Saturday, June 30, 2007

How to Construct an Airing Rack

If you haven't seen our Benefits of Line Drying Your Clothes article, please be sure to check it out. It is a basic tutorial on how to hang your clothing and why a clothesline is a beneficial addition to your yard.

I recently ran across a few more tips for line drying that I wanted to share:

Drying Socks- To save space on lines, hang pairs of socks on a hanger. This will also enable you to remove the socks quickly if it rains.

Drying Sweaters- Sweaters will not stretch on a clothesline if you string an old pair of hose through the arms and pin the pantyhose- rather than the sweater- to the line.

Pleated Skirts- After washing, hang on the line from the waistband. Clip clothespins at the bottom of each pleat so the pleats dry in place.

Constructing an Airing Rack- Large items are best aired along parallel washing lines, which will not only take the weight but allow air to reach the entire area of fabric. Air items such as pillows and blankets on the clothesline. To improvise an airing rack indoors you can construct an airing rack. To air or dry large items if you do not have a clothesline, stretch strong cord between two chairs. Using parallel lines allows air to reach both sides of an item , and will not leave creases or clothespin marks. Use this system for blankets, comforters and curtains. If you use the chair method, use plastic chairs, if possible, since wooden chairs can stain damp items. To help stabilize the chairs, you can put piles of books on the chairs to help with the weight of the clothes.
Others Entries of Interest:

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Freebie Friday: June 29, 2007

I thought we could do a question today. The question is- What area do you live in and what is your average electric bill? Any tips you have found to keep the electric bill down that you want to share? You can leave comments anonymously if you don't want to be associated with your bills :) Happy Friday, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Sign up to receive a free sample of Gold Bond Powder. Please limit one free sample per household.

Lucky Magazine is giving away some freebies on their site. Lucky magazine’s Gorgeous Look is your 9-piece clinique Bonus. Come to any Lord & Taylor store between June 27 and July 15 and you will get the Gorgeous Look bonus free* with any Clinique purchase of $25 or more. (It’s valued at $65!) You’ll also get three free months of Lucky!

Find the right size underwear for your child by receiving a Hanes KidFit tape measure for free. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery. Offer good only while supplies last.

Neutrogena Age Shield Sunblock & O Magazine are giving away full-size versions of this product to the first 2,000 entrants.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Fizzy Wizzies. These are bath tablets that fizz in the bathtub for children.

Sports Authority is offering a free Nike gym sack at participating stores. You need to fill out a simple form, print out the coupon and bring it in to your local Sports Authority. The freebie is valid in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas so far. Offer valid while supplies last.


Sign up to receive a free SoyJoy all natural fruit and soy bar. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

This is not technically a freebie because they sold out of the freebie they were offering, but you can receive a coupon for BOGO Free on the new Special K2O Protein Water. Fill out the survey and then print out the coupon.

Receive your free sample of South Beach Diet Sweet Nut Creations Bar. Only one sample per household and good only while supplies last.

Home & Garden

Beauty Riot is giving away a free Tide to Go Pen.


Claim a complimentary subscription to PC Magazine. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery of your first issue.

Get Today's Diet & Nutrition Magazine for free.

You will need to to sign up for a Coke Rewards account in order to access this freebie. Check all of the boxes to "No" if you don't want to receive any emails from their partners. Use this multi-use code ( 100084616172235) to receive a free Blockbuster Rental. You can enter codes through their homepage, upon setting up your account, and the coupon will be in your email within three days. (NOTE: I was having trouble getting through so it might take a couple of times. The site is very busy!)

This is too good not to repeat. Don't forget to sign up for a free subscription to Domino Magazine (a $12 value).

Pet Care

Sign up to receive a free six ounce sample of Purina Naturals Cat Chow.



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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 06.28.07

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

Here is a double dose of tips since I wasn't able to post last week! Enjoy!

Instead of Cash

Instead of keeping cash for emergencies in my car/billfold/house, I keep travelers checks. Most places will accept them in an emergency. Yet, they are just hard enough to spend that I am not tempted to use them just because I see something that I want. Plus, they never expire and can be replaced if lost. CB

Autopay Caution

I pay some of my bills automatically with a credit card that gives me cash back. I recently became aware that when anything changes on a credit card, such as a new expiration date, then you have to notify the appropriate billing departments of the changes. Otherwise, you may be hit with late fees when charges to the credit card are denied. This will happen even if the credit card number is the same and your credit is good.Some billing departments will let you know when a card expiration date is coming up and advise you to "resubscribe" to the auto payment. Some are happy to collect late fees. Sandy G.

Rainy Vacation Days

We take a trip to the beach twice a summer. We spend one week with my in-laws and one week with my side of the family. The kids love the beach and the pool, but sometime during the week, it's going to rain or the kids are going to want to do something different. A couple of years ago, I thought I would head off the situation before it started. I surfed the Internet for free things to do in the area where we vacation. Tara G.

I'm Looking for...

I have several small grandchildren, and I like to buy a lot of their toys and play clothes at garage sales. However, with the high cost of gas, even that is not always cost effective. Now I post on our local library and grocery store bulletin board exactly what I am looking for (certain toys, clothing, etc.), and I have people calling me before their garage sale. I can get what I want without a lot of driving. The added benefit is that I have met other grandmas doing the same thing. Paula B.


After reading the catalogs and seeing a lot of capri pants offered for sale, I noticed that they gave the inside seam measurement as 20 inches. That gave me an idea. I had several pair of slacks that I didn't like wearing because they were a little shorter than I liked. I pulled out the scissors and cut them to 21 inches inside seam. Then I folded the hem twice (1/2 inch) and hemmed them. I now have four pair of capri pants that cost nothing but the time to hem them. Pat in Kitchener

Coupon Control

I heard a great tip the other day. Make sure you eat before cutting coupons. Then the Oreo, potato chip, etc. coupons won't be nearly so desirable to cut out. And if you don't cut them out, you're less likely to buy them. Carol

Homemade = Savings

I recently got sick of being in debt so I picked up a job delivering pizzas at night for a major pizza chain. They would kill me for saying this, but I was able to figure out how much people are paying for pizza versus if they made it themselves.If you order a pizza from us, you usually pay $15 dollars for two mediums (even with a coupon) with two toppings. I sat down and did the math. If you went to the store and purchased the pre-made pizza crust (about $3 for two), one can of sauce ($1.40), cheese ($2), and toppings (which of course can vary), you would save at least $5 to $10. Make your own pizza crust, which can be done in a bread maker or just by hand, and you save another $2 or so. And you can customize your pizza and get better toppings (a lot of the toppings in the restaurant are frozen and thawed out!). When you add in tip (which I hope you do) for the driver, you're paying $20 for two medium pizzas that you could have made yourself for half of that! Not that I don't want to be busy, but I couldn't believe the costs!
Matt in Colorado

Handy Bags

We wash and reuse our resealable plastic bags, as long as there was no raw meat stored in them. But storing them after they've been washed and allowed to dry was a problem. They overflowed the "bag drawer" whenever the door was opened. Trying to stuff them back into the original box was futile. In desperation, I found three large storage containers, labeled each one with tape and a marker "Gallon," "Sandwich Size," and "Snack Size." Now, when putting away bags, I simply stuff the bags into the appropriately marked container. My kids can pull what they need easily for packing lunches, and putting away leftovers is much easier when we don't have to hunt for the correct size. Ann S.

Cooler Times Two

I live in Central Florida and just realized that I can have an ice cold drink after having the cooler in the car all day if I just place my small cooler inside a larger cooler. I find that one cooler just doesn't do the trick here in our heat. Coolers are easy to find at yard sales and flea markets cheaply. This is especially refreshing after a day in a theme park. Sue in FL

Shopping with a Purpose

When I feel like shopping and know it is not good for my budget, I go shopping for gifts that I will need in the next several months. That way, I can satisfy my urge to go shopping, get nice things, but do not feel bad afterwards. Of course, I occasionally buy things just to please myself, but gifts are a good thing to shop for, as they are not overly expensive things. I just buy things like books or cosmetics. Jana

Going Cashless

Long ago, I received some very good advice about money from a local frugal businessman. He and I were discussing living on $5,000 a year and his first piece of advice was to carry no currency, no checks, and no credit cards at all. I thought about it and realized that I had a cell phone, a vehicle and the nearest help for a true emergency was minutes away. What did I have to lose? I have been doing this for several years now, and it has cut down on my impulse spending tremendously! On payday, I fill my tank, buy groceries (with a single check I put in my purse for that purpose) and pay the one bill I have each week. I also keep enough cash at home to pay my daughter's allowance and lunch money for the week.Brenda T. in Frederick, MD

Look-a-Like Luggage

We recently returned from a trip. Retrieving our luggage is always hectic, especially when most of the suitcases are the standard black color. I have done a lot of painting with acrylic paint on fabric so I decided to paint pretty flowers on my black suitcases. I used chalk for the original sketching and then acrylic paints to make big, bold flowers on all sides of the suitcase. They really stand out and are easily recognized when they tumble down the airline chute. I sprayed them with a fixative acrylic spray to protect the paint. I am very pleased with the results. Mary Esther

Graduation Celebration

When my nephew graduated from high school (20 years ago), I had hardly any money at all and didn't know what to do for a gift for him. I wrote out 12 checks for $10 with each dated a different month. Actually, I gave him $120 for graduation. He was thrilled with it, and it was easier for me to give. Joann S.

Easy to Reach

I have small children that are constantly throwing or dropping items behind dressers or under the bed where I cannot reach them. My solution was to attach pantyhose with a rubberband around the vacuum hose. Turn on the vacuum and the items can be pulled out without being sucked into the machine. This has saved my back on many occasions. C.

Summer Cookouts

Cover a cotton ball or swab with a light coating of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and use as a fire starter in your open fire or fire range. This is much cheaper than traditional fire starters. And they hold their flame for about five minutes, which is plenty of time to add that dry wood.Ang
Savings StashedWhen I use coupons or a store rewards card, there is usually a total of what was saved on that shopping trip. I've started taking that amount and keeping a list of what was saved for the entire month. At the end of the month, I put the money "saved" by using coupons or the rewards card into a savings account. The amount varies from month to month, but it's built up a nice emergency account. Heidi P. O. in Pittsburgh, PA

International Cuisine Saves Cash

A good way to save money is to learn to cook ethnic foods. Thai, Mexican and Indian, in particular, are cheap to make and so tasty with the spices that you really benefit, especially with vegetarian options. I'm not a vegetarian, but those dishes, along with ones with a little meat like a stir-fry, will save you money on your grocery bill. has a lot of good ideas, or you can get a (used) cookbook from Amazon. Erica C. in Chicago, IL

Traveler's Alert

If you are like me and do not fly much, you sometimes are not sure what you can take and not take on the plane. I had knitting needles with me on one trip and they were allowed, but then on another trip, they were denied and my boarded bag had already gone to the bottom of the plane. Now, I carry a big self-addressed envelope with me so I can mail the items back to me without a financial loss. Susan W.

