I love all the freebies I keep getting from Shutterfly. If your like me, you've been snapping lots of pictures of your little ones. Shutterfly is giving away 3 free folded greeting cards. Enter 3FREECARDS at checkout to get your free cards. This offer expires Novemeber 4th.
If you create a personalized website (you get 30 free 4 x 6 prints) or post to a Share site (you get 30 free 4 x 6 prints), you'll get up to 60 free prints. You have until November 8th to take advantage of this special offer and until November 18th to order your free prints.
Keep in mind you must pay shipping for these free offers but it is still a really good deal.
You can also get a free $10 credit on Shutterfly if you sign up at Cozi. Cozi is a website you can share with your family and friends. After you sign up (it's free) you'll be required to actually set up your site (it only took me about 10 minutes, if that) before you get your free credit. This offer expires on November 4th.
Are you looking for other people who share an interest or a particular hobby such as sports, scrapbooking, or even reading? If so, check out Meetup.com. Meetup is an online network of local groups. They have 5.7 million members and almost 60,000 local groups. These individual groups are devised of people who share common interests.
Click on "Find a Meetup Group" and enter your topic or interest, your country, and your zip code. If you find a group that your interested in, sign up with Meetup (it is free), and then join a group. I recently had a friend who used Meetup to find a mom's club in her area.
I always reflect on the past year as the holidays approach. It's hard to believe Halloween is almost here. Then the days will speed by with shopping, planning, and caring for family until Christmas arrives and then the ushering in of another year. This has been a memorable year with the inauguration of a new president, the Phillies making it to the World Series (can you tell we're baseball fans?), and for our family, a new addition (a beautiful baby girl).
As a mom, I want the holidays for my daughters to be about family, traditions, and giving back to the community. Like most families, this year we are going to scale back in our gift giving to each other and to family. We don't plan to cut back on our charitable giving though because, especially in this economy, there are more people in need.
Last year someone had shared their personal philosophy with me. It had been at a voter registration drive where I had volunteered. She had been another volunteer. Several people had stopped by our table to lament the state of our country and then in the next breathe they told us that they weren't voting because they didn't believe their vote counted. As a former history teacher, that really bothered me. This volunteer told me about her philosophy. She said that in this world there are "givers" and "takers". We have all heard this before. But, she said, that trying to motivate the "takers" in this world is just a waste of energy. Instead, she said our job is to motivate other "givers" in the community. Her words really made an impression on me.
So before the craziness begins, take some time and start to think about what is important and how you can give back this year before the new bell rings and a new year is here.
There was an email from Amazon in my inbox this morning. A one-year subscription toParents magazine is now only $5.00. I love this magazine which has lots of useful tips for parents. This is a steal. This offer expires on October 31st.
Amazon is also offering $5, $10, & $15 bonuses for select magazine subscriptions. Your bonus will arrive in your inbox within 2 weeks and can be used on a future purchase.
I'm so excited. I am honored by all the people who are following my blog, especially since I just recently started getting more involved in the blogging world. I hope you are enjoying my blog.
I just received the Best Blog Award from Tanya of The Grab Bag and from CityGirlGoneCountry. I will be posting the rules and the 15 other blogs that I will be giving the award to in a later post. If you haven't already checked out The Grab Bag or City Girl Gone Country, please do so. They have wonderful blogs and I know I have enjoyed reading them.
I also received the One Lovely Blog Award from "Deal"ightfully Frugal. In a later post I will place the rules and the 15 blogs to whom I am passing this award. "Deal"ightfully Frugal is a very inspirational blog so stop on over if you haven't checked it out.
After you take your little monsters trick-or-treating on October 31st, stop in at Taco Bell. Taco Bell is giving away one free Black Jack Taco per person on Halloween from 6pm until 12am. The Black Jack Taco is a black taco shell filled with seasoned beef, three cheeses (pepper jack, cheddar, and mozzarella), lettuce, and a zesty pepper jack sauce.
P & G is offering free samples and coupons. If you register for P&GbrandSAMPLER (or sign in if you are already a member) you can receive a free sample of new OLAY Total Effects Anti-Aging Body Wash (which is not hitting stores until February 2010). After I signed in (since I was already a member) I was able to click on this new offer and there was also a free offer for Head and Shoulders Shampoo.
I had a box of old clothes (including old dress shirts and ties that were my husbands for the boys) , costume jewelry, hats, tutus, feather boas, children's dress up heels (I purchased them from the dollar store), and old purses. I also had my daughter's tea pot sets set up on the coffee table so the children could play pretend. If you don't have any old clothes to sacrifice, check out the local thrift stores.
For the craft I had a teapot printable . I had crayons, markers, and stickers that the children could use to decorate the teapots. Other craft ideas include making fans or decorating little teapots or cups. If you are doing a tea party with older girls you could also do their hair and make-up.
