheer brightCLEAN detergent is  not only inexpensive, but that it performs just as well as the more expensive detergents.

At only $.15 a load though, it is great to know that if you need to buy it, that this detergent is very budget-friendly and they offer different (including unscented) varieties to choose from! It is a product that I am using for my own family and one that I would love to share with you! The best part though is that it will remove the day’s dinginess from your clothing and brighten the clothes you already have at a fraction of the price. Who wouldn’t want a little of that in their life…or perhaps, a year’s worth of that!

I don’t want to just talk about how much you will save by using Cheer brightCLEAN detergent, I actually want to give it to you and save you that expense for an entire year! Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent has graciously offered to give to one of our lucky readers a year’s supply of laundry detergent. Imagine not having to pay for detergent for an entire year and what you could do with that money.

Today we are offering one lucky reader a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent to help inspire you to get your closet organized with fresh clean clothes with Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent!

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

  • First Entry: Leave a comment and let us know one tip you use to get your closet and out-of-season clothing organized in your house or one tip that you have discovered through this post that would really help your family!
  • Additional Entry: Let us know you are a fan of MomAdvice and join the MomAdvice.com Fan Club today on Facebook.
  • Additonal Entry: Follow me on Twitter and get an early scoop on all of our giveaways and articles that we are formulating for the year!
  • Additional Entries: Subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogsFor each one you subscribe to, leave one additional comment.

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent . Please submit your entries by Wednesday (12/22)  at 8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Please check out this video below where I share more great tips on organizing your closet in 30 minutes or less!

I am a spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent and have a relationship with the company. Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers. In full disclosure, the email addresses that are collected for this giveaway will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner(s), and will never be sold or given to anyone. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older. Entries that do not follow the above criterion will automatically be disqualified. This giveaway will close Wednesday, December 22 at 8PM (EST). I’ll anneounce the first name of the winner(s) that will be added to the top of this current giveaway post and contact the winner(s) by email. I will draw the names of the winner(s) by using the random number generator at Random.org from the eligible entries received. If a winner does not contact me within 72 hours by email, I will draw a new winner. The winner(s) will receive their prize from the PR agency responsible for this giveaway. There is no guarantee that this item will be received by Christmas.

How to Create an Advent Calendar Out of Common Household Items

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season. 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
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
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.

Our Activity List

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Going to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack (possible visit for the tree lighting ceremony in town).
5. Going to a Christmas Concert.
6. Decorating gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for our 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 and a trolley ride through downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Color a holiday picture.
17. Holiday party to attend.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights.
20. Deliver holiday treats to our friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Big bubble bath with holiday music.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Watch a holiday movie.
24. Celebrate our family Christmas.

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!

Taking a Little Store-Bought Help in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

If you have been reading the site long enough, I am sure you know that I am one of those people that prefers to make everything from scratch to cut down on our grocery budget. We have big eaters in our family though and often convenience foods leaving us feeling unsatisfied and ready for snacking within an hour. Since those foods don’t seem to fill us up, the nights that I don’t feel like cooking we usually end up opting for dining out which costs a lot, even for our little family of four!

I doubt I am alone in saying that my calendar is overflowing with an unbelievable amount of obligations right now. We have holiday concerts, appointments, work commitments, volunteer opportunities…  and it is only going to get worse as the holiday season gets closer.

See that little “No,” sign in the corner of my calendar?

This is supposed to be offering a memory trigger to myself that there is no need to say yes to everything.

Now view my calendar.

I think I must be having a disconnect these days.

Fortunately, Walmart reached out to me to see if we would like to sample some of their Marketside brand items that are sold over by their deli area in the store. These items are of gourmet quality, but offered at a lower price.  The line includes bagged salads, gourmet soups, fun dips for entertaining, take-and-bake pizzas, veggie steamers, artisan breads, and fresh gourmet pastas.

After sampling all of the items, you can be assured that they are delicious and every bit as fancy as dining out.  The soups and bread rivaled our Panera Bread and the veggies were crisp and delicious.  The fresh dips (which included vanilla bean fruit dips, fresh guacamole, and a variety of ranch dressings) would be perfect to keep on hand for all of those holiday potlucks and gatherings!

Of course, adding my own homemade spin to these great convenience items allowed us to pull together a delicious dinner every night last week on a week where our calendar was jam-packed with activities (see the calendar above). With the busy holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few ways to take those store-bought ingredients to a new level as the calendar fills up.

Veggie steamers are an easy way to incorporate great veggies into your diet in a quick way.  Look for these stir fry medleys over in your local Walmart’s cooler and take these home for a quick & healthy dinner. I love dressing up veggie steamers with a little of my favorite sauce from our favorite Chicken Lo Mein recipe.

Quick Weeknight Stir Fry

1 bag of stir fry medley veggies
1 chicken breast diced (Optional. I use this roasting method once a week to keep chicken on hand)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook veggies as directed. In a separate mixing bow, add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked veggies and serve immediately over baked brown rice.

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Fresh pasta is one of life’s little luxuries that I love to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner. Marketside offers so many fun varieties for the meat-eaters in the family as well as the vegetarians. These delicious pastas can transform your usual spaghetti night into a dinner that rivals your favorite Italian bistro. They also offer fresh pesto and sauces to decorate your pasta without any effort.  Here are a few ways to use their pasta on a busy weeknight!

Pesto Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound  tortellini of your choice (I love a chicken or sausage stuffed, but cheese is always a crowd pleaser!)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Pesto Cream Sauce

1 pound ravioli or tortellini (I love a mushroom-stuffed variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used skim milk)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared pesto

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and butter, and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Dissolve flour in milk, then stir in. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Dish ravioli on plates and then drizzle the pesto cream sauce over it. Garnish with a little fresh basil or chopped parsley.

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Homemade Red Sauce

1# package of ravioli
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent in another pot. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Serve over a big plate of your favorite ravioli.

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Although this wasn’t included in my Marketside feast, I recently discovered the beauty and flavors of their rotisserie chickens for my weeknight chicken noodle soup. This soup is being made again this week for a fast & delicious soup that will leave people wondering how the heck you could pull it off on a busy school night.

Quick Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
2 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped carrots
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable.  Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in celery and carrot. Gently add your rotisserie chicken and all of the drippings from the pan and put a lid on your pot.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.  Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie  chicken, and heat through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.
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Of course when all else fails, there ain’t no shame in taking home a take-and-bake pizza and calling it a night! My favorite variety is the Primo Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, & black olives. Every mom deserves a night off from the kitchen once in awhile!
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program.  Marketside provided me with meals last week in exchange for my honest feedback.  Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. check out the other Walmart Moms had to say about Marketside. (prices may vary from store to store)
What store-bought items do you like to keep on hand for quick weeknight meals or for a night off in the kitchen? Please share!

A Real Mom’s Review of Alice.com: Drugstore Shopping Simplified

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Since becoming a mother, I have become much more strategic with my shopping time. Ideally, it is time spent after my husband gets home and I can shop by myself without two wildly crazy children distracting me from my list of tasks. Let’s face it though, the idea of spending all of my evenings in a store sounds mind-numbingly boring and I would much rather spend my time with a good book or with my family.

In past articles I have shared ideas for fantastic places to online shop including those dreaded trips to the grocery store and wholesale club. Today I want to share with you my new favorite place to shop for my drugstore deals. It is a little website called Alice.com that has simplified my shopping time and has still allowed me to get great deals.

You see, there was a time when I coupon clipped, organized rebate forms, saved those drugstore receipts with money back, and horded a large wall full of toothpaste for our family of four. You could say that I have gotten lazier in my old age or that I realized that I was spending too much money and time in our local drugstores, but I knew that something in my life had to change. I realized that I was buying items just because they were “free,” but the items really weren’t free when I thought of all of the impulse splurges and the space that they took up in my home.

Alice.com has provided me with online access to managing my household items and supplies online. You basically tell Alice what you typically buy and Alice (yes, your very own Alice just like the Brady Bunch) goes to work for you. The site organize all of your products, finds coupons and deals for you, reminds you when you might be running low, and helps you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store.

Here are some ideas for how to shop on a budget with Alice.com:

  • Say goodbye to those paper inserts, scissors, and wasted time clipping coupons. One of the best things about Alice is that there is no coupon clipping involved. If there is a coupon available on the product, it will automatically be applied to your order… no clipping necessary. Alice also has relationships with the manufacturer’s and many times offers coupons that aren’t available in your newspaper’s coupon insert. It is important to note though, that they offer a specific amount of coupons on each product. For example, your favorite shampoo may have only fifteen coupons available. You will need to snag that coupon before the coupons are no longer offered to get the savings.
  • Shipping is free on your first order, regardless of the number of items that you buy. After that first order, there is no minimum amount of spending that you need to do to qualify for the free shipping,but you do have to have six items in your cart for the free shipping. This can easily be met with smaller items like toothbrushes, dental floss, or other “filler” items if you are unable to meet the six item requirement.
  • You always know if you are getting the best deal. Comparison shopping in fliers can be time-consuming, but Alice will actually tell you who has the best deal on the product you are looking at with comparisons between  drugstore.com, cvs.com, Peapod, Safeway, Walgreens, Amazon Fresh, and diapers.com. This can be found by scrolling below the item you are looking at and clicking on the, “Price Comparison,” link. You could also use this price comparison when doing your local shopping without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
  • Shopping for the best deals is easy to do if you familiarize yourself with the website. Under the, “Other Ways to Shop,” category, you will find a, “Shop the Best Deals,” link. That link will direct you to the top fifty deals that the site is currently running with the coupon prices included. Sticking to the top fifty deals will insure that you get the very best deal for your money. These deals also will be great to add as filler items or for donation items for the local homeless shelter and charitable giving.
  • Orders are fulfilled very quickly. The official amount of time that Alice will give you is between one to six business days. I have placed three orders with the company and they have all arrived the next day (if I placed the order before noon eastern time) or two days later if I happen to order in the afternoon. Lucky for me, I live in the Midwest and Alice is Midwest-based so orders are shipped very quickly here.
  • You will no longer have to worry about embarrassing drugstore shopping. I thought when I became a grown-up I would no longer care about what was in my drugstore cart. Thanks to living in a small town, there are few moments of privacy shopping anywhere. To top it off, I now have two inquisitive children asking loudly at the checkout counter what I am buying. I love that I can now buy those items with confidence, in the privacy of my own home, and not face the embarrassment about those unmentionable items.  The items all arrive in a beautifully packed blue Alice box with minimal packaging that reminds me a lot of the great packing strategies that Amazon.com uses.
  • The site offers great reminder features. Just like any smart business, the company wants to insure that you will be a repeat customer for them and they do it through a targeted email that reminds you when you are getting low on an item. When you order an item, you can tell Alice how often you buy that item and an automatic reminder will be sent out when you are getting low. That doesn’t mean that it will be automatically ordered for you, it just means that a reminder will be sent to have you come back and reorder. Thanks to this feature, there are no more late night runs to the drugstore for forgotten items… At least, they are fewer and farther between!

I am now a super fan of Alice and love having the time to spend with family and not having another item on my list of errands to do. I hope you can check it out and consider giving online drugstore shopping a try!

If you would like to give Alice a try, feel free to visit through our link.  In full discretion, this is an affiliate link, but we rarely ever refer you to anything ever unless we truly and actually embrace or use a product or service! We love our readers and aim to only offer the best information on saving money that we possibly can!

Have you ever tried Alice.com or any other online shopping service? We want to hear what your thoughts are and how you choose to shop to save your family time or money! Please share here!

The Summer of Knitted Hats

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Each year it seems that I have a theme to my knitting and this year was the summer of chemo caps as I shared in our Scraps of Life Giving entry on inexpensive ways to give back to your community. I started the summer out by spending about $25 in supplies and then tried to work my way through some of the yarn in my stash combined with super soft yarn that I thought would help keep cold heads warm and not be itchy.

My intention had been to knit with frantic fury and get as many cranked out as I could.  I managed to knit about fifteen hats this summer, in total, and distributed them to a couple of friends who were in need and the rest will be headed for the Patternworks drive at the end of the month. Although a bit short of the goal that I had hoped, I am still really proud and will continue to try and keep charity projects like this on my knitting needles as much as I can.

I was inspired by my mother-in-law and her mom, who always are doing some type of charity knitting and never cease to amaze me with their capacity to give what is on their knitting needles. If you are not a knitter, a knitted hat takes me about four hours of knitting (including the knitted embellishments) so it is a true labor of love to give something knitted to others.   They are always giving these precious gifts away and my mother-in-law shared the Patternworks charity with me so I could assist with the giving too.

Each hat was uniquely different and accessorized with what I had hoped would be a little bit of fashionable accessories. Emily gladly posed in each hat for me, but as the summer grew to a close, I could tell she was getting a little impatient for her turn. Even poor Ethan was recruited to try on girl hats for mama to get appropriate sizing for older kid’s heads and loudly complained about the itchy hat that he had from last year.

I had only learned to knit hats a year ago and had knitted a cute little Cupcake Hat for Emily and had attempted to knit a patterned hat for Ethan…which was horribly flawed. Even though I messed up a huge spot on it, he wore it all winter, wearing my big old flaw right in the front. Every. Single. Time.  It pained me.

This week, I made it my goal to get the children in newly knitted hats before the cold weather hit. Here are their sweet little hats that I made and some information about those patterns.

Pattern: Basic Roll-Brim Hat (Courtesy of Knitting for Peace book, a favorite in my book collection)

Needle Size: US 5 Needles

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Grey Heather (marked down to a mere $2.50 per skein)

Notes: This basic hat pattern was the first pattern that my mother-in-law used to teach us how to knit in the round. The hat originally calls for a US 7 size needle, but I have found that I am a very loose knitter and usually have to go down about two needle sizes for the sizing to fit on my hats.

This pattern is perfect for a beginner because once you have gotten your stitches cast on and made sure that nothing is twisted, all you do is knit around and around and it naturally creates the brim rolling that you see above. This basic hat pattern can be dressed up for a girl with simple embellishments or different styles of yarn or it can be done simply sweet and plain for a little boy.

Ethan pronounces this hat as awesome and we have it tucked in his bag for those cool days of fall and winter. This inexpensive yarn was perfect for a washable and soft hat that he can enjoy all year long.

Pattern: Toddler Republic Hat (free pattern) & Lydia Flowers (free pattern), the medium and small flowers only for a toddler hat

Needle Size: US 5 Needles (three sizes down from what the original pattern called for as I knit very loosely)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Grey Heather (marked down to a mere $2.50 per skein & I was able to make this second one out of the same skein from her brother’s hat) & scrap Cotton Tots yarn in baby pink for the flower.

Notes: The Republic Hat pattern (adult version available in the side bar as a free PDF) is still my favorite pattern of all and I was so excited when I happened upon this Toddler Republic Hat version to make a mini-me version for my daughter. It truly is a dream pattern for anyone just beginning to create hats because the two inch brim is not knit in the round and then, after a small amount of binding off, you begin knitting in the round after the two inch brim. By creating a brim that is not knit in the round, it reduces your chances of getting your hat twisted on the circular needles and makes the whole process so much easier.

The Lydia Flower is my favorite knitted embellishment ever created because it adds that beautiful knitted touch to all of our hats. I noticed in the shops that hats that look handmade are adorned with knitted flowers and I am thrilled that I can actually make my own! Do I even have to mention the savings? Two beautiful hats for my kids made out of $2.50 worth of supplies? That is a huge savings!

Emily is in love with her hat. She is so in love with her hat that she wore it all day at school after I gave it to her and refused to take it off except for her school pictures that day. I fear what her hair looked like for that picture, but was feeling quite proud that I made something that she was so excited to show off.

The hat trend will continue because it is finally my turn! At the beginning of the summer, I visited The Yarn Gourmet in town to buy myself two beautiful skeins of fancy yarn. This is the first time I have ever bought “real” yarn and I treated myself as a reward after I made all the hats for everyone this summer. Just as the kids have felt a little impatient about getting a turn, I couldn’t wait to indulge in a turn for myself.

I am so excited to show you what I do with this yarn and then it will be back to the knitting agenda of creating handmade holiday gifts for family & friends.

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If you are just beginning the world of hats, these are the three things that really helped me have success getting comfortable with double-pointed needles and knitting in the round.

3 Things That Helped Me With Making Hats

1. Bamboo 16″ Circular Needles- These are an off-brand of bamboo needles, but had a wider cord than the kind that you buy in the store. This helped me so my stitches didn’t get twisted. Circular needles are expensive in the store ($8.50 per needle set). These were $24.98 for all of the sizes 0-15! What a steal! I applied my Swagbucks towa
rds Amazon gift cards to score these for free.

2. Bamboo 9″ Double Pointed Needles- Again, these are an off-brand needle and they were extremely rough so they held my stitches really well. As a beginner on these, these rough double pointed needles were key for me to get the hang of it without dropping stitches. It was a lot cheaper to buy these as a set and I did apply my Swagbucks towards the Amazon gift cards so I didn’t have to dip in my pocket to pay for them.