Sewer's Secret

Need a few buttons for a sewing project? Don't buy them at the craft store where they are expensive. Go to your local thrift store; they generally sell clothing items for less than a dollar. Search through the shirts for buttons you like. Cut off the buttons and use for your project. This is much cheaper than buying them new. Also, keep the fabric from the clothing item in your scrap bin for future projects. Melissa J. in Independence, KS

Bedclothes Storage Solution

My linen closet is small, and I find it so hard to keep things wrinkle free, especially pillowcases and sheets. So when my last guest left and the linens were ready to put away again, I decided to fold them in a manner that was the width of the bed they are used on. I then made the bed and placed the linens at the head of the bed. The pillows then went back on along with the coverlet. Not only is this a good place to store them, but also they stay fresh, and it makes the pillows look real fluffy. Alice



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Frugal Momma's Test Kitchen: Light Oat Bread

As I had mentioned in a past post, I have been looking for great recipes to make good sandwich bread. I decided to try this recipe from AllRecipes for Light Oat Bread and I am so glad that I did! I used my bread machine to make it, but just used our Dough cycle. I then placed the dough into an oiled loaf pan and covered it with a damp dishtowel. The bread had about an hour rise time and then I baked it at 350 for 35 minutes. It turned out perfectly for dinner that evening, and then I slipped it into a fabric bag to store.
The bread was great for toast the next morning and would still make a great sandwich, had we not devoured it for our morning breakfast.

There was not a crumb in sight left, but lots of full bellies and smiles from the kids.


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Ask Frugal Momma: Getting to Know the Bread Machine

You have been talking about bread machines and making bread. I am interested in doing this since I am home all the time and I love fresh bread.

I was at the Goodwill and saw many of them and they were kind of cheap, like 20.00 or less. I am dumb so help me out. Does the machine knead the dough and bake it and everything in the bread machine?

If I would purchase one at the Goodwill how would I know if it works or not?

I am interested. Please help me find a way in a new venture.

Future Bread Maker

First of all, thank you for your question! The Ask Frugal Momma column can't happen without your questions, so please keep sending them my way. You can email any and all questions to [email protected]. We have had some fun topics and I am very excited to share with everyone!

Do any of you have bread machine gathering dust in your house? A lot of people buy these appliances and then end up donating them at their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity. Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket? And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. We use our bread machine almost daily, and spare ourselves the expense of fancy bakery breads. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday nights. This appliance makes our favorite pizza dough for our official “family night” together.

The purpose of a bread machine is to be able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

I am not a baker though and our days seem to be jam-packed with activities for our family. Taking the time to knead, rise, and bake bread…well, that hasn’t seemed to top the priority list at this point in my life. Lucky for me, there is an appliance that can do all the work for me and all I have to do is pull the finished loaf or ball of dough out.

To begin, all you have to do is put the ingredients in and select your setting. Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings. I find that the settings we use most on our machine are Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once.

A quick glance at grocery store prices though and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money. For example, our wholesale club has twenty-five pounds of bread & all-purpose flour for under $6 each. Two pounds of yeast will run you just under $4. What a difference compared to the prices in your regular supermarket!

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a clear jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire.

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Good luck in your quest to find a bread machine and I hope it is a well-loved appliance in your home!

Related & Helpful Information:

Hillbilly Houswife's Bread Machine Basics

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

My Favorite Pizza Dough (after much trial & error)

Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients

Homemade Croutons

Dinner is in the Bag

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients

As I had mentioned in a past post, our local bread outlet doubled their prices, due to the rising gas prices. My girlfriend had suggested hitting our local Kroger, which can be a goldmine of deals at the end of the day, for my bread needs. Recently they announced though, that they are now shutting down our Kroger because they were not getting the business that they needed. This not only stinks because of the bread factor, but also because it was the quick place I could run into and get a gallon of milk or the once missing ingredient for our dinners. Kroger- you will be missed on our side of town!

I love to make homemade bread in my bread machine though so I am trying to do this more often. As we speak, I am trying a new recipe for Light Oatmeal Bread and I will let you all know how it turns out. I am testing recipes to find the perfect sandwich bread and this sounded like a yummy alternative to the traditional recipes.

My main problem with homemade bread though is the stale factor. Without the preservatives to sustain the bread, as in our store-bought varieties, how can you keep your bread fresher longer?

I looked to the experts at Cook's Illustrated for the answers to these questions. One of my main questions was, does bread last longer in the refrigerator or by just leaving it at room temperature? My other question was, what is the most effective way to store your homemade bread?

Cook's Illustrated ran a test to see which bread loaves lasted the longest, testing temperatures & storage devices. I was very interested to see what the results would be, in particular, if a storage device really preserves the shelf life of the bread longer.

It became quickly evident in their research, that the refrigerator is actually the least effective way to store bread. Retrogradation occurred six times faster in the bread stored in the refrigerator versus the bread stored at room temperature. Although this was not included in their findings, I do believe that room temperature may be worse in some cases depending upon your climate conditions. Those who live in humid conditions may find that bread molds much quicker if left out on the counter, rather than their refrigerator storage methods.

For homemade bread, they did find the most successful way to store the bread was in a twill bag they found on Golda's Kitchen. This twill bag is both machine & dishwasher safe. The bag is $20, but can be used over and over again. I am thinking that I might try the fabric totes that came with my reuseable grocery bags first, and see if these fabric bags might be the ticket for effective storage.

Homemade bread is much more cost effective than buying store bought bread. Pretty much all of the ingredients needed to make your bread can be purchased in bulk at your local wholesale club. Here are some examples of the pricing on ingredients at our local store (Prices listed are for Sam's Club in Mishawaka, IN):

Yeast (2 pounds)- $3.87
Bread Flour (25 pounds)- $5.54
All-Purpose Flour (25 pounds)- $5.26

If you buy your flour in bulk, you can store the flour in a large Rubbermaid tote with a lid to keep it fresher longer. I keep my yeast in a Mason jar in our refrigerator door. It has worked really well for me and is always there when I need it.

These are just some of my ideas for making and storing your homemade bread and bread ingredients.

Sound Off: How do you store your homemade bread? Any bread making tips that you have found help with making amazing loaves of bread?

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Too Cool for School Momma Tees

With a tag line like, "Motherhood doesn't define us. We define it" what is not to love? PeaceLoveMom is a great t-shirt company that offers fun phrases of motherhood on their t-shirts, which have made them a popular choice among the celebrity mommies.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a mad obsession for funny t-shirts. Among my favorite in my collection are my Martha is My Homegirl (with Martha Stewart surrounded by pretty spoons), my Drop It Like It's Hot (with a waitress holding a heavy tray), & my Hip Hop You Don't Stop (with a bouncing kangaroo) shirt. The funnier the t-shirt, the better.

PeaceLoveMom has great trendy mommy t-shirts that are still tasteful, but show that you have a witty and fun personality. The offer a variety of choices that express motherhood in a fun way.

The company sent two of the cutest shirts to add to my collection. I now have a "Happy Mom" t-shirt, which THE Cindy Crawford has been seen wearing around town & a "Carpool Candy" tank. Their shirts are made out of the softest cotton, making it a quick favorite in your wardrobe, and the sizing is made for women and not teens. That means no post-baby body hanging out the sides of your jeans and we love that!

Not only is the sizing spot on, but the phrases are too. They let people know that you are not just another mom thankyouverymuch, but that you are a super fun and super cool mom so TAKE THAT. You might be driving around in your minivan, but that doesn't mean you can't still be too cool for school.

PeaceLoveMom has generously offered our customers free shipping utilizing the promo code, "momadvice" on any order that you place.

Thanks so much to PeaceLoveMom for giving us an opportunity to review their products and to add such fun t-shirts to add to my collection!

Want to see your name in lights? Email me at [email protected] and tell me about your company. We would love to try and review your product for our growing readership!

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San Francisco, Baby!

Well, I have just returned from my trip to San Francisco and it was AWESOME! Thanks to all of you for you prayers and well wishes for my travels. It was definitely one of the highlights of my summer. Not only was the trip wonderful, but I made some amazing blogging friends and had an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best of the best. I did, at times, feel entirely out of my league, but I was proud of myself for being around some of the most elite and amazing women. I got to hear about where everyone was going with their business, about the successes they had with their businesses, and we all got to voice our challenges with what we were doing. I don't want to blah, blah, blah about everyone though because some bloggers do wish to remain anonymous, but if you were with me and want to give a shout out and tell everyone who you are...I won't stop you!

San Francisco was one of the most amazing places that I have ever been to. We only had less than a day to really doing any sight-seeing, but I managed to take a trolley ride, eat at some wonderful restaurants, and dip my feet in the Pacific ocean. A girlfriend and I took the trolley all the way to the end of the line and got off for some pictures. Our return trip on the trolley was a bit more eventful because it was so busy that we couldn't even find space to get back on. We ended up walking a good portion of the trip back and my legs have never burned so much EVER. After I told my husband about it, he laughed and said that we had walked up the steepest road in The Guinness Book of World Records. I treated myself to loads of calories after I heard that, because frankly, I deserved it!

When I returned, I had to get my house ready for the CBS Early Show's appearance at my doorstep. I have just wrapped up my interview and I am hoping it is edited in such a manner that I appear slightly intelligent and that I do know a little bit about what I was talking about. The producer said that this will be airing in late July or early August, and promised to let us know so that we could let all of our friends and family know when I am on. I will be sure to share it with everyone, and if I do sound completely slow and uneducated, please realize that I was suffering from jet lag and exhaustion from getting my home in order. There is nothing like an Early Show appearance to make your house look better than ever. Now I can enjoy a clean home and some rest after such a busy week! We will be receiving a visit from The South Bend Tribune on Thursday though, but it will at least give me a few days to catch a breather!

