Monday, November 30, 2009

Secrets Girls Keep Book Review

I just finished reviewing the book Secrets Girls Keep: What Girls Hide (& Why) and How to Break the Stress of Silence by Carrie Silver-Stock. Silver-Stock is the founder of Girls With Dreams, a site for empowering girls that is also written by girls. As the mother of two little girls, I am glad that an author has addressed the challenges preteen and teen girls face and offered a practical way to overcome those challenges. Not only is this book a must have for any girl in middle school or high school but also for parents, school counselors, and teachers. It can be used to engage honest dialogue between girls, their peers, and adults.

Silver-Stock offers girls 7 tips that can be used to help girls deal with any challenge in their lives from self image and boys to school and cyber bullying. Girls can read one chapter or read the entire book from cover to cover. This book urges girls to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings and how they view the world around them. Above anything else, it stresses that they are not alone in the struggles they face.

Secrets Girls Keep: What Girls Hide (& Why) and How to Break the Stress of Silence is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

Thank you to PR by the Book and The Product Review Place for the chance to review this book.

The Snowman's Song: A Christmas Story

Recently I had a chance to review the children's book The Snowman's Song: A Christmas Story by Marilee Joy Mayfield with illustrations by Tracy La Rue Hohn. I fell in love with this heartwarming story about believing in the impossible. Snowpeople communicate without sound. One little snowman mesmerized by the sounds of singing wants to also sing like the caroling children at Christmastime. Given hope by a cardinal, he realizes he needs to believe that he can sing before he can actually do so. With the help of a little girl and a prayer a Christmastime miracle occurs. This courageous snowman shows that nothing is impossible if you believe.

The illustrations are beautifully done in this charming hardcover book. You can see samples of the text and illustrations by clicking here. The book also comes with a bonus CD of the story being read by the author. The book can be purchased at the publisher's, Leaping Antelope Productions', website. For every copy of The Snowman's Song: A Christmas Story purchased this holiday season, a copy will be donated to a needy family. What a great gift to give this holiday season.

Thank you to Leaping Antelope and The Product Review Place for the chance to review this book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Hi Everyone,
I wanted to write a short note before Thanksgiving. My daughters are asleep and my husband is out with a friend. Our houseguests will not be here until midnight so I wanted to take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts before the holiday craziness begins.

What am I thankful for? My healthy family who is safe thanks to the people who serve in the armed forces and protect our great nation. I am thankful for the fact that while his pay has been reduced due to the tough economy, my husband still has a job. His job allows us enough leeway financially that I can still stay home with our beautiful daughters. I am thankful for all of the family and friends in our lives who love us unconditionally. I know that through whatever may happen in our lives there are people who will cheer us on in the good times or give us a hand up in the bad times. I am thankful for the sun that rises in the morning to signal a new day for I truly believe each day is a gift. Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has read my ramblings for the last few months and for your support. Thank you and have a wonderful Turkey Day!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday Survival Guide

1)Plan, Plan, Plan
I have already warned my husband that I am going out into the stores on Friday. He gave me "the look". The one that says "lady, your truly crazy". Yes, yes, I am. It truly is a battleground on Black Friday. Fighting for parking spaces, maneuvering carts, and dodging glares and aggressive shoppers. has the ads online already so you don't have to wait for them to arrive on your doorstep. All week I have been in contact with one of my closest friends who lives about a thousand miles away and we have discussed our strategies for which stores we'll hit first and when since some stores open at midnight and some open at 5 am or earlier. She joked that she was upset when her partner told people she worked with which shops had the best deals. When her partner pointed out that she had been talking to me all week about the best deals my friend replied that that was okay since I lived in PA while she's in FL. Heehee. I love the competitiveness of the shopping game on Friday with everyone jockeying for the best deals.

2)Be realistic.
If an item is hard to find before Black Friday it probably will be hard to find on Black Friday and beyond. Also, keep in mind that yes, it is going to be crazy out there.

