Sunday, May 31, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I headed to the grocery on Saturday to pick up a few deals and a lot of produce and bread. We even stopped at Walmart, in part to pick up cereal deals and in part to get the free ice cream they had been touting. Turned out to be a very disappointing ice cream experience. I was thinking with the publicity that they put behind it, it was going to be the packet, the cup or the bar...instead at our store, they cut everything into 4 or more portions. I'm just glad I was also stopping to buy some cereal or I would have been seriously upset that we stopped.

At our house, the focus is on dinners. I tend to only list the main course and any standard side we have with it. We do still have vegetables and/or fruit with each of our dinners, I just don't always call them out.

Hot Dogs at the Game

Chicken Cheese steaks (Buffalo style for my husband)

Stuffed Pepper Casserole





Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/31

The deals at CVS aren't that great this week. There are a couple that if you are in need of stocking up, then they aren't too bad, just not many free.

Transaction #1
2 - Charmin
2 - Bounty Basic

-$1 Charmin Mfg coupon (from coupon book they sent out)
-$.25 Charmin Mfg coupon (from P&G Brand Saver - exp today)
-$1 Bounty Mfg coupon
-$.25 Bounty Mfg coupon

Total $21.02. Earn $5 ECBs. Your best deal actually would be to do this deal twice, as you need to purchase 4 to get to the first $20, but only another 3 to get to $40.

Transaction #2

2 - SoftSoap Body Wash

-$1 Any Body Wash CRT
-$1.50 Softsoap Body Wash CRT
-$.75 Softsoap IP
-$.75 Softsoap Mfg coupon

Total $5.98. Pay with $5 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $.98 OOP. Earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #3

1 - Speedstick
2 - Arm & Hammer Detergent

-$1 Arm & Hammer IP
-$1 Arm & Hammer IP

Total $7.48. Pay with $4 ECBs and $3.48 OOP. Earn $1 ECBs.

For more deals, check out Money Saving Mom, Deal Seeking Mom and the Centsible Sawyer.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1

1 - Speedstick

Total $2.49, earn $1 ECB.

Transaction #2

1 - Act Total Care

-$1 Act Mfg coupon

Total $3.29. Pay with $1 ECB and $2.29 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP $4.78, with $1 ECB left to roll.

Find more $5 Scenarios at the CVS $5 Challenge.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Planning a Party

I love to host parties. I enjoy every aspect of the party, from the planning and preparation to the event itself. I think the only thing I don't enjoy is cleaning up when the party is over, in part because it means cleaning, in part because it is usually at the end of a long day and in part because it means the party is over.

One thing that I have learned with time is how if you plan, you can reduce the costs of throwing a party. You can save money by doing your own invitations, or better yet sending them on-line; you can save money by making your own decorations and planning your own games; you can save money by making your own food and cake. The good news is that the web is full of great ideas and services that can help you do just that.

The first thing that I determine when there is going to be a party is the theme. When it comes to birthday parties, I generally allow my kids to choose their theme. I like to go all out when it comes to the theme, from invitations, to decorations, to activities, to the cake. My biggest challenge is that while I am creative, I need a little inspiration to help build the full party around a theme.

I recently was introduced to an on-line party planning resource, PurpleTrail. I like what I see. They offer party ideas, invitation suggestions - both in style and with wording, decoration suggestions, e-mail invitations (without ads) and on-line event planning, downloadable games and more.

If you are a mom like me, most of the big parties you are planning with a theme are for the preschool crowd. One such party you might find yourself hosting is a Dora the Explorer party for your little explorer. When you search for Dora the Explorer on their site, you wind up on a party page that provides suggestions on decorations, games, and activities. It even includes a listing of their most popular articles for this party theme.

For any party to be a success, there must be food. As you plan your Dora party and wonder type of food to serve, you can read the food article and find links for some Mexican foods that kids will enjoy. Since the cake is the most important food item at a birthday party, it is nice to note that they even offer links to themed cakes and cupcakes for your party. The links in the food article take you to the Nick Jr. page.

Once you have decided on what you will eat, you likely will want to figure out how to entertain your preschool party crowd for a good amount of the party. For inspiration, click on the party games and activities page. Here, you will find suggestions on how to set up your own Dora Scavenger Hunt or set up a Make Your Own Backpack table. If you want to go all out with decorations, they even provide suggestions on how to build your own forest or jungle.

One last thing that you typically include at your party is party supplies and goodie bags. In the party supplies article, you will find links to an online retailer that sells theme appropriate tableware and supplies (in this case it is Birthday Express).

Dora the Explorer is just one example of a party theme that you can find at PurpleTrail. In addition to birthday party suggestions, you can find baby showers, wedding showers, any day parties, 4th of July picnics, and more. In fact, if you are looking for a reason to host a party, they even have a section called Reasons to Celebrate - where they list the upcoming days like Flag Day, Father's Day and Summer Solstice - that are all reason enough to party.

It really is a great way to find inspiration for planning your party. They can be your all in one tool, providing links to you to other sites that have the resources you need - whether it be themed recipes or a place to buy themed tableware - and saving you the effort of searching for those other sites on your own. The best part is that the information is free to access. And, while you are there planning your party, you can set up and send your online invitations to all of your party guests. Some features require paid membership to use, or in the instance of the downloadable games you can either pay for the game or if you get a paid membership, some are included.

Samples and Freebies

It was a short week, and I must say, the smallest samples and freebies requested and received list in quite sometime.


Mighty Leaf Tea Sample (Kroger)


Windex Outdoor All-in-One Bzz Kit

Jet America - 9 seats $9, every flight

Have you heard of Jet America? They are a new airline (they are a dba of Sun America) and their deal is that they offer $9 each way fares. They guarantee 9 seats at $9 for each flight (plus a $5 convenience fee for booking online).

I checked a flight in August. There are no flight time options for the route I selected and the seats currently available are at rate of $29 each not including fees. Still, even with fees (includes online booking), this round trip flight was under $90.

However, there were other add on fees for some services (all each way) - if you call the call center to book the flight, there is a $10 convenience charge, baggage fee is $20, a minor flying unaccompanied is $50, reserving a seat is $10, etc., so I am sure that it could add up to a more standard feeling fare quickly - but let's be honest, a lot of other airlines have a whole menu of fees as well. But, if you don't need all the extras and live where they fly, it could still be a pretty good deal.

Right now, they fly between a number of smaller airports (and Newark?) including: Toledo, South Bend, Minneapolis, Lansing, Orlando and Newark.

Flights start in July and right now, you can book through October.

How long will they sustain? Wasn't it just a few months ago that another airline with a similar pricing deal went under.


This morning, in clicking through a few links, I came across some recipes that I thought I would share with you. I am always looking for new recipes to try and the few that I read through sound very good.

These recipes are on the Olive Garden site and include recipes for Main Courses, Sauces, Desserts, Soups and more and include recipes inspired by the Culinary Institute of Tuscany, their cooking school in Italy.

According to their site, "Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany is the perfect training ground for our premier chefs. Here they learn the key values and skills needed to remain true to the rich history of Italian cuisine." Makes me wonder, do all of their chefs go, or do you think it is just the ones that develop the recipes the standard dishes that are featured around the country on their menus?

You can search the recipes they have here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baby Toys

One thing that I remember from being a first time mom, is being overwhelmed by the selection of everything that there is for baby. The first wave of "Oh My!" hit when we were registering, there had to be no less than 20 types of bottles and 10 crib mattresses to choose from. We did our best to feel our way through, choosing some things by the patterns/colors, some by the consumer reports safety tips and others by polling our friends who already had kids.

Over time, the sense of being completely overwhelmed has subsided some, but we still struggle with questions - what toys will help them learn and grow?, what is a good thing to get for their birthday, etc. We've leaned on friends and family with older kids for recommendations on toys that are right for each age, those that their kids just loved. With our daughter, we had the benefit of having watched our son play and learn with his toys and were better poised to know when to pull certain toys out of storage for her and which toys to not even pull out.

A few months ago, I was introduced to ebeanstalk. I just wish I had a resource like them when my kids were babies. With each toy, they provide a lot of information in the listing about the toy beyond just a description and picture - they answer "why we love it", they select the developmental skill each toy is best at developing, and provide safety information about the toy. The one tab that doesn't provide much about the product is oddly the Features tab, which seems to be more focused on where a child of a given age is developmentally.

