Archive for April, 2008

FAQ For Amy

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Q: I want to start a blog or find a work-at-home job, but I don’t know how. How can I start learning about blogging and working from home?

A: I have a post here that addresses the questions on working from home. I also posted awhile back on how to gain a readership, and how to track that traffic. I hope these help!

Q: Will you be discussing the economy slump?

A: I will be honest and say that I am not what I would consider a personal finance blogger. I write about frugal measures that our family takes, but am not as educated on specific topics of personal finance. I will continue to share how we save money, address the personal finance issues I feel confident on addressing, and will try to lead by example through my blog. I am more of a tightwad blogger than a personal finance blogger. What I learn though, I always will share- I promise! I am working on some new material to add to address these issues and am researching blog ideas to share more on this topic though, but it might be a bit on the “light” side for the hardcore PF bloggers.

Q: Can I add you to my blogroll? How do I get added to yours?

Absolutely, we love being added to blogrolls. In fact, I will say that this is one of the easiest ways to find great blogs for me to read is through your referral links. I periodically check referral links and try to send a thank you for referencing my posts. One of the ways we thank people back is by featuring them here through the notebook entries and I try to reciprocate as much as I can through a blog entry format. Another way to get on our site is to join the Frugal Hacks network and then you are automatically added to the blogroll through my handy Frugal Hacks button that you will see to the side.

Q: Are you going to do the spring cleaning series anymore?

A: I actually got really overwhelmed with it and now that it is nice out, I haven’t been spending a lot of time indoors. I hope to do more printables in the future, but I have been trying to still devote one hour weekly towards working on some little tasks to tidy the home. I can start posting those in the interim and share what I am working on, but the printables might be on hold until the nice weather is over. My kids want to play outside and I love to be outside with them. With all of the regular writing engagements I have, I am struggling with some of the necessary work for my site. I promise to continue to inspire you in your home though and hope to always have new ideas and recipes to share to get things tidy.

Q: Are you going to do more Aldi menu planners?

I hope to put more of these together in the future. Frankly, we ran out of recipes and so I have been taking a little break. I still try to do a new recipe each week, but we eat some of the same things each week too. If I build up enough new recipes to do another planner, I promise to do my best to put another one together. In the meantime, Aldi has their own recipes now and you can put together menus from their very own site. They are not Amy-tested and kid-approved recipes, but it is a great start towards adding some variety in your mealtime.

Q: I have an Aldi complaint. Can I just send it to you to forward my feedback on to the company?

A: Um, no. Please don’t send me your Aldi complaints. I don’t work for Aldi and, as of yet, have not gotten a paycheck from them for all my lovely product endorsing. I don’t have a contact there for you so you will have to take your product in to your local store and request a refund there.

Q: What kind of camera do you use and are you happy with your new camera?

I bought my camera after I had asked our reader’s opinions on the cameras that they use and the success they had with them. The camera I use is a Canon PowerShot S5. I would have loved to have gotten a Rebel, but the practical side of me won out and I am so glad I got this one. It is FABULOUS and I couldn’t be any happier. I have been having so much fun playing around with it and it has made my blogging a ton easier. My other camera needed a steady hand all of the time and I seem to have a shaky hand so this has been a wonderful investment for me. No more missed photo opportunities of my children. I paid roughly $320 for this camera and it has been worth every penny.

Q: I emailed you and you never wrote me back? Why?

A: I apologize if you have emailed me and I haven’t responded. I receive anywhere between sixty to a hundred messages each day. I try to respond to as many as I can, but please know that I read ALL of your messages and have appreciated everything you guys send. I love each of you and appreciate your thoughtfulness!!

Sound Off: Have a question for me- here is your opportunity! I will answer any question you have- personal, cleaning questions, homemaking questions, money questions, stuff about your kids… whatever!

You Knew It Was Coming….Exercise & You

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Oh, you just knew that this chapter was upon us after our frank discussion about self-care. I just want you to know that I am not just being Miss Preachy and I promise you that I am making serious changes with the help of this book. The changes I am seeing in myself are making me a much happier mommy.