We will be back to our regular programming tomorrow! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy some of my vacation pictures and I hope that you noticed the new look on our homepage. We have added a cool new feature where you can now check out what is going on in your area. If you are looking for something to do with the kids this summer, be sure to swing by there and have a look!



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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cheap Outdoor Music System

I love to listen to music outside, but we don't have a spare radio that we can use while we are dining outdoors. I decided to create our own outdoor music system using our baby monitor. I hooked our baby monitor up next to our computer, and then turned on our computer with our music loaded on that. The receiver got placed outside and we were able to hear all of our favorite music without making any additional purchases.

Using my baby monitor outside works for me! Please visit Shannon's entry for all of the other participants and their great Works-For-Me Wednesday ideas.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Melissa & Michael's Story: Children's Melanoma

We would like to thank Melissa & Michael for sharing their story with us and the Children's Hospital of Orange County for facilitating this discussion.

Michael is pictured in the picture to the left. Michael volunteers his time at the Children's Hospital of Orange County, a few hours each month.

We hope our readers find these pieces informative. If you would like to share your child's story with our readers, please email me at [email protected]. We would love to raise awareness about childhood health issues.

Melissa & Michael's Story: Children's Melanoma

While rare, melanoma is becoming increasingly more common in adolescents and young adults. But because this form of skin cancer is usually associated with older adults, it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed in younger individuals.

For years, CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) has been educating healthcare professionals and the public about the rising incidence of melanoma in young people. Today, The CHOC Cancer Institute is the only program in the region offering expert, aggressive treatment for adolescents and young adults with this deadly disease.

It’s a good thing Michael Driscoll spoke up about the small lump he felt under his thick, dark hair. His mother, Melissa, would never have noticed it if he hadn’t pointed it out to her.
Melissa’s heart sank when she saw the small, black scab on her son’s scalp. She knew it didn’t look good. Fortunately, this happened while they were both sitting in their dermatologist’s office. The dermatologist took a biopsy and was reassuring, but Melissa could tell she was quite concerned, too.

A few days later, on the way home from basketball practice, Michael learned he had the deadliest form of skin cancer. He was only 15. His dermatologist immediately arranged a referral to Leonard Sender, M.D., medical director of The CHOC Cancer Institute. Michael’s parents still remember how Dr. Sender called them back that very same day.

“Dr. Sender told us it would be okay, and that he had worked with numerous young patients with melanoma,” Melissa recalls. “I got the feeling that everything would be okay. Dr. Sender would make sure of it.”

During the subsequent surgery to remove the melanoma, 39 nodes were removed from the right side of Michael’s neck. One was cancerous, and Michael’s cancer was classified as stage III melanoma.


The Driscolls carefully researched Michael’s treatment options and obtained second opinions from other special­ists. Surgery was a given, but not every specialist agreed with how far to continue treatment. Some recommended a “wait and see” approach.

Dr. Sender firmly disagreed. “He said, ‘No, this is melanoma. You need to treat it aggressively,’” Melissa Driscoll recalls. “We listened to everyone and prayed about it. We looked to guidance from God on which way to turn, and it all fell into place.”

Michael and his parents decided to take the aggressive approach, and he began receiving treatment at CHOC in July 2004.

After the first month, Michael continued receiving treat­ment at home. His father, Mike, gave him injections of interferon three times a week for the next 11 months. Michael remembers always feeling tired and a headache that lasted an entire year. He lost some weight and his hair thinned a little.

Showing maturity far beyond his years, Michael never complained. He just made the best of it and tried to rest as much as possible.

Although Michael missed several school days, he was able to keep up with his studies. That year, he even managed to play the small forward position on his school’s basketball team.


Michael’s treatment finally ended in August 2005, and he continues to receive follow-up care at The CHOC Cancer Institute. The latest tests have shown that Michael is in remission. Still, Michael has to be vigilant about wearing sunscreen and hats, and he must stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Academically, Michael is on track as a junior at Santa Margarita High School.

Earlier this year, Michael started volunteering at CHOC at Mission through his school. He spends eight hours a month working with the staff and patients on the pediatric floor. At such a young age, Michael knows better than most people, exactly what these patients are going through. But he also knows there are many reasons to be hopeful, especially when cancer is caught and treated early.

And for that, he can thank his mom. Realizing that every-one is at risk for skin cancer, Melissa Driscoll has been routinely taking her children to the dermatologist for years.

“People don’t always think about taking kids to a dermatologist, but melanoma does happen. I believe in being proactive and taking my children in for an annual check-up. They all have very fair skin and a lot of moles, which are key risk factors for melanoma,” she says.

Melissa is quick to give credit where credit is due for Michael’s good outcome. “Dr. Sender is our hero. He has the aggressive personality needed to beat this demon called cancer,” she says. “And I think while medicine is very vital to beating cancer, prayer is the force behind any medication and every believing doctor. God is the reason for Michael’s success.”

What Can YOU do?

Spot a Spot Information


* Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer; there are 1.3 million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year

* One third of people living in southern California will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime

* Melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, kills one person every hour in the U.S.

* Melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 20 to 29, and the #1 cause of cancer deaths in women ages 25 to 30

* By 2010, about one in 50 people in the U.S. will get melanoma

* Melanoma is one of the top causes of life years lost to preventable cancer

* Melanoma is 95-100% curable if caught early and treated quickly

* 19/20 melanoma deaths might have been prevented by education alone


* People shouldn't be dying from a cancer that is visibly growing on their skin- education is imperative

* We get approximately 80% of our lifetime sun exposure before we are 18 years old

* Having one blistering sunburn under the age of 20 doubles your lifetime risk of melanoma

* Three or more blistering sunburns increase your risk of melanoma five times

* Your chances of developing a sunburn are greatest between 10am and 4pm, when the sun's rays are strongest

* The shadow rule: The sun's rays are less intense at times when your shadow is longer than you are

Skin Cancer Self-Examination:

Examine your body front and back in a full-length mirror. Raise your arms and check your right and left sides.

Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, upper underarms, and palms.

Examine the back of your neck, scalp, and genital area with a hand-held mirror.

Next, check the backs of your legs and feet, including the spaces between toes and soles

Spotting Melanoma:

To spot melanoma, look for the ABCD's as sited by the American Academy of Dermatology.* If a mole has asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation or change, or a diameter change it could be a sign of melanoma.

Asymmetry -- If you were to fold it in half, the two sides wouldn't match up
Border irregularity -- Jagged or blurred edges rather than smooth continuous line
Color variation or change -- Two or more different colors are present or if the mole has been changing in any way
Diameter -- Any sudden or continuing growth and any mole larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil-top eraser)

About CHOC
Making a mark in pediatric healthcare for more than 40 years and named one of the top children's hospitals in the nation by CHILD magazine, Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) is exclusively committed to the health and well being of children through clinical expertise, advocacy and outreach. CHOC's growing healthcare network includes two state-of-the-art hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo, several community clinics, a residency program that trains tomorrow's pediatricians, four centers of excellence -the Heart, Cancer, Orthopaedic and Neuroscience Institutes, and a Research Institute that brings advanced treatment to our patients.

CHOC recently earned the "Excellence in Patient Safety & Health Care Quality Award" from the state's leading health plans, and was one of only nine children's hospitals in the nation to be named to the Leapfrog "Top Hospitals 2006" list, based on results from The Leapfrog Group's Hospital Quality and Safety Survey. For more information about CHOC, visit

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Tell Your Child's Story

I get a lot of emails from mothers who are dealing with children with special needs and who want to share their experience and story with our readers. Do you have a child who battles a physical or mental illness? Would you like to use my blog as a platform to share their story with our readers?

I am interested in hearing from the mothers of these brave children. If you would like to tell your child's story, please email me at [email protected] and let me know. I would love to feature these children regularly on our blog and learn more about your families and the difficulties that you have to overcome.

Thanks a bunch!



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Monday, June 18, 2007

Real Simple Magazine Tips for July

This month, Real Simple would like to give our readers access to web exclusive content and a sneak preview of some of the stories in their upcoming issue. Throwing an Outdoor Cocktail Party gives readers real simple ways to create an al fresco lounge in their own backyard. Their upcoming July issue also gives readers great ideas about how to decorate your home with different types of throw pillows. I hope you enjoy these tips and much thanks to Real Simple for giving us access to these tips!

Decorating with Throw Pillows

Organize Art Supplies with a Dish Rack (This was a personal favorite of mine this month!)

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MomAdvice News

We were experiencing some technical difficulties with our forum this weekend, but we are up and rolling again. We apologize for the delay and hope that everyone can get back to chatting.

I had blogged about hitting the discount day at the Field Museum today, but we had a change in plans. We will be doing this another day because I have an unexpected trip coming up to San Francisco this weekend. The gals over at Divine Caroline are flying me out to see their office and enjoy a weekend with everyone from their advisory counsel. I will be leaving on Thursday and will try to continue blogging while I am gone, but we will probably not have a Freebie Friday this week since I will be traveling. We traded our museum day for a weekend away for just me so I am very excited about my trip alone. I will be returning late on Saturday evening. Please pray for my husband who will be with the kids alone for his first weekend without me! I am sure they will be fine, but I know it is hard.

When I return on Monday, I have a big interview with CBS Early Show! I am not sure when this will be airing, but I will let you all know so that you can watch it. They will be doing a piece on work-at-home scams, and I was contacted since I had personal experience with it and now am doing a work-at-home business that also helps educate women on scams and true work-at-home ideas. This will be my first national television appearance so I am extremely excited and REALLY nervous.

Thanks so much for all of your continued support!



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Friday, June 15, 2007

Freebie Friday: June 15, 2007

Thank you all so much for your comments last week. I was so excited to see how many of you are reading and what you have enjoyed on our site! It really meant a lot to me. Please enjoy this week's freebies.

We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties on our forum. We apologize for the inconvenience and will be working on the problem today!

Health & Beauty

Sign up for a free sample of the new & improved Tampax Cardboard. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Sam's Club members can sign up for a free sample of Kotex Lightdays Pantiliners.

Help fight HIV/AIDS in the Black community by joining the "I Stand With Magic" Program. Together with Magic and Abbott you can make a difference in your community by raising awareness and speaking out on prevention and treatment options for the disease. Simply fill out the information below and press 'Submit' at the bottom of the page. You'll receive your official membership card and educational newsletter in the mail, along with a special "I Stand With Magic" pin. Only persons living in the U.S. can join The Campaign. Our apologies to our visitors from outside the U.S.

