Posts Tagged ‘Home & Organization’

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.

Family Travel: Exploring Wilmington, North Carolina

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I got the opportunity to travel to Wilmington, North Carolina for a trip with Homewood Suites by Hilton to explore the family-friendly attractions and budget-friendly travel that you can find there. The trip was hosted by Homewood Suites in conjunction with the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. I had no expectations for what to expect from the trip, other than the opportunity to have a little getaway and I was thrilled when the company said that I could bring along a guest. Unfortunately, the kids had already started school and  my husband would need to stay with them. It is rare that I get to share a trip with anyone else so I was excited to bring my best friend along for the weekend. Who could turn down a girl’s weekend that is all-expenses paid?

We set off for Wilmington and got to stay at the beautiful Homewood Suites by Hilton Wilmington Mayfaire which was a short 5 minute drive to Wrightsville Beach. I have stayed at a lot of hotels over the course of the years with my business, but I have never stayed at a hotel that offered more amenities to their guests than this one.

Room rates start at $120 a night and the company admits that they are not the cheapest in town, but that they do strive to offer the best service and the best amenities for their guest.  I am used to paying for my internet, some dry cereal for breakfast, and paying for any extra frills that I might desire so I really was genuinely shocked by what the hotel offered.

All of the rooms offer a full kitchenette that includes a full-size refrigerator, a two-burner stove, cooking utensils/tools with service for four,  and a dishwasher. For no additional charge (other than the actual price of groceries), you can call ahead and have them stock your refrigerator for you before you even arrive for your trip!

The hotel offers a free huge hot breakfast seven days a week and a bigger bonus for family’s on a budget, was a “Manager’s Reception,” dinner Monday through Thursday for free, that included a full delicious dinner, a kid’s buffet for dinner, and wine/beer for the parents while you are staying there.  As an example of the dinner choices, two of the offerings the nights we were there were tortilla-crusted tilapia and home style meatloaf including two side dishes. I have never been to a hotel that offered a full dinner and full breakfast  for free for its guests and this is available at any of the Homewood Suites locations.

The rooms also offered DVD players and (for no charge)  you could select a family-friendly movie to watch with your kids. Baskets of cookies were available for a free late night snack and a free coffee & tea bar were always open. These little inclusion are the things that I love to look for in hotels especially when it comes to keeping my children entertained and fed well.  The coffee bar is a tired vacationing parent’s dream and it is the first time I have actually loved coffee at a hotel.

Other important inclusions were free wireless internet, grills on-site if you wanted to grill for your lunch, and they even had a little putt-putt golfing for the kids near the pool and hot tub that didn’t cost an extra dime.

Yeah, all of that starting at just $120. I figure just the breakfast, kitchenette in every room, the family entertainment, and the free dinner with beverages would really help to keep our family on budget.

If you were wondering just how pale I am, this picture speaks a thousand words. I was really missing my giant beach umbrella, but used the shadow of my friend Becky and an expert tuck and pull to allow my dress to keep me covered at the beach. I always chant to myself that someday I will be a beautiful old lady and everyone will envy my pale skin… at least that is what I like to tell myself!

In all seriousness the beach was simply stunning and I loved dipping my toes in the water and collecting shells for the kids while enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean. It was beautiful and it was so nice that it was only minutes from the hotel!

The Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau were so gracious to allow us the opportunity to explore Wilmington’s family-friendly offerings. We toured the Battleship North Carolina, The Children’s Museum of Wilmington, the Cape Fear Serpentarium, a horse drawn tour of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina Aquarium Fort Fisher, and sampled delicious seafood chowder at Michael’s Seafood, took two boat tours of the beautiful beach, downtown shopped, and enjoyed all of the town’s offerings.

I can’t wait to share with you more as it gets closer to vacation season about my experience in both North Carolina and Orlando for some fun ideas for family travel. I will say that of the places we visited, I loved the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and the North Carolina Aquarium Forth Fisher the absolute best and can’t wait to revisit them for a trip with my own family. The enthusiasm of the employees was enchanting and I know that we could spend a whole day just visiting these two spots alone.

I have to say my favorite part was just getting the opportunity to relax! We spent an evening window-shopping in the Mayfaire shops, grabbed a delicious pizza one night, popped popcorn and watched silly girl movies like, “Fame,” and ate ice cream cones. I loved everything about Wilmington and can see it as a new destination for our family!

In full disclosure, while I was there, I found a new place to write and will be joining the SuiteTrip website for the next few months (through Homewood Suites)  to share ideas on budget-friendly travel and ideas for making travel enjoyable as a family. I can’t wait to share more ideas with you there! It was an unexpected new freelance job that I am really looking forward to!