3)Remember that if you miss some bargains they probably will be available on CyberMonday (online) or you may even find better deals closer to Christmas.

4)Wear light clothes.
It gets hot amidst those swarms of people. Also don't forget to pack a snack (if your like me I always carry my daughter's cheerios in my purse so I always have them if I forget some other type of fortification) and water. Stay hydrated.

5)Go out with a partner (if you can find someone crazy enough to go out with you).
This way you can split up, especially if you are looking for several popular items.

6)Be respectful.
It is not going to benefit anybody if you get frustrated, annoyed, or angry. Keep your cool.

7)Don't be seduced by those prices.
If you are on a budget, stick with it. Sometimes you may go home and realize that you bought way more "presents" than people you have to buy for and that you spent way over your budget. If spending is not an issue, and you find some really good deals, it always pays to buy extra and give to the needy (Salvation Army or Toys for Tots).

All in all, remember the 3 R's. Be respectful, be ready, and be realistic.

What To Do With Turkey Day Leftovers

1)After Thanksgiving sandwich
I had this at a restaurant several years ago and I always have at least one with Turkey day leftovers. On sourdough bread layer mayo, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I know it sounds a little weird but it tastes sooo good.

2)Have a salad bar instead of having a big bowl of salad for everyone to share so that you can use the leftover veggies for other things. I can't take credit for coming up with this one. I read it in our local paper and thought it was a great tip.

3)Pasta salad
Use your leftover veggies from appetizers (we sometimes have a tray of veggies and dip for before dinner) or the salad bar. I usually just throw whatever veggies I have in the fridge with some pasta and Zesty Kraft Italian dressing for a quick meal or side dish.

4)Share the bounty
We always send guests home with food. You can also give it away to neighbors.

5)Browse online
There are some great recipes online that call for Thanksgiving leftovers. Some examples include: Emeril's Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepard's Pie, Associated Content Online has some great ideas for leftover turkey, uses for cranberry sauce are on iVilliage, and even Martha Stewart has some great ideas for using sweet potatoes, turkey, and mashed potatoes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipe

ACU's, Stiletto Shoes, and Pretty Pink Tutus is hosting a Cookie Recipe Swap as part of her Merry Mommies Christmas Carnival. She has a yummy recipe for sugar cookies that can be used to make three different types of cookies. I have a recipe in my little recipe box that I ripped out of a Family Circle magazine when I was in high school (back in the 1990s). My mother had subscribed to the magazine and I would often flip through it at breakfast, not because I cared about recipes, how to effectively clean windows, or how to redecorate a room, but just because I have always read at the table at breakfast. I am a true bibliophile. I will read anything and everything (even if it is just the back of the cereal box).

For the last several elections, Family Circle has asked the spouses of the presidential nominees to share their favorite cookie recipes. The readers of the magazine would then choose the winner of the bake-off. The winner's husband has for the last several elections, made it into the White House (until last year when Cindy McCain won but it was Michelle Obama's husband who won the election). One morning I stumbled across the recipe submitted by Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush. Hillary Clinton's chocolate chip cookie recipe was made using rolled oats. It sounded yummy so I ripped out the recipe and made them one weekend. They were the best cookies I ever had. They were even better than my grandmother's recipe, which is saying something. They were chewy yet slightly crisp on the outside and chocolatey with a buttery finish. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. That recipe, ripped from a magazine and glued to an index card traveled with me to college, my first apartment, and to the home I now share with my husband. It's a little yellow around the edges and stained with debris from my cooking forays but I pull it out for holidays and when I get a craving that only these cookies can satisfy.

These cookies are a delightful comfort food but also a perfect holiday cookie because they are loved by almost everyone. They always get devoured when I put them out for gatherings.

This recipe is NOT my own and has been published numerous times in magazines and online.

Hillary Clinton's Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (unsifted)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 1 12 oz. bag)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Beat together shortening, sugars and vanilla in a bowl until creamy. Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop a teaspoonsful of batter on to cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool cookies on sheets on wire rack for 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Micky Mouse Cookie Cutter Giveaway

I am so excited. I got to review a mini Mickey Mouse cookie cutter from I love making cookies with my daughter. She even has her own little apron to wear. This cookie cutter is perfect for little hands (it is 2 inches) and the Mickey Mouse shape made my daughter squeal with delight when she saw it because she loves Mickey Mouse. It seems very durable and heavier than most cookie cutters. This would make a wonderful stocking stuffer for a child or a Disney fan.

Cheap Cookie Cutters is owned by Chris Mueller and Karrie Pettit. Their company is relatively new but they certainly aim high. Their goal is to have the largest online selection of cookie cutters in the world by the end of 2010. They have a huge selection including vintage and rare cookie cutters.

Some of my favorite cookie cutters: The Cat in the Hat, the vintage Sesame Street Cookie Cutter Set, the alphabet, The Wizard of Oz, Penn State mascot (my alma mater) , and the dinosaurs.

Some of their more unusual cookie cutters include: the Greek alphabet, United States, superhero, structures (such as the Statue of Liberty), musical instruments, tools, and college mascots. They also have cookie cutters for every occasion and theme.

They can also make custom cookie cutters to your specifications. I never knew that option was out there. These will typically cost about $15-25 for the first one and then $3-$4 for each additional one. Imagine having a cookie cutter that only your family has.

The cookie cutters range in price from about $2.99 and up. This may seem a little pricey for a star or stocking cookie cutter that you can find in any grocery or craft store. The positives about this site include finding all the cookie cutters you are looking for in one place saving you time and money. I would definitely check out this site and see what they have to offer. Use the code 10off at checkout and get 10% off your order!

I will be giving away one mini Mickey Mouse cookie cutter ($3.99 value) stocking stuffer to one lucky person! To be entered to win you can do any (or all) of the following:
  • Visit Cheap Cookie Cutters and leave a comment here telling me your favorite cookie cutter (Please also leave your email address if you do not follow through google connect so I can contact you if you win)
  • Become a The Practical Mom Guide follower (don't forget to leave a comment telling me so)
  • Blog about this site and giveaway and leave me a comment with a link to your post
  • Tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this site and leave me a comment with a link to your tweet
  • Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll
If you do more than one of the above, please leave a separate comment for each. The contest will run until November 30th. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. I will randomly pick a winner and then post the winner here at The Practical Mom Guide and I will attempt to contact the individual. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me to claim their prize (which will be shipped directly from Cheap Cookie Cutters). Good luck!

A special thank you to Cheap Cookie Cutters and The Product Review Place for giving me the chance to review this product.

Updated 11/30-Congratulations to Clueless Mamma, who is the winner of the mini Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I've been doing a lot of thinking about where I'm going with my blog and I've decided that I'll only post freebies or bargains about once or twice a week. This had been consuming a lot of my online blogging time and since there are already some really good sites out there to check for deals, I'm not going to continue focusing so much energy on this. Instead, I am going to focus on everyday life and writing posts about topics that help us as women (especially us as mommies) simplify our lives. At the bottom of this post I will include my favorite freebie/bargain sites. Enjoy browsing!

Become a fan of Philosophy and get a free 15 ml sample of their Gingerbread Man shower gel. It will arrive in 2-3 weeks, just in time for Christmas.

Become a fan of iTunes and get 20 free song downloads from their 20 Song Fall 2009 Sampler which includes Swell Season, Neko Case, Rancid, New Found Glory, and more.

Steaz is offering a coupon for a free 16 oz. Steaz Organic Iced Teaz. It is apparently available to use at any Target store.

SeeHere is still offering the 50 free photo Christmas cards (only 4 x 8 cards though) and envelopes with the coupon code freebies4mom-1109. This code expires November 30th. Don't wait until the last minute to order! Also I used the coupon code newbaby (for my daughter's baby announcement photo cards) and they were also free. I don't know when the newbaby code expires so I would use it ASAP.

My favorite freebie/bargain sites:
Freebies 4 Mom
Saving Cents with Sense
Frugal, Freebies, & Deals
The Freebie Blogger
Confessions of a Thrifty Mamma

Who Are You, My Child?

How is it that my daughter can wake up and be a totally different child from day to day. Can you tell how your day is going to go within the first five (okay, maybe fifteen) minutes? Yesterday, my two year old woke up and was a wild woman. I knew within minutes of her being awake and the tears that it was going to be one of those days. It was. Self fulfilling prophecy, since I was assuming she was going to be a handful, or am I a psychic mommy? Sweeping her toys off of the coffee table, pulling bills off of the island and ripping them in half (okay, so it's not like I would not like to do that to), stripping off her clothes and running around in her diaper and snow boots, attempting to sit on her four month old sister (during her tummy time) because she wanted a horsey ride, sticking Mr. Potato Head's body parts in her ears, and taking her glasses off and putting them in her mouth and then throwing them at the tv (did I mention that her glasses cost over $300) made me thankful when bedtime came.

This morning she woke up and greeted me with a "morning mommy" and a smile. When I sat on the couch nursing a bad migraine and explained to her why Mommy wasn't feeling good she crawled up next to me and kissed my head pronouncing, "dare Mommy, all bedder". Later, she took her sister's teethers which had fallen on the floor and took them to the sink asking if she could "wash teeders in bubbles". These days are the days I will remember when she is in her teens, 20s, 30s....I love being a mommy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online Games For Kids

With holiday vacations right around the corner, trying to find something to occupy your children's spare time that is fun for them (and educational) is sometimes a challenge. In today's technologically proficient world, it is important to teach your children computer skills. I have selected some free quality sites that have online games. These sites are grouped based on ability level. Have fun!


This site features games, music, and coloring pages. PBS Parents has information on child
development, crafts/activities, fitness, nutrition, how to talk to your children, and birthday

Fisher Price
There are games for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. There is also information on this site
on toys (of course!), babygear, an age appropriate playtime guide, play tips, crafts, and
information for grandparents.
This is a good site for children learning to use the computer. It is geared for children from 3
years of age and up. There are matching games, a shape making game, and children can
create their own fish tanks or dinosaur parks. Pringo also has jokes, e-cards, and tips for
parents regarding children and internet use.

This site has games, videos, recipes, crafts, coloring pages, and other activities (children can
also learn yoga and sign language). The games are based on the shows aired on the Sprout cable channel.

Nick Jr.
Games are categorized by age (2-3, 3-4,4-5, and 5-6), theme, and show. There are a wide
variety of games to choose from such as adventure, arcade, letters and spelling, puzzles,
numbers and shapes, music and moves, matching and sorting, dress-up, art, sports, puzzles,
and stories.

Elementary-Middle School

Games included on this site include math, science, language, geo-history, sports, art, music
maze, mind, board, card, and arcade games.

This site is geared towards older toddlers and elementary age children. Games focus on math
skills, matching/identification (alphabet, animals, and numbers), and telling time.

Fun Brain
This site has math, word, and arcade games for children. There is also a reading link where
kids can read popular stories such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid play Mad Libs.

Nick Jr.
See above. (Nick Jr. is geared towards 3-6 year olds. I haven't included the information on
the regular Nickelodeon games site because the games featured there are not really
educational and some of the shows reference adult topics and humor).

This site is not necessarily the most educational site for online games but it is one you can trust your young ones to visit. They have arcade, puzzle, and writing games. They also have quizzes, polls, and e-cards.

Education Place
Education Place is from Houghton Mifflin, the makers of school textbooks. Edugames featured include creative grammar games such as Wacky Web Tales (kids supply certain parts of speech to create a creative tale) and Power Proofreading (children proofread scripts and other writings from HME-TV Station, GeoNet (based on the National Geography Standards), and Spelling Match (lets children match letter patterns and word parts to spell words).
Note: Fake Out and Brain Teasers are no longer available.

The Problem Site
This site has word games, daily puzzles, math games, strategy games and quests, problems and brainteasers. This site also has a Jr. site for younger children with a game on colors, shapes, and sizes. Other games include estimation, spelling, and a tile game.

The Kidz Page
The Learning link contains all of their educational games which includes math and numbers, word, spelling (matching of words and pictures), sudoku, memory and logic, and online mazes. They also have educational game printouts. There is also a Music Match Game for children who are learning how to read music. This site contains board, strategy, word, arcade, sport, card, and memory games. This site also has coloring pages of vehicles, people, animals, and holidays. They also have activity pages and virtual coloring (basically online coloring pages, which is pretty neat). Puzzles and clip art can also be found on this site. The toy/movie link has other activities for children such as Dress the Baby, Pumpkin Dress up, and Sticker Stamps (all of which are under toys). That particular link also has movies, music, and stories children can choose.
See above
This is an excellent site and would be a useful homework or study tool. This site has math, social studies, language arts, and science games. This is a very comprehensive site as far as the skills it covers. It also has a page relating to how teachers and parents can use the site.

High School
This site has games based on the areas in which Nobel Prizes are awarded. These games are geared towards older kids. Examples of the games you will find here include The Immune System Game and The Lord of the Flies Game.

This site has educational games that were created to meet state and national standards. Activities include Deep Brain Stimulation, Design a Cell Phone, Virtual Knee Surgery, Weather, and Simple Machines.
See above.

The Problem Site
See above.
See above.


Recently I found out about Ebates. By signing up with Ebates (it's free), you can visit your favorite online stores and get money back on any purchases you make. They send you a check in the mail. Yes, you read that right.

Here are some examples of what percent you will get back on purchases you make:
Barnes & Noble-4%

So not only can you take advantage of great sales online and online coupons but you can also get cash back (and save on gas) by not even leaving your house. You can avoid the crowds this holiday season and shop from home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Freebies and Deals For You & Me

Your shopping can benefit others this holiday season. You can print a 30% off coupon to be used from November 12-15 at Gap, Gap Outlet, Banana Republic, Banana Republic Factory Store, and Old Navy. 5% of whatever you spend will be donated to ServiceNation, "a national campaign to increase service opportunities and elevate service as a core ideal and problem-solving strategy in American society." You can also check out the ServiceNation blog for more information on this organization.

You have until November 30th to order 50 free 5x7 or 4x8 photo cards from SeeHere (there is no shipping charge) by FujiFilm with the coupon code freebies4mom-1109. You can also sign up for an account if you are new to SeeHere and get 100 free 4x6 prints (you need to order these separately from your photo cards) with the code prints.
*Update 11/18-this offer is only good for 4 x 8 photo cards since there has been such a huge response. It is still running til November 30th.

Thanks Freebies 4 Mom

Dollar General has a coupon for 10-20% off certain departments and is good for November 14th & 15th.

There is a coupon for $2 off of Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice. This would make a great drink at your holiday meal.

Coinstar will give you an additional $10 gift certificate if you cash in $40 worth of change and opt for an ecertificate or gift card from a participating retailer instead of cash. Apparently there is also no charge when you cash in your change and opt for a gift certificate. This promotion expires on December 6th and is only for participating Coinstar Centers. You will have to fill out the claim form at the end of your Coinstar receipt to get the certificate.

Get a free sample of Jennifer Lopez's Glow perfume.

Thanks Confessions of a Thrifty Mama

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's New For November on The Practical Mom Guide

Here are some posts I am working on for this month and next:

*Yummy cold weather recipes
*What to do with leftovers
*Dealing with organizing your closets
*Entertaining out of town guests
*Online game sites for children
*Internet safety and computer etiquette for children
*Finding babysitters for your little ones and information they need to have
*Charitable giving for the holidays
*Great gifts ideas for all members of your family

Do you have questions or information on any of these topics you would like me include, if so, comment to this post or send me an email at

*12/14/09 Update: Due to unforeseen cicumstances, I am going to be postponing the articles on organizing closets, Internet safety, and Babysitter 411 until the New Year.

Fancy Nancy Event at Borders

On Saturday, November 14th at 11 am, Borders, is hosting a Fancy Nancy event. Dress up your young ones in their holiday finery and partake in storytime, activities, raffles, and other holiday fun! Call your local Borders store to see if they are participating.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toys R Us

In a previous post from the other week, I mentioned that Kmart had select preschool Hasbro games (Chutes and Ladders, Memory, Candyland, etc.) on sale for $3.99. This week Toys R Us has them for $3.99 with a $2 rebate (so they are only $1.99) and if you purchase $25 in hasbro games you get a $10 gift card. Sweet!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Goodies Galore

Outback is giving away a coupon for a free Bloomin' Onion with the purchase of an entree if you become a fan on Facebook. The first 500,000 people to become fans will receive a free coupon via email. When I logged on today, there were only 70-some thousand fans so there are plenty of coupons still available. This promotion is continuing until 12/31/09 or until they run out of coupons. Your emailed coupon expires either 21 days from opening the email or 12/31-whichever is earlier. Enjoy!

Print a coupon for a free GNC Sun-Rype FruitSource Bar (1.3 oz.) and a $2 coupon for one 15 count box box of Sun-Rype FruitSource Bars.

Thanks, Confessions of a Thrifty Momma

Sears is offering coupons for a free photo montage ($29.99 value) with no session fee ($14.99 value) and for a Holiday Portrait Package with 35 portraits of one pose for only $7.99 (regularly $9.99) with no session fee ($14.99 value). Keep in mind the coupons can not be used together. The coupons are good until December 31st.

Buca Di Beppo (an Italian family style restaurant) is offering a coupon for $10 off a $20 order. It is good until 12/31.

Giant Food Stores is offering a coupon for $2 off a $5 meat purchase and a coupon for $1 off Giant Steam Ready Frozen Vegetables. These coupons are good until Novemeber 21st.

Thanks, Swappin Spoons

In a previous post, I mentioned special freebies for veterans and current military personnel on Veterans Day (Wednesday, Nov. 11th). Here are some additional specials (you do need to show proof of military service):

Krispy Kreme is offering military personnel (both past and present) a free doughnut.

Outback is offering all veterans and current military personnel a free Bloomin' Onion and beverage.

Sam's Clubs nationwide will be offering veterans in need of mobility assistance free Hugo canes. 25,000 canes will be given out. Veterans do not need to be Sam's Club members to receive a cane.

Fee free day at areas managed by the Department of the Interior in honor of our nation's men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.

Build-A-Bear, Fashion Bug, and Dollar General are offering discounts to former and current military personnel. Other offers can be found here.

Visit an Aerie store and sign up to be on their a-list and enjoy cool perks, such as a free gift on your birthday, exclusive shopping events, and a monthly free gift. This month (on any Thursday) you can get a free fragrance ($12.50 value).

Thanks, Hey! It's Free


Dunkin Donuts is still giving away 1.1 oz sample pouches of their coffee (only original blend is left). Plug in your information and your sample will arrive in 6-8 weeks.
Thanks Freebies 4 Mom is giving away free samples of DenTek TripleClean Floss Picks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free Letters From Santa For Your Little Ones

I visited my mom today and we took my daughters to her work. At the service desk there was a pad with papers for people to take to send in for their child to receive a personalized letter from Santa. They cost about $4. Online there are some good resources for getting a free letter for your child.

There is a wonderful site called Free Letters From Santa Claus where you can personalize a letter from Santa for your child. There are about 5 different letters to choose from and 5 different designs. You can download the letter or send it via email. There is also Best Santa's Letter.

Also, there is a site where you can copy text for a letter from Santa that you can personalize yourself in Word. They also give instructions for how to get a North Pole postmark.

Free letter From Santa and AAA are other sites that offer free letters from Santa.

When constructing your letters, after you input the information, double check the grammar and make changes if possible (or choose a different template without errors). My favorite site was AAA's. It was simple to input the information and free of grammatical errors. Also, it was worded simply so I think my two year old has a better chance of understanding it.

If you would like someone else to send your child an actual letter through the mail, check out Letters From Santa. All you do is plug in the information that they are asking for and they will send your child a letter from Santa. A sample template is provided so you can see what the letter will look like.

If you don't mind not having a personalized letter from Santa, Christmas Letter and Santa Printables are other sites that have printable letters.

To send a letter to Santa, play online games (many are educational), check out Santa's Naughty or Nice List, hear stories, see Norad's Santa Tracker, and see many other features, check out

5 People Who Have Impacted My Life (A Continuation of the 5 People You Meet In Heaven Post)

I chose 5 people who I don't tell enough that they have made a difference in my life. They are in no particular order.

There are people who always smile and never have a cross or negative word to say. They speak their feelings and let you know they care, whether with a look or their words. She is an inspiration. Growing up, she taught a high school Sunday School class at the church to which my family belonged and she also worked in the middle school cafeteria. High school age kids are never an easy group but I think we all loved her. She had an interesting outlook on the world that we appreciated and understood. She has taught us that to love ourselves and each other is one of the greatest blessings we will receive and that we can give. She has also taught us that there is always hope and that sometimes you need to look at the bigger picture instead of worrying about the small things.

Friends are people who you can sit in a room with and not feel the need to speak. The silence is never awkward. You may not speak for months and when you do pick up the phone, it is as though you never lost touch. They are there for you during the happiest times of your life and when things seem bleak. I have always been able to be myself around her and I know it is okay to say what is on my mind.

*Lynn and Kelly (and her husband) whose last names I don't even know*
There are people who enter your life for the briefest of moments. When our daughter was four months old, we found out she had a heart defect that had to be corrected with surgery. Shocked doesn't even begin to describe how my husband and I felt the day we found out. Immediately after our daughter's cardiologist appointment, we headed home to pack anything we might need for at least a week away and then headed into the city to our region's children's hospital. We didn't know where we were going to stay or how long our daughter would be in the hospital. We wouldn't let ourselves cry or fall apart because we needed to be strong for her and for each other. When we called our families on the way to the hospital we didn't even tell them outright that she needed surgery even though we knew that was the inevitable outcome of our trip. We didn't want to upset our families because we didn't have the energy to console them or to reassure them she was going to be okay.

Our daughter was admitted and she was put on the schedule to have surgery the next day. She was given a battery of tests. So many doctors and nurses paraded through her room to explain what was wrong with her and what was going to happen while she was in the hospital that our heads were spinning. Everyone had the utmost professional manner and were so kind. They kept reassuring us that our daughter was going to be okay. Not once did we break down.

Our daughter was settled for the night and my husband had left to go to the local Ronald McDonald House, who had graciously offered us a place to stay during our daughter's hospital stay. My husband had planned on finding a hotel when we got to the city and our daughter was settled but our liasion at the children's hospital had recommended calling the Ronald McDonald House since they were there for families like ourselves. I decided to stay at the hospital since I was still nursing our daughter.

It broke my heart looking at her in the hospital bed. Things had quieted down and she was sleeping. My husband had left to try to get some sleep (an impossible task) and we had broken the news to our families and stayed strong throughout the ordeal. I couldn't hold it in anymore and started to cry. I tried to stay quiet about it so as not to disturb the grandmother who was staying with her little grandson (who was in the bed next to our daughter). One of the nurses came in to check on my daughter and saw my tears. She asked if there was anything I needed and reminded me that they weren't just there for the children but for us (the parents) too. God bless her heart because just the offer was enough to make me feel better. Lynn, the grandmother of the little baby in the bed next to my daughter (there were two children per room), came over to see if I was okay. She talked to me and assured me that our daughter would be okay.