Try a free sample of Sensodyne Toothpaste.

To get your free dual sample containing new Olay Total Effects Age-Defying foundation and Full Treatment LipColor, just fill out the questionnaire. Samples are available for residents of the U.S. 18 years old and older only. Limited quantities available.

Introducing Dove Cool Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner. Now the icy freshness of cucumber and intoxicating green tea fragrance you love for your face and body leaves your hair smelling fresh, and feeling clean and beautiful. *While supplies last. Please allow 8-12 weeks for delivery. Available to residents of the 48 continental United States and AK and HI only. Limit one sample per household or address. You must be 18 or older to receive this sample. Fill out and submit the following form to receive your sample of Dove Cool Moisture.

Be one of the lucky few to join our wet n wild Beauty Advisory Panel. Panel members are invited to try our new and most exciting products – FREE! Then they give us their opinions. To be considered for the panel you must complete the linked survey. Survey is only open from 8:00 a.m. (CT) June 15 to 8:00 a.m. (CT) June 18. Completing the survey does not guarantee participation in the wet n wild Beauty Advisory Panel. Selected panelist will be notified by e-mail on or around June 26.If you are selected, you will be notified by e-mail on or around June 26. If you are not selected this time, please try back again. We would love to have you participate in our next Beauty Advisory Panel. (Note: This took a couple of minutes to process so be patient!)

Sign up for Sephora's Beauty Insider program and receive a free gift on your birthday and receive exclusive samples.

Try Goody's Headache Powder in cool orange for free. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one freebie per customer.


Join the Bush’s Beans Moms and Kids Panel! We’re looking for 50 moms and their kids from across the country to test kid-friendly bean recipes and tell us what they think. If you’re a mom with children ages 3 -12, simply tell us a little about your family and your cooking style, and you might be chosen to join the panel. And if you’re a dad who does most of the family cooking, feel free to join as a “Mr. Mom.”

The Dunkin' Advisory Panel is a dynamic community of Dunkin' Donuts' best customers who will be asked to provide candid opinions on a variety of topics related to Dunkin' Donuts. As a member of the panel, you will receive invitations to participate in on-line surveys and discussion groups. In exchange, panelists (a.k.a. Dunkin' VIPs) will be among the first to see new advertising campaigns, learn about new products, and receive valuable rewards like Dunkin' Donuts Cards or Dunkin’ Donuts Gift Certificates.Participation is always 100% voluntary, and all information provided to us remains confidential. Your feedback will be tremendously valuable to Dunkin' Donuts and our future offerings. Complete our brief survey to join the Dunkin' Advisory Panel today!

Check the box on this form to receive a free sample of Chocolate Covered Post Shredded Wheat cereal.

Wal-Mart has reinstated their Knorr Sides Plus sample. If you didn't get this one last time- here is another opportunity. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Home & Garden

Receive a free 6 month subscription to the newsletter of the National Gardening Association.


Claim a complimentary subscription to the Luxury Spa Finder Magazine. Please allow six to eight weeks for processing (Please note: The survey is lengthy, but you can answer, "No, thank you!" to all offers).

Print out this coupon for a free 5x7 enlargement or collage from CVS. This would make a great Father's Day gift!

Not Necessarily Free, BUT...

Target has a printable coupon for Luvs Diapers- Buy one get one free! Coupon can not exceed $10.99. Good only while supplies last- so hurry!!



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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 06.14.07

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


I recently tried the experiment of unplugging all appliances that were not being used, including cell phone chargers, and saved $15 on my electric bill in one month.
Ilsa G.


Instead of saving leftovers in Rubbermaid or Corning containers, scoop them into zip top bags and store in one of the drawers of your refrigerator. They take up so much less room, and the family gets used to looking in that one spot instead of moving things around on the shelves. Things seldom get "lost" because they've been pushed to the back, and you can see exactly what's available. Use a permanent marker and label with date and contents.
Barb C.

Free Gym Membership

Are you bored watching your child at swim class or other lessons at the rec center? Use that time to exercise for free! Our local rec center allows parents and/or siblings to swim or use the gym facilities free while their children are attending class. We cannot use the entire pool, but can still use most of it. We can also use it between lessons since the siblings do not have lessons at the same time. They do not publicize this and it is not applicable for every class, but a quick phone call can confirm if your center will allow it or not. For the price of two children in swim lessons, my entire family of five can get a workout. I am still close enough to watch my children in class, and I am modeling healthy behavior.
Susanne M. in Wheat Ridge, CO

Desktop Solution

I recently uncovered an old desk my parents had in storage that I could use. However, the top was all scratched and chipped. I bought a dry erase board panel, cut it to the size of the desk top using a veneer saw blade in my saw, glued it on with liquid nails, and painted the desk. Voila! I now have a smooth desk top that is a snap to clean. When working at the desk, I don't have to look for paper to write on. And my daughter loves to draw on it. I spent less than $20 and have a "brand new" desk that everyone loves to use. Also, by putting magnets on the back of my leftover dry erase board, I now have a place on my refrigerator for notes.

CD Clean

I needed to clean some of my music CDs and a DVD (which didn't work when I first received it) and so I carefully used an optical lens cleaner sheet (like you get from Sam's in the eyeglass section). These sheets are less than $6 for 180 (large ones) compared to $7 or so for about 20 in an electronics store. I had to unfold the section that I wanted to use and gently wipe off the disk in the right direction (from the center to the outside). Now, the DVD works and the CDs are clean. This is quite inexpensive, and I figured that it was worth a try since the lens cleaner was safe for my glasses.
Cynthia S.

Not One, But Five

I never make one cup of tea. With two bags and a teapot, I get five big mugs of tea. If we don't finish the hot tea, we put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow's iced tea. Also, I get tea from the local "deals only" store for about a dollar a box or in bulk at the health food store. One heaping tablespoon of bulk tea per pot is a thrifty alternative to bagged tea.
Beth H.

Take the Savings and Run

When I use coupons, I ask the checker to let me pay the full pre-coupon amount and give me the value of the coupons in cash. Last year, I accumulated over $2300, which I have set aside for emergencies and special family gifts. And, of course, I never buy anything I wouldn't also buy without a coupon.
Nancy in Santee

Family Auction

We are planning a family gathering/pig roast during Labor Day. We did this annually for several years. One thing that we did to help with the cost of the pig was have everyone bring a used item to auction off. We had everything from children's toys (never over 50 cents) to small household appliances. After a few years, some people got donations from their employers of gift certificates for various restaurants. After the first time, everyone looked forward to the "auction," especially the kids.
Sue L.

Remembering Grandma

Last year my mother-in-law died suddenly. We didn't know if she had any insurance and we didn't have the cash to pay the $7000 to $9000 the funeral home told us it would cost to bury her. She already owned a plot. My brother-in-law contacted a funeral home here about cremation. The cremation and related services was about $1200. We did the memorial service/funeral ourselves.

We printed flyers with the information about her on them. We created the memorial book and customized it with the things she loved, so it really reflected her. We printed the RESERVED signs for the pews at the church. We asked a couple of friends who came to the service if they would help with ushering people in and out. My son made a CD of music for the before and after music. We found many pictures of her from different times in her life and created a lovely display at the front of the church. One of her passions was her Red Hat group, so we prepared a display of her hats and things that she had collected around that.

I think some people in the small town may have been a bit taken aback, but I though it was a lovely Red Hat funeral and befitted her. My son commented that he felt a great deal of closure from the whole process. Our family came together and worked together to create a time of fond memories in what was a truly stressful time. We know that it was unconventional, but that adds a little more to the whole experience. We stepped out of tradition and created some new family traditions. In the process, we probably saved at least $5000!
Penny H.



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Amy's Notebook 06.14.07

Here are the best reads this week:

This post from Frugal for Life nearly broke my heart. If you are having financial problems, suicide is not the answer. Please read Dawn's advice and resources for those of you who are financially struggling!

Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News has a great post on sites that can help you with your summer travels, including free packing lists!

Scribbit added a great free summer activity that you can do with your little ones this summer. How about letting them be an archaeologist for a day?

Mommy Secrets shares her grandmother's homemade chocolate ice cream recipe. Are you hungry yet?

101 Cookbooks has a yummy recipe for a Skinny Omelette.

LifeHacker shares a great way you can organize your frequently used CD's.

Creative Organizing shares tips for weeding through your children's toys.

Storybook Woods shares pictures of her beautiful vintage sewing chest. I want, I want, I want!

The Simple Dollar compares the cost of making your own laundry detergent versus the cost of the Costco brand. Is there really a savings?

Simply Thrifty shares tips for fighting stains.

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Product Review: Fruity Cheerios

I got the opportunity to try a newer product from General Mills called Fruity Cheerios. Yup, it is the same old favorite that you grew up with as a kid, but now with a fruity kick! I was so excited to try these because one of my favorite cereals is Fruit Loops and I was hoping that these would be a similar (but healthier) version of this.

These are absolutely delicious! They still have the original Cheerios flavor, but have a fruity coating on the outside. I would eat these every day of the week if I could!

The children loved these too, but I hid them away and was stingy with them because as a mom, there are few things in life that are just for me. I now see why my mom was always hiding food around our house for herself because nothing is just for you when you have little ones constantly wanting whatever you are eating.

I would highly recommend this cereal to anyone who is a Cheerios lover, or a Fruit Loops lover. They are sweet, but not too sweet. They are still healthy, but a bit more sugary then their original version.

Your kids will love these, so be sure to hide a box for yourself!

As a side note: Modern Mom is currently running a Fruity Cheerios photo contest and they have picked their ten finalists. The winner is chosen based on the number of votes, so please head over there and help to pick the winning picture.

Many thanks to General Mills for this product review opportunity!

Sound Off: What was your favorite cereal growing up? Are you currently hiding anything in your cupboards or fridge? Shhhhh...we won't tell!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Check it Out: How to Be a Budget Fashionista

I was browsing around the beauty & fashion section in our library, when I saw this book and had to read it! I am a girl who is on a tight budget, but who also enjoys keeping up with fashion news and trends, and I wanted to know how I could do that without breaking the bank. How to Be a Budget Fashionista by Kathryn Finney is such a fantastic book and I recommend it to every woman! I have several people in mind already that I would like to give this to for a Christmas gift. I am sure you know people in your life who NEED this book to stop spending ridiculous amounts of money on that they don't have to spend in the first place.

This book is a great basic guide book for showing you that you truly can be fashionable without spending an arm and a leg to do it. The author was actually a woman who fell into the trap of spending more money than she earned on buying clothing. She wanted to stay fashionable, but found herself swimming in a sea of debt and buyer's remorse.

Pulling herself up by her brand-name boots, she decided to pull herself out of the trap and figure out how she could look good for less. She learned ways that she could still look good without spending a mint to do it.

In the book, Ms. Finney offers great suggestions for basic items you can look for to make a good basic wardrobe. She discloses great department and superstore brands that you can hunt for, to substitute for the expensive stuff, and shares her bargaining secrets for getting the looks you crave for less.

The thing that I absolutely loved about this book was that she ENCOURAGES thrift shopping for items and gives a listing of details to look for when shopping and brand names that you can keep your eye out for. Many of her own favorite pieces were items she found when doing her thrifting, so she actually lives by the principles she shares with her readers.

I devoured this book in one sitting and passed it on to a friend. She devoured it too and we got to chat a lot about the things we enjoyed from her list. Not only that, but we patted ourselves on the back for being so fashionably conscious that we had some of the listed as must-haves!

I couldn't get enough of this book, so I was pleased to see that Kathryn maintains a site and forum where she shares more fashion tips & deals with her readers. If you like to listen to Podcasts, she also does interviews with the big names in fashion on how to look good for less!

Sound Off: My dear fashionistas, what is your favorite piece in your wardrobe and where did you purchase it?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Your Blogging Story Carnival: The MomAdvice Story

Chilihead has started a carnival dedicated towards people sharing about how they got their start in the blogging world. It has been interesting to read everyone's story and their tips on how they began their blogging journey. If you are a blogging momma, I encourage you to take part in this and read the entries! What could be better inspiration than that?

Here is my story...

How did you start blogging?

This is a tough question to answer, but since I had probably never heard of the term "blogging" before, I am sure that my techy hubby had suggested it as another outlet for us to get our site to be more known.

I had wanted to blog about motherhood and my children, but found it too creatively challenging and also didn't feel that it was very cohesive with our website efforts. I made the decision to turn it around and make it focus more on saving money and it seemed to mesh better with my personality and was a great way to share some quick tips versus writing an entire article on a subject.

Did you intend to be a blog with a big following? If so, how did you go about it?

No, I never expected to have anyone really reading it except for my friends and family. It was quite the shocker that anyone would read it, as I really don't think I am all that interesting! I was just hoping for a few people so it was an incredible surprise that anyone was actually reading it.

What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?

My goal has been to inspire people to be creative with their money. I try to focus on not what you can do WITHOUT, but what you can do WITH. I want people to know that they don't have to live a life of sacrifice, just because they are trying to live within a budget, but that they can learn to be creative so that they can have everything they have ever wanted without spending money they don't have.

I am not an extremist and I hope that appeals to people. I try to be reasonable with my ideas and let people know that I am actually going through the journey myself with them. I am learning right along with everyone else and constantly discovering new ways to save. They might not be for everyone, but I hope that in some small way, it can have a positive impact on your finances.

I do feel like I am reaching my goals because the emails and comments I receive from my readers helps me feel validated. Your comments do mean so much...more than words can say. For me, I try and have a conversation with people. I want them to interact with me. If you are having a conversation with someone and all you hear is silence on the other end...well, sometimes you just want to hang up. I try to keep talking, but it does mean a lot to hear something back!!

What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?

I think I was trying to hard to retain my audience and was not trying hard enough to redirect people to other blogs. The blogging community can be very supportive of one another. It is important to share what you read with your readers, and redirect people to other blogs that have great posts.

Once a week, I do a Notebook entry where I share great things I have read throughout the week. I learned that by sharing these links with others, that blogs found out about me and started linking to me for other things. I started to gain traffic through my efforts and also developed some really great friendships with some fellow bloggers. I wouldn't trade any of that for the world!

Being stingy with my readership was not beneficial, but sharing the love has been an incredible way to get more readers and to keep them coming back to our blog.

Do you make money with your blog?

Yes, I do receive money from my blogging efforts. Our website has advertisements throughout and we receive revenue from our advertisers. The money I bring in does fluctuate depending on the amount of page views we have or how much particular campaigns are paying out each month. I feel very blessed to be able to contribute any money towards our household income and to be able to do what I love AND be home with my children is more than I could ever ask for!

Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?

Yes, I tell everyone and their mom about my blog. Because I just write about money, I don't feel like I need to have any real sense of privacy on that topic. I don't think they necessarily read it, but they know it is out there!

What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?

1. Festivals and Carnivals can be a great way to get more exposure and new readers coming to your site. If you go to Blog Carnival, you can see all of the carnivals and festivals that are taking place right now. Set up an account and submit your entries to these. You can also contact the Festival or Carnival owners and find out if you can host one week. This can be another great way to build up your traffic.

2. Don't write a post just to have something up for the day. I think it is far more important to put out one good post rather than three posts that will not be remembered. I try and approach my blog entries as mini-articles. People expect a certain style of writing from me and I try and make the posts actually have some good meat to them. If you write well (don't forget your spell check!!), people will appreciate that and want to read more from you!

Be sure to check out the other entries and thanks to Chilihead for putting together such a great carnival!!

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The Gift Closet Part Four: Baby Gifts

Well, we are quickly working our way through this series and I hope that I have offered some creative gift solutions for you. If you haven't been following this series, I had been asked about creating a gift closet to help save your family money. In the first section, I discussed some ways that you could present your gifts. Next, I shared some ideas for thrifty graduate gifts. Most recently though, I discussed some money-smart ideas for wedding gifts.

Today I wanted to share some ideas for baby gifts. What could be more joyous than another life entering the world and what could be more fun to buy than little baby clothes? I find myself really wanting to splurge in this category, just because baby stuff is so gosh darn cute! Who can resist those frilly dresses they have for little girls? I also have a hard time resisting little man clothes- blazers, khakis, and polo shirts are some of my favorite purchases. Unfortunately, this momma is on a tight budget, so I have to hold myself back when it comes to gifts like this.

Here are some of my frugal ideas for baby gifts that will be remembered:

1. Dinners- Meals for new mothers are a fabulous gift to give and cost next to nothing, if you make smart menu choices. I love taking meals to new mothers because I remember how much I appreciated those meals when I received them. You can prepare a meal fresh, or stock up a new mom's freezer with dinners that her family can eat when she is too exhausted to prepare anything. I have some thrifty meal ideas and some tips on how to transport that meal to the new mother in my past entries.

2. Make a Diaper Cake-Be sure to read this entry on how to make a cake. There are some additional great ideas under the comments so make sure to read those too! I love making these and love how impressive the whole package looks when it is done. To me, when someone makes something, that is more special than anything that anyone could buy. It shows that they cared by investing time, that they probably did not have to spare, to make something fantastic just for me!

You could also do different variations on this same idea with a Diaper Wreath (thanks to Jenn for the hint on that one!) for the new mother.

3. Babysitting Services- I love to make gift coupons for people to tuck within their cards and what could a new mother want more than a night away? I love to offer my babysitting services to help a mom out so that she can enjoy a night on the town with her husband or just to go get her hair cut (BY HERSELF!). This is a really good gift for a mom who is on a tight budget and can't afford to hire a sitter or a mom who has more than one child and never gets a moment of peace.

If you wanted to add a little gift to go along with it, try a gift certificate from They make a fabulous gift and you only spend a fraction of the value of the certificate. You can read my personal review of these certificates in one of my past posts.

4. Magazine Subscriptions- Ask the mother if she is receiving any parenting magazines and offer to buy her a subscription. Read my post on purchasing magazine subscriptions very inexpensively on Ebay. Many times there are packages of magazines that you can buy with two or more parenting magazines in the package, which make a great gift set. No one will know that you did not splurge for a full price subscription, and it is something she can enjoy all year long!

5. Capture Memories- You can make a beautiful memory box with little or no crafty talent, and it will be a gift that the mother can truly use. Purchase a box from your local craft store (I love to use those Michael's coupons for these types of purchases) and decorate it with paints, ribbon, wrapping paper, buttons- whatever you have around your house. If you are close to the mother, you could tuck your own personal note in about how much you love the child. The mother can store their little hospital ID bracelet, their hat they wore at the hospital and notes from family & friends. It is a wonderful gift and is also a very personal one.

6. Start Saving- One gift that I love to give and receive is a piggy bank for the new baby. What could be better than getting their child on the right foot towards saving money? You could tuck a savings bond in with the bank to get their bank started.

Sound Off: What is your favorite baby gift to give? What was the best baby gift you have ever received?

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Discounted Museum Day: Field Museum

This is the only museum admission we will be paying for this summer, but for a little boy who sleeps, eats and breathes dinosaurs, it is totally worth it! We couldn't be more excited to take him to this museum and I think he and his dad are going to love it!

The Field Museum (in Chicago) is offering discount days, where you can go to the museum for a reduced rate. Normal admission prices, which include their Platinum Package gaining access into everything, is $22 per adult and $11 per child. For their discount days, we will get access into everything for $12 per adult and $7 per child.

We usually bypass the extra features and just go for the general admission passes, but we really want him to get to see everything in the museum this time. The Platinum Pass entitles you entry into Underground Adventure and Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries plus SUE, Evolving Planet (which requires a separate timed-entry ticket) and Inside Ancient Egypt as well as exhibitions on many different cultures, mammals, birds, gems, minerals, and plants! We would really like for him to experience all of the dinosaur exhibits and since the tickets are discounted, we are going to splurge on this one!

The even better news is that Emily's grandmother offered to keep her for the day so that Ethan can enjoy a day with just the two of us. We are looking forward to spending some special time with him and getting to really focus on him having a great time. This is his day and we want to make it extra special for him.

Discount days to the museum are June 17-22 this summer so if you are in the area, you might want to take advantage of the lower prices!

We will still be taking the train during the times that our son can ride for free and will be packing a big lunch and snacks for us to enjoy while we are there. I am still trying to keep the trip budget-friendly, but we are splurging for the extra features since we will be there!

SOUND OFF: Has anyone been to this museum before? Anything to avoid? Any favorite parts?



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Friday, June 08, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha! (Or How to Make a Diaper Cake)

If you can believe it, I have been sitting on this blog entry for a year now. I only know this because the cakes that I have pictured were for my nephew and my best friend's son and they are both celebrating their first birthday!

Even though I haven't shared about this, my heart swells a little because I was so proud to carry such a pretty gift into the hospital. I felt even more proud when the nurses stopped me and asked me where I bought it. It was one of my proudest Martha moments because I am not very crafty, but I try oh-so-hard to have those impressive moments in my life.

Making a diaper cake is so easy and the results are extremely impressive! I had seen many companies advertising these on their websites, but they were charging fifty dollars (or more!) for these cakes. I ran a search and ran across this great picture tutorial on how to do it, and decided that it was definitely something I could do with just a couple of small purchases.

For my diaper cakes, I needed to establish a base for them so that I could transport them easily. I found a box in our garage and cut a square of cardboard out of it to rest the cake on. I then covered the cardboard with pretty wrapping paper in blues & pinks.

Next I followed the instructions for making the first diaper layer and used a stretchy headband that I had to bring the base diapers all together, making the first layer of the cake. It had suggested using a rubber band, but I didn't have any that would secure that many diapers together. I then wrapped pretty ribbon around it and tied them together with that, securing them together with white tipped pins, which made it look like part of the ribbon itself. With the next two layers, I was able to use a rubber band to put them together, and then covered the rubber band with the ribbon.

Once you have all of your layers, you can stack them and stick a dowel rod in the center, or anything that is long and will help them stay jointed together.

I went to Target and found little man blazers that would be perfect to go with the cake. I pinned these to the back and stuck a little stamped card in the pocket that said, "Congratulations!"

Next I went to the dollar store to buy some shrink wrap and two sets of wooden blocks (over by the baby supplies). I spelled out BOY on each of them and saved the rest of the blocks for our daughter to play with.

Shrink wrapping is very easy! Take the bag and pull it over your item and hold it at the top. Turn your blow dryer on and blast it until the wrapping shrinks tightly to fit your item. Use the bow that is supplied, or tie off with a bow of your own!

Diaper cakes can have small items tucked in the center of them from the mom's registry or you can go with a themed cake. Remember, the more items you add, the more you add to your cost. If you are trying to keep the cost down, keep it simple.

Here are a few theme ideas:

Bath time Cake- add a baby towel, tuck washcloths in the center and put a Rubber Ducky on top. You can also add small bath toys or bubble bath.

Elegant Cake- Make your diaper cake look like a wedding cake, and surround it with fresh or silk flowers. People will hardly believe their eyes when they see it.

Beach time Cake- This would be for a little later in the baby's life, but you can fill it up with beachy items. Some suggestions are a shovel, pail, baby sunglasses, a hat and some sunblock.

Night-Night Baby- Include a copy of, "Goodnight, Moon" with this cake. Add a little sleeper set, some calming nighttime lotion, and a compact disc of sweet baby lullabies.

The cost for each of these was:

Diapers- Free! they were given to us as a gift and Emily wore cloth so we never used them!
Diaper Cake Base- Free- made out of an old cardboard box we had!
Ribbon- $1.98
Little Man Blazer- Clearanced out for $2.98 at Target! Gotta love those clearance items!
Shrink Wrap & Baby Blocks- $2

Total Cost= $6.96

Sound Off: Would you guys like to see more, "Eat Your Heart Out, Martha!" moments on here? I have one a year, but I am happy to share the few I do have! I hope this gives you another thrifty gift alternative!

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Freebie Friday: June 8, 2007

**Please! Please! It is time for my readers to come out of lurking. If you are reading this, please leave a comment and let me know how long you have been reading my blog and what your favorite feature is on here! You can leave the comment anonymously, if you are too shy to share! I would love to meet you and thanks to everyone for any feedback they can offer! You all make this corner of the internet possible for myself and for my family. We are extremely grateful!**

Health & Beauty:

Sign up for a free sample of Stayfree Dry Max. Your free sample will arrive within 2-3 weeks (Note: Email address is an optional field!)

Register to receive a free sample of Eucerin Calming Creme. You will also be signed up for future sample offers.

Enter the Schick Intution Time Save Sweepstakes and receive a free Schick Intuition Plus Razor. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Pantene is offering two different types of shampoo samples on their website. Visit their site for more details!

Try the Healing Garden Skin Organics sample for free.

Sign up for a free three week trial to the Adidas Core Performance Program. Receive access to our interactive programs for three full weeks—for free. Learn about the Core Performance program. Sign up for our fitness and nutrition programs. And take in a wealth of fitness information. We’re confident you’ll like what you see! (Use Access Code: CP-ADIDAS)


Not for you, but maybe for your daughter? Sign up to receive a free one-year subscription to American Cheerleader Magazine. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Harper Audio is offering three free audio book downloads: James & the Giant Peach, The Land of Mango Sunsets, & Black Order.

Mark your Calendars: Join millions of women across America at the 5th Annual Speaking of Women's Health Community Event on Saturday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Wal-Mart nationwide! On Saturday, June 23, we'll be giving away millions of FREE copies of our newest book "Love Notes to Our Moms and Other Women of Influence." Our Book is given away exclusively at our Community Event in Wal-Mart stores nationwide and at our Speaking of Women's Health, Universal Sisters and Hablando de la Salud de la Mujer conferences and events. The FREE Book features letters written by celebrities and female leaders. The 144-page book contains health, well-being and personal safety information for you and your family - as well as wonderful recipes with beautiful photos on how to serve delicious snacks, meals and desserts.

Free Books To Order From FEMA. You can order a storybook and a coloring book free from FEMA. "The Adventures of Julia and Robbie: The Disaster Twins" is a book best for third and fourth graders. Both are great stories about disasters. There is also a great disaster coloring book for everyone who likes to color. How do you get these? Just ask an adult to call the FEMA toll-free number: 1-800-480-2520. FEMA will mail the books to you and you can start a "disaster" library!

Apple Camp, available at most Apple Store locations, provides an opportunity for kids and families to participate in fun and engaging activities. Each Camp Workshop consists of two and a half hours of hands-on learning, doing cool stuff on Macs. Campers complete their own project that they will take home on CD or DVD. All four Camp Workshops are recommended for kids ages 8 to 12. Select from Podcast Workshop, iWeb and iPhoto Workshop, Music Workshop and Movie Workshop. You may sign up for up to two Camp Workshops.

Home & Garden:

Kozy Shack is offering free pudding recipe cards. If you are turning forty this year, you could be chosen for a drawing for More Magazine as well (Proof of ID is needed for that portion of the contest!)

Sign up for a free Hallmark Connections card. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Fill out the form to receive a free sample of Gain Original Fresh Liquid Fabric Softener.

Snapfish is running a great promotion right now. After you complete your first upload, new customers will receive a credit for a free 11 oz. mug and 20 free 4x6 prints. You can use your free prints and mug at one time or across several orders. Free prints and mug credits expires 60 days after your first upload. After using your free print credits, 4x6 prints are only 12¢ every day, and as low as 10¢ with pre-paid plans! Promotion ends 6/30/2007.

Dockers is offering a new Father's Day Promotion. Make a $100 purchase of Dockers clothing at Kohl's Department Store and receive a free two day stay and two entrees for a weekend getaway. Be sure to read the terms of agreement for all the details!

Pet Care:

Sign up to receive a free sample of Maxximum Nutrition for Cats or Dogs. Click the applicable link and please allow up to four weeks for delivery.



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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Amy's Notebook 06.07.07

Here are a few of my favorite entries for the week!

Saving Advice has a great entry on how to get discounted movie tickets with tons of links to programs that you can take advantage of.

Baby Cheapskate is giving a penny to the Humane Society for each unique hit she gets, in the month of June, and Angie is asking our readers to visit. Please swing by her site and help charity in the process.

Dawn, over at Frugal for Life, compares her experience with the Grocery Game versus her experience with the free service from Coupon Mom. I have always wondered about the Grocery Game and if it would be worth the money spent. I think she answered the question well!

Apartment Therapy has a great suggestion for using bookcases for toy storage. Check out their great post on how to make ice cream in a bag. Does this bring back any memories for some of you?

The Simple Dollar shares a great reminder for keeping track of your home and auto maintenance.

Goodyblog has a great idea for making your own version of the game, "Guess Who?" Check out their instructions!

Meredith, at Like Merchant Ships, had some really great posts this week. Her post on disguising a store bought cake was ingenious, and I love her tutorials on spray paint and the varieties that are offered in the store.

Sound Money Tips has a great tip for getting the cheapest airline travel.

Enjoy that reading and stay out of the heat!

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The Dollar Stretcher Tips 06.07.2007

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

Blow By

If you open a window at each end of the house and place a window box fan backwards in one of the windows so that it blows outside of the house, it pulls the air through the house (especially in the early morning hours) and cools your home.

Expiration Unlimited

Be wary of renewal notices! I used to receive several renewal notices for a magazine subscription. They were months apart and I didn't notice so I paid them. Finally, after receiving a notice close to a recent renewal (which I paid for!), I checked my subscription. I was paid up through 2012! So check your renewals with your subscription departments. You may not need to renew.
Bill in Rockford, MI

Just Dry and Reuse

Our community has a pool, and if you have a little one, the cost of swim diapers quickly escalates a "free" trip to the pool. Last summer, I started washing and re-using our swim diapers. Generally, they are just wet when we get home so I just rinse them in the sink with a little soap and water and hang to dry with the swimsuit. If the diaper was more than wet, I disposed of it. I don't think I bought more than one package of swim diapers for the whole season.
Marquita H.

Calorie Packs

You can easily make your own 100-calorie packs. I used a calorie book and nutrition information to make a list of the size of various servings of my favorite snacks and the calorie counts. I posted it in my pantry and use it as inspiration to keep my low calorie snack basket full. I keep hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit and clean yogurt containers with pretzels, carrot or celery sticks in a small basket in my fridge. I replenish it every few days. It makes finding a healthy snack easy and even makes finding filler for lunches a breeze.
Kimberly M. in Alta Loma, CA

Natural Facial

The best facial to remove oil is one egg yolk and a teaspoon of mayonnaise. I know it sounds funny, but it makes your skin feel so soft and look new. Just rub it on, wait thirty minutes, and then remove with warm water.

Odor Fighters

A lit match will take away bathroom odor. Strike a match (I use the wooden kitchen kind for easy handling) and the odor disappears. This is much better for us than the air sprays and much cheaper, too. I sometimes light the match and then light a candle, but the match alone eliminates the odor.

Also, after cutting onions, if you run your fingers over the knife under running water, the onion odor disappears.