Lunch consisted of sandwiches (I had cookie cutters available so the moms could cut the children's sandwiches into hearts or flowers), carrots, cucumbers, dip, crackers, and fruit. For dessert I made cupcakes and each child got to decorate their cupcake with icing and different types of sprinkles. On this day I relied on a boxed cake mix and a store bought container of icing. GASP! (I know).
Magnolia's vanilla cupcake recipe is the best cupcake recipe I have ever tasted. They are delicious. Usually this is the recipe I always use when making cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery is located in NYC and is very popular. People line up to sample their cupcakes. They were also featured in Sex and the City.
It has been years since I have used a box mix for cupcakes. I felt as though I was cheating my daughter and her friends out of of something special. I know this is ridiculous and that no one even noticed nor would any mom blame me for using a box mix especially since I was entertaining with a two year old and a three month old. It almost felt as though the day wasn't complete for me without these special cupcakes though. Silly, right?
Decorations consisted of a lace tablecloth (it was from Wal-mart) and a vase of flowers on the side table in my kitchen. Since it was fall I stuck with fall colors. I would recommend putting a clear piece of plastic over the tablecloth to make for easier cleanup. If you have a teapot you can also use it as a decoration but also fill it with juice to serve to the children. You can also use paper doillies as decorations for the table.
After lunch we had a sticker hunt. Each child was provided a little plastic bag in which they could put their stickers. I laid the stickers in easily reached spots for the children to find and each child was able to collect 10 stickers. This way all the little ones got the same number of stickers and it was fair for all.
You can also lead the children in singing "I'm a Little Teapot". Unfortunately I didn't do this since I can't carry a tune. Truthfully, no one in my family can sing. I was always conscious of the cacaphony arising from our pew on Sunday mornings growing up. It was a good thing trying out for the choir was not required otherwise I probably would have been the only child rejected from the tryouts.
For favors I made white bags (with a piece of ribbon and a gift tag) look like tea bags. I filled them with all natural fruit loop cereal and licorice laces so the little ones could make edible jewelry at home. Before everyone left, my daughter walked around with a little flower pot and gave each child a flower. The flowers were lollipops. I printed out the flowers from the DLTK website. The one was actually a sun but it reminded me of a flower. I cut the flowers out and attached them to the lollipops with glue dots. I used Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops which are the "yummiest" lollipops. I just placed a piece of floral foam in the clay pots to hold the lollipops and I thought they looked simple but cute. My little 2 year old was adorable as she walked around. I kept urging her to give the children a flower and say "thank you for coming" but it kept coming out in her toddlerese "tank you comin".
There were a lot of good resources that I found when planning the party. Below I listed some of the links I utilized in the planning process.
Dentaburst is giving away a free sample. Just fill in the information and your sample should arrive within 6-8 weeks.
Applebees is honoring those who have served their country on Veterans Day. On November 11th, all veterans or those currently serving in the Armed Forces will eat free at participating Applebees restaurants. Servicemen can choose from the following entrees: Three Cheese Chicken Penne, Fire Pit Bacon Burger, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Chicken Tenders Platter, 7 oz. House Sirloin, and the Oriental Chicken Salad. Beverages and gratuity are not included. This deal is for dine-in only.
All servicemen need to do is show military ID (which includes a U.S. Uniform Services ID Card, a U.S. Uniform Services Retired ID Card, a current LES, a veterans organization card such as the American Legion or VFW, a photo of them in uniform, or they can wear their uniform).
If you know anyone who has served our country please pass this on.
In an earlier post, I mentioned printing coupons online and various sites to check out. Playskool coupons have been appearing on these sites and I've started seeing commercials on tv about printing them from their website also. They have about $75 worth of coupons that you can print out.
Edible Arrangements is giving away free chocolate dipped fruit. All you have to do is register to become a fan of Edible Arrangements on Facebook. This is good for the first 100,000 people who become fans.
Every night I tuck in 15 little ones. No, I don't have 15 kids (can you imagine???).
When my daughter got her own room (about 4 months ago), we didn't want to put a lot of stuff in it. Why? She just turned 2 in August and I've heard horror stories about children climbing furniture and having the furniture falling on them (I know you should secure it to the wall but I have thoughts about what if the straps fail...) and because I've read not too have to much in their room because you want them to sleep there and not play. She has a shelf with stuffed animals and knickknacks, her toddler bed, and a basket with stuffed animals.