Ebeanstalk is dedicated to a baby's development. Their goal is to select the best baby toys matched to a baby's development. To see great information on how a baby grows up, check out the info on their baby toys page.

Picking toys for a baby is not as simple as it sounds.

Here are some quick baby facts:

  • Toys for a newborn baby: A newborn baby is briefly looking at objects and attempting to imitate facial expressions. They can follow objects with their eyes and usually quiet down, when they are picked up.

  • Toys for a three month old: They will enjoy ‘frolic play', reaching for objects and will repeat enjoyable activities. Believe it or not, they will respond to ‘no' (about half the time) and will start babbling.

  • Toys for a six month old: They'll search for hidden objects (object permanence). They'll reach for themselves in the mirror, play peekaboo, crumple paper, roll from their stomach to their back and even respond to their name.

  • Toys for a nine month old: They are pushing toy cars, playing pat-a-cake and looking for hidden sounds. The baby toys they are playing with are also getting more fun.

The good news is that ebeanstalk might say they are focused on baby, but they also offer age appropriate toys for older kids. They have them organized by age as well to allow you to shop for toys by age in year increments up to "7 year old & up".

The toys offered on their site are not the typical items that you find at your everyday department store. I have seen some of them at local specialty and educational stores, but being online, they definitely have a larger selection of unique toys. I like their selection, which is especially great when it comes to giving gifts. There is a lot less likelihood that the recipient might receive two of the toy you select, because the selection is different.

Do you have a question about child development that you would like to have answered? Leave a comment with your question. I will ask ebeanstalk and will do a post with the answers to your questions.

Ebeanstalk was kind enough to offer a 15% discount on any first purchase at ebeanstalk. Simply enter TGS345 at the shopping cart to get your 15% discount.

Free Ice Cream at Walmart

Don't forget:

On Saturday, May 30th from 11 am - 4 pm, Walmart is having a free ice cream day. To learn more and find out if your location is participating, head over here.

Summertime Means Grilltime

At our house, we will occassionally grill in the winter, but the snow sometimes gets in the way, but the summer is primetime for the grill. One nice thing about the grill is that you can excellent flavor without warming up the house with the oven or stove.

Much of what we make is very basic - Cheeseburgers, Barbeque Chicken, Steak, Hot Dogs and the like. Sometimes we will mix it up and grill Marlin or prepare a special spice rub or marinade for our chicken or steak.

One such marinade that we enjoy, primarily on chicken, but can be used on pork or beef, is Citrus Balsamic Grill.

Citrus Balsamic Grill

1/3c Lemon Juice
1/4c Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Baslsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 # chicken or beef

Combine marinade ingredients and mix well. Place mixture over meat. Marinade for 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Grill until done as desired.

Serve with griled peppers, onions and tomatoes. If desired, split the marinade and put some on the vegetables.

Then for dessert, try these. I am a huge S'mores fan - I think it is the warm, gooey marshmallow with the chocolate that is melting that I find so appealing.

Grilled S'Mores

2 graham crackers, broken into halves
1 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 ounces each), divided in half crosswise
2 marshmallows

For each S'more, top one graham cracker square with one candy bar half, one marshmallow and another graham cracker square. Center the S'more on a sheet of aluminum foil. Create a foil packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Grill 4 to 5 min over a medium grill.

I use the shelf in my grill, so that the graham crackers aren't too close to the heat source. This recipe can easily be doubled and more.

For more grilling ideas, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap Grilled Foods. For more recipes, check out The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CVS Deals - 5/26

After learning that there was a hidden deal on Neutrogena sunscreen, I decided to head back to CVS to take advantage of the deal. I had planned to complete the Neutrogena Sun Care/Sunless Tanning deal (buy two, get $10 ECBs) by purchasing two of the Neutrogena Baby on Sunday when I stopped, but they were $11.99 each. I just wasn't sure that I wanted to do this at that price. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed overpriced to me.

So, in case you haven't heard, there is a 1 oz. size of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 55 that are working on the deal. Priced at only $1.99, these are a moneymaker. I found them in a little plastic tub sitting on the counter at the pharmacy. I didn't see them anywhere else in the store. Others have reported seeing them on endcaps at their store or in the trial size section.

Here is what I got:

2 - bags Gold Emblem Candy
2 - Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 55, 1 oz

-$1 $1/2 Gold Emblem Candy, Nuts or Cookies CRT

Paid $4 ECBs and $.96 OOP, earned $10 ECBs. The cashier looked at my receipt when it printed and said something to the effect, even with those little ones you got the ECB. I told her where I found them, knowing that she has previously indicated taking advantage of deals (like when the machine generated the $1 on GE Nuts daily and they snack packs (99cents) worked and you could get free nuts) that I had completed.

I improved my ECB position from $15.98 to $21.98. A great week, if I must say so - between my two trips, I nearly doubled from $11 to $21.98, and picked up a number of things that we were in need of (plus candy, which I always "need").

For more deals, check out Shopping Superstars, CVS Superstars and Super Savings Saturday.

CVS Deals - 5/24

There were a few two day deals at CVS that I wanted to take advantage of this week and I had an ECB that was expiring on Sunday, so on my way to the grocery store on Sunday, I made a stop at my local CVS. I finally was able to use a raincheck I had from before Christmas, they don't expire, I confirmed.

Here is what I got:

Transaction #1

1 - Right Guard Professional Strength
1 - Clearasil Daily Facial Wash
1 - CVS Sunscreen 2 oz

-$1 CVS Sunscreen CRT

Paid with $4, $5 and $2 in ECBs and $.20 OOP. Earned $4 and $3.99 ECBs, plus $6 ECBs from my raincheck. My store does a horrible job with labeling the ECB deals and I frequently find myself referencing my ad to make sure I am buying the right thing. I was using a rain check for $6/$6 on the Right Guard and did not realize it was on a weekly deal as well, hence the added ECBs.

Transaction #2

2 - Bandaids
2 - Speedstick Pro
1 - First Aid Kit

-$1 Bandaids Mfg coupon
-$1 Bandaids Mfg coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon
-$1 J&J First Aid Mfg coupon

Paid with $6 ECBs and $3.99 ECBs, adjusted down to $3.80, and $.25 OOP. Earned $4 and $7.98 ECBs.

I started the day with $11 in ECBs and finished the day with $15.98 in ECBs. Overall a good day, plus I got to stock up on some stuff that we need.

For more deals, check out Shopping Superstars, CVS Superstars and Super Savings Saturday.

Free Brewed Coffee At Panera

Do you live in Ohio, Kentucky or Colorado? Certain regions in those states are being offered an opportunity to get a Free Grande Brewed Coffee for you and a friend. Simply send an invite via MEETATPANERA.COM, and you and the person you invite both get a FREE grande brewed coffee! You can see if your store is participating on the invitation site. I can tell you that in Ohio, Akron/Cleveland area is not included in the deal.

To get your free coffee, send yourself a copy of your invite and bring a printout to your meeting to redeem for your free coffee.

Planting a Garden

When I was growing up, we had a garden every year. We planted a variety of things, the consistent items were tomatoes, onions and potatoes. I can remember planting melon (watermelon and/or cantaloupe), pumpkins, zucchini, strawberries, and corn from time to time as well. In addition, both sets of Grandparents lived on a farm, so we had even more selection from them as well. I can remember getting lettuce, rhubarb, blackberries, and more to take home when we would visit.

There is just something so delicious about eating produce right from your own garden. I'm not sure what it is, but they are always sweeter and more flavorful. Perhaps it is knowing that you grew that fruit/vegetable, or perhaps it is just because it is so much more fresh than what you can pick up at the store. In my opinion, tomatoes are best served, slightly warmed from the sun with a quick rinse to knock off any dirt. Not only that, but it is a very economical way to enjoy lots of fresh vegetables. When you consider the costs of seeds/plants and the amount of fruits/vegetables that they will produce, there is no doubt that it is cheaper than buying that amount of fruit at the store.

When I grew up and finally had my own house, I was determined to have my own garden. Where we lived in Pittsburgh, it was easy. Our house backed up to a wooded ravine, so I simply planted a garden at it's edge. When we moved to Ohio, it was a little bit harder - we have neighbors and no place to handily tuck it out of the way. In fact, the first few years after we moved here, we didn't even have a garden - we moved in in July, not ideal timing for planting a garden and the next year I was pregnant. But then finally, we settled on a small plot next to the garage wall.