We developed a friendship with her, her daughter-in-law, and her son. We bonded since we all had babies who had to have heart surgery and they were also staying at the Ronald McDonald House. They told us about all the ins and outs of the house and the hospital. Their little boy had Down's Syndrome and they were hoping to leave the hospital in about a week's time to return home (I believe they were from Louisiana). They had already been at the hospital for about 2 months.

Our daughter came through the surgery wonderfully and she was to be released directly from the Heart Intensive Care Unit. She was released two days after her surgery and is now two years old and doing fantastic. Unfortunately, Kelly and her husband's little boy took a turn for the worse due to complications before we left the hospital. Our last conversation was about how they didn't hate us for taking our little girl home, instead, they said, her release gave them hope that soon it would be them taking their little one home. We had bonded because we were parents and because we loved our children more than anything. Even today I find myself thinking about them and hoping that they did get to take their little boy home.

*My grandparents*
My grandparents were children during the Great Depression and have seen a lot in their eighty some years. They have taught me, my sister, and my cousins, about integrity and hard work. They have also taught us about respect. They believe in caring for their neighbors and practicing what they preach.

I know I have chosen more than five people but these are individuals who have impacted my life in profound ways and this is my way of honoring them.

The 5 People You Meet in Heaven

For this month, the book club I belong to, is reading Mitch Album's The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It is a story about a man, who after he dies, meets five people who affected his life. I am looking forward to reading it. Who are five people who have affected your life in small or large ways (they may be people who entered your life briefly or who have always been there)? That is the question I am asking myself today. I'm going to think about it today and I'll post five people who have impacted my life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good Bargains

Boscov's has assorted Crayola sets (regularly priced from $19.95-$44.95) for only $4.99. I picked up several for Christmas gifts and birthday presents. They range from 3+ up to 8+ and are craft projects that little ones will love.

Kmart has preschool games on sale this week for $3.99 a piece. This includes the classics Don't Break the Ice, Cooties, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland.

Target has their Halloween items on sale. Even though the costumes said 50% off, I got 75% off. I bought two costumes for my littlest daughter for $3.24 apiece (regularly $12.99) and two for myself for $6.24 (regularly $24.99 and $8.74 (regularly $34.99). You can't beat that price for costumes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cookie Monster's B-day

November 2nd was Cookie Monster's birthday. To celebrate this beloved Sesame Street character's birthday, I hosted a Cookie Monster playgroup for the MOMS club to which I belong. We had a good time. Usually these events are very relaxed and we kind of go with the flow (the little ones at this event ranged from 1 1/2-3 years of age).

I provided a craft. We made little Cookie Monsters with printables from the DLTK website and I had the "Cookie Monster and 10 Cupcakes Coloring Page" printable from Sprout. To do the craft from the DLTK website I made my husband go to Staples to print copies of Cookie Monster's body parts since I used the color version. Otherwise, our printer would have been sucked dry of colored ink. Staples is currently offering 50% back in Staples Rewards on all copies until November 7th if you use your Staples Rewards card. I had also been saving toilet paper rolls for several months.

To keep with the theme, I served blue snacks and snacks that started with the letter C such as blueberries (I had cantelope too but I forgot to pull it out of the fridge), goldfish crackers, cheese (string cheese), cucumber slices and carrots with dip, and chocolate chip cookies (Hillary Clinton's recipe which has oatmeal and is very yummy).

I didn't have any special decorations for the day but you could have blue streamers and blue balloons to make it like a real birthday party. After the craft, the children played while the moms chatted.

I sent each child home with a Cookie Monster cupcake. I just used the Magnolia cupcake recipe and decorated them like I saw on the Good Things Catered blog. They turned out really cute.

Walmart Freebie

Walmart is giving away free samples of Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Sun-Damage. This product has an SPF of 15 and is supposed to repair sun damaged skin (such as sun spots and fine lines) around your eyes. Your sample should arrive within 4 weeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free Carrie Underwood MP3 Download is giving away a free download of Carrie Underwood's song "Change" from her new album Play On which hits stores today.