Archive for January, 2009

Freebie Friday: January 30, 2009

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! As always, a big thanks goes out to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for all of her assistance with our freebie list! Heather has a great new list of hot coupons for you, to print out for your next grocery day. Don’t forget to enter her Hallmark Card Giveaway and visit her site every day for fabulous freebies. Thank you, Heather!

Just as a reminder, our Apron Full of Giveaways is still being added to daily. Make sure to check out all the great blogs and see what new giveaways you can enter!

Health & Beauty

Workouts on Demand (free workout download with code light4u)
Harajuku Lovers Fragrance
Tampax & Always Samples for Teens


Diet Dr. Pepper (with coupon by mail)
Sargento Super Sunday Delicious Football Party Playbook (free recipes to download)


Harlequin Romance 16 eBooks
6 Free Photo Valentine’s Cards (Stories by Everyone, includes free shipping)
Woman’s Day Magazine (Mercury Magazines, for businesses)
Ranger’s Apprentice eBook

Home & Garden

Lee National Denim Day Participation Kit (when you register a team)
Sunkist Lemonade Stand (for kids 7-12 with parents permission)
Warner’s Fit-to-a-T House Party
Charmin Toilet Paper Roll Extender

Upcoming Freebie Events:

Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

30 – Caribou Coffee Free 12oz. Decaf Coffee – Noon to close at all locations

7 – The Home Depot Kids Workshop – Make a trinket box with heart
14 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic – Make a jewelry box
24 – IHOP National Pancake Day 7am-10pm
28 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic – Make a 48 race car

Amy’s Notebook 01.29.09

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I love this little retro Valentine’s tray (@ Vintage Indie)

I want to try this recipe for vegetarian chili (@ Sparkle Power)

These chocolate quickies look like a great treat to serve to my friends (@ Chocolate on My Cranium)

This sewing tutorial is great for a super simple recycled quilt (@ Craft Stylish)

I adore this hutch cabinet makeover (@ Pretty Ditty)

These fabric boxes are so cute (@ design sponge)

I love this heartfelt scarf (@ chica schmica)

If you have an iPod, this Peekaboo Farm would be a fabulous way to keep your kids entertained (@ ohdeedoh)

I love these baby gnome hats (@ Soule Mama)

These red velvet cupcakes look like a yummy treat (@ Little Acorn)

I love this spice drawer organization idea (@ The Farm Chicks)

These tulle ponytail holders would be adorable for my daughter (@ zakka life)

These recipes for hot cocoa look so yummy! (@ Polliwog’s Cakewalk)

I want to make some heart-shaped pretzels for the kids (@ maya made)

Notebook Will Be Late….

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I apologize, but our Notebook will be a little late today. I made a trip to Philadelphia and left at 9AM for the airport, only to arrive here at 1:15 in the morning. Three canceled flights, two delays, a plane with mechanical problems, and a host of difficulties. I am exhausted!

I will try to post something later today- I apologize for this delay!

Notebook Experiments: Will A Loft Bed Save Us Space?

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Experiment: Will a loft bed save us space?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.22.09

Materials Needed: Please see Ohdeedoh for the full instructions.

Results: I can admit that I am totally cheating this week, but when I saw the post on Ohdeedoh, I thought it would tie in perfectly with showing you our son’s new big boy bed. Now that his bed had moved over to his sister’s room, we had to find a bed for Ethan.

My new rule for furniture buying is I will NEVER again buy something online without seeing it in person first. His first bed was the biggest fiasco ever. We got it home, it was the wrong thing, it was damaged, it was 300 pounds, it had to be loaded piece by piece back into our car, it had to then be unloaded and returned to the store. The whole thing ended with me trying to get the trundle bed out, as a substitution bed for our son, and the trundle releasing under the other bed, pinning my hands between the two beds. We had to make a call to 9-1-1, I was nursing jammed fingers for three days, and cursing my bright idea to order a bed online. NEVER again!

The next day, I decided to head down the road to our local Oak Express and found a bed within minutes. I paid for the bed and sprung for the people to come and put it together for me. It was an easy decision, as I clutched my swollen hand and swore to myself that whatever the price it it would be worth EVERY penny. And it was. It was so worth it. Lesson learned.