Somehow she has managed to take every stuffed animal and doll in the house and pile them into her bed. I have tried sneaking one or two out at a time and she knows. How in the world is that possible? I've tried putting a few in the basket while she is downstairs, thinking she'll be okay since they are in the room with her, but oh, no, they must be in bed with her. She's even tried sneaking her three month old sister's stuffed animals into her bed. There is princess dolly, baby dolly, grammy dolly (a doll my MIL made for her), teddy, Easter bunny, bear, Leap frog froggy, puppy, big puppy, froggy blanket, Panda, ostrich, bunny, and the list goes on. She barely fits in the bed with all of the stuffed animals. Most of them are piled at the foot of her bed. Usually at some point in the night we hear a THUNK. We tense with our heads tilted, waiting for the crying to begin. When we hear none, we look at each other, say "it must have been a doll" and go back to what we were doing.
Finally, I have found a diet website that is not asking for money and is useful. Last year my New Year's Resolution was to join the local Y and get into shape (i.e. back to the size I was in high school). I would drop my several month old daughter in the gym's daycare and have some "me" time. Working out was a good energizer after a night of little sleep. It was also the limit of my socializing (until later when I wisely joined a local mom's club). I worked hard and was five pounds from my goal for the year when I found out I was pregnant, again. Surprise!
I exercised until my 8th month of pregnancy when I stopped (mostly because I think I made the one instructor nervous and I was getting a little too clumsy and out of breath). I could have walked on the treadmill but what fun is that? Since it was late spring, I figured walking outside would be more fun (and cheaper) so I gave up my membership.
Since my second daughter's birth I haven't set foot in the gym much less even attempted one sit-up. With the whole swine flu concern, my pediatrician nixed putting the girls in the gym's daycare while I exercised. With a two year old and a three month old, I haven't even attempted to exercise at home because putting a DVD on and exercising just doesn't seem appealing.
I stumbled across a website called SparkPeople. It is free to join. It is for people trying to lose weight or who are trying to have a healthy lifestyle. SparkPeople formulates weekly meal plans for you based on your goals. You can input your food for the day (if you don't follow the meal plan or you can choose to pick certain things from the plan) and the site tallies up your calories, fat, carbs, and protein. You can also choose to track over 75 other nutrients and they will tally them up for you daily and weekly.
The coolest part for me is that you can print out exercise demos and a weekly exercise plan. The exercise plan is generated just for you based on your goals and the equipment you have at home. There are also demos of the exercises so you can see if you are doing them correctly. There are message boards and SparkTeams to join. You can help motivate others and have them help motivate you to stay on the path to lose weight. You can also create your own homepage or blog. There is also the capability to print reports such as daily nutrition feedback, daily/
weekly /monthly/calories burned, daily calorie differential (calories eaten versus calories burned), etc. You can do all of this without pulling out a notebook, a pencil, and a calculator.
You can get a free sample of Seventh Generation's Liquid Laundry Detergent. You will need to register on their site and then provide your mailing information. You can also print a $1.00 coupon on this site which is good on any cleaning or baby product. Your sample should arrive within 4-8 weeks.
Seventh Generation is known for their environmentally friendly household products. Their products are non-toxic and they donate 10% of their profits to non-profit organizations working to improve our world.
Did you know that you can use a store coupon and a manufacturers coupon for the same item at both Target and Walgreens? In other words, you can use two coupons for one item. I wish I had known this sooner. This really works to your advantage if the item is also on sale!
Oriental Trading is offering free shipping on ANY order. For those of you that frequent their site, this is a good deal. Just enter FREEOCT when ordering. This special is good until midnight on October 19th.
Kelloggs is urging consumers to take the Special K Challenge. After providing your shipping information online, you'll receive a free sample of Special K cereal in the mail. This promotion will continue while supplies last until 12/1/2009.
You can also get a free sample of General Mills' Honey Nut Cheerios by visiting their site. Honey Nut Cheerios is supposed to help lower cholesterol. Your free sample should arrive in 6-8 weeks along with a $1 coupon.
For those of you who still haven't scored Halloween costumes for your little ones yet, look no further. Walmart.com has little kids' Halloween costumes from $4-$20 with $.97 shipping on costumes. While your at it, choose one for yourself. The adult costumes range from about $17-$35. This is the perfect price for those of you (me included) who are not crafty enough to make your own costumes. This is where I would be shopping if I hadn't picked up a princess costume for my youngest last year after Halloween for only about $6.00 at Target.
I have been amazed at how many cleaning supplies I have sitting underneath my kitchen sink and in my laundary room. Since we now have two little ones, I have been thinking about making the transition to greener products. The only thing is they can be very expensive so I have been reading a lot online about making your own cleaning products. As I was doing research, I found an old article on CNN about how commercial cleaners killed 99.9% of germs while all natural cleaners (vinegar and baking soda) only killed about 90% or less. What they didn't mention is if they used cleaners that combined several ingredients that are known to disinfect if they killed a higher percent of germs. Undiluted distilled white vinegar is known to kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of viruses. I've included several suggestions that I found online to make your own natural cleaning products.
To make an all natural disinfectant spray:
Combine 2 Tablesoons borax, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 cups hot water and mix until the borax dissolves. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil for a pleasant scent (this oil has disinfectant properties also).
