Archive for September, 2007

Day 30: Life’s Great Lessons

Friday, September 28th, 2007

This is the last day in our series and I admit it took much longer than I had ever anticipated. I share daily ways to save money, but to sit down and really contemplate thirty really good ways to save money…well, that proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought. I think I will stick with my quick tips and quips that I normally share. I hope that someone can walk away with one thing that will help their family in the future. That was my goal and intention with doing the series.

Today I just wanted to end the series by saying how important it is to me that I live within my means. There are many simple things that we have chosen to do to reach our financial goals in life…

  • We make a conscious choice to be smart consumers and chose to buy used items rather than new, to help minimize our costs. There are times where a new item might be appropriate (underwear does come to mind!), but in most cases buying a used item is a better financial choice for us. You can do this through thrift & yard sales, consignment shops, auction sites, or through the classified advertisements. Used is better for the environment and I find it a great thrill and privilege to hunt through the junk to find those precious items.
  • We chose to be wise consumers and research big ticket items before purchasing them. I would never run out and buy a television without good research and I would never just take a salesperson’s word for what is the best value for my money. I can justify the purchase of my Consumer Reports annual membership because I use this often to base my decisions on making a good purchase. I also frequently check sites like Amazon or Epinions to get the scoop from customers on how they like items. We cannot afford trial and error in our house so we try and pick things that we know will do well and last a long time.
  • We chose to surround ourselves with like-minded people. Maybe this shows signs of weakness or that I am just a newbie in the world of saving money, but I find myself feeling more confident in myself and my choices when I am around people who feel the same way. When I am around people who put more value into their possessions and the material things, I find myself redirecting my focus in that direction. I hope someday to be the type of person that is unfazed by these people, but for now I enjoy being with people who have similar financial goals and think of material things as secondary to everything else.
  • We are choosing to work towards a goal of a debt-free life. I have very specific goals in mind for our family. I have written these goals down on paper and I reread these goals often. I want to own both of my cars. I want to own my house. I want to pay off my credit card. I want to be free of student loan debt. I say these things to myself often and focus my energy towards making these goals a reality. Our goal is to have this done in six years. Six years of careful discipline and determination- what is your goal?
  • We chose creative ways that we can achieve the things we want in life. For example, bartering for goods & services instead of paying for them. I might make someone a fabulous dinner or babysit for them if they help me with A, B, or C. These exchanges are more creative than opening up my wallet and save us a lot of money. I also try to be creative by learning to make things myself, thrifting for gift items, and constantly researching ways I can be more creative with our money.
  • We chose to enjoy the good things in life, not to live a life of sacrifice and grumbling. I love good things- good coffee, an amazing dinner, a well-decorated room. I love all of these things, but I love to enjoy these things without the debt. I do what any smart frugal gal should do- I search on the internet for that perfect coffee recipe, I teach myself to cook, I look for inspiration in the magazines and find these decorative items in the thrift store. Enjoy that fine living, but do it in a way that can make you & your family proud.

We recognize that we have made bad financial choices, but we also know that some of those choices have lead to other great and wise choices later in life. I admit that there have been times where I have made stupid choices and I suffered from them. I also admit that if I had never made a bad choice in my life that I wouldn’t be human and I wouldn’t be able to have those experiences to draw from. I can nod my head and say, “Yes, yes, I know!” because I really do. I didn’t just read about it in a book- I am living it!

Here are all of the days that we discussed- just in case you happened to miss one!

Ask for Your Discounts

Take Your Own Pictures

Pay Your Bills Online

Use Your Phone as a Money-Saving Tool

Use eBay & Save

Take Advantage of Rebates

Brown Bag Your Way To Savings

Open Your Own Beauty Shop

Lower Your House Payment

Car Repair on a Budget

Creative Gym Membership Alternatives

Social Obligations on a Budget

Get Your Java Fix

Creative Toy Replacements

Keep Your Bills in Check

Bulk It Up

Find an Inexpensive Hobby

Get Yourself Organized

Curb Your Weekend Spending

Create Your Own Secret Emergency Account

Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford

Just Ask

Become a Coupon Queen (or Not)!

Schedule a Day in the Kitchen

Extending it Further

Save on Clothing

Get to Know Your Freezer

Get Rewarded for Your Shopping

Sound Off: What was your f
avorite day in our Month of Savings?

Product Review: Play Along Dolls

Friday, September 28th, 2007
As a mother of a daughter, I would like to throw some interesting facts out to you:

– In a recent survey, 1010 mothers with preteen daughters expressed their feelings about the array of inappropriate dolls invading their kids’ playrooms. 90% of these mothers expressed a desire for a wider section of dolls that were positive role models for young girls. 85% of the mothers said that they are fed up with the “sex pot” playthings available (USA Today).

– “Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girl or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed for 4-8 year olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality”(American Psychological Association).

– “We usually have a great time checking out new toys, but we were totally put off by many of the doll lines for 2007- trash’s the word that comes to mind. And it’s not just us. The American Psychological Association found that all these sexualized images of young girls are seriously harmful to a girl’s self esteem and healthy development” (Parents Magazine)

I guess I am not alone in believing that these dolls are highly inappropriate and am discouraged by the choices that are offered. This is not a RELIGIOUS thing, this is a MOM thing!

I received a package from the Play Along company and was so encouraged by what I found. This is a company that is going against the popular trashy dolls and taking a stand to work towards bringing back good old-fashioned dolls.

These dolls still enjoy fashion, but it is modest and they resemble a modern version of the Cabbage Patch dolls. The dolls are poseable and come with different outfits and something fun that you can do with your doll (shoelaces to make bracelets, chalk to play hopscotch, etc…) Currently they offer three cute little girl characters and accessory packs that you can purchase separately. The “Olivia Reese” doll is sporty and loves nature. The “Sophie Kate” doll is an artsy girlie girl.” Finally, the “Zoe Madison” doll is hip & trendy. All of the dolls have a suggested retail price of $19.99.

The accessory packs (purchased separately) can build on the wardrobes and things that you can do with your doll. The packs include a trendy outfit, an interactive themed activity, and a poseable Play Along Club pet. The suggested retail price on these accessory kits are $12.99.

The dolls are very well made and are just the type of dolls that I grew up with. I love the idea of returning to the good old-fashioned fun things in life and dolls that my daughter can relate to and will have a positive influence in her life.

We thank the Play Along company for sharing their dolls with our family! We stand behind their choice to offer fun & positive role models for our girls! They will be launching their new website for the dolls this fall.

Sound Off: What do you think about the dolls on the market today? Do you buy these dolls on the shelves or do you not buy them? What are some positive dolls that you have bought for your daughters?

Product Review: Signing Time! Products

Friday, September 28th, 2007

The Signing Time! company sent us some of their products for review for the website. Included in my box of goodies were Signing Time videos and music.

Let me preface by saying that we have incorporated signing with our children since my son was around eighteen months old. Ethan had a speech delay and it was a very frustrating time for him and for myself. He made no audible sounds and would not even turn towards me when I would say his name.

We started speech therapy with him and the speech therapist encouraged us to sign with Ethan. She gave me a book on signing and asked us to start implementing sign language in our home. We were open to anything, but I had big reservations that he would rely on signing instead of talking to us. I was worried that this would delay the process longer, but within a week we noticed a remarkable difference in our son.

The tantrums stopped and he began to sign and tell us what he needed. Gradually, he began saying the words with the signs. Then he stopped signing and began just speaking. Who would have thought this is what we needed for him?

Since then, I have been a big believer in signing with your kids. Emily seems to have a speech delay, but we know how to use signing with her and I feel like I have a better idea of what I am doing this time.

Our family really loved these movies from Signing Times! Rachel Coleman, the star behind the series, sings beautiful songs and teaches children through her music how to sign. She wanted to do the series because she had a deaf child and then a daughter born with spina bifida & cerebral palsy. Both of her children struggled with communication and she began the series to try and teach them (and later other children) how to communicate through sign language.

These videos are an invaluable teaching tool and are used widely by educators, pediatricians, homeschoolers, speech therapists, public schools, daycares, libraries and families. They offer a wide array of products from babies until eight years old.

Rachel’s hopes come from a personal goal, “My hope is that everyone will know a little sign, just as most people know a little Spanish- so when your child seems my child at the park, there would be no awkwardness, no communication barrier- just three signs… ‘Hi-Friend-Play’ that is all it would take to change her world.”

We thank the Signing Time! company for giving us the opportunity to review their products. We would highly recommend their products to any family who would like to begin incorporating sign language in their homes.

Sound Off: Have you used sign language in your house? What have been your favorite teaching tools?

Freebie Friday: September 28, 2007

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Just wanted to send a quick reminder that National Museum Day is tomorrow!

Health & Beauty:

Good Nites Sleep Boxers

Playtex Bottle (printable coupon)


Folgers Gourmet Coffee

Hostess Cakes (It took me a few times for this one to go through)


Spin Magazine

Dog’s Life

Psychology Today Magazine

Spiegel Catalog (Enter offer code: F9710)

Home & Garden:

Dry Cleaner’s Secret

Deceptively Delicious- A MUST For Healthy Eating

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I was able to get my hands on an advance copy of the new cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious” and I would recommend either checking this book out from the library or buying a copy when the book is released (set release date of October 5th).

If you haven’t heard the buzz about this book, author Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld’s better half) shares smart ways to sneak veggies and fruit into your children’s diet. As a mother of three children, she knows how difficult it is to get your kids to eat their fruits & veggies so she shares a technique for pureeing these foods and mixing them into fun recipes. Everything from dip to breads to donuts…all of her dishes contain an element of healthy eating with sneak attacks from the four food groups.
It is smartly written and beautifully designed. Included are tips for creating all of your purees, how to stock a healthy pantry, and easy nutritional guidelines for children. She even shares her family’s opinion on the dishes with cute little retro pictures of each of them (even Jerry!)

The idea is very simple- fill your children’s foods with the good things in life so that they can live a long and healthy life!

I am looking forward to adding some of her recipes to my next menu planner and am looking forward to trying some of her puree techniques on my children. My kids are pretty smart, but maybe I can fool them! If the pictures are any indication of how good these dishes taste, I know they will enjoy them throughly.
Many thanks to Harper Collins and Jessica for giving us this sneak peek into such a cool cookbook! We wish Mrs. Sienfeld much luck with the launch of her book and look forward to trying her dishes in our kitchen!

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 09.27.2007

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Post Hospital Help
I recently broke my foot. Since I live alone, many people I know offered me home cooked food, which was very thoughtful and appreciated. Since I was overwhelmed with food, the idea occurred to me that a gift of first aid items that I needed would have been nice. Since I had pins put in my foot, I had to buy various items. To be quite honest, these items really cost a lot of money. So, in the future, if anyone I know is down on their luck, I will ask if they need supplies instead of food.Cara

Menu Coordination
I’m sure everyone has heard of doing a weekly menu, but I do a monthly one. The last week of each month, I get the school calendar and game schedules and pencil in those nights, including any meetings I’m aware of. I keep a list of freezer contents on the refrigerator (add to list as I put them in the freezer). Then I make the menu. On nights we have games and won’t get home until 8:30pm, it’s a simple meal like tacos or grilled cheese. Other nights it’s meat, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. I let the kids pick out a couple dinner ideas and add them to the menu. I have teenagers so they’re asked to pick one night a month to fix dinner (with my supervision). This has saved me a lot of money! I buy items on sale ahead of time. I get food out to thaw the night before instead of running to the store to pick up dinner items. And this saves me from fast food!Kendra A.

Grocery Totes
I purchased four cheap plastic/canvas type tote bags on clearance (less than $5 each) to use and reuse for grocery shopping. They’re stronger than the plastic bags you get at the store, hold more, and are easier to carry into the house.Patty S. in Norristown, PA

Easy Winter Preparations
I measured our windows and bought enough polar fleece at the fabric store (at 50% off) for all of our windows. I pieces about 2-4″ wider than each window. Polar fleece doesn’t fray or ravel so it needs no sewing. I cut slits in the top and bottom of the fleece to work like belt loops.
I found spring-tension rods at the dollar store. Then I ran the tension rods through these slits. The tension rods fit snuggly inside the window frames. There are two rods for each window with one at the top and one at the bottom. If we need to look outside, the fleece can slide side to side a little, or we can loosen the bottom tension rod so we can lift the fleece. For a kids’ room, fleece with characters or a sports theme may be nice. We don’t have kids, so I chose white for a uniform look from the outside. This immediately reduced window drafts. An excellent option for people who are not very craft- oriented.Gabby in Columbus, Ohio

‘Child Proof’ Solution
I use over-the-counter medicines. My disabilities make it hard to see the arrows on the childproof caps and bottles that need to be lined up before they open. I color them with red permanent marker. Now opening those bottles is a breeze.MR

Deadly Sweetness
Pour sugar on plants that you want to kill. Sugar gets microbes into high gear; that is why teeth rot from sugars. The sugar actually improves the health of your soil long term, but it will cause so much microbe action that the plant/root will overload and die. This is a great way to kill off stubborn thickets or vines, which you keep trimming back.W.

Tasty Rolls
To warm bread or rolls from the refrigerator, put them in the microwave next to a cup of water. This makes them come out fresh, moist and warm.JF

Ground Meat Stretcher
The easiest and cheapest way to stretch ground meat is to add fresh bean sprouts to the raw meat and brown it with the meat. The veggies will pick up the flavor of the meat from the meat juices, and once it is browned, you cannot tell which bite started out as meat and which was veggie sprouts. This works very well for strongly flavored foods like chili, taco meat, etc. I have often stretched two ground beef patties to enough to feed four to six adults this way. And it is lower calorie, higher fiber, etc.
I have used this for bulk sausage, ground beef and ground turkey and see no reason why it would not work with venison or chicken as well.Debbie

Luscious Lips!
The easiest and tastiest lip mask I’ve ever tried is plain honey straight on the lips! A thin layer will do, and it will work miracles if you can resist licking it off before it can work its magic. Make sure your lips are clean. It’s great if used daily for about three days to a week. You can leave it on as long as you’d like, and I like to put it on right before bed and let it sink in all night. My lips are so sweet in the morning!
Honey is bacteria-resistant and has a generally emollient effect. Because it’s such a great skin softener, it can be used on the face and neck as a simple moisturizing mask.Grace H.

Removing Pet Urine Smells
I had a tenant that had an older cat that sprayed and urinated behind their entertainment center. After trying just about everything, I decided to cut out the sub-floor. I had already pulled back the carpet and padding (it was time to replace the carpet anyway) when a neighbor stopped by and suggested I try vanilla flavoring. All I had was pure vanilla extract, so I poured it on. It killed the smell that was emanating from the plywood.Michael E.

Controlling ‘Cling’ Wrap
Plastic wrap or cling wrap often gets wasted as it tears apart or sticks together. A simple solution that I found is to keep it in the freezer. It pulls apart easily with no more wasted wrap.Angie

Spot Free Dishes
Instead of buying expensive spot eliminators for the dishwasher (i.e. Jet Dry), fill the reservoir with plain white household vinegar. It works just as well and it is much cheaper. It’s probably better for the environment as well.Lorre J. in Phoenix, AZ

Easy Dusting
I keep an old paintbrush with my cleaning supplies. Whenever I have to dust the bookshelves, I spray it with Endust and brush the dust away. It’s also made dusting a favorite job for my two kids.Iris S.

Need Extra Freezer Space?
I have a small apartment refrigerator with a freezer above. I have found that I double my freezer space simply by taking the frozen contents out of the boxes that they are purchased in. Most frozen items are sealed in plastic inside a box or other container. I simply cut out the instructions for cooking and tape to the plastic. This works really well for pizzas or boil-in-bag vegetables. Now I take advantage of sales on frozen items and stock up with no worry about freezer space. If you’re concerned about the sell by date, then just cut the date out as well and tape it to the item.Charyl S.

‘Gentle’ Dishwashing
When my son was an infant, we had received a little basket to use on the top rack of the dishwasher to hold the bottle nipples and bottle rings. That came in handy then, and when he was a toddler, I used it for sippy cup parts. Now six years later, I’m still using it, but I’m using it for the little plastic containers and such. We don’t use the heated dry on our dishwasher, so I can even toss in the cream cheese container to wash and re-use for storing single servings after dinner.Jen B.

Last Year’s Backpack
My 5- and 8-year-old boys share a room so storage is an issue. I almost th
rew out their backpacks from last year because they were a little ratty, but instead, I washed them and use them to keep things in under the beds.Cindy B.

Funding Next Year’s Garden
I love to vegetable garden. I always have more than I can use. I take my produce into the office and have a “Take Some and Leave a Quarter” cup next to them. I use this to buy my plants for next year. They get fresh produce, and I haven’t had to pay for new plants in three years! I even take requests.Christian F. in Olathe, KS

Delightful Souvenirs
We travel several times a year. We like to go to a local “antique/junk” shop and browse for a souvenir. There are always local items available that delight us. We have a framed painted feather with the Tuzigoot parrot symbol from AZ, a pair of a child’s Chinese slippers, a enormous skeleton door key from England, and a myriad of other souvenirs. Each time I see one of these items displayed in my house, I think of the place we visited and the money I saved that I can use toward the next trip!Lyn

Used Auto Auctions
We just bought a used van at an auto auction. We took our time and shopped at the auction over a six month time period until we found what met our needs and what constituted a good deal. When we took possession of our recently purchased van (a bank repo that we got for 50% of retail), the engine light was on. We weren’t worried because we did all of the checks. The engine sounds wonderfully quiet. When I took the van to the auto repair shop, they wanted $78 to scan and tell us what the engine light code meant!
Being a do-it-yourselfer, I went home and researched what was needed to do the scan. Just imagine when I found out that I could buy the software and cable hook-up that scans the van for a mere $120. That’s less than having to diagnose two engine lights! We may also let our friends and neighbors know that we will provide this service for a small fee! Our scanner will pay for itself in no time! So, shop and research to make sure that you know what you are getting and what you are paying for! By the way, the scan showed that it was time for an oil change.D. B. in Manitoba, Canada

Brown Sugar
Brown sugar never gets lumpy in my house. I always have it available and I never have to pay the extra price to purchase it either. Instead, I put together just the right amount of brown sugar when I have a recipe that calls for it. I always have granulated sugar and molasses on hand. When I have a recipe that calls for brown sugar, I first measure the granulated sugar for the exact amount the recipes calls for and then pour in a drop or two of the molasses at a time (it only takes a little) and work it in until I get just the right color.Cheryl C. in Midlothian, VA

Keeping Veggies
I have at least doubled the life of my fresh veggies by first washing them, then wrapping them in a paper towel and wetting the paper prior to putting them in the crisper. If you keep the paper towel damp your lettuce and other veggies will last two to three times as long!Jim O. in New Westminster BC

Visit the Country
I live in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. My sister lives in a rural area, just 10 minutes from my house. My pet recently needed veterinarian care and she suggested her rural vet. I called around and I saved $150 by using her vet over the one down the street. This was well worth the trip! Apparently he makes most of his money on livestock, not household pets.Teresa E.

Frugally Famous
It’s easy to go over the food budget when you’re frequently asked to bring a dish to family, work, church and social events. So become “famous” for something inexpensive. I’m “famous” for my hard rolls. I purchase the yeast at discount pricing and flour on sale. The rolls are five inches in diameter and four inches high with an egg wash glaze. They are tasty and delicious, and even if I include the cost of gas for the oven, 16 cost about 40 cents. Even if I make honey butter to go with them, I spend less than a dollar for my specialty. Never become famous for something like cheesecake. It can destroy the food budget quickly.Mary Ann

Stinky Clothes?
While working in the theater wardrobe department, I learned that Vodka will eliminate odors. Just put in a spray bottle and spray. It evaporates leaving no stains or odors. It not only saves on cleaning bills, but will help conserve your clothing.Susan G.

Before You Begin Christmas Shopping
This would be the time to send out letters to family and friends to finally stop exchanging Christmas gifts. Most people have more than they need, and extra shopping just ends up causing stress. Last year, I received a card that read “a donation has been made in all the names of the people of my Christmas list and sheep have been purchased for an underprivileged village” in a 3rd world country. I was very touched to receive such a gift!WB

Running Tally
I arm myself with a small calculator when I shop for groceries. It’s a snap to keep a running tally of my purchases so I never go over budget. It also reminds me to buy according to needs not wants because I can see immediately what a dent the wants make in my spending.M.

The Code Readers
We had a friend pass along this tip to us that has saved us a ton of money at the car repair shop. Most auto parts stores will hook their reader up to your car when your check engine (or any other light) comes on and tell you exactly what the error message is and what it means. They don’t charge for this service. Recently this happened with one of our cars. We found out that my husband hadn’t screwed the gas cap on all way. We tightened the cap, the auto part store employee reset the light, and it has never come on again. It saved us the time and trouble of taking the car into a repair shop, especially since we have to drive 60 miles to the nearest car dealer.Stacey S. in Muncie, IN

Part-Time Teacher
If you enjoy teaching and have a special skill or hobby that others might enjoy, check with your local community or junior college about their non-credit or adult education classes. Our community college is always looking for new ideas for classes and the instructors to teach them. I have taught several classes on both professional, work-related topics and leisure or travel-related topics. After my class proposal has been accepted, I work with their class coordinator to determine the night(s) and times and we schedule the class. It is printed in their booklet and online, so they take care of the marketing for me. I can either ask them to order a book for the students or I can prepare my own materials. I am paid a flat fee for teaching based on the contact hours. It’s a fun way to earn some extra money, meet new people and, on occasion, create a new business contact.Tina B.