Without further adieu, our fabulous new set-up:

We have a tri-level home with very small bedrooms. These small spaces require much thought to make the most of every square inch. A loft bed seemed like the perfect solution for his room. With his new bed, we were able to create space underneath for his own desk to study at. What you can’t see from this angle is that there is also a shelf for his books and water at the very end of the bed which he really loves.

Here is Ethan’s demonstration for how he climbs into his bed. When he gets older, the ladder can be removed and he can just climb up the side of it. Basically, it will look more grown up for when he is too cool for ladders.

They had two desk choices for this model of bed and we went with the smaller one so he still has room to play underneath. I still need to buy a good chair for him, but he is so thrilled to have his own little space to study his schoolwork.

Conclusion: A loft bed is a great solution for small spaces. Despite having to pay more for the bed than I intended, it is still cheaper than moving into a new house to have bigger rooms. We are thrilled with our purchase and Ethan has been sleeping like a dream in his fancy new bed.

Have you ever had an online purchase go bad? Have you ever regretted buying something online rather than in person?


I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

Play It Again, Momma: Artisan Bread in 5

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

After our discussion on my old school baking day, I had lots of great ideas for how I could get around actually buying a bread machine. One of our readers, named Noreen, suggested that I check out a book called, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” which would help me get around the whole bread machine process and required no kneading.

As soon as I read her comment, I put a hold on it at our library and picked it up the next day. With a cup of iced coffee in hand, I read through the entire process and what I would need to complete it.

For copyright reasons, I will refrain from going into the recipes themselves, but I will explain the process of this method so that you can decide if this something you could/would do to make bread for your family. The master mix recipe I am using is actually located here so you could attempt the first recipe without even getting the book.

There are lots of different recipes in the book and then different ways of shaping the dough recipes. I attempted the master recipe which included just the basics- water, yeast, flour, and salt.

The difference between making this dough and the traditional dough is that you literally dump the ingredients in (no need to even proof the yeast) and use a wooden spoon to just mix everything together. The dough is very wet and easy to stir and you don’t even have to break out the mixer.

You cover the dough and let it rise for two hours and then you stick it in the fridge for a minimum of three hours and up to fourteen days. Yes, that’s right..fourteen days! According to the authors, the dough will taste better and better the longer the dough sits in there and you can even use some of your old dough as a starter for a new dough, much like the process of making a sour dough starter.
The first picture shows what this dough looks like when it is just incorporated- stringy and yucky looking. This second picture shows what the dough looks like after it rises. This master recipe was enough for four loaves so that is why it looks like there is so much. They have bigger recipes than this, but this is the amount of fridge space I could spare for the week.

I let this dough sit for two days before I made my first loaf. When you make your first loaf, you just “cloak the dough,” (sprinkle the dough on top with some flour) and then cut off a grapefruit section of the dough for your first loaf. Without any kneading or any real handling of the dough, you tuck the corners of the dough underneath and put it on a pizza peel (I used my extra pizza stone) that has been sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Now you let it rise and preheat your oven for 450 degrees. They suggested twenty minutes, comments on Amazon suggested preheating the entire forty minutes that the dough is rising to help achieve the best crust.

It should look something like the picture above. It is relatively smooth on top, but the corners are all tucked underneath. After you have shaped it like this and let it rise, you can slice the top two or three times.

You now slide the loaf (very awkwardly if you have no pizza peel) and then you fill a boiler tray with one cup of hot water and put it in the oven to help steam the oven up to give you a nice crisp crust. Don’t ever open the door and let it cook for thirty minutes.

When I took it out, it looked like this. Now remember, this is my first loaf so I am sure I will get better at it, but I am pretty impressed with how this first loaf looks. Next time I will score it a little more and I will probably make more than one loaf at a time. The exterior of this loaf is nice and golden, and it is solid and crusty on the outside. Perfection!

The interior was a bit gummy though so I may cook it for another ten minutes or raise the temperature. This will just require some tweaking on my part, but our family still thought it tasted pretty darn good.

Now that I have made this first loaf, I am so excited to try the other loaves in the book. The entire process took very little of my time and I had very little clean-up (my least favorite part of making bread) so it is a great solution for a busy mom who wants to make homemade bread, but doesn’t have the tools or time to make bread from scratch.

Let’s also talk about the cost savings too. In our town, our local market has artisan breads for sale that cost about $4 a loaf. I buy my ingredients in bulk at Sam’s Club and I am estimating that this loaf of bread costs me about forty cents or less. What a savings and how elegant is this to bring to parties and when entertaining? You just can’t beat it!

A big thank you to Noreen for the suggestion and I hope you can try this recipe and tell me what you think! I have a demonstration from the authors posted below- this might help explain the process further.

Have you experimented with no-knead artisan breads? Do you make your own bread throughout the week? I would love to hear your process for bread making!

An Apron Full of Giveaways 01.27.09

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways where you can share or enter to win all the great giveaways on the internet.

Today we have one giveaway closing out at 8PM today that I don’t want you to miss! My good friend and local fashionista, Kathy Friend, is offering an online shape & fit consultation to help you get your wardrobe on track for the new year. She came over and did one with me and helped me choose the best clothes for my shape, wrote down measurements (which will be so great for online shopping), did a bra fitting, and offered advice on color choices. I feel like a whole new woman after all of that and I can’t wait to share it with you. Visit the link below to enter to win!

We also have a new giveaway that we will be offering with Gerber this week. We will be offering one reader a Gerber diaper bag backpack filled with recipes and a teddy bear to share their commitment towards helping educate parents on good nutrition. Follow the link below to enter.

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Children’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

To enter, please follow the links below. (photo credit: mithrilsea)

No Spend Month You Tube Introduction

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

First, I just wanted to thank everyone who has expressed interest in taking on our No Spend Challenge. On February 1st, I will be posting a link list where you can add your updates and share about your experience with not spending money. I think this is going to be so much fun and it will be great to have moral support as we venture into the habit of not spending.

We also have a MomAdvice No Spend Challenge Flickr group and you can join by making a commitment towards not spending for a set amount of time and taking a picture of it. It could be a day, a week, a month, or even a year. You can make that commitment to your family and share a picture of what you do each day when you are not spending money. Get your finances back on track and have fun documenting the creative ways you spend your time together.

Second, here is our first You Tube video about the No Spend Challenge. I think this truly captures how goofy our family is and how hyper my children are. Emily was napping when we filmed this so she missed being in the show this time, but I am sure she will be in the future episodes. I don’t know if we are half as funny as we think we are, but we thought it was hilarious! I wanted to capture who was MOST enthusiastic and who was LEAST enthusiastic. It will be interesting to see how this all progresses!

New Printable: Weekly Menu Planning Sheet

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I am so excited to share with you that we have a new printable available for you to use on our site. It is a Weekly Menu Planner that you can use to jot down your meals for the week and even has some room for snacks, lunches, and breakfast. I hope it will help make menu planning easier.

If you have other ideas for printables that you would like to see on here, please let us know. My web designer (also known as my husband) might be able to squeeze in a few more here and there!

If you need more ideas for menu planning be sure to visit the resources list and check out the podcast for more discussions on simplifying our home management routines!

Free & Fun Resources for Book Lovers

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The coffee tray was assembled with all the necessary items for a good cup of coffee.

I gathered a stack of books from my bookshelves that I was not planning to read right now and books that I had read and truly loved.

Our fearless book club leader, Jessica, suggested a book swap for the month. I offered to host our book gathering and couldn’t wait to see what everyone brought. We piled the books on the table, we shared what we thought about our respective stacks, and we sipped some coffee. Everyone left with a bag full of new books and not a dime was spent. It was like going to the library, but no one will fine me if I don’t get it read in three weeks time. As a busy mom, this is exactly the type of book activity that I was game for.

If you don’t have some friends to swap books with, here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari– I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing– This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf– This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch– Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins– This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple– This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You get the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads– For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

Of course, the ultimate in free resources for book lovers is your local library. Be sure to check the Resources page on your library’s website and see what tools you might be overlooking. My library card comes with free passes to local museums, online memberships to many research tools, even iPods and audio book downloads right to my iPod!

Do you use any of these resources for your reading? Feel free to share your own resources that you have discovered that could help your fellow book lover out!

The MomAdvice No Spend Challenge

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Our family is planning to take an adventure for the month of February into the world of no spending. We have sat down as a family and discussed the benefits of doing this and what we hope to get out of this challenge.

What can be gained though from a no-spend month can prove to be of great value for families. When you are not able to spend, you suddenly see how plentiful your life already is. The richness of what is around you and how little you truly do need to be happy quickly comes into focus.

As a consumer, we become conditioned to spend so I imagine that first initial week will prove challenging. I know the rewards are great though for families who can overcome that hump and break the cycle of spending. A no-spend month does come with challenges, but it also comes with the gratification of knowing that you have let your bank account grow!

When we say no spending, we mean no spending outside of our normal daily living expenses. Some things will still need to be purchased in order to keep the lights lit, food on our table, and diapers on our baby. This is what we have set aside for the month:

Clark Family February Spending Plan:

$250 for the month for groceries (including diapers)
Normal utility payments
Gas for cars

We will be doing our best to not spend on anything else for the month and share our experience with you.

I really wanted to come up with a creative way that people could share about their No Spend Challenge that would be fun and also insightful into what people do when they aren’t out spending money. My brilliant idea was to document it by creating a Flickr group where people could pick up a No Spend Challenge any day, week, month, or year that they would like to document their adventure.

To join the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge group, you simply need to make a commitment towards not spending for a set amount of time. It could be a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Make that commitment to your family and share a picture of what you do each day when you are not spending money. Get your finances back on track and have fun documenting the creative ways you spend your time together.

Would you like to take a no-spend adventure with me? Just think of all of the free time you will have if you are not out shopping and spending for a month.

Here are a few ideas for how you could spend all of that free time!

  • Get your finances back on track by trying out a free program like and get in better touch with your past spending.
  • Dust off those old board games and spend an evening playing them together.
  • Watch free movies on or take out the DVD collection and watch your favorite movies again. If you are really craving a new release, sign up on to get a free movie code every Monday and use that to get your movie fix for the month.
  • Break out that really old game system and relive those games again with your kids.
  • Dig through your old cookbooks and try out recipes using some of the ingredients in your pantry.
  • Play a game of Iron Chef with your spouse and let your children be the judge of the best dish by having your very own cooking contest. You might be surprised that even dad’s toasted Pop-Tart might be the judge’s favorite in this contest.
  • Actually use the craft supplies that you have bought and start tackling some of your crafty ideas for the holidays.
  • Find the floor in your laundry room.
  • Look for free community activities that you could do as a family.
  • Volunteer or find things in your home that you could donate to those less fortunate.
  • Visit the library and actually read the books.
  • Clip coupons and plan your grocery shopping in advance for next month.
  • Take a wonderful and delicious nap.
  • Learn a new skill set or check out books on self-improvement to help make your life better or easier.
  • Get free museum passes from the library or check the local museum’s websites for information on their free admittance days. Don’t forget to pack a lunch!
  • Have a potluck-style swap night with your friends and exchange three of your things for three of theirs.
  • Read that pile of magazines or newspapers that never gets read.
  • Exercise.
  • Listen to free music on and make a fun mix of songs you listened to when you were dating your spouse.
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Play on the floor with your children.
  • Organize your closet and take inventory of your wardrobe.
  • Put batteries in the children’s toys to make them “new” again.
  • Tackle a home improvement project that you bought supplies for, but still haven’t finished.

However you decide to spend your no-spend day, weekend, week, month, or year, I hope that it brings into focus how great it can truly be to not spend and that it gives you the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with those around you.

The group will always be open so if February is not a month you can commit to, feel free to commit at any time.

Next week (starting on 1/29), we will be sharing on The MotherLoot an adventure that we got to take with Mercedes. The company is coming out with a more budget-friendly car and we will be giving away $50 Visa Gift Cards for each day that the campaign will run. In total, $250 of gift cards will be given away and I hope I can give these to a no-spend participant to give you a night out on us! I will be sure to let you guys know when these posts start running so you can enter to win!

Would you like to join a no-spend challenge with me? How long will you be committing to? (Feel free to grab our banner and share about your adventure on your own blogs!)