3. A Better Ring Marker- I was using the kind that you just slipped over the needles and was finding that I was losing my starting stitch marker for knitting in the round. My mother-in-law gave me the kind that slip onto the yarn and I put that at the beginning of my round. It was key to not losing my place and helped me stay on track with my pattern!

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Disclosure: The links to books and supplies are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate what you need quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me some yarn instead.  Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely?

What crafts have you been working on? Feel free to share those links to your projects.

Giveaway Results: Cheer Detergent for a Year

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Sorry this giveaway is now closed! Thank you all for your fabulous entries. We would like to congratulate Nikki (Commenter #710) for her winning entry! A huge thanks to Cheer for sharing this giveaway with our readers and we hope to offer more in the future!

These past couple of months I have had the incredible opportunity of working for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent as a spokesperson for their back-to-school season. I sometimes want to pinch myself because running this site and the jobs that have come from a mom’s simple idea of teaching frugal living have been so amazing for me & for my family.

The opportunity to represent a wallet-friendly detergent and to promote ways moms can save for the school year is a perfect fit for what I do every day as a mom and I couldn’t be more pleased to represent the company.

Today I am heading to NYC to do a media tour on Wednesday for a variety of morning and afternoon news shows promoting ideas for ways moms can save in every room in their house during the back-to-school season. As the years have gone by, I have become more in tune with what puts a strain on our budget and, to me, it is often the little things that add up the most.

Let’s take a tour through the home, shall we, and find some hidden expenses in the home that could be corrected with very little effort and by making small changes in your house and purchasing habits.

Kitchen

It is the heart of the home, and one of my favorite places to start saving money! Here are some simple switches you could make when preparing those back-to-school lunches that could have a really positive impact on the family budget.


Avoid Snack Size Products- The aisles are brimming over at the grocery stores with snack-size products during the back-to-school season, but do your best to avoid these products if you can. By paying for the convenience of these products, you are paying double or triple the amount for a lot less food. Invest in a set of inexpensive containers that can be filled with your very own snacks for a fraction of the price.

Buy in Bulk- With the convenience of online shopping, it makes it very easy to shop for school supplies in bulk and do price comparisons from the comfort of your own home. Jot down the prices and ounces/sizes of the products you commonly purchase for school lunches at the grocery store. When you get home, visit your local wholesale club’s website to compare the prices there and see if there is some savings by buying in bulk. I love to use this price sheet and this Price Book 101 article has great information for keeping your own price journal. What I have found is some snacks, fruits, vegetables, and drinks can be bought in bulk for a lot less than buying them in the standard sizes at the grocery store.

Chop and Create At Home- Designate one day a week (my day is on Sunday) to creating your snack packs and making items that can be tucked in your children’s lunches. For example, instead of buying pudding packs ($.89 for four at Aldi), buy a box of instant pudding and make it at home for half the price. Instead of buying pre-chopped vegetables, chop them yourself and pay half (or less) on the price.

To keep your lunches organized and accessible, designate one refrigerator drawer towards school lunches and allow children to select one sandwich, one healthy snack, one “fun” snack, and their drink from the drawer. I even tuck commonly forgotten items in the drawer like napkins and spoons to trigger my tired brain to kick in on busy school mornings.

Bathroom

Getting ready for the big first day of school can sometimes feel like you are flushing money down the toilet, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few of my favorite ideas for saving money in your bathroom.

Shower Yourself in Savings- Did you know that the average shower uses six to ten gallons of water?  Consider investing in an egg timer and a low-flow showerhead to reduce water waste in the bathroom. By cutting showers down to five to eight minutes per person, you can save an easy $200 a year by taking quicker showers. The bonus, of course, is that this will help keep the entire family on schedule for getting out the door on time in the morning.

Designate Towels- Instead of having everyone use a towel only once, designate a towel to each family member that they can use for a whole week before putting it in the hamper. Two ways you could keep track of the towels is by assigning each family member a specific color of towels or you could sew a simple loop of grosgrain ribbon at the corner of each towel in a particular color for each family member that the towels could also be hung from following showers.

Shop Drugstore Deals & Coupons- While I am not a typical coupon-user for groceries, I LOVE the savings that can be had by shopping at the drugstores and combining them with coupons. Consider visiting sites like Money Saving Mom or Deal Seeking Mom to track coupon and rebate programs to score those health and beauty items for free.