Disclaimer: We were invited by Homewood Suites in conjunction with the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. for an all-expenses paid trip to experience Wilmington, NC  and share with our readers about our experience. All-expenses paid means that our travel, hotel stay, visits to area attractions, and food were covered by the company. We will receive no other additional compensation for this particular project and are asked for our honest opinions without any further obligation. To find out more about how things work here at MomAdvice, please feel free to visit our official Disclaimer page!

Where is your favorite family vacation spot? Where is somewhere you would like to explore? Feel free to share!

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!

Freezing Blueberries in 3 Easy Steps

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

How to Freeze Blueberries

Freezing blueberries is quick and easy, but did you know there are different methods of freezing? The Cook’s Illustrated Method of freezing is the one that I have been using for many years for freezing our berries for optimum flavor and once you try it, I am sure you will be hooked on this method of freezing your berries too.

In years past, I just threw the berries on a cookie sheet, froze them, and then tossed them into marked bags for later consumption. Cook’s Illustrated is my Bible for cooking and they claim that the best consistency for blueberries is if they have been frozen with sugar. They froze six different kinds of fruit, tried seven different methods of freezing on each fruit, stuck them in the freezer for six months, and then tasted them. I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to take on a task like that and that is why I absolutely love Cook’s Illustrated! Let me show you just how easy it is.

How to Freeze Blueberries

If you are worried about the sugar, it is just meant to help keep the fruit’s shape and texture. When you want to eat the berries, you just rinse the sugar off and enjoy the optimal taste of the fruit.

With this method of freezing, the berries truly held their shape and have a little better consistency then frozen alone. I would definitely recommend this method of freezing especially if you enjoy eating the berries alone!

Blueberry Picking

Blueberry Picking

Blueberry Picking

Blueberry Picking

The kids and I went to do our annual blueberry picking for the year. Our blueberry picking wasn’t half as successful as last year. I think we had a few things operating against us this year.

1. I just was there to take pictures.

2. Emily was just there to eat all of the blueberries.

3. Ethan thought blueberry picking was boring.

4. Extreme heat and lots of hot sun.

5. Whining.

The only thing that pulled us through all of that…the fact that we were dropped off on a tractor and there was no way to get back until the tractor came around again. Oh, and Sonic happy hour bribery. Making. Memories. (said through gritted teeth).

We managed to gather two measly pounds of berries and next year I may just go with the people who really want to go (which might mean a solo operation) or I will pick at dusk and take advantage of the picking in the evening hours. I went ahead and splurged for the five pound box of picked berries and we all headed home sweaty and still a little whiny.

Blueberry Picking

At the end of the blueberry picking day and at the end of all of our grumbling, I snapped this picture before we headed to the car.

That one moment and one picture made the whole trip worth it.  This what  am choosing to remember about our blueberry picking day. We were all together and we love each other no matter what.

Are you freezing fruit this year? What is your recommendation and tried and true recipes for freezing the summer’s bounty?

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Smart Strategies for Saving Time & Money When Flying

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Over the years, I have been doing a lot more travel than I ever dreamed I would be doing. When you travel frequently, you quickly learn that you need a lot less than you think you do, proper planning will save you hours of frustration, and each trip is a lesson on how to do it better.

I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you save time and money on your next flight. These are my tried and true strategies that I employ each time I fly and I hope they will help you on your next trip.

Check in Online- The biggest timesaver for me has always been taking the time to check in for my flights online twenty-four hours before my flight.  You can save so much time and can also avoid having to wait as long at the airport if you have checked in for your flight early. What would normally take an hour can now take twenty to thirty minutes just by using my computer at home.

While you are checking in online, print out all of the documents you might need for your trip and store them in a folder together. I keep all trip itineraries, meeting information, agendas, and check-in information for the returning flight together.  Pull this together with your freshly printed boarding passes and put this in your carry-on luggage or purse for easy access.

Keep Your Bags Light- Most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, not to mention the hassle of waiting at baggage claims for your luggage to arrive when you are anxious to start your trip.  The largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches, but you can maximize your packing by in a quality soft-sided carry-on bag, which will be roomier than a more rigid bag.  Just by packing light, you are able to shave approximately $50 on a round-trip flight!

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves.  Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

The best part about keeping your bags light though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops.

If, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, paying for your checked bags online can sometimes save you a few dollars each way!

Pack Smart- It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

Visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or MommySnacks.net and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

Underneath this bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security.  The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure.  Remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel.

Thrifty Snacking- The days of meals and snacks on flights are long gone so it is important to have a thrifty snacking strategy to avoid spending $50 at the airport while waiting for flights. Pack food items that will travel well both ways to reduce your spending. Items like protein bars (avoid anything with melting chocolate), trail mixes, apples, and oranges are all great items to tuck away in your bag for a snack while you are waiting. If your flight is leaving during the lunch hour, spend a little time packing lunches that can be eaten in flight or while waiting at the airport. This little effort of planning can easily save you $7 per person.

While you are unable to bring any liquids through security, there is one easy strategy you can take to save on those $5 waters at the airport. Tuck an empty reusable water bottle in your bag and fill it at a drinking fountain when you get through security.

Frugal Entertainment- It is easy to keep everyone entertained on the flights, but it also requires a little strategy, particularly if you are bringing children. Consider packing one set of things to do on the way there and one small set of things to do on the way back to keep your children happy. Library books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, a deck of cards, puzzle books, and even your child’s portable gaming system are great ways to keep them entertained.

It is important to keep in mind that electronics do have to be turned off at the beginning and ending of each flight, so don’t just rely on that Nintendo DS, DVD player, or that iPod to hold their interest. They will be glad that you packed a coloring book or reading material when the time comes to switch them off. As an added savings, don’t forget to bring their headphones for these electronics, as the airline will happily charge you for each set you might have forgotten.

I hope that these tips will help you on your next flight and don’t forget to tuck those items away to save time for the next trip. There is nothing like having a bag of toiletries that are already packed, a special set of items that are already preset in your bags to keep the kids entertained, or  the travel pillow already packed in your bag to save you time for your next trip.

If you want more great tips on travel, be sure to visit our Organized Travel article before heading out for your next vacation!

What are some ways that you save time and money when you are flying? I would love to hear your success stories or lessons learned!

Because I Am Glad to Give & I Want You To Give Too!

Monday, April 19th, 2010

When someone once asked me one word to describe myself, the word that came to mind was, “giver.” I love to give to others and thrive in any environment where I can share a piece of myself with someone else. There is nothing I love more than the giving of food, the giving of my time to make someone’s day easier, even being the giver of advice that might make a mom’s day run a little smoother. I am a giver because it comes naturally to me and that is why I am thrilled to share about a campaign that you can give back frugally and thoughtfully to families who are faced with a disease called pediatric cancer.

Did you know that the number one death disease of children living in the United States is pediatric cancer? Why is it the number one killer? Truthfully, it kills children daily because the funds are just not there to develop the research to find a cure for this disease.

I was asked to help spread the word about a campaign called, “Glad to Give,” that is sponsored by the GLAD company.  They believe that they can raise the funds for this research one cookie at a time. Yes, you heard that right! This campaign’s roots are firmly planted in that beautiful thing we love… bake sales!

As parents with busy schedules, I know that volunteering and baking might not be the top two things on your priority list. What if you knew that those two things could make a difference in a child’s life though? Glad to Give is offering up some fantastic ideas for how you can participate and how you can be a part of their partnership with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

Here are some easy and frugal things you can do to participate:

Buy GLAD® Products and Contribute to Pediatric Cancer Research: This spring, every time you purchase a  GLAD product (to help host a bake sale or for other use), the Glad Products Company will make a $1 donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, up to $200,000! Just enter the UPC code here!

Enter the GLAD Recipe for Giving Contest: GLAD recognizes the time spent prepping, kneading and decorating bake sale treats is quality family time that instills a spirit of service in children. To help celebrate families in action, GLAD® is conducting the GLAD® Recipe for Giving Contest. Consumers can share their “recipe” – that is, tip or advice – on how their family gives back through food related activities. Four consumer winners will each win $1,000 toward a family activity of their choice and a chance to compete alongside a celebrity in the holiday GLAD® Recipe for Giving Celebrity Challenge. Come November, the two lucky consumers on the winning celebrity team raising the most money will each receive a “voluntourism” trip for four to St. Lucia.

Host a Bake Sale: I know that this might take a little work on your part, but imagine the lives that you could touch through the donations raised. GLAD will take you through the process in four easy steps that will have your raising funds in no time!

I am committed to this campaign and committed to spreading the word about how you can help. I want to kick off the GLAD to give campaign by donating $400 to jump start the cause and I need your participation!

I am going to be hosting a virtual bake sale on May 14th. I am asking you to participate here on the site and share your best bake sale recipes!  From those entries, I will randomly select a winner who will receive a box full of baking goodies (valued at $50, prepared by me!) just for sharing one of your bake sale recipes and sharing about your participation in Glad to Give! Doesn’t that sound lovely?

I hope that you will consider participating and sharing a favorite baking recipe in honor of this campaign. It would mean the world to me, but it would mean a world more to the families of these children! Start gathering those recipes and think of the ways that you could help with my virtual bake sale. I can’t do it without you!

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In honor of all things bake sale, here is a quick cookie recipe that can be made out of pantry ingredients and one ingredient that makes the whole thing go a little quicker… the ever amazing cake mix!

Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Pour the cake mix into a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add peanut butter, oil, eggs, and water. Mix until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly using a fork dipped in water. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cookies set on cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before carefully removing from the cookie sheet to cool on wire racks. Amy’s Notes: Be sure to keep the cooking time to the ten to twelve minutes and don’t let the lighter color fool you. I had some burnt cookies in my first batch because I left them in the oven too long. Let them cool as instructed and then place them on a pretty plate for serving. Then you need to complete the most difficult step of all…Try to graciously accept the compliments without giving away your cooking secrets (which I never can do myself!).

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Disclaimer: I was paid for this campaign and invested every dollar back into it to spread the word about pediatric cancer. It is far better to give than to receive. I hope you will consider doing the same!

What is one way you donate your time or talents to charity? How do you make this a family priority?

Boosting Energy by Tackling Life’s Nagging To-Do List

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We all have one.  It is a nagging list of items that you intend to do, but never get done. There is always a great reason why you don’t have time to do one more thing with such a full schedule, but deep down, you know that many of the items on the list would only take a few minutes. Some of the things on your list might be routine appointments for yourself, home ownership projects that never get done, paying bills, or an errand that has been looming. How about a really embarrassing to-do? How about the fact that my daughter is four and I still haven’t ordered her birth certificate!? Oh yes, I have a nagging to-do list and it can be a total energy drainer.

I sat down and jotted down my running list of things I need to do. It is the list of things to do that swims in my brain right before bed and causes me not to sleep as well. I did a brain dump on a sheet of paper and decided that this month I would tackle all of the things that have been bugging me.

Some of the items proved to be easier to tackle than I thought. My contacts could have walked away and stood to attention by themselves because I was in desperate need of an eye exam. I called Sam’s Club to schedule an exam and they had an opening in an hour. Within one hour, I got my eyes examined, got new contacts, and took my daughter to go get her ballet shoes (another nagging thing that needed to be done). It was almost too easy.

Other things on the list took much more time. I spent an afternoon ripping out the old caulk on our tub and caulking it with fresh caulk, we repainted our bedroom to a bright and cheery color,  and I spent a great deal of time researching flight prices and getting my schedule together for the upcoming BlissDom conference.

Two thing still remains to be done…getting a birth certificate and sending out thoughtful notes to the grandparents for the holiday gifts. I promise to tackle those this week.

Let me give you an example of how much better tackling something on your nagging list of things to do could be with an afternoon of time invested.

Our bedroom really was in need of a new update. We have lived in our home for six years now and this was one of the first rooms in our house that we had painted.  This room does not get a lot of natural light into it, the art lacked the personality that I want our home to have, and it was cluttered. After tackling our closet, I was ready to make this space our own by updating the paint and decor.

We had an extra gallon of paint leftover from painting our front room and we used this same Honey Bear color in our bedroom. I already owned the bedding and just bought two throw pillows ($12.99 each) from Target to add a new accent color to the room. One shade had not been hung because we couldn’t find the hardware. After decluttering our space, I found the hardware and we hung them in the room. We took down the dated curtains and decided not to hang any at all.

My husband asked for this print of Boston as a holiday gift and I bought a poster frame ($17.99) to frame the art. We miss Massachusetts a lot and this was a way to remember our first married years together and the home and friends that we love there.  This spoke so much more of us and what we love than a picture of fruit in a basket, don’t you think? Again, this pulled in our new accent color without costing us a lot of money.

This little storage crate was one splurge purchase that we desperately needed for putting away bed linens. I have had linens in a basket underneath a side table for years. This made for much more attractive storage and keeps the linens fresh, put away, and dust-free instead of the spot they were in. I put off-season blankets in this and spare sheets for the children. I got it for $79.99 at Target, but they have it on sale this week for $59.99. (Note to self- add a price adjustment to my nagging list of things to do)

The true transformation though didn’t cost a dime. It was the absence of clutter… the wall clutter, the knick knack clutter, the useless objects clutter, the items-that-gathered-dust-but-were-never-useful clutter.

One of my favorite wedding gifts was the bowl that was pictured above. You would have never known it because it was filled with useless items. Emptied and dusted, it makes me so much happier.

The nightstand is empty and waiting for my library books to dive into, the little china saucer my best friend gave me is the perfect place to stick a glass of milk with my late night snack.

There is just so much peace in this space now and I can finally relax. One day spent tackling something that had been nagging me for months should give me many, many days of enjoyment.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What has been on your nagging to-do list?  Anything half as embarassing as getting a birth certificate for your child? Please make me feel better!