I don't know the scientific reason for either of these but I have a very sensitive nose and these both work great.
Pat in St. Louis, MO

Buy the Bucket

I'm an avid gardener and go through a lot of potting soil to plant my container gardens. It can end up costing a lot of money to plant those flowers! Thankfully, I discovered that our local business that sells landscaping products sells dirt, pea gravel, bark, and an assortment of different soils by the bucket full. You just take your bucket and fill it yourself. This is so much cheaper than buying it by the bag.

Love Those Fake Credit Cards

If you've seen the new bladeless cream hair removers and thought about giving them a try, try this trick instead. Buy the generic or cheapest brand of cream hair remover, and instead of using a washcloth (very messy!) to remove the product, use one of those fake credit cards that keep showing up in the mail. This works just as well as the expensive, premium product for about half the cost. For soothing softness, smooth on a light film of Vaseline or baby oil afterwards. No need for expensive specialty products to soften your legs, since Vaseline works just as well or better for just pennies.
Victoria in Watertown, NY

Home Sharing

My mom is currently sharing her home with my sister and me in New York City. My mother is retired and has very limited income. She has to supplement her retirement income by working for minimum wage for a few hours per day.

Even though my sister and I are grown, there are advantages we all enjoy such as being able to contribute to the mortgage according to our income and sharing expenses which enables us to keep our housing cost to approximately 30% and lower. My single mom gets to enjoy her family and not being left alone and we get to save more.

I would recommend kids sharing a home with their parent(s), providing they act responsible in every way and respect their parents while living there. This advice is especially good for expensive cities, such as New York City.

Veggie Packs

When you chop up those almost done vegetables to put in the freezer, measure them into 1/4, 1/2, 1 cup portions in little sandwich bags and put these bags into a larger bag. This works great!
Leah D.



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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Vice: Starbucks Iced Peppermint Mochas

Everyone has a vice. My vice happens to be Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these and thought that they were a seasonal item since they promote them around Christmas. My brother, a former Starbucks employee, informed me that these are actually available year-round. My vice, which was only a holiday vice, became something I craved throughout the year and I needed to find a way to make this an affordable luxury.

I did an internet search for recipes and pooled a couple of recipes together. Listed under one of the recipes was a tip that you could purchase flavored syrups directly from Starbucks. Who would have knew that? A chat with my brother confirmed those findings and he also shared that you can purchase their chai mix and white mocha mixes as well.

Last weekend I headed over to our Starbucks to find out if I could get some of the peppermint syrup that I love so much. The employee said that he would check in back for me and see if they had enough in stock. Sure enough, they had three bottles and were able to spare one of the bottles for me. Since having them in stock did seem to be a bit of an issue, you might want to call first and see if they can order it or put some aside for you.

The bottle is a one liter bottle and the price tag was only $6.95. After chatting with the employee for a bit, he said that one to two tablespoons (depending on the size of your drink) is enough per coffee. One liter should last me a lifetime so I am planning on splitting the bottle with a friend since it is her favorite too!

I have had my blender humming since I got the bottle and used a tip I found online for making the mochas taste like coffee instead of water. When making your mocha, make a batch of coffee and allow it to cool. Next, pour your coffee into ice cube trays and freeze them. I made half a pot of coffee (six servings) and it yielded enough for two ice cube trays. Freeze the cubes and then when it is time to make your drink, just pop them out and pop them in your blender. You will end up with a great coffee drink without the watery taste, which I seemed to be drinking before.

Here are a couple other cost saving tips:

- Buy cheap coffee when making a mixed drink. Coffee snobs will slight me on this one, but I think when it is mixed in with a variety of ingredients, you don't taste the coffee as much. I just buy the Aldi coffee or the off-brand Folgers from our local Wal-Mart.

- Use prepared powdered milk to make your drinks. Again, you will not taste a difference and this is a great way to keep the cost down on your smoothies and coffee drinks. I keep a pitcher of this in our fridge to cook with and for making all of our icy drinks during the summer. We save a lot of money doing this. Be sure to read this post on powdered milk and how to prepare it.

- Is your vice Orange Julius? Check out my faux Orange Julius recipe! How about a Wendy's Frosty? I think this post on Magic Milkshakes are a great substitution! How abut Pumpkin Spice Lattes? I love the mock-version I came up with and you can enjoy these all year round, rather than seasonally at Starbucks!

- Need a great treat to pair with your mochas? How about some Starbucks Banana Pound Cake? I am sure you have some mashed bananas in your freezer!

Now here is my version of Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. These are prepared like the icy drinks that they offer, versus a coffee on ice. It makes it more of a treat and a great way to cool off in that hot summer sun! I hope you enjoy them and can't wait to get your feedback!

Starbucks Iced Peppermint Mochas

6-7 coffee ice cubes
4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)

A generous squirt of chocolate syrup (approximately 1/8 cup)

1 tablespoon peppermint syrup

1 cup prepared powdered milk

Place all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. This will yield one huge mocha or two smaller mochas.

These are such a great substitution for those expensive drinks and cost pennies versus $3.50 per drink for me. I can freely indulge and feel absolutely no guilt about it!

And because I am a complete dork, I will fully disclose to you that I have a Starbucks mix on our computer that I enjoy playing while drinking my coffee. We have "free" wireless here and I love the music so much at Starbucks that I check out their listing of artists and play those while I sip my cheap drink. If I close my eyes, I feel like I am there and I save on gas and money spent on coffee. Again, I told you I was a dork!

Speaking of music, my brother (a music fanatic as well!) discovered a great album that Starbucks released called Off the Clock. All of the singers are employees of the company and they had a contest to release the best of the best. The music is incredible and definitely worth a listen! It is a great blend of all types of music and a new favorite on my playlist!

Sound Off:
What is your vice? Have you found a way to replicate that experience? Share your recipes if you have them!

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A Saving Grace for a Family Vacation: School Zone Products

I feel very blessed to get the opportunity to review so many great products, and the School Zone company had contacted me in May to see if I would be interested in reviewing some of their products for them. I replied that I would welcome the opportunity and hid the box away for our upcoming vacation day. I wanted to have something new for them to do while we were on the train, and these fun activities seemed like just the ticket.

School Zone sent us a variety of products, tailored to fit the ages of our children- 4 & 1 years of age. For our daughter (our one year old), they sent the Happy Faces Infant Cards, the Peek a Boo Bunny Guess Who? cards, and the Fuzzy Animal Discovery cards.

The cards are educational cards that provide texture and bright colors for your little one. They are intended to build cognitive development by providing sensory-rich experiences for baby. Emily really enjoyed the Happy Faces cards, which had a mirror on it and then fit the animals around the cards. Each time she would look at the animal, she could see her face and I was able to share rhymes and activities with her using the cards. Their Fuzzy Animal Discovery cards, had an animal on each side and incorporated foil and tuggable fabrics for baby to interact with. Emily's favorite cards were the Peek a Boo Bunny cards, which had a plush bunny that had magnets built into its hands, to cover the eyes for a game of peekaboo. Each of the cards had a flap and had a hidden animal behind it. She sleeps with her two little bunnies, so the bunny activity proved to be the most fun for her.

For Ethan, he received a 3D Preschool Magnetic Tin. This was, by far, the highlight for both of our children. This tin included 76 number, letter, and shape magnets. It also include 3D animal magnets. The tin created a magnetic surface for the children to stick their magnets on and several worksheets that could create a playing and learning surface for them. Emily could also play with these, while being closely supervised, and the kids both wanted to play with this set more than anything else. It is a great set for traveling or for quiet times at church service. We will be taking these a lot of places with us. He also received some really great flash cards and a peg puzzle book! The book is being stored away for a rainy day, but he did enjoy the flash cards. The winner with him though was most definitely the magnetic tin!

School Zone offers so many great products and we aren't the only ones who think so. They won a record of nine iParenting Media Awards for their efforts. Jonathan Hoffman, CEO of School Zone Publishing Company, said, "We are thrilled with our record win of nine iParenting Media Awards for Excellent Products of 2007. From our president to the designers, engineers, sales staff, and more, School Zone is passionate about developing great educational products for children. Many times, we only have the sales numbers to validate our creative efforts. It is affirming to learn that our products shined when reviewed by experts!”

Please visit School Zone for more information on their educational products. We thank the company wholeheartedly for giving us the opportunity to share these products with our children, and for making our trip much more bearable!

Sound Off: Do your children have any favorite toys that incorporate learning activities into them? What is your favorite "quiet" activity for your children to do?

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Blogger Spotlight: Stop the Ride! & 100 Acre Wood

I am so pleased to share an interview with one of my favorite blogging mommas. I have enjoyed reading her blogs for quite some time now and it gives me great pleasure to introduce her to all of you. If you haven't read some of Stephanie's work before, you are missing out! She has inspired me so much in the art of stretching a buck. Stephanie has a way of introducing new ideas for savings to her readers, and actually practices what she preaches. She seems to constantly challenge herself and her readers on ways they can save their family money. I hope that you will stop by Stephanie's corner of the internet and show her some love today! She is a great friend and an incredible mother. In addition to that, she is a talented blogger that can offer you valuable information in learning how to make your dollars scream with mercy.

Please tell me a little bit about your blogs and how long you have been blogging for?

I have two blogs, Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood is my personal blog. It is what I do since I don't scrap book, keep a journal or keep up the baby books. Stop the Ride! is where I blog about simple & frugal living & debt reduction.

I started 100 Acre Wood in Feb '06 and Stop the Ride in Aug '06.

Do your friends and family know about your blog or are you leading a secret blogging life?

I started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends, so yes, they know about it. In fact, many of my family members also blog.

What do you feel you have gained through your blogging?

There really are so many things. We had just moved out of state when I started blogging. It became a source for adult contact for me, and a community of sorts. I found so many interesting people. Many who see the world very differently than I do. You don't get that in the real world as easily. It has increased my understanding of different groups a lot, but has also shown me that we really have a lot in common. We often want the same things from life, but see different paths to them.

What is your favorite feature on your blog right now?

The Make It From Scratch carnival at Stop the Ride! I love seeing all the different ideas, and the interaction of the people who participate. It does take a bit a of time to put together, but I really enjoy it!

What are you doing when you are not blogging? What do you treat yourself with?
Thinking about blogging. :) This time of year you'd find me in the garden or perhaps on a foraging walk. A treat is any time I get alone. The biggest treat I've had lately was attending a retreat with the women from our old church. Tim kept all four kids!

