Archive for February, 2008

MomAdvice Weekly Recap: 02.29.08

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Another week and another month behind us! I just want to thank everyone who continues to support my efforts here. Your comments and emails totally make my day.

This is what I have been up to for this week:

Featured Article:

Spring Cleaning for Todays Mom- With spring comes all of the beauty of the changing season. We finally began to see our grass; we enjoy seeing the new buds on our trees, and the sweet smell of a good April shower. What also comes along is the dreaded ritual of spring cleaning. Maybe you went through this awful experience as a child. Your mother would be pulling all the linens, washing the drapes, deep cleaning every nook and cranny of your home and then collapse after a full day of cleaning. I don’t remember this as being a fun ritual for our family and have decided to try a different method of cleaning in our own home…..Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

Staying Fashionable Through Ebates- I love to be fashionable, but I just don’t have the money to keep up with the trends. I share some thrifty spots to visit for your fashion needs and an easy way to earn money towards your clothes (or shoes!) …Continue Reading

A Sad Life for the Clark Kids- Lots of Chores! – Do your children lead as sad of a life as mine? We are having such a fun discussion on what chores you do in your house and rewards that you offer for good behavior…Continue Reading

Baby Steps: Storing Your Stockpile- We continue our series with a fun discussion on how to store your grocery stockpiles… Continue Reading

Testing the Grocery Game: Week One- Watch me make mistake after mistake trying to figure out how to use coupons. How entertaining does that sound? Continue Reading

Don’t miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

Hurry-don’t forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted.

We will be offering another AMAZING giveaway on Tuesday and adding a fun new feature to our site. I am bursting- can’t wait to share it with you!

Featured Recipe of the Week:

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Forum Discussions:

Have any of you taught your babies sign language? If so, was your experience positive? Are there specific web sites or books you would recommend? I am working with my daughter on a few signs, and sometimes she makes the signs for “eat” and “more”. I think it would be helpful if I had some good resources…I love the idea of teaching her to sign words before she can say them, so she can tell me what she wants. She has just gotten to the stage where she points to everything and is starting to get impatient when I don’t understand what she wants… Join the Discussion

I was wondering if anyone has had any success at earning a little extra income with Online Surveys? I’ve been checking out a few sites, but I really have no idea where to even start.. Join the Discussion

Play it Again, Momma! (A Spring Cleaning Edition)

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Washin’ The Washer

Washing Your Child’s Lovie

Organizing Your Laundry Room

Caring for Your Table Linens

Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: The Art of Stockpiling
Frugal Hacks: Spring Cleaning & Organizational Hurdles

Freebie Friday: February 29, 2008

Friday, February 29th, 2008

A big hug and thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping us compile our list this week. You don’t have to wait to get your freebies on Friday, she will keep you supplied until you can get a freebie fix here.

Don’t know what to do with all your freebies? Check out some of Heather’s excellent recommendations for what to do with all of your free loot. Thanks, Heather!

Health & Beauty


Wyeth S-26 Gold Toddler (milk drink)

Steeped In Style Tea (you do not need to put in a company name or telephone number)

Full Size Box of Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Pasta (Note- To take advantage of this, you have to buy a box TODAY and send in a rebate form. Receipt must be mailed in by 03/15 for the refund)


“Beautiful Children” novel by Charles Brock (free download Friday only)

Home & Garden

Green Engine Oil

Microsoft ebook on starting your own business (download is on the left-hand side of the page)

Sprout Smart Child’s Tableware Set (page is loading a little slow)

Pet Care
Zootoo pet community (members get free samples)

Have a Blog? Need Some Fuel?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Mashable shares that Joffery’s Coffee & Tea company is offering bloggers a chance to sample their new coffee flavor… for free. 10,000 spots are available to “beta test” their new flavor. Not only that, but you can add a link to your blog on their site. I was number 399 when I signed up so there are definitely spots still available. Read their post to get the full scoop.

Thanks to my hubby for sending this freebie my way! He knows how happy coffee makes me!

Practically Free Breakfast

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Be sure to hit your local McDonald’s for breakfast this morning or tomorrow morning. In honor of the Leap Year, they are giving away free McSkillet Burritos with the purchase of a medium or large drink.

I went over today and although their advertisement said that they were offering only the sausage variety for free, I got a steak one for free (never hurts to ask!) Pair your free burrito with a $1 large sweet tea and you have a deliciously delicious and fattening breakfast.