The garden has grown over the years. We have tried different vegetables, some with good luck and others not. This year, we planted tomatoes - big and small, zucchini, peppers - bell and hot, eggplant, and lettuce (came in the Kraft Food and Family this month). It's a modest size, but it works.

The kids simply love the garden. All spring they have been asking about when we can plant the garden. This of course has led to an opportunity for them to learn as discussions about frost and why we have to wait to plant a garden ensued.

When we planted the garden last weekend, they were both anxious to assist. Each of them donned a pair of gardening gloves and carried over their little shovel. They tried to help me turn over the dirt to make it loose and easier to plant, but with their little shovels, they mostly wound up throwing dirt around. Then, when we finally were ready to dig some holes, my daughter wandered off to blow bubbles and play, but my son was eager to dig a hole and help to plant the garden. With my assistance, I allowed him to dig the holes, place the plant and cover them with soil. Then, after we were done planting, came watering. They both wanted to use the watering can, so they took turns (not always in the most calm fashion, my daughter is not fully fluent in share yet) watering the garden. Then, I pulled out the hose to ensure we actually got everything watered deeply, so they would root well.

Watching a garden grow is a great lesson in life cycle for children. They get to see the seeds sprout and start to grow. They get to see the fruits/vegetables develop and watch them grow and ripen. They get to pick the fruits/vegetables when they are ripe and experience fresh, homegrown vegetables. They get to see the plants die off as the frost hits and watch us turn them under to fertilize the ground. They learn about how it takes water and sunshine for a garden to grow.

Gardens expand the food experience for children. There is something about growing your own vegetables in a garden that leads kids to want to eat those vegetables. My son will pick through a dish at dinner leaving behind any tomato chunks, but can barely take the time to clean a tomato fresh from the garden before eating it.

A garden is a great learning opportunity for children and a frugal way to enjoy fresh produce in the summer, and beyond if you can/freeze the vegetables. This works for my family.

For more tips and tricks that work for others, check out Works For Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tried It Tuesday - Off! PowerPad Lamp

As a BzzAgent, I recently was invited to participate in the BzzCampaign for Off! PowerPad Lamp and Clip-On Mosquito Repellent. I figured it would be nice to have an alternative to spray repellents or citronella candles, which always seem to be very smoky.

I have not yet had the chance to try the Clip-on Mosquito Repellent, but it provides "personal mosquito protection". You can clip it to your bag or belt or sit it next to you to get your own individual radius of protection from mosquitoes.

What I did try this weekend at our Memorial Day picnic was the Off! PowerPad Lamp. With the PowerPad Lamp, you light a small candle that activates the repellent pad to protect an area up to 15' x 15', the size of an average deck or patio. According to the literature, this same area would require 15 citronella buckets (really?).

The PowerPad Lamp was very easy to use. You simply open up the cover, place the candle in the candle holder and open and place the repellent pad in the lamp. Light the candle and close the cover. The repellent pad needs to be replaced when the candle no longer lights - this is a nice feature, making it easy to know that you are covered as long as you have a candle. Plus, it makes it convenient for them to package the two parts together in their refill packets.

Overall, we were satisfied with the performance of the lamp. There didn't seem to be any bugs bothering us, as we visited on our deck into the late hours of the evening. The candle is supposed to burn for about 4 hours. We only had it lit for about 3 hours before extinguishing it and heading indoors to watch some Cav's basketball (they lost, should have stayed outside visiting). I am curious to see how much more time we get when we light it next time.

The PowerPad Lamp is unscented, but the new unit seemed to give off somewhat of a burning plastic smell. One of my guests indicated that the smell of citronella would be preferred to the burning plastic. I am not a big fan of citronella, so I'm not so sure. I felt like the smell diminished the longer it was burning, and imagine with continued reuse of the lamp that this smell would go away completely.

The starter kit retails for $9.49 and the refill pack, which contains 3 refills, retails for $5.49. They also offer the starter kit in a lantern version that can be hung in your back yard. For us, we simply placed the lamp on the table we were sitting around, but if you had a bigger yard or were not planning to be around a table, the lantern would probably be a great option.

You can find a coupon for the Clip-On here.

Have you tried the Off! PowerPad Lamp or Clip-On? What did you think? Leave us a comment or link to your blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I'm a little behind schedule with posting my weekly menu plan, but we were busy playing outside and spending time with the family is my priority.

This week, most of the grocery shopping trip was focused around the picnic we had on Sunday. Lots of buns, chips, beans, salads and more. Monday, we had free donuts from Acme. We had gone to the minor league game on Saturday night and our section was represented by the winning cream stick (Chocolate if you were wondering), which qualified each of us to a coupon for a free cream stick (or any donut). Next weekend, my brother and family are visiting, so our dinner plans will depend on what we wind up doing.

At our house, the focus is on dinners. I tend to only list the main course and any standard side we have with it. We do still tend to have vegetables and/or fruit with each of our dinners, I just don't always call them out.

Grilled Hamburgers/Hotdogs, salads of all sort

Leftovers from picnic


Breakfast for dinner

Chili (from freezer)

Penne Cardinal


Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/24

Well, I've been out enjoying the beautiful weather and all the Memorial Day weekend fun. There are a couple of deals at CVS that I plan on picking up this week. A few of them are 2-day sales, so since it is already Monday, you would need to go to the store today to do all of these deals.

Transaction #1

2 - Bandaid Bandages

-$1 Bandaid Mfg coupon
-$1 Bandaid Mfg coupon

Total $2.58, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2

1 - Clearasil Stayclear Daily
1 - Speedstick Pro

-$1 Clearasil Mfg coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon

Total $6.23. Pay with $4 ECBs and $2.23 OOP. Earn $3.99 and $3.99 ECBs.

Transaction #3

1 - Speedstick Pro
1 - Neutrogena Baby Sunscreen ($9.99)

-$.75 Speedstick Pro
- $2 Neutrogen Sunscreen Mfg coupon (found at a Walgreen's display)

Total $11.23. Pay with $7.98 ECBs from Transaction #2 and $3.25 OOP. Earn $3.99 ECBs.

Transaction #4

1 - Neutrogena Baby Sunscreen ($9.99)

- $2 Neutrogena Sunscreen Mfg coupon (found at a Walgreen's display)

Total $7.99. Pay with $3.99 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $4 OOP. Earn $10 ECBs.

Total OOP $12.06 with $10 ECBs left to roll. If you have ECBs to start with, the OOP could be less.

For more scenarios and deals, check out Money Saving Mom, Deal Seeking Mom and the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1

2 - Bandaid Bandages

-$1 Bandaid Mfg coupon
-$1 Bandaid Mfg coupon

Total $2.58, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2

1 - Clearasil Stayclear Daily
1 - Speedstick Pro

-$1 Clearasil Mfg coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon

Total $6.23. Pay with $4 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $2.23 OOP. Earn $3.99 and $3.99 ECBs.

Transaction #3

1 - Speedstick Pro
1 - Mars Single

-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon

Total $3.91. Pay with $3.99 ECBs from Transaction #2, adjusted down to $3.91. Earn $3.99 ECBs.

For more $5 Scenarios, check out The CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Samples and Freebies


DiGiorno Flat Bread free coupon (no longer available)
Oscar Meyer free hot dogs coupon (no longer available)
Free Mar's Candy Bar - Real Chocolate Promo


Schick Intuition Plus Milk & Honey sample. Not sure when I requested this, but the coupon included expired on 3/1/09. Seems a little strange to me.

Off! PowerPad Lamp and Clip On Bzz Kit

DiGiorno Flatbread Melt Free Sample coupon from FirstTaste

Fleischmann's Yeast "The Bread Breakthrough" recipe booklet

$3 Lysol rebate. I submitted 2 around the same time, still waiting on second one.

Aveeno Nourish+ shampoo and conditioner with $1 coupon. I received 2 of these, one from CVS and one from Walmart.

2 lunch skins bags from a giveaway I won at Jolly Mom.

It's Friday! Free Chocolate!

Another Friday, another chance for free chocolate.

Mars is planning to give away free chocolate every Friday until September 25th. To get your coupon, you need to head over to Real Chocolate starting at 9 am ET on each Friday. Your coupon is good for one single serve chocolate (any M&M'S® Brand, MILKY WAY® Brand, SNICKERS® Brand, 3 MUSKETEERS® Brand, TWIX® Brand and DOVE® Brand product). The coupon will be mailed and take up to 6 weeks to arrive.