Ditch the Expensive Bathroom Cleaners- Making your own cleaners is thrifty, frugal, and a lot better for the environment. Most cleaners can be made from simple ingredients that you can buy in bulk at your local wholesale club. Consider stocking up on baking soda, white vinegar, and dish soap to create your own cleaners at home. For a simple bathroom scouring paste, mix dishwashing liquid with baking soda until you have a thick paste and use this throughout your bathroom. For an all-purpose cleaner for your bathroom surfaces, mix together two tablespoons of mild dishwashing soap and two cups of water in a spray bottle and give it a shake. Glass cleaner can easily be made with one part white vinegar to one part water. All surfaces can be swiped with microfiber cloths (found in the automotive section of your wholesale club) and windows get a lint-free shine with a little of your newspaper from the recyclables.

Laundry Room

If there is anything that I have learned since school has started, it is that the laundry definitely seems to multiply with play clothes and school clothes every single day. Luckily, we have you covered with a few ways to save in your laundry room!


Switch to Cold Water- I have found that washing in warm and hot water are very rarely needed in our house. Just by switching to a cold water cycle you can save approximately $200 a year and it is a much greener alternative too!

Line Dry Those Clothes- Before the winter weather hits, take advantage of these beautiful fall days and consider line drying your clothing to save your family money.  There are many great benefits to utilizing a clothesline.

One of the best benefits of line drying your clothes is that they will last much longer than they would if they were just thrown in the dryer. Did you ever think about how much lint is in your dryer when you are done drying it? That is actually all of the worn-away fabric, that would have remained on your garments if you had line dried them. Zippers cause snagging on clothing when tossed in the dryer, but when line dried your garments will remain intact.

The second benefit is the energy-savings.  Did you know that electric dryers are often among the top energy-uses in a home, followed by refrigerators, lighting and water heaters? You will save your family $.36 a load by line-drying and you will keep those back-to-school clothes looking fresher for much longer

Switch to A Less Expensive Detergent- It may seem like a no-brainer, but switching detergents to one that is more wallet-friendly will save you oodles of money. Most brand-name detergents  cost family around $.30-.33 per load, but you can still have brand-name detergent at only $.15 a load if you switched to Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent.That means each time you do a load of laundry, you can put $.15 back in your pocket to put towards all those back-to-school supplies. Hurray for savings!

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I don’t want to just talk about how much you will save by using Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent, I actually want to give it to you and save you that expense for an entire year! Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent has graciously offered to give to one of our lucky readers a year’s supply of laundry detergent. Imagine not having to pay for detergent for an entire year and what you could do with that money.

At only $.15 a load though, it is great to know that if you need to buy it, that this detergent is very budget-friendly and they offer different (including unscented) varieties to choose from! It is a product that I am using for my own family and one that I would love to share with you! The best part though is that it will remove the day’s dinginess from your clothing and brighten the clothes you already have at a fraction of the price. Who wouldn’t want a little of that in their life…or perhaps, a year’s worth of that!

Today we are offering one lucky reader a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent to kick off your back-to-school year right!

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

  • First Entry: Leave a comment and let us know one tip you would like to implement in your house for saving during this back-to-school season.
  • Additional Entry: Let us know you are a fan of MomAdvice and join the MomAdvice.com Fan Club today on Facebook.
  • Additonal Entry: Follow me on Twitter and get an early scoop on all of our giveaways and articles that we are formulating for the year!
  • Additional Entries: Subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogsFor each one you subscribe to, leave one additional comment.

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent . Please submit your entries by Tuesday (09/07) at 8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

I am a spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent and have a relationship with the company. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving samples from the company.  We promise to always do our best to give away products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best content for our readers.

Giving With the Scraps of Life: 10 Painless Ways to Give to Charities

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Do you ever feel like you don’t have the means to donate to make a difference in someone’s life? I often felt that the size of my wallet was a hurdle to the type of giving that I imagined that I could do in my adulthood. When financial times were particularly difficult for our family, I always envisioned the day that would come when I could give more to worthy organizations.

In the last few years though, I began to realize that there are so many more ways to give than I ever imagined possible. I refer to this giving in my house as my, “scraps of life giving.” There are so many things that I have within my possession and that I can do with the limited talents and budget that I possess that the possibilities for good old-fashioned giving are endless.

Today I wanted to share with you a few, “scraps of life giving,” opportunities that you just might not be aware exist! Within this list, I am confident you can find a few opportunities for giving a few scraps from your life to a worthy organization.

Clean Out Those Couch Cushions & Pockets- Do you have a spare change jar in your house that has been gathering dust? Rather than saving it for something for yourself, consider taking that donation to a worthy organization instead.  Ronald McDonald House Charities is just one great example of where your change could be put to good use.  While you are visiting the drive through for your next dollar soda (one of my own favorite inexpensive indulgences), consider dropping your change off in the boxes at your local McDonald’s and know that your change is being put to great use.

While that little bit of change may not seem to really make a big difference, the organization collected over $20 million dollars in spare change last year. That change goes to helping keep families together by providing shelter for them while their child is being cared for at a nearby hospital.  Just think of that impact you are making on a child and family’s life with that simple gesture of donating your change!

PS- RHMC’s Day of Change is happening on September 9th! Plan to take your change to your local McDonald’s & RSVP for the event here!

Call Up a Cell Phone Donation- The rapid rate that families go through cell phones these days is quite amazing!  With most cell phone plans now, the opportunities to upgrade come around every couple of years.  The dilemma of what to do with those old, outdated cell phones is no longer a problem now that organizations like  CellPhonesForSoldiers.com are around. Visit the website to find a place to drop off those gently used cell phones to the cause.

Cell Phones for Soldiers will recycle the cell phones, and use the proceeds to provide pre-paid calling cards and cell phones to troops serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Just imagine that you can give a child or spouse the opportunity to hear from their loved one with something that was just taking up space in your house. How beautiful is that?

See Any Worthy Donations In Your House?- The cost for eyeglasses is astronomical when you don’t have an insurance plan that covers them. For lower income families, a pair of glasses can be the equivalent of a week’s salary or more, and is a cost that most just can’t afford. Consider taking your gently used glasses to a local Goodwill, Lion’s Club, or to LensCrafters and donating them to the worthy cause of helping those who need them.

Think of that child who is struggling in school because his family can’t afford a pair of glasses for him and think of that pair of glasses that are gathering dust in an old drawer in your house that could be benefiting him. It seems like a win-win situation to share the gift of sight with someone else.

Craft Your Way to Giving- Do you have the gift of crafting in your possession? You may not realize how valuable that talent is, but it can make the difference in the life of a child, a soldier, or someone who is undergoing treatment for an illness. A quick Google search of your craft skill and the word charity should pull up a number of worthy organization that you can give to.

I am a knitter and am currently working on knitting caps for a chemo drive through an organization. It is something that I can easily do while watching a little evening television with supplies that I already have on hand, but can make the difference in the life of a patient undergoing chemotherapy. I have found though that knitting has been a fantastic gift to share in so many ways and I always try to keep one charitable giving project on my needles at all times. Whether it is whipping up a cap for a chemo patient, donating a blanket to a project like Project Linus, or knitting a prayer shawl for someone who could benefit from this comfort, I am so proud I can use my talents for someone else.

Consider donating your crafting talents to a local homeless shelter, teaching a craft to underprivileged children, or just creating crafts in your spare time that could make someone’s day a tiny bit brighter. The possibilities with the gift of crafting truly are endless!

Whittle Down Your Shoe Collection Charitably- I will admit that I have a bit of a shoe purchasing habit and have developed quite a shoe collection over the years. The good news is that your old shoes do not need to go to waste because of a worthy organization called Soles4Souls.

Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people just like you. The charity distributes these shoes free of charge to people in need and has donated over 10 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes. These shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States.

In our town, the local New Balance offers a drop-off location for the organization which makes donating just as easy as all of the errand-running that you are already doing. Consider weeding through your shoe collections and giving to someone who doesn’t have the creature comfort of a good pair of shoes.

As you can see, the possibilities for giving are endless without really spending a dime. Of course, the best gift you could ever give to any organization is the gift of yourself. Read to a child, mentor a child, serve at your homeless shelter, visit a nursing home, or help at an animal rescue shelter… these are just to name a few!  For oodles of volunteer opportunities, please visit VolunteerMatch.org to find a worthy organization to donate your time and talent to.

Not enough giving opportunities  here? Here are 5 more easy giving ideas!

5 Surprising Things You Could Be Giving Today

  1. Soda Can Tabs- Collect these for a metal donation to Ronald McDonald House charities.
  2. Expired Coupons- Military families can use expired coupons for groceries.
  3. Books- Better World Books can take your old books, pay you, and the books that are sold create a donation to literacy programs.
  4. Old Cars- Goodwill will happily take your old clunker off of your hands.
  5. Diapers- Give your diapers to the diaper bank charity in your town to benefit needy families. If you are a Michiana resident, call 237-7888 and leave contact information to arrange for a donation drop off in our town.

What are your favorite scraps of life giving opportunities for your family? I would love to hear the giving opportunities that your family takes part in!

Rediscovering the Simple Pleasures in Life

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Summer is coming to an end soon for our family and that will mean sliding back into the hustle and bustle of busy school days and extra curricular activities. As a mom, it can feel a little overwhelming preparing for the start of school especially if you have had a jam-packed summer like we have had.

My solution to keep me grounded as we transition back into this time is to have a minimum of one day a week where we do nothing. It is a day that I lovingly refer to as our  “detox day” from the busy running and commercialism that we are exposed to.  It is the day where we do nothing, we spend nothing, we are unplugged, and we just spend time together, making time to indulge in the good old-fashioned things in life. These days are filled with time spent around board games instead of  time spent around a television, library books instead of our electronic games, creating instead of buying, and rediscovering those simple pleasures in life.  It is this one day a week where I can come back to center and feel aligned again with my family and what is most important to me.

Forts are built and snuggled under with blankets and pillows from the bed.

Treasured books from the thrift store are lovingly read again.

Fancy meals are abandoned in favor of eggs and toast for dinner.

Homemade treats are baked with my children, while making giant messes in the kitchen.

Sheets are lovingly washed and hung on the line, waiting for each family member to indulge in the crispness after a day filled with nothing.

These days allow me to refocus on the abundance and the simple pleasures that are within my life, instead of the need to go, go, go, buy, buy, buy. After having one day like this,  I often want to continue the trend of simple living and simple pleasures and extend it further into my week.

It is these days when I am…

Thankful.

Centered.

Happy.

It is these days when I feel that I am at my best as a mom and wife.

It is these days that I wish I could fall into daily.

It these days where I know what is important.

Who is important.

Why they are important.

How do you bring focus back to the simple pleasures in life?

Creating Beautiful & Frugal Treasure Chests

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

When I was a little girl, I had a beautiful musical jewelry box with a twirling ballerina where I would store all of my little treasures. I wanted to create a little box just like that for my son and daughter so I headed to Michael’s and picked up the supplies to create their very own boxes to store all of the important treasures in their lives.

These wooden boxes were $4.99 over by the wooden crafts and paint supplies. I also selected two bottles of spray paint in the clearance section of the store. You just want to make sure to select a spray paint that says that it will work on wood so that your paint will adhere to your project.

When I got home, I spray painted the boxes evenly and then cut out the images that I wanted to decoupage on my treasure chests out of heavy card stock.  I used my Silhouette craft cutter (remember to get those entries in!) to cut out the images, but you could also stencil your images on heavy card stock and then cut them out with scissors.

If you do have  a craft cutter, I chose the princess set, a pirate flag, and a treasure map as my images. Each set was printed and then cut in two different colors that would look nice with my painted boxes and could be layered upon one another to create the images. The treasure map printed out without a “map” within it, so my husband added his art with a Sharpie to the map.

Now comes the fun part! It is time to get your decoupage on! If you have never decoupaged before, it is the coolest craft ever, requires no skills at all, and makes everything look fabulous. Just pour Mod Podge (I used a bottle of the matte finish I had in my craft supplies) into a plastic cup and then use a small sponge brush to glue each cut-out on to your boxes. Once you have glued all of the pieces on, do a light layering of glue over the entire surface, being careful to not shift or cause bubbling around your images. Allow it to dry, do another layer, allow it to dry, do another layer. Two to three layers should be plenty, but you be the judge!

If you want to add a little antiquing to it, just use a little sandpaper to rough it up. Oh, look at that vintage map on top of that little treasure chest. Don’t you just love it?

Once they are dry, they are all ready for treasure filling. Just imagine what could be stored in here. I see my son’s filling with rocks and Pokemon cards & my daughters will be stuffed with glittering plastic jewels or tiny little doll accessories. Whatever is in them,  I have a feeling that these treasure boxes will be loved for a long time.

These would make fantastic birthday gifts and are right within a frugal gal’s gift allowance (a mere $6 in supplies each!) and would be a gift that would be long- remembered!