What are some your favorite blogs?
Besides Motherload? The ones I've been reading the longest (except family ones) are:
Frugal Upstate
Butterfly Mama
Homesteading Neophyte

Do you experience writer's block? Do you have a cure for it?
I more often have more ideas than I have time for. Since 100 Acre Wood is more like a journal I really don't have writers block there. I just post when something interesting is happening; a lot!

Sometimes I get stuck for ideas for Stop the Ride! A couple things that seem to help me: First I keep a list of ideas written down. Some weeks I'm overflowing with ideas, almost never with time. The ones I don't get posted I write down. Just a title or a few words to jog my memory when I want to write about it.

The other thing I do is stop, take some deep breaths, or even walk away from the computer for a bit. I think about what I've done the last few days. That is usually enough to give me an idea and get me going again.

What is your favorite thing to write about?
It is hard to choose, but I guess I'd say saving money, especially with food. I consider it a challenge to try to save, and it is a thrill to do it and then post about it.

Please share with me your favorite entry and tell me why it is your favorite?
Even tougher!

100 Acre Wood - Life Languages Live
This is one of my earliest posts. I just love the story and how it shows my kids' personalities. Funny as I reread this tonight I thought where is Vivian in the story. Oh, she wasn't even born yet. Seems impossible.

Stop the Ride!- A Stretched Chicken
I challenged myself to see how many meals I could make from one whole chicken. I had a lot of fun with these posts. There were four posts in the series. This is the last one. It links to the others.

**Would you like to be highlighted here in our blogger spotlight? Please email me at [email protected] and let me know! I am looking forward to doing a variety of interviews and getting to know our blogging community better!**



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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lessons Learned from a Day Trip to the Museum

You guys left some fabulous vacation tips in my last entry- thanks for the tips on all of the things to do in the Chicago area and ways to see the sites in the US for cheap!

Well, we survived a day trip with the two children to the Museum of Science & Industry, in Chicago, Illinois. We were in survival mode, as Emily did not enjoy any portion of it and cried almost the entire day. She did not seem to appreciate the sites or the train ride there. Lesson #1 learned: Taking an 18 month old to the museum is quite challenging and no amount of tricks in mommy's bag were interesting enough. This stage is very hard with kids because they don't want to ride in the stroller for any length of time, but she is also not walking so we couldn't set her loose either.

The hard part, for us, was that the returning train times were so limited. The first one (around 12:30) would have been too early, but the one later (after four), was way too late. We had to wait for the later train and the kids were both too tired to enjoy anything as the day progressed. Six hours in a museum with two children who desperately needed a nap was too long for them and for us us. We must have looked pretty bad as a man came up to us and told us that he could tell that we looked like we had a long day. I mentioned that the train times were limited to South Bend and he taught me our next lesson. Lesson #2 learned: There are many more time slots available taking the train out of Michigan City versus the South Bend location. Although we would have to drive 45 minutes, we would still not be driving in Chicago, and we would shave some of the time off of the train trip. We are definitely going to be doing that next time!

Ethan did enjoy the train ride though and struck up a long conversation with the conductor including telling him his age, his cousin's age, and all about where he was going. He was in heaven on the way there, but the novelty did wear off on the return trip.

Ethan's favorite part of the museum was definitely the train exhibit. If you have a little boy who is into trains, this is a great place to take them. They let you tour a train with a conductor and learn all about it. There are also amazing trains to look at and train sets to watch. He wanted to stay in that section for hours.

We also appreciated the museums, "Idea Factory" which was a special play area for the kids to burn off some energy. They had a section of the area dedicated to children under 36 months, with tons of things to look at and do. Emily enjoyed playing in the water table and playing on their baby jungle gym. As a side note, they had a changing area and an area for mommies to able to rock their little ones and nurse them privately. When I was nursing, this was a huge perk for me, so I thought I would mention it!

Overall, we did have a wonderful trip. I think next time we will either pick the train up at an alternate location, or next time just take Ethan on his own. The important part for us was that we create some really great memories for our family, and I think we accomplished that! We look forward to many more of the free admission days in Chicago and we thank the Museum of Science & Industry for giving us the opportunity to visit such an amazing museum for free!

Total spent for train: $40 (the children rode for free because we took advantage of the train's Family Fare)
Total spent at the museum: $12 (for drinks & a special treat at the end of the day)
Cost for a day in Chicago for a family of four: $52

I hope you enjoyed your virtual day trip with us!

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Free Museum Day: Museum of Science & Industry

You know your family loves getting things for free when they plan their entire vacations around free days at local museums and attractions. That is exactly what we have done for this summer and we are looking forward to spending a day at the Museum of Science & Industry for free tomorrow (Monday).

When my husband asked when he should use his vacation days, I told him I would check all of the museum websites and let him know the days based on the free admissions in the area. We have plans to hit several Chicago attractions including Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. We also are looking forward to National Museum Day and are hoping that our new favorite place, the AirZoo Museum, will be participating again this year.

Here is the tip for today...check for free days in your area. These are usually listed under the Admissions link and should give you a listing of dates that they offer free or discounted tickets. You can also do a internet search and look under "free" and the name of your museum. Try and plan some family trips together.

Don't forget to pack a lunch to eat on the way! The trip isn't really free if you have to pay for twelve dollar burgers!

Sound Off: What museums offer free days in your area? Do you plan your vacations around free attractions?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Freebie Friday: June 1, 2007

Health & Beauty:

If you are not a member, now is the time to join. They are offering a free Vitamin E Body Butter from the Body Shop for signing up as a member. It is free, you earn points for your online purchases, your points can then be redeemed for gift cards. I have been a member for four years now- it is legit!

Sign up to receive a free sample of Colgate Total Advanced Clean toothpaste.

Clinique is offering four freebies right now:


Learn the Dos & Don’ts of Spring makeup with beauty news and how-to’s from the Clinique expert. You’ll learn that you should always get skin-typed for the best treatment recommendations and you should never tug your eyes when applying eye liner. DON’T miss out on a new look and DO get two free gifts with your consultation:

5-month supply of powder Blushing Blush Powder Blush in Cupid or Aglow plus
1-week supply of the NEW Liquid Facial Soap in mild or in oily skin formula
One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Makeup Dos and Don’ts" workshops click here.


Why not accessorize with colour? Learn how at Clinique’s “Ready to Wear” makeup event. Try on a great new look for business, weekend or evening, custom-fit by the expert to your skin, your style. With your consultation, get two free gifts:

A full-size Long Last Lipstick in your choice of Heather Moon or Sugared Maple plus
10-Day supply of Clinique Happy or Aromatics Elixir perfume spray
One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Ready To Wear" workshops click here.


You’re invited to cool down at Clinique’s Summer Refresher workshops, happening now. Learn the latest in stay-cool skin care, melt-proof makeup and smart-sun strategies, all custom-fit by the expert. Plus, get two free gifts with your consultation:

Super City Block Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 40 plus
True Bronze Pressed Powder Bronzer in Sunkissed or Sunswept – YOUR CHOICE!
One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Summer Refresher" workshops click here.


Learn all you need to glow at Clinique’s Get Radiant event. Let the Clinique expert show you how to get fresh, glowing skin and play it up with luminous makeup. You’ll leave with a radiant new look plus free gifts:

Your choice of a full-size Long Last Lipstick in Glow Bronze, Berry Freeze or Pink Spice plus
Turnaround Concentrate Visible Skin Renewer.

One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Get Radiant" workshops click here.

Quantities are limited on this freebie so hurry up and get yours! St Ives is offering a free sample from their new Brilliance line. You have to share the Brilliance with three of your friends (I just used a couple of my old email addresses for this one).

Sign up to receive special announcements and offers from After Six and you will receive the After Six Slider Necktie.


Here is the best freebie this week (in my opinion). Get a free subscription to Domino Magazine. It says it is for Amazon customers only, but I put my information in and it went through. Good luck and hope everyone can enjoy this freebie!

Sign up for a free subscription to Television Week Magazine.

Fisher Price is offering a free Planet Heroes DVD. Click on the orange bubble to access the form for this freebie. Please allow twelve to fourteen weeks for delivery.

Sign up for six free issues of Sport Diver Magazine.

Sign up for a free subscription to The Green Magazine. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Claim a complimentary one year subscription to New York Home Magazine.

Although not free, I did want to mention this one. Dockers is offering free flights if you purchase at least $125 from their men’s line. Visit this site for more details.

When school's out, kids around the country come to selected Regal Entertainment Group theatres for our Free Family Film Festival. It's a fun-filled nine weeks of movies for kids and their parents. Since 1991, Regal has provided this service to the community, and best of all it's FREE! Selected G & PG movies start at 10AM each Tuesday and Wednesday during the festival. First-come, first-served seating is limited to theatre capacity. The Free Family Film Festival is safe, lots of fun and a great way for kids to spend a weekday morning in the summer.

Build-A-Bear Summer Reading Offer: Read 5 books by July 31 and fill out the form to get a Bearrific book accessory kit that includes:
6 book plates
1 bookmark
1 book cover
$3 gift offer on a future purchase of $15 or more at Build-A-Bear Workshop®
a special offer from Borders

We will be hitting Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry on Monday because they are offering free general admission through June 8th. You can also take the train into Chicago and during certain hours they offer Family Fare, where children under thirteen can ride free. Be sure to take advantage of this!


Today is free donut day over at Krispy Kreme. Check my notebook entry for more details on that!

June 5th, 2007: Taco Bell will be doing their part in giving back to the community by collecting donations for the American Red Cross. Once free crunchy taco will be awarded to every customer, we encourage everyone to participate in this event. Donations are encouraged but not required. All donations will benefit the American Red Cross. This event was started in 2002 by request of our past C.E.O. and will be held every 5 years on June 5th. Contact your local restaurant to find out if they are participating.

Equal Exchange has a brand new House Party Kit, offering opportunities for more conversation about Fair Trade and coffee, while you gather, sip and relax. Show a new brief video about coffee and how shoppers can make a difference for small scale farmers. Watch, savor the coffee, tea and chocolate, and discuss what we can do.To also receive coffee to brew at your house party, chocolate, tea, stickers, a cocoa recipe booklet, Java Jive newsletters, a Brew Guide, and a promotional video, please fill out the form below. Thanks for your support of Equal Exchange and Fair Trade

Pet Care:

Sign up to receive a coupon for Pedigree with Chicken, Rice, and Vegetables.



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