Here are some things I have been working towards:

1. In the evenings, I am doing something quiet like knitting, reading, or spending time with my husband. I am trying to slow down in the evenings instead of running around for no reason. The same is applying to our daytime routine as well. I am trying to focus on the kids doing more stuff at home with me and less running around. Less running around= less money spent!
2. I replaced some things that needed replacing. Without going into details, I recruited my best girlfriend to go shopping with me and I finally forked over the money and threw out items that needed replacing. It was huge- like, a HUGE deal.
3. I made appointments and kept them. I visited my chiropractor, got my medical massage, kept a follow-up exam with my doctor, and went to my annual. I should be just about perfect after all of that.
4. I am purging a ton of stuff out of our house- three carloads so far! This stuff has been weighing me down and needed to go. It is mostly clothing, but I have been adding items little by little, as I see it, to the trunk and then taking a load over to the Goodwill each day. This is so good for my emotional well-being and it is creating more space in our home too!

Today we are going to talk about exercise or the lack of exercise in our lives. Since I have had Emily, I have not been exercising, and I can give you excuse after excuse for why I have not been engaging in regular exercise. It usually starts with, “I am so busy…” I am petite and people can’t necessarily tell that I don’t exercise regularly, but I am sluggish by midday and my body isn’t toned anymore. I have back problems and regular exercise would really benefit this, but I always have an excuse for why I can’t do it. Really, there are a hundred reasons why I SHOULD exercise and a hundred reasons why I DON’T exercise.

In the book, “How Did I Get So Busy?” the author offers these suggestions for making exercise a regular routine in your life.

1. Give yourself a range of success. Just as the author recommended in the self-care chapter, she reminds us that we don’t have to do everything perfect. Make a goal, but don’t beat yourself up if your goal was six days of exercise and you only managed three. Make three days a minimum goal for yourself and do the best you can and make it something that works for you.

2. Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just thirty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

3. Multi-task when you exercise. No, the author isn’t suggesting we do our bills, but to use this time to meditate or listen to music to make the experience more enjoyable.

4. Take a class, form a group, or get a trainer. If you liked the idea of setting up appointments for self-care, this might be a great idea for you. She suggests making an appointment with a workout buddy or friend to help keep you motivated. Your workout buddy could even by your child, spouse, or another family member- whatever will help too keep you motivated.

5. Make a plan you’ll actually follow. Start small, build your confidence, and be consistent.

6. If you fail, try again. She quotes Winston Churchill who said, “Success is the ability to move from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Don’t beat yourself up, but be honest with yourself. Keep trying and don’t give up.

7. Start your day with exercise. Stop trying to squeeze it in when you have a full schedule and make it your routine when you wake up. Before you go to bed, put your workout clothes, shoes, and a bottle of water right next to the alarm clock. When you wake up, slip on your workout gear and head out the door for a brisk walk, pop in your favorite workout tape, or find an open area in your house to do a few sets of your favorite exercise. Use this time as your planning time, quiet time, or “me” time and enjoy energy all day long.

Sound Off: Do you make exercise a priority in your life? How have you worked this into your schedule?

Follow-Up Sound Off: Did you do something to care for yourself this week? Report back and let me know if our discussion helped you at all!

Mommy Interview: Kathy Kaehler

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The Hanes team contacted us to see if we would be interested in interviewing some of their moms from their spokesperson team. They have created a fun resource for parents and picked some amazing parents to represent their brand.

Kathy Kaehler, mom, celebrity trainer, author and spokesperson has devoted her life to helping people live happy, productive and healthy lives. Beyond imparting the latest in fitness workouts, this lifestyle expert has tackled such subjects as multi-tasking, stress management, nutrition, how to get a good night’s sleep and how to get kids of the couch and onto their feet.

As a mother of eleven year old twins and a seven year old (all boys!), Kaehler is committed to keeping her kids and all children fit. Kathy shares a few tips for how to get our kids off of the couch… and ourselves!

We are all trying to raise healthy children, but it is evident that we are falling short when it comes to exercise. How much physical activity should our children be getting each day?

I think our kids need to be doing something physical everyday for 30-60 minutes a day. It does not have to be all at once but if you break up that time into ten minute romps it really adds up. Kids don’t mind exercise as long as it’s fun! Don’t just sign your kid up for a class or a sport – find out what they really enjoy. It’s important to keep in mind that fitness isn’t always what we think of in the traditional sense – Frisbee, mini golf, bowling – these are all ways to get different parts of your kids’ bodies moving! You can find some of my ideas on of fun activities you can do with your kids, such as going for an adventure hike in the backyard or at the local park (don’t forget to pack healthy snacks and water); throwing a ball or water balloons at a target; creating a music mix for a dance party. Play with your kids and show them how fun it is to be active!

For families that suffer through long winters or are not able to get outside as often, what are some fun indoor activities that you can do with your children?

There are many things that you can do inside while the weather is cold, but don’t forget kids love to get out and play in snow and rain. Just make sure they are bundled up. For indoor fun try family challenges like one minute of jumping jacks, walking up and down the stairs, try to see many rooms can you walk in and out of in one minute, etc. “Balloon Flight” is a great game that I get my kids to play. Blow up a med size balloon and the object is to not let the balloon touch the ground and you can’t touch the balloon twice in a row. Lots of laughter and action with this one! Create a whole schedule of activities around the house and you and the kids will be surprised how fast time will fly by.

At what age should you begin exercising with your child?

The most important thing to remember is that we parents are the best role models at creating an active environment for our kids and this can never start too early. I showed my kids how to start using their muscles as soon as they started to walk. Even in the stroller you can begin to tell them that you are exercising and that they are helping you. I also began asking my boys at an early age what they did that day that helped their bodies – whether it was eating their vegetables, walking the dog, etc. The kids would think about it all day and couldn’t wait to tell me (and show up their brothers) later that night. I found that this type of thinking helped create a foundation for an active lifestyle that will hopefully stay with them for years to come.

With video games and television taking our children away from healthy activity, what are some ways that parents can make exercise as appealing to them as these things seem to be?

First off, make sure your kids are comfortable when they’re out and about! My guys will only wear tagless tees from Hanes – they can’t stand the itching and chafing from tags when they’re running around – and they practically live in Hanes’ super soft hoodies. If your kids are in comfortable gear, they’ll play longer. If they’re not, they’ll just come right back and plop on the comfy couch.

Encourage your kids to be happy and have fun. As I mentioned before, kids don’t mind exercise as long as they’re having a good time. Instead of forcing a sport or activity on your child, take the time to figure out what he or she enjoys doing. This can be bowling, ultimate Frisbee, jazz class or in the more traditional sense, soccer, tennis, lacrosse. If kids start off with a positive attitude towards their chosen form of exercise, there is a better chance they’ll stick with it.

If you can’t win over the video games, and chances are you will lose this battle at some point, at least make them play active ones. They really can be a workout!

Last resort: you can also bribe. I know how that sounds, but in my house, and probably in most houses, we have to compromise and some things are trade offs. It’s reality that kids want to play video games and watch TV. If the kids say they have to play a game or have to watch this show, then they have to go out on the trampoline and jump so many times beforehand.

As busy moms, how can we make exercise a priority in our schedule? How often should we be exercising?

We need to be exercising most days of the week. In order to be on top of everything going on in the house, you have to feel good about yourself and the best way to do that is to get in a workout. You will be a happier mom, more organized and have the energy to do it all. This doesn’t mean you need to be at the gym every day of the week. You can take a class, and you can also take dog to the park or go on a walk with your girlfriends. I also suggest my “Take Five” workout. Every morning and every night take just five minutes to do some jumping jacks, squats and/or side-to-side hops. These five minute blasts will get your heart rate and energy level up and it’s only ten minutes a day!

What can moms do when they get stuck in an exercising rut?

My advice is to sit down to think about new goals and map out your plan of attack. Remember to be realistic in what your schedule and body can take when creating these new goals. I also suggest getting your mom, or friends or co-worker on board to help you stay motivated and explore different ways to stay in shape – whether it’s a walk for a charity one weekend, training for a mini marathon, going on a bike ride or taking some tennis lessons. Mixing it up and changing your surroundings when working out will keep you from getting bored or stuck.

Sound Off: Do you engage in exercise regularly? How do you make this a priority for your children?

Rainy Days, Bloom Swap, Contests, Updates, & More Randomness

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Sorry for a post full of randomness, but I wanted to update everyone on stuff that is going on this week!!


Yesterday I went to the WSBT studio to discuss how to put together a rainy day survival kit for your kids. This goes along with my little tutorial on making a rainy day suitcase for your family. My husband said this is the best one I have ever done? I think it came off that way because I was feeling a little more sassy…or maybe because I had to be there by 6:20 in the morning and wasn’t fully awake. I hope you guys enjoy it. I am pretty proud of our little suitcase so it was fun to get to show it off.

Nephew Update

My nephew is doing so well that they are moving him out of ICU this morning. The skin looks great and it even has color to it- a great indication that the blood supply is doing what it is supposed to. My sister is a nurse so she can explain it a little more technically than I can, but it all sounds so positive. Thank you all for your sweet prayers and messages!

Lands’ End Contest-

I am really trying hard to share everything I can with all of our readers and today we have a Mother’s Day contest posted with Lands’ End. We will be offering one winner a $100 gift card to Lands’ End to make her own custom-fit swimsuit! I am so excited that we can offer this and I hope you will head over there to check out all of the contest details.

Bloom Swap-

I got to participate in another swap hosted by Monica & Carrie… two of my most favorite blogging friends in the world! Above is all of the loveliness that my swap partner, Angela from Life with one busy boy, sent to me. Her box was so beautiful and full of spring for me. My favorite item was a pair of pink gardening gloves- perfect for this girly-girl in the garden. I loved my box so much that I missed the photo opportunity and just dug right in. I had to sheepishly email Angela and ask if I could borrow her pictures. What a nice swap partner she was to share them with me!

I skipped the box in favor of my favorite reusable bag from Target. I filled hers with lots of flowery goodness and fun spring accessories for her garden. A fresh pair of garden gloves, flowery cards and pads of paper to put by her phone, and some bulbs to plant in her garden!

Thank you to my swap partner and the swap sisters for making this possible!

Update on My Nephew

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I just got off the phone with my mom and Austin is in ICU. His surgery lasted over eight hours yesterday so he was under for a lot longer than they had expected. They are waiting to see if the blood will start flowing and if the blood vessels will attach and begin working before we can be sure that the surgery was a success. He has been sick from being under for that length of time and we are just thankful that he got through it. Please continue to pray that this surgery will be a success for him and for his family.

Thank you all for being so sweet and praying for him. I know that their family really appreciates it and needs your support!

$10 Tripod

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Editor’s Note: SORRY! This offer has expired!

I have been wanting to get a tripod for my camera, and told my husband to be on the lookout for any good deals. He happened upon this tripod, normally priced at $49.99, now marked at $10.00.

If you have not signed up for Google Checkout yet, you can get a $10.00 credit, making this free (only had to pay for shipping which was $7.09). Look for the Google Checkout button below to process through this. You do have to pay shipping through this option, but it is less than the $10 you would have had to pay for the tripod itself.

Just thought I would post, in case anyone else was looking for a tripod!

Note from a Reader: If you switch the shipping time frame you can get it for FREE!!! I just ordered mine with shipping in 7-9 days. Thanks for sharing this!

Another Season of Gift Giving

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

It seems that the summer is our crazy season for gift-giving. Between high school graduations, weddings, new babies, and the regular birthdays, we can spend a lot of money on our gifts.

I am sure I am not alone so I wanted to share some links to frugal ideas for buying and wrapping your gifts this year!

Gift Giving:

Elegant Photo Albums– Would make an excellent Mother’s Day gift!
Bubbly Magnets– A great addition to a college student’s gift or Mother’s Day gift!
Sugar & Spice Nuts– Would make a fabulous Father’s Day gift
A His & Hers Gift to Remember
Frugal Wedding Gifts
Housewarming Gift Ideas
How to Make a Diaper Cake
Thrifty Graduation Gifts
Frugal Graduation Gifts
Painted Mugs– Great for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or for a special babysitter who might be off to college Gift Certificates– Great for any occasion
Give the Gift of Magazines Frugally
Starbucks Banana Pound Cake– Paired with a pound of coffee, it would make a lovely gift for Father’s Day

Gift Wraping:

Gift Wrapping Made Easy
Be a Wrap Superstar: Use What You Have
Be a Wrap Superstar: Tailor Your Gift
Be a Wrap Superstar: Wallpaper That Gift
Simplifying Gift Giving
Introducing You to the Gift Closet

Sound Off:
Do you have a favorite baby, housewarming, wedding, or graduation gift that is always a hit?

Water & Chalk

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
Two old margarine tubs filled with water and one package of paint brushes from the dollar store.

Mommy’s yoga mat becomes a soft cushion for the kids to rest their bottoms on while playing on the pavement. Don’t forget the sidewalk chalk so they can make even more cool pavement creations!

Ethan paints a rainbow with water and Emily just loves to paint around herself.

Emily’s painting usually ends up looking like this.

Ethan layers chalk and water to make beautiful hearts for mommy.

Then we make our own little hopscotch game, but that is too boring for a boy.

Ethan calls this, “EXTREME hopscotch.” He even says the word EXTREME in an EXTREME way. The rules are, you jump on number one and then hop 40,000 steps to get to number two and then you have to hop 40,000 more steps to get to the third number. These went all the way down our driveway to the very end. He wanted me to jump it, but that sounded too extreme for mommy, but perfect for an energetic little boy.

Water and chalk provide hours of enjoyment on sunny days. This is how a frugal family spends their day together and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Prayers for Austin

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Today is a hard day for our family and I am just asking you to lift my six year-old nephew up in your prayers this week. Austin is undergoing a very intense surgery today, where they will be grafting new skin for his leg to replace the nevus that is currently there. He will be in surgery for six hours today and then will be in ICU for seven to ten days. It is hard, as an aunt, to know what he is going through right now and I sit here feeling helpless waiting for any snippets from my sister about how it is going.

We sent Austin off with a little treat- a double batch of blueberry muffins for everyone to snack on while they were waiting. I am becoming a pro at “hospital hospitality” as, I believe, we are on our eighth surgery for Austin and I try to make a little something for them each time they go. It isn’t much, but these are the only things I feel like I can do right now.

Ethan is so worried about his best friend and cousin, so we decided to send pictures that Austin could open each day that he is at the hospital. My sister said she had to hide them because Austin was so excited to see what Ethan had made for him. Ethan said he made things that he thought Austin would think were “super cool” to cheer him up. We numbered them for each day he would be away from us and promised a sleepover at our house when he got better.

Please pray for a swift recovery and bless the surgeons with the skills that are needed to complete the task.

Knit for a Cause

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I am so enjoying learning how to knit and it has been a wonderful outlet for me in the evenings. I have been practicing and learning each day. Progressively, I am getting a little better, but I am no speed demon and certainly am still in the learning stages.

My mother-in-law gave me a big stack of knitting magazines to help inspire me and my knitting projects. As I was flipping through them, I noticed all of the great charities that were listed that take knitting donations. I had not thought of how learning this skill could benefit others, but now I am thinking about this hobby in a new way. If I can learn how to knit, I can benefit someone else.

Our church has a knitting club and I am a little too embarrassed to go at such an early stage, but it might benefit me to sit with some experienced knitters and let them teach me a thing or two. I have also been calling my poor mother-in-law often to brag about figuring out how to purl, how to cast off, and my daily progression on my scarf. She is so sweet to talk to me and encourage me that I am doing well or just to offer moral support when it takes simple things, like learning to purl, an entire day. Talk about slow!

I wanted to provide some links to organizations that take knitting donations. Please list any organizations that you have worked with/for and if you have had any experience knitting for charity.

These lists provide some added motivation for learning this new skill- what a gift it would be to share my handmade efforts with others.

Cubs for Kids

Interweave Knits Charity Knitting List

The Duulan Project

Newborns in Need

Threads of Love – find a chapter in your area!

SusanB’s Charity Page

Headhuggers Chemo Hats

Bev’s Afghanistan Project Page

“Ray of Hope” UK Charity Knitting

Special Knitting Forces

Stitches from the Heart

Project Linus Baby Blankets

The Daily Knitter Charity Knitting

Red Scarf Project – Norma Knits Blog with info

Guideposts Sweater Project

Afghans for Afghans

Knitting for Veterans

Warm Woolies – Knitting for Orphans and Poverty Stricken Children