Combine equal parts vinegar and water and add essential oils (such as mint, birch, or tea tree).
To make window cleaner:
Mix 2-3 Tablespoons vinegar per quart of water. (Use newspaper to dry for a streak free shine.)
To clean the toilet:
Sprinkle baking soda in the toilet, let sit, then scrub
Spray vinegar in the toilet, let sit, sprinkle on baking soda, and scrub
Mix 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, and 20-30 drops lemon essential oil (or fresh lemon juice) and rub onto wood with a cloth
Mix together 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice and rub onto wood with a cloth
Other interesting tips I found:
Use olive oil to polish shoes
Put used sponges in the dishwasher to clean them
To get rid of water rings on wood surfaces rub on mayo or toothpaste with a damp cloth and then buff the wood
You can also decrease the amount of liquid detergent you use by adding baking soda to your laundary (it softens your water making your detergent work more effectively)
We've lived in our current home for 4 years and for that entire time we've had our car and homeowner's insurance policies with the same company. We've been trying to cut the fat from our family budget and I thought that it would pay to check out other company's prices. It turns out we could have been saving over $800 a year just on our homeowner's insurance alone. Why didn't I do this before? There are a lot of online price comparison websites. I used Netquote just to check out our homeowner's insurance. I filed out the online form and they gave me 3 companies who would contact me with quotes. Within a half hour I had received a call from Metlife with a quote and an estimate through email from Allstate. I'm still waiting an hour later to hear from Erie. It saved me from thumbing through the phone book and calling individual agents.
My daughter this evening asked my husband for beans. She was referring to M & Ms. She thought they were beans. When my husband told her they were M & Ms. She looked at him and said Emmy. I guess I shouldn't call her my little M & M (EM is her nickname) any more since I seem to be confusing her.
Those Redbox kiosks seem to be popping up everywhere I shop. Wegman's, Walmart, Giant... This is probably a good thing since our closest Blockbuster is closing at the start of next year. If your unfamiliar with them, check out the Redbox site. The kiosks are easy to use (this from someone who is technologically and electronically challenged). All rentals cost only $1.00. Online at Inside Redbox you can find codes for free video rentals. Keep in mind that if the movie is not returned by midnight of the day after you rented the video then you will be charged for an extra day.
You can obtain a free Cesar Bistro Entree every Saturday from 9am-midnight by visiting their website. Be one of the first 1,500 to visit their site on Saturday to get your freebie. The limit is two per person and 1 per week while supplies last. This promotion will continue until next Saturday (10/10/09).
Lenovo is giving away a free ThinkPad Journal. It has a hard cover measuring 10.5" X 8.5" and it contains 50 lined pages. This would be perfect for a college student. It will arrive on your doorstep within 3-4 weeks.
I got a tip from a friend that the new Snow White Blu-Ray DVD (includes 3 discs) at Amazon was only $14.99 if you pre-order it using the promotional code snowhite. The list price is around $40. It is being released on October 6th. If your order is over $25 you may also qualify for FREE Super Saver Shipping.
I also got a one year subscription to Disney's Family FunMagazine for $9.95 (the newstand price is $39.50). In October if you purchase select magazines at Amazon, you will get a $5-$15 promotional code good for your next online purchase. My subscription scored me a $5 coupon code (which I will get in about 2 weeks). It was like getting the subscription for only $4.95.
From Oct. 2-5 Starbucks is conducting the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Taste Challenge. You can compare Starbucks Columbia VIA with Pike Place Roast and for participating, you will receive a coupon for a free Tall brewed coffee good on your next visit.
If you forget to set your dvr and don't want to wait until they start showing reruns, you now have another option. I was shocked recently when I saw how many online tv websites had sprouted up. The one I am most familiar with is Hulu but there are others such as Fancast and Spreety. They do have the latest episodes of your favorite shows and also old episodes of shows that are no longer airing.
I read the book Julie and Julia about two months ago. I liked Julie Powell's sarcasm and sass. The biography of Julia Child was interwoven with the story. I was surprised at the outspokenness of Julia Child and her humor. It made me more curious about her life. I know she didn't enter the world of French cooking until her 30's and that she seemed to have a zest for life. I reserved her biography at the local library since the book was checked out. It seems I am not the only one who has a newfound interest in the life she led.
When it comes to cooking, Julia Child I am not. While reading Julie Powell's book, I thought, "I could do this". I had grandiose visions of whipping up some of the simpler French dishes, just to say that I did. Yeah, right. That lasted for about a week after I finished the book and then the desire to do so vanished without me attempting even one recipe. I once heard or read someone say that you are not a true cook if you need a recipe. I guess I'm not a true cook then.
There are a lot of good recipe sites out there. Here are some of my favorites: