Archive for February, 2010

Freebie Friday: February 26, 2010

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Welcome to another week of Freebie Friday! This list comes courtesy of Freebies 4 Mom and we are so grateful for this opportunity to share these great freebies. Make sure to get your entry in for Heather’s contest to win a $300 Apple gift card that closes at the end of the day Sunday.

This week we are serving up our first Retro MomAdvice featuring some of my favorite posts over the years, 4 new ways to cook rice, our weekly list of over 120 giveaways to enter, a notebook filled with DIY ideas to try, and a fantastic guest post on how to achieve white balance in your photos (even on those point and shoots)!

Health & Beauty
Pampers Cruisers (Sam’s Club)
Olay Total Effects Body Wash (Walmart)
Hyland’s Restful Legs

Jennie-O Turkey (up to $5 rebate)
Beech-Nut Let’s Grow Toddler Welcome Kit
South Beach Living Fiber Fit S’mores Bar
ZonePerfect Indulgence (on Facebook)
Bahama Breeze $10 gift card

Home & Garden
Photo Book for Troops (shipping is free too)
Tide plus Febreze
Conagra Child Hunger Ends Here House Party
Poise Ladies Who Laugh House Party
Ziploc DIY Home Organization House Party
DiGiorno Champions House Party

Upcoming Freebie Events:
Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events

William-Sonoma Cooking Demos & Classes
27 – Target Dr. Seuss Story Time 9-11
27 – Walgreens SaturDate with Beauty featuring L’Oreal 10-5
27 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic make a LoweBot 10-11

6 – Home Depot Kids Workshop make a rain gauge 9-12
13 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic make a tabletop basketball 10-11
20 – Rita’s Ice free italian ice noon-10pm

Retro MomAdvice: 02.25.10

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

One Year Ago:

Italian Vegetable Soup

Simplifying Your Accessories Podcast

We were in the midst of our No Spend Challenge

Two Years Ago:

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

Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations

Saturday Morning Treat: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Staying Fashionable Through Ebates

Three Years Ago:

Frugality Births Creativity

Frugal Carpet Steaming

Dressing Your Kid Like a Celebrity… or Die Trying!

Things to Do When You Are Snowed In

Welcome, All You Magazine Readers

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I would like to extend a warm welcome to this month’s All You Magazine readers. You can find the March issue on newsstands this month with tips on how to stay under budget on those beautiful Easter clothes! We love sharing tips about how to stay under budget for the holidays and you can get many more ideas in our Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations article!

While I was at the BlissDom Conference, I had the opportunity to share a meal with some of the editors from All You Magazine. They are a fantastic team and are so enthusiastic about sharing money-saving ideas with their readers. I am not much of a coupon queen and I know many people subscribe for the coupons and grocery savings. I admit that I am a reader because I love their budget-minded features especially the fashion section and recipe ideas. This magazine is available at Walmart and I encourage you to run out and get a copy this month! Thank you, All You Magazine!

If you are visiting from All You Magazine this month, I would love to take a moment to introduce myself!

My name is Amy and I am the Founder of I am a busy mom of two and live in the beautiful Midwest with my web designing husband and our two children. I love to cook, knit, drink coffee, take pictures, and am a total bookworm. I am dedicated to anything that will help make my life simpler, keep me on my budget, and that promotes family time!

We started this site six years ago as a platform to share about all of those topics that I had been searching for when I became homemaker. How do I cook? How do I clean this house? How do I keep my children entertained without breaking the bank? How do I manage a daily routine? Most of all though…how do I do all of this on a limited income?

Please grab a cup of coffee and let me shake the dust off of a few of my favorite reads on the site. If you like what you see here, you can subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogs and you can even subscribe to my article feed.

I love staying connected with my readers so you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and Ravelry…just to name a few! Chances are, if you search for someone named momadvice, you will likely find me there!

Regardless, I am so thankful for your visit and I hope only to offer inspiration that will make your life easier!


Simplify Your To Do List
How to Get Back in the Groove of Reading
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
My New Year’s Goal: Get Happy


Our Debt-Free Party
Vrooming Through Our Debt
The No Spend Experiment
Six Easy Ways to Save on That Weekend Getaway
At-Home Hair Color Savings
Price Book 101
How You Can Help the Unemployed Today


Making An Addition to Our House for Less
Our Kitchen Makeover
Patio Renovation on a Budget
Weekend Project: New Workspace

Eat & Drink

The Frugal Mom’s Guide to Good Coffee
Boxed Wines: An Eco & Wallet-Friendly Choice
The Cost of a Homemade Happy Meal
One Month of  Slow Cooking


DIY Rainy Day Survival Kit
Just Call Me Ticketmaster
Fun Ways to Make Outdoor Living a Priority
Being a Crafty Parent… When You Just Aren’t
Cloth Diapering 101
Finding a Mom’s Group

This is just a tiny sampling of what our site has to offer! I hope you will stick around and enjoy our site for years to come.

I would just love to be a part of your day and hope that the site can empower you to simplify your life and your home management routines!

Amy’s Notebook 02.24.10

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

This DIY glass ball chandelier is simply stunning along with her shared nursery tour (@ Small Notebook)

I love this post on how to raise great readers (@ Life As Mom)

This is a great way to recycle those old Valentines (@ Feels Like Home)

These blueberry sour cream muffins look divine (@ The Idea Room)

This post made me think of using fabric in new ways (@ The Shabby Nest)

I want to try this recipe for oatmeal bread (@ Posie Gets Cozy)

This KitchenAid mixer cover is so cute (@ homemade by jill)

These soft baby blocks would make a great DIY baby shower gift (@ Smile & Wave)

This 3-2-1 pasta dinner is a great formula for a quick weeknight dinner (@ goodLife {eats})

My daughter would love this rose petal tutu (@ Candace Creations)

I love this activity creating stencils for brownies (@ Make & Takes)

Taking Great Pictures: Figuring Out Your White Balance

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Hi! I’m Katie from goodLife {eats} and I’m guest posting today for Amy. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I use photography a lot for my blog. With each recipe I post, I include at least 1 photo. Sometimes upwards of 4 or 5. I hope I can share a few tips with you that I’ve learned a long the way that will help improve your photography skills – even if you use a Point-and-Shoot!

Not long ago I had absolutely no idea what terms like shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and white balance meant. I was stuck on “auto” and I spent a significant amount of time post processing my photos until they were to my liking. Surprisingly, (after reading my camera manual – something I should have done in the beginning – and exploring my camera’s menu) I found that I was actually able to adjust a couple of these settings on my basic point-and-shoot to further improve my photos.

I found that while I was using my point-and-shoot camera, the one of the things that made the biggest difference in my photos was moving away from “manual” white balance settings.

Are you confused yet? Are you asking any of the following questions? Read on and I’ll explain!

  • What is White Balance?
  • How do I adjust my white balance?
  • Is this complicated?

What is White Balance?

Simply stated, the colors in the photo will look correct. The image will look how you viewed it with your own eyes (our amazing brain processes and adjusts the color for us), rather than the camera’s guess at what the color temperature is. Color temperature is the comparative warmth or coolness of the white light.

Can you see the difference below? Which one looks more natural to you?

The first photo has that terrible blue cast. It doesn’t make for a very attractive photo. I’m not in love with the shoot either, so it isn’t a big loss. The second photo is a beautiful shot of my daughter. I love the twinkle in her eye and the way she’s not looking straight at the camera, but it’s all yellow. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the white balance custom set for that photo. So that is a disappointment. The third photo was taken with the white balance set to custom (see below for details on how to do that). Combination of great shoot with a cute grin in her lips and natural looking color.

When set to Auto White Balance, the camera just guesses at the color temperature. Sometimes it guesses correctly and other times it doesn’t. An incorrect white balance will leave you with an unnatural color cast, often times yellow or blue, and disappointing pictures – especially if you are photographing people or food.

A blue plate of fettuccini alfredo? Not thanks. I want to see the creamy white sauce. The same holds true for portrait photography as well. I want to capture exactly what my daughter looks like at age 2, because some day I might not be able to remember that anymore.

Is this Complicated

Setting the White Balance might feel clumsy at first. It is definitely an extra few steps that you’ll have to add in your picture taking routine, but I will tell you that it gets easier and becomes routine quickly. Especially, when you see the difference these few steps can make in your photography.

How do I set my White Balance?

Go into your camera’s menu.

Scroll through to find the white balance menu.

Scroll through the different preset options listed in white balance:

  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent (my point and shoot doesn’t have this one)
  • Custom
  • If one of those looks like it will work, based on the lighting I have available, I go ahead and select it. On my point-and-shoot I can look at the screen and see how the image will look with the selection I’ve made. On my DSLR, I have to take a test photo first.

    If I want to custom set my white balance, I select that option. And then proceed with a few more steps. The steps may vary slightly according to your camera, so I recommend looking at your user manual for instructions tailored to you, but this should give you a general idea of how simply it is.

    Take a photo of a plain white sheet of paper. The paper should fill the entire frame of the photo so that only white is showing.

      1. Take a photo of a plain white sheet of paper. The paper should fill the entire frame of the photo so that only white is showing.
      2. Select the white photo as the camera’s reference point.
      3. Begin shooting.
      4. Take a couple of test shots and check them out to see if the colors look right to you. If not, try again

      I hope that makes sense! Give it a go and if it doesn’t make sense or you have a question, let me know and I’ll answer it as best as I can! I hope to see you around at goodLife {eats}, where I share what I find good in the kitchen and in life.

      We would like to thank Katie for sharing her fantastic photography advice with our readers as we finish our last week of home renovations. We encourage you to visit Katie’s beautiful and thoughtful site and are so thankful that she was able to help us with the blog this week!

      An Apron Full of Giveaways 02.23.10

      Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

      French Bee, $26

      Thanks so much for swinging by for our Apron Full of Giveaways! Each week we share a link list of great contests to enter all over the web. Below are the contest links to our contests and to yours! If you are hosting a contest please link it up below. I would love to point our readers over your way!

      Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them!

      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!

      Good luck, everyone!

      4 Fun New Ways to Cook Rice

      Monday, February 22nd, 2010

      I absolutely love rice, but never had a really appreciation for the diversity of this dish until I really started experimenting with it. Much like pasta, it can be made into many different dishes for even the pickiest of palates. Rice can be made into a perfect accompaniment to fish, you can add an Italian or Asian flare to it depending on your main course, and it can even be made into a tasty pudding. The possibilities with this side are endless!

      The best part about rice though is that it is so darn inexpensive, making it the perfect dish for the frugal cook. I try to keep a variety of rices on hand and have experimented with different grains and textures from the traditional long grain white rice to a deliciously nutty brown. Even the more exotic rices like aborio or jasmine rice still are inexpensive and can add a different dimension to your meals depending on your main course of the night.

      I wanted to showcase today four different ways that you can prepare this dish to add a little bit of fun to your typical side dish fare. These four recipes have stood the test of time in our house and are four of my favorite ways to make rice

      When I ran across a recipe in one of my cookbooks for rice with pesto, I knew this would make a lovely side with our herb baked tilapia. I honestly wasn’t sure if the kids would eat it though since it did have a light green color to it. They ended up gobbling it up just like those rice mixes in a box and the pesto added delicious flavor as a side to fish. It felt a little more grown-up than the Rice-A-Roni and we all enjoyed this very much.

      Rice With Pesto or Herb Oil (from “How To Cook Everything“)
      Serves Four

      1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
      1 1/2 cups basmati or other long-grain rice (I used white long grain rice for this)
      2 1/4 cups water
      Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
      1/2 cup pesto or 1 cup fresh herb of your choice: chives, parsley, chervil, or cilantro, 1/4 cup canola or other neutral oil, & 1-2 tablespoons water if needed.

      Heat the tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is coated with oil. Add the water and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.

      After 15 minutes, turn off the heat under the rice, but leave the cover on. Wait 10 minutes, then stir in the pesto or herb oil. Check the seasoning and serve immediately.

      If you do not have pesto: While the rice is cooking, rinse the herb and place it in the container of a blender or small food processor. Turn the machine on and gradually add teh 1/4 cup oil. Blend or process until smooth, stopping the machine now and then to stir down the mixture. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture; it should be the texture of heavy cream.


      I use white rice for this one, but I may need to try this dish with brown rice sometime instead. This is a fun and inexpensive side dish and even our rice-haters ate with great enthusiasm. Serve this with a big platter of chicken enchiladas and don’t forget the homemade enchilada sauce to keep your evening perfectly frugal!

      I think this will be a repeat performer in our house!

      Mexican Rice

      1 cup uncooked rice (not instant rice)
      2 tablespoons oil
      2 garlic cloves, minced
      1 medium white onion, chopped (omitted because of personal taste)
      2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I omitted this ingredient because I didn’t have any tomatoes)
      1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
      1 cup chicken broth or beef broth (we chose chicken broth)
      1 tablespoon chili powder (you can reduce this- I added 1 teaspoon)
      3/4 teaspoon salt

      Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the rice and stir over medium-high heat until rice is golden brown. Add the garlic and chopped onion, and sauté until the onion just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder and salt, lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.


      I can admit that in the past I was not a big fan of brown rice. I have tried other cooking methods, but this baked brown rice is my favorite by far. We eat this at least twice a week and my children absolutely love it. I usually throw this brown rice in with some Caesar or Ranch Pork Chops & a tray of lemony green beans since they all cook at exactly the same degree. It is the perfect side to any weeknight meal! If you hate brown rice, you must try it this way!

      Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice

      1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
      2 1/2 cups water (we substituted this with chicken broth instead)
      1 tablespoon unsalted butter
      1 teaspoon kosher salt

      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

      Amy’s Notes- When I package this up for leftovers, I add a tablespoon or two of water or chicken broth to the rice before storing it for later. This seems to help keep the rice more moist and helps it hold it’s texture a little better.


      If you are looking for a great side dish with your fish, then look no further than this fantastic Lemony Rice Pilaf. This rice is sticky and flavorful with a burst of freshness from the lemon, parsley, and garlic. I love to serve this rice alongside baked salmon or as an accompaniment to my herb baked tilapia. It is a recipe that is in constant rotation and tastes like something you would eat at a fancy seafood place. Lucky for you, it costs practically nothing to make!

      Lemony Rice Pilaf (Courtesy of Recipezaar)

      1 teaspoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
      1 cup finely chopped onion
      1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
      3 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock makes this vegetarian/vegan)
      1 grated lemon, rind of
      1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
      1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
      fresh ground pepper

      In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in rice, then stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley; taste and add pepper if you wish. Note: This reheats very well so you can make a double batch for another night, if you like!


      What are some fun ways you dress up this common cooking staple in your pantry? Feel free to share your recipes and/or links!

      Freebie Friday: February 19, 2010

      Friday, February 19th, 2010

      Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank you for stopping by and encourage you to swing over to Freebies 4 Mom for all of the latest freebies and deals on the internet. This week you can print out coupons for free YoBaby Yogurt and her latest round-up of sweeps for moms.

      This week I am sharing our favorite Italian Meatloaf with Smashed Red Potatoes, beautiful knitted gifts with a purpose, our weekly notebook of inspiration, and a round-up of fantastic giveaways happening this week on the web.

      Health & Beauty
      Lever 2000 bar (Costco members)
      Crest 3D Whitestrips (Walmart)
      Fekkai Hair Care (Walmart)
      Orange Benefiber Sticks (Walmart)
      Underjams for Kids (Walmart)
      Kotex choose your sample
      Playtex Sport

      Orange Julius drink
      Kikkoman’s mini-magazine

      Home & Garden

      Upcoming Freebie Events:
      Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events


      William-Sonoma Cooking Demos & Classes
      20 – Auntie Anne’s Free Pretzel Day 10am-3pm 23 – IHOP National Pancake Day 7am-10pm
      27 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic make a LoweBot 10-11


      6 – Home Depot Kids Workshop make a rain gauge 9-12
      13 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic make a tabletop basketball 10-11
      20 – Rita’s Ice free italian ice noon-10pm

      Life… Under Construction

      Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

      Renovations are going on and my life is resembling nothing of itself since this started. I have never been more out of schedule with exercise, reading, eating, living, wanting to be alone more, or further off budget with our eating plans.

      Everything is covered in a film of drywall and I have been writing SOS messages in the dust on my furniture.

      I am told that this will be almost all done  on Friday. Minor things will need to be done the week following, but we will have a few little things happening this week… like… floors.

      I am so thankful the crew is running on time and under our budget. My continuous rants about not having a single dollar extra to pay them must have worked.

      I am grateful to friends who let us crash their houses all day and all evening, family who helped us survive the weekends by letting us stay there, and my husband who must be questioning my sanity every day when he comes home to me this last week.

      I don’t know how people survive this longer than two weeks. Despite my posts planned on, “how to survive a renovation,” the only advice I can offer is, “Expect the unexpected and go with the flow.”

      I am officially the crazy lady in her pajamas drinking dusty coffee and talking about how  tight money is all of the time.

      At least I wear my pajamas with chic boots to avoid touching the plywood flooring.

      We welcome our old life back soon!

      Amy’s Notebook 02.17.10

      Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

      I am going to have to try this technique for cooking a tender steak (@ Steamy Kitchen)

      I will have to remember this idea of writing love notes to your family for Valentine’s Day next year (@ The Shabby Nest)

      Painting food looks like a fantastic busy-day activity (@ Living Locurto)

      I want to try this weeknight chicken stir-fry (@ Dine & Dish)

      This refashioned ruffled cardigan is simply beautiful (say YES! to hoboken)

      These Olympic gold medal cookies are a fun idea for Olympic crafts (@ Alpha Mom)

      I love this list of things you can do in ten minutes to create a room you love (@ Nesting Place)

      This tutorial for how to deal with low light situations with a point and shoot camera are so great (@ Wisdom of the Moon)

      This blocking tutorial is fantastic for my crochet and knitting friends (@ Posie Gets Cozy)

      This handmade burlap banner is so beautiful (@ apron thrift girl)

      This $15 kitchen makeover is so smart for my friends who are renting an apartment (@ the kitchn)

      I want to try this recipe for roasted red potato salad– yum! (@ $5 Dinners)

      These red velvet pancakes would be a fun anniversary or I love you surprise for my spouse (@ Baking Bites)

      These waffles with a little kick sound like they would make a fantastic brunch (@ Jolly Mom)