I just polished off the burrito and ohmygoodness…it is truly heaven! Honestly, it was the best breakfast burrito I have ever eaten. I am not a breakfast person, but this really hit the spot.


Amy’s Notebook 02.28.08

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I love this step-by-step tutorial for roasting a chicken. I want to try her seasoned rub- it looks tasty (@ The Sparrow’s Nest)

This one hour project for making a bag looks great! (@ Ric Rac)

This milk jug chandelier is amazing- I would have never thought to repurpose these in this way (@ shelterrific)

I bet my children would love these sesame fish sticks (@ Simply Recipes)

I love this idea to turn your yogurt containers into sippy cups (@ Life Hacker)

I love the photography tips in this post and can’t wait to try some of them (@ Dutch Blitz)

This post on food brand loyalty really got me thinking (@ Cheap Healthy Good)

This bagel recipe looks delicious. Must. Make. Bagels. (@ My Paper Crane)

I need to make a clothespin bag for the spring- these free patterns are great (@ Tip Nut)

These toilet paper race cars look like a fun craft to do with my son (@ The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman)

I want to try this homemade banana ice cream recipe– it sounds delicious (@ Blissfully Domestic)

I love these gift ideas– especially the newspaper one (@ Ohdeedoh)

I need to try this recipe for lemon poppyseed scones (@ Be It Ever So Humble)

I love this allowance idea (@ Free Money Finance)

This 20 minute apron is too cute (@ the Loria Family Dialogues)

I am going to be adopting this birthday party table in our house (@ Like Merchant Ships)

I love this idea for making a utility tub skirt. It would certainly mask the paint drips in our tub (@ shelterrific)

This homemade bowling pin set sounds like a fun activity for these long winter days (@ Chocolate on My Cranium)

I love this idea for learning how to draw dinosaurs with your kid. Guaranteed a cool mom award if I learned this (@ GoodyBlog)

I think I might make some Easter gardening baskets this year (@ The Felt Mouse)

Homemade Hostess Cakes? These sound amazing (@ Smitten Kitchen)

Testing The Grocery Game: Week One

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

This is my first week trying out the Grocery Game and really working towards building our stockpile through coupons and sale prices. I promised to chronicle my efforts here and I really appreciated all of your ideas and feedback on your coupon usage and what has been working for you.

Here we are in week one of my Grocery Game membership. Frankly, week one with this membership really stinks. I feel like I do when I go on other websites that offer a “free basic membership,” but then they only extend certain offers and the premium members get all of the good stuff. The reason is, of course, because I have none of the coupons that are listed for these good deals, not because I don’t have access to seeing the deal.

This week I diligently cut my coupons and then explored the official list of deals. The CVS listings were nothing new and were things that I could find elsewhere on the web. The deals for Kroger & Meijer did offer some insight into great deals that I could take advantage of…if I had coupons from January. I took note of some of the sale items that I had overlooked when I had flipped through my flier though, and decided to stock up on the items that were the best deals for the week.

A local supermarket (Martin’s Supermarket for the local folk!) had a 12 for $10 sale advertised this past week so I took advantage of that as well since I am trying to build my stockpile.

In the interim, I cleaned out my purse and gathered up all of the receipts from past grocery visits and put them into my price book (Side Note: We offer a free printable one here!) It had been awhile since this had been updated and I happened to have a few receipts from Aldi to input. I put these in, since ultimately this is about whether or not I do better with coupons or with Aldi.

For this week, I stocked up on:

Martin’s Supermarket:

(6) Aunt Millie’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
(6) Store Brand Frozen Vegetables (baby peas, broccoli, corn)
Total Cost: $10

Meijer Supermarket:

10 pounds of apples- $4 (Side Note- This should have been six pounds, but I thought the bag I picked was the smaller bag and told them that the price was wrong. Oops! I ended up with an extra four pounds of apples for the advertised price. I was a little overzealous in my flier efforts, not attempting to be dishonest.)
13 pounds split chicken breasts bone on- $.99 per pound
Total Cost: $17

This first week I did not use coupons, but did take advantage of listed sales that I might not have seen as an amazing deal without the assistance of the list. The coupons that I could have used for this week were for items I would not typically buy (convenience foods, frozen foods, crap foods) and I plan to stick with what I feel is in the best interest of our family’s diet and what we would normally buy.

I am looking forward to week two on the program, and feel very good about updating my price book and starting our stockpile. I also am looking forward to making some great dishes with the chicken breasts. I have to also sheepishly admit that the apples look much better than my past couple of bags I have gotten from Aldi (which have went bad in just a couple of days). The kids kept saying, “They are so pretty and shiny!”

If you would like to join me in exploring the program, my referral id is [email protected]!

Staying Fashionable Through Ebates

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I have had an obsession with Ebates for a long time and lemme tell you that I am doing the happy dance every single time I get my check from them. Each person I refer, I get a $5 referral fee and, in turn, the person who signs up also gets a $5 credit into their account. I won’t go on and on about it (you can read my experience here if you are interested or just sign up for one of your own accounts- [email protected] for the referral id), but I have been really happy with the program. This is one of the rare times where I really appreciate the referral programs because it is truly rewarding for me.

A few days ago, I got an email letting me know that another big fat check was on its way. This is my fun money that I get to spend on stuff I want, but don’t necessarily need (To date, I have received almost $250 with the company!) . As soon as that check hit the mailbox, it was deposited and spent within two days. Yup, that is how I roll!

What does a girl like me spend her fun money on? SHOES! Oh yeah! And a new SPRING COAT! Neither were necessarily needed, but they really make me happy.

I found this coat at Forever 21. I am not impressed with the quality of the clothes usually, but I inspected this coat throughly before purchasing it. You can usually tell if a company backs the work that they do up with a good return policy. They don’t take returns- they will only exchange the merchandise with the tags still on it and they will never ever refund your money. Just to make sure I didn’t miss this, the girl circled the return policy on the receipt. This is a red flag to me about companies, so just a warning…check your loot before you leave that store, otherwise you are stuck with it. I will be discussing this option more next week when I share tips for being fashionable in our Baby Steps series.

This coat covers my less-than-desirable assets, as it hits about mid-thigh. It has an empire waist, but doesn’t balloon like a maternity top. The arms are the cutest part about it as it they flare out a bit. I also love the cute lining (not that anyone sees the lining), but I adore details like that.

A company that gets an A++ for great quality is Payless Shoes and their styles out for spring are super cute. If it has been awhile since you have been in there, it is worth the trip. They carry a line of American Eagle shoes that are so cute, I can hardly stand it. Try and go when they have their buy-one-get one sales and you can come out with some amazing deals.
I needed to replace my black flats from last year and I loved this style with a little side buckle. They are almost identical to my flats last year, but I couldn’t resist another pair. They go good with everything and they are super comfy too.

These shoes are the cutest shoes ever. Red flats, cute ribbon, suede toe…what’s not to love? They make me so happy and are my one pair of fun shoes for spring….oh, and they match my coat too! Gotta love that!

These are my “Sporty Spice” shoes. My husband says they look like the first pair, but CLEARLY these are entirely different, and only resemble the first pair because they are the same color. These are my momma-had-a-hard-day-and-is-running-children-everywhere shoes. They have a rubber heel on the bottom and offer great momma-had-a-hard-day support.

All these were free thanks to Ebates and my big fat check. I thank them for keeping me fashionable and keeping me on budget.

Top 100 PF Blogs

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

FIRE Finance has released a new list for the top 100 PF blogs. We didn’t get on the list last time, but had hoped to be included in this round. As I hunted towards the bottom of the list though, I didn’t see us and was really disappointed. I didn’t even think to check towards the top, but after scanning the page for awhile I finally found us listed. We are listed as #8 on one list and #12 on another. Sweet! Check this list for some of the best bloggers in town and add them to your feeds. We humbly bow and congratulate Get Rich Slowly for scoring the top spot.

Currently FIRE Finance is running a contest for a giveaway of Robert Shemin’s book “How Come That Idiot’s Rich & I’m Not?” This title will be released on March 4, 2008. So this is a fantastic opportunity to win this book totally free. Head over there and get your entries in!

Many thanks to FIRE Finance for including us!

Don’t forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

Baby Steps Series: Storing Your Stockpile

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Awhile ago we had a fun discussion on what you consider to be a small space and it was a great glimpse into what everyone’s space challenges were and how much space each of us were taking up. I love to see how big people’s homes are in relation to their family size and also the satisfaction that they have with the space they already have.

Just to make the story a little more fun, I had mentioned that I thought our home was 1,800 square feet because that is what my husband kept telling me. When we would flip through the home catalogs everything was in comparison of what we had (“Oh, that house is only 2,000 square feet? Well, that is only 200 square feet bigger than what we already have”).

As we were working on our office organization though, we came across some paperwork from buying our house. My husband had a shocked look on his face as he flipped through the paperwork. “Our house isn’t 1,800 square feet….it is only 1,500 square feet.” Suddenly the walls were closing in on us and we huddled together in our teeny tiny office space in our teeny tiny shack of a house and shuddered in disbelief that all this time we only had this amount of space.

Of course, that is all melodramatic and I continued to pat ourselves on the back for making this amount of space work for us. No, we have no plans for moving into a bigger space, but I just wanted to use this point to illustrate that our house is not large, nor is it small. In this area of town, our house is considered on the small end. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would have felt VERY blessed to have a home of this size. Space is all relative!

Regardless of size, I have true storage dilemmas with my home, in general, due to the tri-level floor plan of this house. The house is broken into three levels and we also have a basement (in some parts of the country it is referred to as a quad). A broken floor plan like this leaves me with zero storage space and small rooms so stockpiling can be difficult in my space. I do have a basement and a garage though so feel that I am at an advantage compared to someone who might be renting a space or live in a home without these two luxuries. And yes, I do consider having my basement and garage to be a luxury as we have lived in spaces without either of these blessings.

I am going to share some ideas for ways to store your stockpile and am opening the floor up to you to share what your storage dilemmas have been and ways you have (if you have) overcome those dilemmas in a creative way. It should be a fun discussion and I am looking forward to sharing with you!

Today we are talking about how to store your stockpiled groceries. In future discussions, I would love to share about what to do with other stockpiles you might be storing in your house (children’s clothing, toiletries, etc…), but today we will focus on the grocery aspect.

Here are some ideas for ways to store your stockpile:

– First, begin by organizing your pantry and getting rid of the items you are not using. Too often, there is space for stockpiled items, but they are being used by items that are wasting your valuable space. I have found that grouping items in totes makes it easier for me to pull out what I need when I need it, keeping the like items together and preventing items from getting lost in the shuffle. Organize the space you have to create space for all that you want to stockpile.

– One of the first places to look is at the closets that you already have in your home. While not all of us are blessed with a closet in the kitchen, some closets that are not being used can be repurposed into a more usable space. Walk around in your house and really take a look at the closets that you have and see if they are being used to the best of their ability. Try and see if there is another place for the stuff in your closet (or get rid of items that you do not use) and measure the inside of it to see how many shelves you could fit into that space. If you head over to your local hardware store, you should be able to find wired shelving that can be cut to match the size of your closet. Durable wire shelving inserted into a rarely used closet can equal an affordable solution for storing your stockpile.

– Look at the doors to your closet as a place to also store items. Hardware stores offer units that can be mounted on the door for storing your canned goods. This space is rarely used, but is an excellent place for you to store items that you are stockpiling. Likewise, the dollar stores offer over-the-door storage with plastic pocketed units that can be great for storing spices, spice packets, trail mixes, nuts, etc…

– Basements and garages are ideal spaces for stockpile storage, particularly for families who are lacking space in their kitchen itself. Try to pick a space that is easy to get to so that you can make the most of your stockpile. In a basement, for example, putting your stockpile at the bottom of the stairs so items can be grabbed easily rather than a far off or less lit corner in your basement. For a garage, storing items closest to the kitchen instead of having to walk the length of the garage would be more ideal. You can use wired shelving in these spaces, bookshelves, mount 2×4’s- whatever is cheapest and easiest for you to use.

– Under your beds can be a great storage spot for stockpiles. Although it certainly isn’t ideal, it is a more creative way to use space that is rarely used. If your bed is too low, you can purchase bed risers to raise the bed to give you more space underneath. You can purchase under-the-bed storage containers and fill these with canned goods or other items that you like to stockpile or tuck items in your rarely used suitcases or bags for a free storage solution.

– A freezer is a wise investment for anyone who is looking to stockpile their groceries. In some cases, such as rental space, a freezer might not be an option, but if it is, I have found it to be a very smart investment. If you do not think you have the space for a full-size chest freezer, Sears carries a model that is half the standard size and perfect for smaller spaces or for small families that would not need such a large freezer. We purchased this freezer for our small townhouse and we love it. Less seems to get lost in the bottom depths, but we are also able to keep it filled with stockpiled items that I have gotten from the grocery store. Consider buying one of these to help save your family money.

– In smaller spaces, it might be necessary to split your stockpiled items up in various areas around the house. A shelf in the basement, a little space in the garage, a corner in a closet, stuff under the bed…it can spell a recipe for disaster if you don’t have tight tabs on what you have stockpiled. Try keeping a list of all of the items that you have and tacking it on your refrigerator. Periodically, do an inventory of the items you have so you don’t end up repeatedly buying diced tomatoes, for example, when you already are storing forty cans. An inventory list can help decrease some of the confusion and be a great way to help you decide exactly what you will be eating in the coming weeks.

Sound Off: Where do you store your stockpiled groceries? What else would you like to see covered in our “Baby Steps” series? Help us keep this going!

A Sad Life for the Clark Kids- Lots of Chores!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Chores are an important task in the Clark household and one of the benefits about our children getting older is that they can pitch in more. Since most chores seem to fall in the lap of mommy, I am thrilled that chores haven’t lost their novelty yet and that my son loves to help mommy get things done around here.

Do I know that the novelty will wear off soon? Of course! I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here are some reasons why chores are important in my house:

– I am grooming my child to someday be a self-sufficient adult. I don’t want my kid going to college and not knowing how to make himself/herself a sandwich, do a load of laundry, or have to be dependent on the people around them.

– I want my kids to know that we are a family unit and in a family unit, it is important for everyone to pitch in. Occasionally, I will hear my son say that he is “bored” with chores or “too tired” to help me out. That is tough luck in this house because everyone has to put forth an effort so that we can ALL enjoy having a clean and organized home.

– Chores are a great teaching opportunity. Sorting clothing by colors teaches your child to group colors together, folding clothing helps them build fine-motor skills, working at a fast pace (setting a timer for completing certain tasks) can be a fun way to exercise.

– I want my son to be a catch someday. Yeah, I am looking waaaaayyyy down the road, but that is sometimes in the back of my mind. What girl would not want to marry someone who knew how to wash his own laundry, could whip up a lovely dinner for her, or who picked up after himself? Those are attributes that would have been on my list when choosing a mate and I want my son to have those kind of attributes too…not only for himself, but for whoever he might end up with someday.

Here are what chores we do in our house:

– My son ( 5 yr old) has to get himself dressed in the morning, put his pajamas in his hamper, and make his bed before coming downstairs.

– He helps me prepare the evening meal and helps set the table for our dinner.

– Emily (2 yr old) & Ethan both have to help pick up their toys before they go to bed in the evening. We put on fast and crazy dance music, set the timer for ten minutes, and the whole family pitches in to pick up the playroom.

– On house cleaning day, Ethan is responsible for picking up his room for me to vacuum and dust it and he has to make sure the playroom is in order. We typically clean while my daughter lays down for her nap so this is a solo operation. I have moved my cleaning day to coincide with our Friday night family night. Basically, it is total bribery and we have to get the playroom picked up so that they can have a pizza and a movie with mommy and daddy. It works out really well.

– Ethan sorts our laundry. I line the hampers up and the baskets and he sorts the laundry for me. He also helps fold the laundry when I wash it.

Here is what I had to overcome in order for this to work in our house:

– Teaching chores is a tedious process, but it is worth the time and effort spent. It took him awhile to get the hang of sorting the loads so we would start with a “question” pile which saved us all time. If he didn’t know where something went, he would put that in a separate pile and we would talk about each item as we threw it in the correct basket.

– Things will not be done perfectly and I needed to get over that. When my son helps fold the laundry, it is not going to look like I folded the laundry, or like when I set the table, or have all the toys exactly where I would have put them. This is when you take your “mommy dearest” issues down a notch and enjoy being a mom and having someone to help you.

– I try to use our chore opportunities, not as a time to direct, but to talk with my kids. As we work on putting dinner together and setting the table, we talk about our day at school. It isn’t always this way, but I try to reserve this special time with them.

Sound Off: What chores do your children do and what are their ages?