There is a limit of 250,000 coupons each Friday. You can only win one coupon each week, but each household is allowed to win up to 4 coupons over the course of the promotion. You can see the full terms and conditions here by clicking on Terms and Conditions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Just one day left...

To enter the giveaway for Yanni Voices tickets.

Enter here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Wonder of Glue

This past weekend, my son went to his first birthday party for a classmate. I feel lucky that he made it through almost an entire year of Kindergarten before the first invite. The party was at the local bowling alley. It was pretty much a kids only party, so we headed across the street to use the time to complete our weekly grocery shopping.

When we returned, our son had a bandage on his chin. I figured he had just tripped and bumped his chin. The mother came over and told us that he had been carrying his bowling ball back up to the racks and the ball had dropped. He bent over to pick it up and it bounced up hitting his chin. It didn't appear to be bleeding much, so I didn't worry.

When we got home, I decided, I better take a look at his chin and put some antibiotic cream on it. When I did, I noticed in cleaning that it wasn't a surface abrasion, but rather a split. It was only 1/4" long and not really bleeding, but with its location on the edge of the chin, it was obvious that it wouldn't heal right on its own.

I called my husband up to see it and to get his agreement that I wasn't crazy. We called the pediatrician and she recommended that we should probably go to get stitches to minimize scarring and help with healing.

We are fortunate to have a pediatric ER in a nearby hospital that is staffed by a couple of the pediatricians from the office we use, so we headed there.

My son was clearly upset about the thought of needles. We tried to allay his fears by sharing tales of everyone else who had had stitches, including us. When we finally saw the pediatrician and he took a look at it, he told us that he could glue it.

Yes, that's right, glue it. Gluing it meant no anesthetic, no needles, no itchy stitches to allow to dissolve or to come back to have removed. They cleaned up the wound, held it closed and applied three layers of surgical glue. The glue had a purplish hue to it when in the tube, but dried pretty clear.

The hard part now is making sure that my son leaves it alone and that it stays dry. The glue will start to loosen on its own after 5 to 10 days. After 5 days, we were told it is okay if he starts to pick at it, but before then, if the glue comes off, it won't be properly healed and our trip to the ER will be all for naught. We are keeping it covered with a bandage to keep him from playing with it and accidentally pulling it off. We are doing our best to make sure that it doesn't get wet. It can get splashed, but not soaked. Bath time isn't too bad, we just make sure we lean back for hair washing and wash his face around the glue. Thankfully, when the pools open this weekend, it will have been 5 days and it won't be a concern if it gets wet then.

Being able to avoid stitches by using glue, works for me!

For other things that work, check out Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Krispy Kreme - 99¢ for a dozen

In honor of National Penny Day, on May 23rd, Krispy Kreme is selling their Original Glazed for only 99¢ a dozen. Offer is limited to one dozen per person. As always, I recommend you call ahead to make sure your store is a participating location.

Go here to find a location near you.

My nearest one is a bit of drive, but since it is Saturday, I might have to consider making the trip. They are so awesome when they are hot! Yum!

Update: This offer is actually only good in five markets in Texas.

Free Minor League Baseball Game Ticket

Do you live near a stadium where a Minor League Baseball team plays? Here is an opportunity to take your family to a game for less.

Bring a Kraft Singles Wrapper to a Tuesday Minor League Baseball game to buy one ticket and get one free from Kraft.

The offer is good for Tuesday home games from May 12 through September 1. Tickets must be purchased at the box office. There are some exceptions, so you will want to confirm participation.

Tried It Tuesday - Portrait Innovations

I love pictures of my family. When my son was born almost 6 years ago, we were inundated with offers for free and inexpensive pictures. I took advantage of all the offers and tried out all of the local studios. It was great. I have an 8x10 from every month of his first year. After the first year, I toned it back a bit, going only every three months and then every six months. Now that he is in school, we go about once a year and get the school pictures.

I'm sure that many of the studios don't like me, I exercised amazing willpower...even though I would have loved to have bought them all, I usually stuck with the one or two sheets (one of which was generally free) or the cheap package. After all, aside from a few milestones, I was there only to get my 8x10. When it was time to get pictures for the family, I would sit down with my list of poses and figure out which coupon at which studio was the best.

None of the studios completely fit the bill for me. One studio offered a great package at a great price, but you had to make a second trip back to pick up the pictures. Many printed them on site (in an hour or less), but the price per sheet was crazy and unless you spent over $50, you had few options.

About a year ago, we found a great studio that was new to the area. Portrait Innovations.

They are a child-focused studio. The camera is not attached to a pole. The photographer is free to move around, allowing them to move closer to the child or find the right angle for the not always cooperative child. They have a number of employees on staff and there always seems to be an extra person that comes in to help pull the child's attention towards the camera and put a smile on their face.

The photographers are patient. I have never felt like my studio visit was rushed. They take the time to make sure they are going to get pictures I am going to love. With each pose, they seem to take three pictures in quick succession, to help improve the opportunity to get just the right expression. (a great help if you have a blinker)

After taking a series of pictures, the photographer will inquire, are there any poses that you wanted that I didn't get. They take a nice mix of close-ups and full body shots. They have a variety of backdrops, but keep it simple. You are welcome to bring a change of clothes for the children and they have a changing room in addition to the bathrooms, to facilitate this process.

The process for reviewing the pictures is great. They bring up the pictures three at a time (a perfect fit for the three quick succession pictures of each pose). You choose your favorite(s) from the group and the ones you like are put in your cart. After working through your pictures (I had 82 when I took my daughter this weekend), they go into their sales pitch. But, I have never felt like it was high pressure - I respect that. They show you different special effects - including montages, sepia, b&w, etc. They are randomly checked afterwards, so even if you indicate no interest, they will still work through building each sample for you.

Then, they tell you how much it would cost to get 3 pictures of each pose you selected as favorites. Of course, I had something like 27 this last time after I narrowed down from 82, the number was ridiculous and I joked with the photographer that the pictures might be "only" $400-something, but the wing I would have to put on my house to display them all would be the problem.

This is where they could use an improvement to their software. Clearly, you need to narrow down to one or a handful of poses that you would like to purchase. Unlike the beginning where the software will automatically put the three pictures up on the screen, the photographer now has to use the effects page to bring up each pose as a bigger picture so you can view them side by side to choose your favorites. They can typically pull up three at a time for you to compare. Then, when you want to "eliminate" some of the choices, they have to go back to the other screen to remove them from your selection. There is a lot of back and forth. The company could improve the software to make this a quicker, smoother process.

As you work through this narrowing down process, the photographer will periodically provide you with an updated cost to get the poses that you have left. Over a certain number of poses threshold, they offer a free cd with your pictures. The files on the disk are in their proprietary software and can only be used for reprints at the studio. They do provide a small thumbnail type file, but we tried to use one for the wallpaper on our computer and it was fuzzy. This is however the only way to keep a file copy of your pictures for future printing. Unlike some studios, they do not store the electronic file for any period. So, if you think you might someday want reprints, this is your time to decide.

Portrait Innovations does offer a $9.95 promotional package. The offer is limited to once per promotional period, but there seem to be at least 4 or 6 per year. For us, the periods generally work, although we do need to go in advance of my daughter's birthday if we want to go there at Christmas, as they are in the same promo period, but a week before her birthday is a different promo period.

For pictures beyond the package, you can purchase single sheets or in sets of three, which gives a discount. I think that a set of three sheets of one pose is about $25 - not the most economical, but a great way to get some additional sheets of your favorite pose or an alternate pose. I generally wind up doing the three sheet deal with a picture of the kids together and the package of the birthday child.

After you finalize your pose selections and sheet sizes, it takes about 15 minutes for your pictures to print in their in studio lab.

They do accept walk-ins, but recommend appointments. I have not had a problem, other than around the holidays, calling to get a same or next day appointment for the kids, even on the weekends.

I have had a really positive experience with Portrait Innovations. The only challenge was when we bought the cd and no one told us that the files weren't great for sharing on-line with our out of town family, despite the fact that we had sat there and said that it would be nice to have to show the pictures to the family. But, when we called the studio with our concern, they promptly offered to let us return the extra photos we purchased to get to the level needed to get the free cd for a refund or to give us a courtesy credit toward a future visit. This was great customer service, they didn't hesitate to try to correct the problem that we had.

Great customer service, child-friendly studios, friendly and patient photographers and great pictures will keep me coming back.

You can go here to find a studio near you.

Have you tried Portrait Innovations? Have you tried another product or service? Share your experience in the comments or on your blog and leave a link.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tombstone Pay Your Bills

This is an interesting little "rebate". With the purchase of increasing amounts of Tombstone products, you can get a credit on one of your utility bills, up to $15.

For program details and the form, head here.

If you can find a decent sale to tie it to, this could be a decent deal.

Yanni Voices - Cleveland Concert Ticket Giveaway

Yanni released a new album earlier this year, where for the first time, he made the focal point of his music the vocals. The tag line on the website is 'Expect the Unexpected.' He has four young, talented vocalists - Nathan Pacheco, Chloe, Ender Thomas and Leslie Mills - who he discovered and developed with the help of producer Ric Wake. Their style is compared to that of Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban or Sarah Brightman. This new album is YANNI VOICES. There is a sample of the music on the Yanni Voices website. It has such a unique style. You can also check out a video here.

Now, Yanni Voices is on tour and I am excited to be giving away two tickets to the Yanni Voices Concert at The Q (Quicken Loans Arena) on June 3 at 7:30 pm. Cleveland-area readers this is YOUR chance to win!

Included with the pair of tickets is a meet & greet with the "voices" themselves, after the show. You can meet & get your picture taken with the stars of Yanni Voices!

There are two ways to enter,
1. Simply leave a comment on this post.
2. Follow me and Tweet about this giveaway. Come back and leave a comment with a link to your Tweet.

The contest is open until Thursday, May 21Friday, May 22nd at 6pm. The winner will have 24 hours to respond with contact information or a new winner will be drawn.

Thanks to One2One Network for sponsoring this great giveaway! Good luck!

Redbox Changes Free Movie Monday

Redbox has changed free movie Mondays. The free rental codes are now only for the 1st Monday of the month. There is not a code today. Next FMM will be 6/1.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

After a few weeks of not getting in a regular shopping trip, we headed to the grocery store this afternoon. We got some great deals at the first store, including 8 jars of pasta sauce, 10 cups of yogurt, 3 boxes of cereal, 75 sq ft foil, 4 canned vegetables, 2 pounds of Barilla pasta, 2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, 1 loaf of Wonder Whole Grain White, 1 bag of Nestle chocolate chips, some Kraft barbecue sauce, a DiGirono Flat Bread Melt and a couple of other things for under $35. Our next stop was for produce, deli meat and milk.

This week starts the summer session for my husband. This means that he will be eating on his own, or leftovers after class. It makes my menu planning a lot simpler, because I tend to make "real" meals the nights he is home and we have leftovers, freezer meals and such on the nights that he has class.

At our house, the focus is on dinners. I tend to only list the main course and any standard side we have with it. We do still tend to have vegetables and/or fruit with each of our dinners, I just don't always call them out.

Macaroni and Cheese



Penne Rustica


Out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Win Free Appliances!

Frigidaire is unveiling 250 new appliances that are designed with specific time saving features to give you more time for YOU time. This would be great. I already spend my Me Time, doing my laundry, doing the dishes and a number of other household tasks that need to be taken care of. Just think, with more Me time, I might actually get back in gear with exercise, cleaning my house and more.

You can visit and share the five things that you would do with an extra hour in your day for a chance to win an entire suite of the new time-saving Frigidaire appliances.

Here are my 5:
1. Sleep.
2. Read a good book.
3. Watch a classic movie (yes, this includes Top Gun, Ever After and Pretty Woman)
4. Work on my scrapbooks.
5. I know it is supposed to be "me" time, but I would likely never get around to the first four while I spend my extra hour each day with my family - just hanging out, being us.

In addition, you can accept their daily dare for a chance to win a new Affinity washer and dryer.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/17

There are a handful of the sale items that I am thinking of heading to CVS to pick up this week.

Transaction #1
1 - Dial 3 pk
1 - Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste
1 - St. Ives Apricot Scrub
2 - Dry Idea Deodorant

-$.35 Dial Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Sensitive Mfg coupon
-$1.50 St. Ives Facial Product Mfg coupon
-$2 Dry Idea IP
-$2 Dry Idea IP

Total $5.34 OOP. Earn $1, $2 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Poppycock
1 - Orville Redenbacher
4 - Chef Boyardee

-$.50 Poppycock Mfg coupon
-$1 Orville Redenbacher (May All You)
-$1 $1/4 Chef Boyardee (May All You)

Total $7.50. Pay with $5 ECBs from transaction #1 and $2.50 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

I might also explore the Hershey chocolate deal. I need to check out the signs at the store and see what all is really included. If the extra large bars that are on BOGO are included, it could make it an even better deal. I'm not a nut person, all of the pictures are Reese's, which don't thrill me, but the descriptions seem to include more.

For more deals and scenarios, check out Deal Seeking Mom and the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - Dial 3 pk
1 - St. Ives Apricot Scrub
2 - Dry Idea Deodorant

-$.35 Dial Mfg coupon
-$1.50 St. Ives Facial Product Mfg coupon
-$2 Dry Idea IP
-$2 Dry Idea IP

Total $2.34 OOP. Earn $1 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste

-$1 Colgate Sensitive Mfg coupon

Total $2.99, pay with $3 ECBs from transaction #1, adjusted down to $2.99. Earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Johnson & Johnson Swabs (twin pack)

-$1 J&J Body Care Mfg coupon

Total $3.99. Pay with $2 ECBs and $1.99 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

Total spent - $4.33 with $2 ECBs left to roll.

For more $5 Scenarios, check out the CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Target Deals

I was able to get some great deals, mostly on snacks, at Target this weekend.

Here is what I got:

1 - Ritz Cracker $2.75
- $1 Target coupon Ritz Crackers

2 - Nabisco 100 cal packs (@ $2.04 ea)
-$1 Target Nabisco 100 cal pack
-$1 Target Nabisco 100 cal pack
-$1 $1/2 Nabisco 100 cal pack mfg coupon
$1.08 ($.54 / each)

6 - Kraft Easy Mac (@ $.77 ea)
-$1 $1/2 Kraft Easy Mac
-$1 $1/2 Kraft Easy Mac
-$1 $1/2 Kraft Easy Mac
$1.62 ($.27 / each)

1 - Quaker Granola Bars ($2.34)
-$1 Target Quaker coupon

2 - Quaker Bites (@ $.99 ea)
-$1 Target Quaker coupon
-$1 Target Quaker coupon

2 - Fruit Roll-ups (@ $1.88 ea)
-$.75 $.75/2 Fruit Roll-ups Mfg coupon

I of course, when I went through my coupons later, found a $1 on Quaker Granola Bars and $1 Ritz Crackers mfg coupon. I had looked for them at Target, but I wasn't prepared for the trip and that always leads to errors. Of course, I still think I did pretty good - I got $19.53 worth of snacks/lunch for $8.80, a savings of 55% (could have been $6.80 or 65% savings).

The Target coupons were printed on previous visits. None are still available on their website, but a few are available here or here.

For more deals and savings, check out Super Savings Saturday, Shopping Superstars and Drugstore Divas.

Free DiGiorno Flatbread Melts

On May 18th, head here to get a coupon for a free DiGiorno Flatbread Melt. The coupon is available from 12 am to 11:59 pm, while supplies last - available to the first 100,000 people to register. Allow 6-8 weeks for your coupon.

CVS Deals - 5/16

I finally made it to CVS and made a real purchase on Saturday. I had gotten my new cards in the mail on Friday and the $4/$20 coupon included expired on 5/16. That was pretty crazy in my mind that I got a coupon that was only good for one day. I found that we did need body wash for my husband and I was still on a mission to find the kid's Colgate toothbrushes and the raincheck items. Of course, they were out of the Colgate kid's toothbrushes, other than the powered ones. I wound up having to buy an alternate toothbrush for my daughter since she was with me and there were no Dora toothbrushes available.

Here's what I got:

2 - Irish Spring Body Wash
2 - Colgate Plus Toothbrush
1 - Colgate Kid's Power Toothbrush
1 - Crest Elmo Toothbrush

-$4 $4/$20 CVS coupon
-$1 Irish Spring CRT
-$.50 Irish Spring Mfg coupon
-$.50 Irish Spring Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Toothbrush Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Toothbrush Mfg coupon
-$.75 Colgate Toothbrush Mfg coupon

Paid with $13 in ECBs and $.45 OOP. I earned $4 and $5 ECBs.

For more deals, check out CVS Superstars, Super Savings Saturday and Shopping Superstars.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Free Copy of New Cold Play Album

Starting yesterday, in coordination with their first North American Tour Date, Coldplay is offering a free download of their new Live album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft. In addition, they are passing out a copy of the CD to everyone who attends their live tour this summer (except festival shows).

They are offering this free download and CD as a thank you to their fans and it will be available during the duration of their live tour in 2009. You can go to Coldplay's website for more details.

Get your free download here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

CVS - 5/15

I had trouble putting the word Deals in my title today. Despite having visited CVS twice this week, I purchased only two things. I did use a coupon though, so I suppose it was a deal.

2 - Gold Emblem Gummy Bears

-$1 $1/2 Gold Emblem Candy CRT

$.98 OOP.

I went in to do a couple of the deals, but they didn't have what I wanted. I wanted to pick up a couple of kids toothbrushes for the Colgate deal - I seem to have a large number of adult toothbrushes, but limited kid's ones. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of SpongeBob - haven't acutally watched, just not a fan, and that was the only toothbrush choice for my son. I might still try to get out tomorrow to check another store.

I wanted to get some of the Kellogg's cereal, but realized I didn't have those coupons with me at the store. Of course, they were out of some of the choices, so I might not have gotten them even if I had my coupon. I was disappointed, but I have stocked up lately, so it wasn't that big of a deal.

I got a CRT and debated getting the Irish Spring / Soft Soap Bodywash deal, but I couldn't remember how much I had at home and figured, if I make it back out to get the toothbrushes, and if we need it, I can get it then. It would wind up being about $2.75 net for two bottles...not bad, not great.

I am still carrying around a rain check for some other deals, but it always seems that it takes months for the rain check items to come back in. Do they not plan for their deals, or is it by design? Either way, I keep checking.

To see some deals that others got this week, head over to CVS Superstars at the "Cent"sible Sawyer, Money Saving Mom's Super Savings Saturday and Shopping Superstars at the Thrifty Mama.

Samples and Freebies

Jennie O booklet and $5 coupon
Bodycology Sample
Kellogg's All Bran Promise Pack
Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Body Butter


My mailbox was busy this week. By Monday, I already had a number of things -

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion - BzzKit from BzzAgent
Kashi GoLean sample and coupons to share - VocalPoint
John Frieda Collection Root Awakening Shampoo & Conditioner sample
Loreal EverPure Sulfate Free Shampoo & Conditioner sample
Kotex Overnight and Lightdays sample and coupons
Nakano recipe booklet and coupon for Nakano Natural Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Nivea Body Wash Sample and coupons

Free Chocolate!

Don't forget...another Friday, another chance for free chocolate.

There is a limit of 500,000 coupons each Friday (this is an increase, was just 250,000 last week). You can only win one coupon each week, but each household is allowed to win up to 4 coupons over the course of the promotion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Buy 3 Get 3 Free Einstein Bagels

There is currently a coupon available for buy 3 get 3 free at Einstein Bagels. The coupon is only good until May 19th. You can find a list of locations here.

Thanks to Moms Need to Know for sharing this.

Romantic Meals

Every now and then, it is really nice to share a special meal with my husband. Before we had kids, having a romantic meal together - at home or out was an easy task. Once the kids came along, it became more of a challenge. Sure, we could get a babysitter and eat out, but the cost of a really nice meal plus a babysitter can really add up fast.

So, we started to improvise. Most years, for our anniversary, my husband and I go out to lunch. The kids are at daycare / school, so there is no added child care costs, but the meals are a little less romantic than they might be at a nice candlelit dinner. We also share a number of special meals at home. Sometimes, my husband and I will sit down to dinner after the kids are in bed, but even more frequently, I will make a special dinner and allow the kids to join us. We don't get to have as much direct conversation during a dinner with the kids, but it is still nice to enjoy a special meal together.

When my husband was traveling one time for work, they went out for seafood and he tried marlin. This has been a favorite of his since. We rarely see it on local menus, but our grocery store carries it from time to time, in season. Because we can't get it any time we want, when we see it, we typically will pick some up to make a special meal. I found a simple preparation for the marlin that is easy and tasty. When we have the marlin, I like to make different side dishes/accompaniments to go with it. One of my favorite soups is Roasted Red Pepper Bisque. The recipe that I use, courtesy of the cafeteria where I work, is a good flavorful, easy to prepare version of this soup. In addition to the soup, grilled onions and coleslaw help round out the meal.

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

1 large sweet onion, peeled & diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 15oz can roasted red peppers, quartered
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 12-15 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1 12-15 oz can Italian-style plum tomato with juice
1/2 c heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh chopped basil & sour cream for garnish

Combine onions, garlic and olive oil in a soup pot. Lightly saute on medium low heat until onions are tender and translucent. Do not allow onions to brown.

Add roasted peppers, dried thyme, chicken broth, and tomatoes with juices to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, allowing the soup to reduce for about 15 minutes. Puree mixture in a food processor. Add heavy cream while pureeing. Return to pot and heat through. Add black pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream and fresh basil.

Marlin Steaks with Balsamic Vinegar

2 marlin steaks (14-16 oz)
lemon pepper
3 tbsp butter
1/3 c balsamic vinegar

Season steaks with salt and lemon pepper. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Melt butter and whisk in balsamic vinegar. Grill steaks over hot coals (we use gas, so I just set it to high) for 5 minutes per side, basting with butter mixture.

Grilled Onions

Place onions with outer skins intact on top of hot grill for 10-15 minutes. Outer skin will char, inside flesh will be soft. Remove charred outer skin and serve with steaks.


Stop at local deli and buy 1# of your favorite slaw. Okay, okay, I know you can make slaw and when cabbage is on sale, I do, but it really is a lot easier just to buy it.

For more romantic meal ideas and recipes, head over to Life As Mom for the Ultimate Recipe Swap: A Romantic Meal. Jessica and her husband are celebrating their anniversary, so be sure to wish them a happy one.

For some additional recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Free Ice Cream Day - May 30th

On Saturday, May 30th from 11 am - 4 pm, Walmart is having a free ice cream day. To learn more and find out if your location is participating, head over here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Indispensible Baby Gear

This is mostly an encore presentation of a previous post.

A while back, a fellow blogger posed the questions: what is a baby tool/thing/gadget that you have really enjoyed. There are a lot of things that I have been glad that I had and many that I wonder, why did I waste my money.

I suppose if I had to choose one item that we have gotten incredible use out of and lots of comments when we use it, it would be Kiddopotamus Tiny Diner. A really simple thing when you think about it. A reusable table mat. It rolls up neatly into itself, so it fits in the diaper bag and after use, keeps the mess inside. It has a wide and deep surface and has a tray to catch all those dropped food items. No more worrying about how clean the table is when you are dining out and the catch tray helps reduce the amount of food lost to the floor or left covering your toddler's lap. We love it so much, that I have bought them for almost everyone I know that has had a baby since my son was a toddler. We have used it for the past 4 1/2 years, through two children and it is still holding up fine. Definitely worth the $10 or $12 it cost all those years ago. It amazes me when we head out to dinner how many other diners comment on the mat and how clever it is. Recently, they seem to be more widely available and I am seeing even more diners using them for their young children.

Some other favorites:
Bouncy seat with vibrator
Playskool Step Start Walk 'n Ride
Toddler Silverware with travel case (since discontinued and we recently lost the fork!)
Toddler Silverware from Oneida (not a match to my set, but close and the kids love using "real" silverware at dinner)
Twist crayons (they don't break as easy as the other crayons).

Some non-favorites:
Baby Einstein DVDs
Crayola TaDoodles (the crayons don't stay in the holder).

Check out Works For Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family, for more tips, tricks and products that work for others.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tried It Tuesday - Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets

A while back, I was contacted about an opportunity to be a Purex Insider. I am always interested in trying new products, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was one of the lucky ones who was chosen and got to try a new product that Purex is launching, called Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets. I received my free sample in the mail a week or two ago.

When they first arrived, they seemed a bit of a curiosity to me. The Laundry Sheets are complete with detergent, softener and anti-static for one load. The sheets look like a small wave. A bulk of the body is blue detergent, somehow held between two dryer sheets that is released during the wash cycle. Then, there is a special green stripe at the end that is heat activated in the dryer to provide softness and to remove static.

Using the laundry sheets was incredibly convenient. Since I tend to do my laundry in the morning as I'm getting ready for work, it makes it real easy for me. No need to catch the rinse cycle to add fabric softener. And, when it is time to move the laundry to the dryer, no need to add a dryer sheet, just move it and go.

After washing and drying with the laundry sheets, I found my clothes to be clean, fresh smelling, soft and static-free. The scent of the laundry detergent is a pleasant, fresh scent that I don't find to be too overpowering. In fact, I had received my packet shortly before leaving for the weekend and had left it in my kitchen while we were away. The scent permeated the air with a nice freshness, just sitting on my counter. Actually, according to the website, the Laundry Sheets are available in three scents - Spring Oasis, Tropical Escape and Pure & Clean. I like the scent I was sent, but it occurs to me that they didn't say which it was. Guess I will have to use my nose to figure it out when I am at the store to buy them.

You can purchase the Laundry Sheets as a 20 sheet starter kit that includes a dispenser and as a 24 sheet refill pack. The Laundry Sheets are available at retailers nationwide at a suggested retail price of $5.99-$7.49 for both the starter kit and refill pack. They hit the store shelves earlier this month and I know that I already have seen them featured in the circular (on sale!) at one or two of my local stores.

They are easier to use than liquid detergent and fabric softener and certainly easier to store. I do like too that they don't drip. I seem to always have a ring of detergent on top of my appliances that results from not quite all of it running back down, like the cap is designed to do. With these, there also seems to be less waste. Since you aren't using a bulky bottle to hold the detergent or fabric softener and the sheet that is left after the laundry is no larger than any other dryer sheet that you would throw away.

Another nice feature of the Laundry Sheets is that they are usable in both a traditional washer as well as an HE washer.

One drawback that I see is that with liquid (or powder) detergent, you have the flexibility to increase/decrease the amount of detergent if you are running a smaller load or an extra dirty load. With this product it is one size fits all. I would likely have to have a combination system - I would use this product for 85% of my laundry, but would still need to keep some liquid product on hand for the small loads.

Overall, I would say this is a great, innovative offering to the laundry aisle. Head over to the Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheet website to learn more. Plus, you can get a coupon for $1 off, so you can try it too.

Have you tried them yet? What did you think? Leave us a comment or link back to your blog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Kraft coupons

Remember those great coupons that Kraft made available today on their Delicious Summer Savings site today, well, many are now also available on the coupon widget in my sidebar or here.

The coupons expire one month from print date and they are limit of two per computer. With the two places to print, you can now get up to 4 of each coupon, making for some potentially good deals.

Redbox free MONDAY rental. Use code 6A43JK at check out. Code expires at midnight central today.

Menu Plan Monday

We were visiting family this weekend, so it will be another non-shopping week. As such, we will be eating a lot from our freezer and pantry. This is a good exercise anyway, to help ensure that we are getting good rotation and not losing any of the good deals we have found to expiration or freezer burn.

At our house, the only meal we normally have together is dinner, so it is the focus for us.

Mother's Day Brunch - made mostly by my brother
Leftovers (Saucy Cheesy Noodles from the freezer)

Hot Dogs

Philly Cheese Steak Noodles (kit)

Bagel Bites and Pizza Rolls

Leftovers (Sloppy Joes/Chili from the freezer)

Chicken Alfredo Pasta (kit)


Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/10

I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day. I know I enjoyed spending my day with my family.

This week at CVS, the deals seem about average. Here are some scenario suggestions for some of the deals.

Transaction #1
6 - Colgate Toothbrushes
1 - Schick Quattro for Women

-$6 6x$1 Colgate Toothbrush Mfg coupon
-$4 Schick Quattro Mfg coupon

Total $9.99 OOP, earn $9 ECBs.

Transaction #2
6 - Ragu Pasta Sauce
1 - Bayer Quick Release

-$1.80 6x$.30 Ragu Mfg coupon
-$1 Bayer Quick Release Mfg coupon, from in-store tear pad

Total $9.20. Pay with $9 ECBs from transaction #1 and $.20 OOP. Earn $3 and $2 ECBs.

For more scenarios and deals, check out Deal Seeking Mom, Money Saving Mom and the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - Crest ProHealth
1 - Bayer Quick Release

-$1 Crest Prohealth Mfg coupon
-$1 Bayer Quick Release Mfg coupon, from in-store tear pad

Total $3.49, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Schick Quattro

-$4 Shick Quattro Mfg coupon

Total $4.99. Pay with $4 ECBs and $.99 OOP. Earn $4 ECBS.

Use the $4 ECBs to pick up something you need or hold them to start off next week.

Total of $4.48 OOP with $4 ECBs remaining.

(I actually think I would likely insert a third transaction between #1 and #2, as such:

Transaction 1.5
6 - Colgate Toothbrushes

-$6 6x$1 Colgate Toothbrush Mfg coupon

Total $5.98, pay with $4 ECBs and $1.98 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

Transaction #2 would then be zero OOP. Your total for the day would be $5.43 OOP with $4 ECBs to roll)

For more $5 Scenarios, check out CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Kraft Coupons

Coupons for Kraft's Delicious Summer Savings offer will be available for redemption beginning May 11, 2009. You must be a registered member of their community in order to get access to the coupons.

To get your coupons:
First, if you are not a registered member, register with Kraft Foods. Next, log in to Delicious Summer Savings. Then, select and print your coupons

According to the website FAQ, "each coupon will have a fixed limited supply and will not be replenished. Once consumers have printed all of the coupons, new coupons will not be added to this promotion. Consumers are encouraged to print coupons immediately as there are a limited number of coupons available." Similar to other coupons, they expire 1 month from print date and can be printed up to two times per computer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers. I'm going to enjoy my day.

Stamp Out Hunger

Just a reminder that today is the day for the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Simply place your non-perishable food items in a bag next to your mailbox. The postal carrier will collect it and the food is delivered to local food banks.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Free Chocolate!

If you know me, you know I am a huge chocoholic. I come by it naturally, my Father is a big fan of chocolate. I give him a tin full of chocolates every year at Christmas (this year was Bliss). So, needless to say, I was excited to learn that Mars is planning to give away free chocolate every Friday from now (May 8th) until September 25th. To get your coupon, you need to head over to Real Chocolate starting at 9 am ET on each Friday. Your coupon is good for one single serve chocolate (any M&M'S® Brand, MILKY WAY® Brand, SNICKERS® Brand, 3 MUSKETEERS® Brand, TWIX® Brand and DOVE® Brand product). The coupon will be mailed and take up to 6 weeks to arrive.

There is a limit of 250,000 coupons each Friday. You can only win one coupon each week, but each household is allowed to win up to 4 coupons over the course of the promotion. You can see the full terms and conditions here by clicking on Terms and Conditions.

Good luck!

Samples and Freebies

Huggies Pull Up Sample

Dove go fresh deoderant
Caress Evenly Gorgeous Bodywash sample
Purex Insider Sample
Coupon for Free Nature's Source Cleaners from #FitFam Twitter Party (although the post office nearly shredded the whole coupon, it will be interesting to see if I can even use the coupon

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lemon Chicken

I love a recipe that is simple to make, but provides a flavorful meal that tastes like it required more effort. Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. Since my husband does little cooking, unless we go out to eat for Mother's Day, I'm likely to be making my own food - so why not make something that is tasty and simple. It only uses two pans, one for the chicken and one for the rice or pasta, so clean-up is very easy.

I found this recipe a few months back. I adjusted it a little to our tastes. The first few times that I made it, I simply served it with rice on the side. Then recently, when I made it, my husband asked if we could have it over linguine. I figured I could easily modify it to serve with pasta. We only use about 1/2 - 2/3 a box of pasta for our family, so if you are making a full pound of pasta, you might need to increase the amount of sauce (and likely chicken).

Here are both versions of the recipe:

Lemon Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper
2 tbsp oil
1/2c chicken broth
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp butter

Flatten chicken slightly, so that it will cook evenly. Dust with flour and season with salt and pepper. Add to hot oil in a skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pan. To pan, add broth, garlic, lemon juice and butter. Cook for two minutes. Pour over chicken and serve with a side of rice.

Lemon Chicken with Linguine

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper
2 tbsp oil
1/2 c chicken broth
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c heavy cream
Linguine, prepare al dente

Flatten chicken slightly, so that it will cook evenly. Dust with flour and season with salt and pepper. Add to hot oil in a skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pan. To pan, add broth, garlic, lemon juice and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is fully melted. Whisk in the cream and simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve the chicken and sauce over the linguine.