To prevent clothes from wrinkling, place a sheet of tissue paper on the garment and then fold as you normally do. This keeps them from wrinkling both in a drawer or in a suitcase.Eileen K. in Philadelphia, PA

Textbook Savings
The prices for textbooks today are ridiculous. Often, the professors don’t like it either, but don’t have much choice in their assignments. I’ve learned to ask my professors at the beginning of every semester if the previous edition of a text is acceptable for class. When it is, it can mean big savings. The Chemistry book, 10th edition, for my course was $180. The professor said the 9th edition was fine, and I was able to purchase it from (used books online) for $13.
I’ve also ordered international editions of texts. Even with shipping, it was much cheaper to get the international edition of my anatomy text from India. Just remember to allow for s
hipping time. Email your professor before the semester starts if possible. Also check reviews if you’re buying an international edition to make sure it’s the same content.Renee

After Photos: Making Our Home More Inviting

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I am beat, but I got some of our outdoor projects done today. I discussed yesterday that we are working on making our home more inviting to our friends and neighbors and I hope that we have accomplished that.

The project is incomplete until I can plant some annuals and fill out the beds, but I did freshen the beds up for fall and hopefully give the impression that we care a teeny bit about the outside of our home. Unfortunately, while I have been working hard on the outside of the home, the inside has gotten neglected so that is what I will be working on the rest of the week. Remember, I am still attending boot camp!

First, this is the new wreath that I put on our front door. Our front door used to be an ugly boring brown color and our house lacked a little spark to it. The coat of fresh red paint added a little pop to our house and a pretty wreath completes the look. This wreath was made from a grapevine wreath (that I had in our basement) and I got the sprigs of autumn touches from Wal-Mart for $3 total. The ribbon happened to be in my ribbon collection so I used that to hold the wreath in place. I hope this lets our visitors know that this is the place to be!

I love fall mums for my flower beds so I bought some of these from Home Depot for $3.88 each. It adds a little color to my beds and I love that these plants will be back next year. An inexpensive solution for a boring bed.

These beds also were looking overgrown and tired so I thinned them out and cleaned them up. This was a free solution for freshening the beds up a bit!

I loved the color of these mums so I added them to a pot for my front step. It was a great way to make our front step look more inviting and add some color to the front of the house.

The tired tree (with no grass around it) also got a face lift. We used our free brick and bricked around the tree. I added four hostas ($5.99 each) and three bags of red mulch ($3.38 each). Next year I will plant some pretty impatients to add some color to this spot. I loved how it all turned out!

The last thing I did (although I didn’t take a before picture, but I am sure you can imagine boring and dull!) was frame our mailbox out with the plants and brick. The greenery came from one of my beds, on the side of the house, so this was free. Another addition of a mum and a little of the mulch completed the look.

Feeling Like a Professional Florist

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I am feeling like a professional florist after making this beautiful centerpiece for my dinner table. I found this idea through The Sparrow’s Nest and I am so impressed with myself. Her tutorial was so simple, but could it really be that easy? Well, it truly was! I was able to whip this up while the water was heating on the stove for our dinner.

It was also a great opportunity for me to use my new cake stand too. I am so proud of it and love the detail on this piece. This centerpiece was the perfect way to showcase my new piece and add a fall element to my table.
I also made the candles that she had showcased last fall on her blog. I had the jars leftover from all of my Christmas crafting and I am still working our way through all of the popcorn in our house. I actually pulled some of the popcorn out of Ethan’s popcorn table for this craft. The candles were the only purchase- two Pumpkin Spice candles at $1.44 each at Wal-Mart. They tie in the pumpkin theme well!

Thank you, Mrs. Wilt, for making me feel like a professional florist!

Momma’s Working Hard

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

You know that song, “She Works Hard for the Money?” That is the song that is stuck in my head and I am working it over here in this corner of the internet world.

First, we want to thank the New York Times for including us in an article that they did in last week’s Sunday edition. There is nothing like seeing your name in the NYT to put a smile on a girl’s face. We welcome all of these new readers to our site and hope that you will visit again!

We are also working on some super secret projects that we hope will help the look and feel to our website. I promise to share more about that later! For now, they will have to remain super secret. These projects are in addition to several chicken scratches that I have written down for new articles that I would like to add for the holiday season.

We are working on relocating our Product Reviews to a new destination. We are hoping to get this up sometime next month and this will be a separate blog, but still an active part of our site. Since this blog is called, “The Mother Load” I am thinking that I will call this other blog, “The Mother Loot.” What do you guys think of that title?

All of the previous product reviews will be moved to the new home and this blog can continue chugging along with loads of ideas for saving money, organizing your space, and sharing yummy recipes.

In addition to all of the blogging and site magic, I will be on each Tuesday on WSBT, sharing more tips for the frugal moms of the world…or um, Michiana moms of the world. Monthly I will continue appearing in the “Frugal Mom” column in the Michiana Family Magazine, sharing some other great money-saving tips. These magazines are located everywhere- in your doctor’s office, dentist office, major supermarkets, and the drugstores.

I have also made the recent addition of writing for Frugal Hacks each Tuesday and am enjoying sharing fun ways to entertain and be entertained on a budget.

This next month, I get the opportunity to speak with two moms groups in the area, which I am really looking forward to. I am a very interactive person and getting to be with other moms and share homemaking and money-saving tips is a true honor. Hopefully this will lead to many more speaking engagements and fun opportunities.

It has been such a pleasure to get my name out there in the community and to get some national recognition too. I hope to continue supplying quality content and am commited to being the best I can be on here, but also do my best as a mom & wife too. After all, that is what my life is truly all about!

Please understand if I do not answer emails immediately- I PROMISE that I am reading everything that everyone is sending, but am admittedly on overload right now. I am just one person, but feel like I am doing the work of an entire company. It is just how I want it though and I wouldn’t change a single thing! Being home with my children and getting to do what I love has been the biggest blessing and it is because of your support and your referrals.

I want to recognize my top referrers this month because you all are what keep my community growing!

Top Referral Links:

Baby Cheapskate– Thank you to Angie for letting us ride her big wave of traffic from her Parents Magazine mention. You are a great alley to have and a wonderful writer!
New York Times– Thank you for including our expert opinion!
Frugal Hacks– Thank you to Kim for including us in her team of writers!
Homespun Living– This is a favorite in my feed and I read it often. It was such an honor to be mentioned in her corner of the internet!
Like Merchant Ships– My true blue friend and an inspirational writer who shares about our site regularly. I am so lucky!

As always, we are open and ready for suggestions on new articles and features you would like to see here.

Making Our Home More Inviting

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I spend a lot of time on the interior of our home, but not enough time is spent working on projects on the outside of our house. We decided that we would spend these last few weeks of the warmer weather working on some of these projects. The benefit of waiting until later in the summer/fall to do your projects is that a lot of these outdoor items are on clearance. The downside though is that the selection is very limited and can make getting supplies for your projects more difficult.

The first project on our list of things to do was to work on our back patio. We had a brick patio behind our house that had been uprooted by a large tree root. We saved the money to remove the tree and then needed to put our patio back together. What we found were lots of broken bricks and our hopes of expanding the patio (and matching old street pavers) seemed very far away. My in-laws happened to be redoing their patio and graciously let us have their brick so we made a new design with the new brick and old brick together. The only cost to us is the sand, blood, sweat and tears that are going into the new patio. I think it is going to be beautiful when it is done.

Our next project is working on the front exterior of the home. We had several cracks in our driveway and don’t have the funds to repave the driveway. Ryan got some crack filler (I will not go into how many jokes go along with that phrase when we talk about the repairs!) and filled the spots so that they will hopefully not continue cracking.

I spent a great deal of time on our flower beds and planted mums for the front bed and also got a pot and planted more mums in it for our doorstep. I divided some of my perennials and relocated them to the back bed, which was looking very sparse. I rounded it out with some red mulch, which made the bed look more finished.

Finally, our front tree needed a little sprucing up so we decided to use some more of our free brick and brick a box for it and fill it with some shade-loving perennials and mulch. I was originally going to do all of this myself and surprise my husband, but the surprise ended up being on him because I was too much of a wimp in the heat and couldn’t get the bricks level like I wanted.

I just wanted to share some of our before pictures and then I will share some of our after photos. I am hoping it will be everything we are hoping for and that it help give our house a little more curb appeal. It is all still a work in progress, but we have high hopes of creating the home of our dreams on a budget!