For more Mother's Day recipes, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap Mother's Day Edition over at Life As Mom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joining In on the Fun

As a mom of young children, I have found that we frequently are heading to places like the zoo and the science center. The entrance fees aren't that high, but when you are paying admission for four multiple times, it does add up. For us, at the one local zoo and a nearby science center (we have a more local science center than we joined), the cost of admission for the four of us is $34 and $40, respectively. Recognizing that we visit these locations more than a couple of times per year, we researched memberships.

In visiting the website for the zoo and science center, we had frequently looked at the information about joining the zoo or science center. When it was just us and our son, it was harder to find the value in joining. Then, when my daughter came along, it became easier to justify joining.

For a family membership to the zoo, including one adult guest at each visit, is only $88 / year. Based on admission rates, if we go to the local zoo twice a year and bring one guest each time, we cover the cost of the membership and all future visits are money saving opportunities.

For a family membership to the science center, is $82 / year. At our science center, you can add one or two unnamed guests for $20 annually. If we do just the family membership, two visits is not quite enough to cover the annual fee, but if we add one unnamed guest and make two visits with one guest, we start to save money on the second visit.

A few years back, we had suggested family memberships to one of these venues as a family Christmas gift. None of our family took us up on the suggestion, but after realizing what a savings it could be for us, we joined on our own.

Not only do we get admission to the zoo and the science center, but there are other membership perks (how did the ad go "Membership has its privileges") - early sign up for special events, free or reduced admission to other exhibits and events, a free t-shirt, a discount at the gift shop and more. In addition to these offers at our local zoo and nearby science center, both are part of a larger network of zoos and museums that allow us free or reduced admission to locations across the country. One year, we used our zoo membership to visit four different zoos, including our local one. For the science center, we have visited three different locations with our membership. Last year, we got to go to a special Breakfast with Elmo at our nearby science center. My youngest, who loves Elmo, didn't care for an adult sized Elmo, but otherwise it was a great time and a memory we will always have.

For my family, a membership to the zoo and science center works and provides days of frugal fun.

For more tips and tricks on being frugal, check out the special Works for Me Wednesday Frugal Edition at We are THAT Family.

Also check out Frugal Fridays over at Life As Mom for even more frugal ideas.

Free Grilled Chicken from KFC

Until 9:59PM CDT today, you can head here to print a coupon for a free Grilled Chicken 2 piece Meal from KFC. The 2 piece meal includes the managers choice of two pieces of grilled chicken, 2 individual sides and a biscuit.

The coupon is good until 5/19, but not on Mother's Day (5/10).

KFC is clearly very excited about their new Grilled Chicken. There was the free piece deal a couple of weeks ago, the free piece coupon in Parade magazine a week ago and now a free 2pc meal. I know that with this offer, we likely will include KFC in the menu for next week. For the cost of beverages, we will be able to eat what I hope is a good meal. The nutritional data doesn't look too bad - the breast has the most calories per serving at 180 with 4g fat and the thigh has the most fat at 9g with 140 calories.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tried It Tuesday - True Lemon

My husband loves lemon in his water. I used to buy lemons, but it always seemed that at least part of them would go bad before we used them. He tried to get the impact of lemon using liquid lemon juice (I think he used too much) and was never satisfied with the flavor that resulted. Then, a couple of years ago, my mother-in-law introduced us to True Lemon. It is a very convenient, crystalline product that comes in single serve pouches. The pouches make them very portable. The product is 100% natural.

To me, one of the greatest feature of the product is that there are no natural or artificial sweeteners or preservatives. I have often been enticed by the flavored bottled water or the flavor options for at home water filters, but they all contain sweeteners, typically low/no calorie sweeteners. I want water with a touch of lemon, if I want lemonade, I will get lemonade.

The True Lemon Crystallized Lemon, added to a glass of ice water gives it a crisp, fresh taste. According to the package and website, it can also be used in cooking, but I haven't tried it.

I generally fill my cup with ice, sprinkle on the True Lemon and then fill with water. I find that this gives me a good dispersion of the product. We have had some issues with the packets clumping. To me, it wasn't a big deal as the product still dissolved in the water with a little effort, but it does make it harder to get out of the packet.

I will confess that I once tried to add some True Lime I had received as a sample to a can of Pepsi and it bubbled over everywhere. Now, I don't know, if like some examples I can't recall specifically from chemistry class, if I added the Pepsi to a cup that had the True Lime in it, would the result have been different? I didn't have a second True Lime packet to experiment with. I think it would be good though...just not sure it can be added without creating a mess.

We have been regular consumers of the product since we first tried it. We have a box at home. I keep a box at work. The touch of lemon flavor makes it easier to consume the target of 8-10 glasses of water.

Lately, though, it has been harder to find it at my local stores. (There was an issue a while back, where finding any lemon juice was a problem, so maybe the difficulty in locating was related?) I was glad to see that when I pulled up their web page to get the links for this post that they now offer consumer direct and shipping is only $2.95 on orders of $10 or more. Their prices seem to be better than Amazon, so I might just have to take them up on this offer.

Have you tried True Lemon? You can go here to request a free sample and there is a coupon for $1 off on the coupon widget on my sidebar.

Share your opinion in the comments or post a review of this or another product on your blog and share a link below. Please be sure to include a link back to this post on your review.

Monday, May 4, 2009

CVS Deals - 5/4

For a change of pace, I went to CVS early this week. I didn't set out too, but I actually made two stops today. Here is what I got:

Stop #1
3 - Kellogg's Frosted Flakes
2 - Gold Emblem Candies (had to get them to not "waste" $3 of my ECB I was using)

-$3 3x$1 Kellogg's Frosted Flakes IP here and here

Paid with $10 ECBs and $0 OOP. Earned $5 ECBs.

Stop #2
I had a meeting this evening, that was done before I got there. With my extra time, I decided to stop at the bank and since there is a CVS next door and it was early, I stopped by. I wanted to see if they had the clearance Adidas product that I had read about. They didn't have any sign marking it on clearance, but I remembered that it was the "Intense" variety that others had specified as being on clearance. This store didn't have a price scanner, so I had the cashier scan it and sure enough it was on clearance.

Transaction #1
1 - Adidas Intense Antiperspirant

Paid $1.34 OOP, earned $3 ECBs.

I walked out and then decided that since the limit was three and I could get two more with the ECB I had just earned, I would grab two more.

Transaction #2
2 - Adidas Intense Antiperspirant
2 - 3-pk Ferrero Rondnoir

Paid with $3 ECBs and $.24 OOP. Earned $6 ECBs.

As a note, my receipt does not say limit reached on the Adidas deal, so it might actually be more than a limit of 3.

I started the day with a $10 ECB, spent $1.58 OOP (saved $35.03, ~96% savings!) and now have $11 in ECBs. My net "cost" was only $.58, when you consider the increase in ECBs. Getting the two 3-pk Ferrero Rondnoir for $.58 would have been a steal to me, so all of the other stuff was like a "free" bonus.

For more deals, check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom and Shopping Superstars at The Thrifty Mama. For more CVS deals, check out CVS Superstars at the Centsible Sawyer.

Redbox free rental for Monday, May 4th. Use code BT73H9 at checkout. Expires at midnight CST tonight.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This week we did our shopping early. We had company for the weekend, so we headed out to get the ingredients for dinner and stuff to get all of us through the weekend on Friday night. Then, I stopped at Target on Saturday to the get the Special K deal and some snacks/beverages.

Last week, I didn't plan because we had been in Canada over the weekend. I never did get to the grocery store, having my husband stop in once to pick up milk while he was out. We ate a lot of "whatever you can find". It really is not a good thing. It brought me back to the days when I didn't menu plan. The horrible question by phone or e-mail to my husband mid-afternoon, what should we do for dinner? Neither of us ever having an idea or suggestion. The options we come up with, trying to eat what we have and not have to defrost anything, were something less than stellar in overall quality of the meal or variety. If nothing else the struggle last week reinforced the need to plan out the menu each week. We may not eat everything exactly as planned, but we do most of the time and it makes life a lot simpler.

At our house, the only meal we normally have together is dinner, so it is the focus for us.

Favorite local Mexican
Leftovers (Pizza)

Leftovers (Lasagna)

Pork Chops


Turkey Roast


Dinner with family

Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie.