Friday, July 31, 2009

CVS Deals - 7/31

I stopped by CVS today, in hopes of picking up one of those coupon booklets that I have read about. I was told by one pharmacy worker that the booklets weren't available until August 1st and that the coupons weren't good until August 2nd.

While at CVS, I checked out the clearance row.

1 - Jelly Belly Freezer Pops
2 - Super BlowPops

Total OOP $1.87. I love BlowPops, so that was a nice treat for me. The Jelly Belly Freezer Pops I was glad to get because they are only 35 calories per serving - which seems pretty reasonable to me for a treat for the kids.

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

Rock of Ages Original Cast Recording Winner!

Congratulations to Steph! You are the winner of the Rock of Ages Original Cast Recording Giveaway.

An e-mail has been sent to Steph.

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-08-01 01:09:15 UTC

Samples and Freebies

Quaker True Delights
Total Blueberry Pomegranate
Full Plate Diet advance copy
ob sample
Free bottle of Wisk HE - this one is not confirmed as of yet, but it does mention that free bottle offer is limited to one per street address. I've read that you leave a comment and they contact you to get address for mailing. I signed up last night, so it's not unreasonable that I haven't heard yet.

Nature's Source natural all-purpose cleaner from SC Johnson and Right@Home
Rice Krispies coupons from VocalPoint
Carefree Liners Carrying Case

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.

Even if you are reading this at 5 pm, I suggest you head over and give it a shot. I have found that there is still chocolate available at the end of the day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tyson Skillet Creations Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to carykhepburn and Laura, you two are the winners of the Tyson Skillet Creations Giveaway.

An e-mail has been sent to carykhepburn and Laura. They have 36 hours to respond or new winner(s) will be drawn.

Thank you to everyone who entered.

Here are your random numbers:

11 38
Timestamp: 2009-07-31 01:25:53 UTC

Crayola Creativity Pack Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, FireMom you are the winner of the Crayola Creativity Pack. I have sent an e-mail to FireMom for her contact information.

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-07-31 01:15:00 UTC

Not the winner? Don't worry, come back next week during the Crayola Creativitycastand enter to win another Crayola Creativity Pack. I will be giving one away each week for the next three weeks, for a total of four.

CVS Deals - 7/27

I headed to CVS on Monday in hopes of finding some of the free after ECB school deals. To my surprise, I got a mix of items and rainchecks. The best deal was that the card scanner spit out a $2 off Lady Speed Stick coupon, which just happens to be on sale this week for $1.99 - SCORE! - free deodorant and I hadn't planned to buy on arrival.

1 - Lady SpeedStick
2 - Composition Books
1 - Tot Stapler
2 - Herbal Essence Stylers

-$2 Lady SpeedStick CRT
-$2.99 BOGO Herbal Essence styler mfg coupon

Paid with $4 and $1.98 ECB (adjusted down to $1.95) and $.19 OOP. I earned $1, $1.98 and $.99 ECBs.

I noticed that the candy deal is good into August. Anyone know from experience, does the total reset weekly and/or does the included candy change? I think I might try to do this deal, at least once - just trying to strategize.

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

Christmas in July!

Where did this whole Christmas in July thing come from? This week at his summer program, my son's class made Christmas cookies, dressed in red and green and were visited by Santa Claus. Stores everywhere are hosting Christmas in July sales and Jessica at Life as Mom is hosting a Christmas themed Ultimate Recipe Swap.

From what I have read, it is often believed to be simply a retail established holiday - there aren't many shopping occasions in the summer, so retailers came up with the idea of Christmas in July to celebrate with special sales in the hopes of increased revenue. I have also read that it was attributed to a group of Irish tourists, who vacationing in Sydney and leaving behind the hot temperatures in their homeland, were overjoyed at the sight of snow. They convinced the hotel's owner to host a Yule fest, which was very well received and he decided to throw a Christmas party every July.

For me, Christmas is a time that is all about families. Growing up we would celebrate Christmas with Dad's family, Mom's family and our own family. Christmas with Dad's family floated, when I was a kid it would be held around Christmas, but as I got older and Grandma and Grandpa headed to Florida for the winter, it started to be held in the early part of December. Christmas with my Mom's family was always on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas was always Christmas morning. I can remember getting up around 3, so that I could be the first to see what Santa had brought. I would sneak out to the family room, scope out the gifts and head back to bed.

When it comes to Christmas, the other thing that marked the holiday was the food. Of course, there are always Christmas cookies and candies. And then, there are the family meals. Christmas morning at Mom and Dad's house was always (and still is) Breakfast Casserole (recipe here). Christmas with the family is done potluck style, with everyone bringing a dish to share. I love casseroles, but side dish casseroles just make too much to ever make them for just a meal at home, so I look forward to pot lucks and family dinners. Some of my favorites include Broccoli Rice Casserole and Potato Casserole.

Potato Casserole

1/2 c butter/margarine, melted
1 bag frozen hash browns
2 c cheddar cheese
1 diced onion
1 c sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use Cream of Onion, Celery or Chicken usually)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 c corn flake crumbs
1/3 c butter/margarine, melted

Put potatoes in a casserole and pour the melted 1/2c of butter over top. Combine other ingredients in a bowl and then stir into potatoes. Top with corn flake crumbs and 1/3c butter melted.

Bake 1 hour at 350.

For more Christmas in July recipes, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap Christmas Must-HavesEdition at Life as Mom.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Smooshie Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Ashleyphillips76, the winner of the Smooshie Giveaway.

I have sent an e-mail to get contact information.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-07-29 23:41:00 UTC

Giant Eagle Online Weekly Ad

Want to save $2 on your next purchase at Giant Eagle? Head over to Giant Eagle's site and enter your zip code to view your local weekly ad online. When you do, they will ask you to provide your email address and Giant Eagle Advantage card number, and you’ll get a $2 credit towards your next purchase of $2 or more!

It does take about 24 hours for the credit to show up on your card. I know that last time I watched a video and earned dollars off, when my husband went to the store the next day, it wasn't yet available. It did show up though and made for some nice bonus savings when I shopped.

Thanks, Saving In Akron!

Shoe Organizer

We are a family that removes our shoes when we enter the house. From my experience and what I have read, taking off your shoes minimizes the dirt and other stuff that you drag through your house from your shoes and helps reduce wear on carpeting. We always struggled with piles of shoes in our back hallway, as we are not fortunate enough to have a mud room in which to hide such things.

A while back, we invested in one shoe rack that we hung in our second coat closet. It was great, it allowed for me to organize my shoes because many of the shoes were mine. I work in an office where I wear slacks or skirts most days, so I have an assortment of shoes to match my different pants and skirts.

As the kids have gotten older, they seem to have more shoes - crocs, tennis shoes, dress shoes, flip flops. The piles in the hallway seemed to be growing, so we bought a second one.

Now, we can organize 20 pairs of shoes in the rack and there is room for a couple more pairs on the floor. My shoes are at the top of the two racks and the kids at the bottom. My husband typically only wears one of two pairs of shoes, so he usually has one out and one on the bottom of the closet.

Now, each person only has one pair of shoes out at a time. We simply put a pair away when we grab out a new pair. (Okay, they are kids, this doesn't always stay so neat, but it is easy to clean up!)

Having an organized way to store shoes, out of the way - that works for me!

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

Twisted Frosty

Play Twisted Frosty Twist and Win game for a chance to win $10,000 or other great prizes. If you don't win, you do still get a coupon for $1 off your next Twisted Frosty. Looks pretty good - I made mine with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough when I played the game.

It says you can play every day, but I'm guessing that you are limited to the number of $1 off coupons you can print. It is a bricks coupon, so my guess would be 2.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crayola Creativity Pack Giveaway

Tonight's Girl's Night Out Crayola Creativity Cast on Twitter has the theme of Affordable Fun 101. Be sure to join in on the party by going here to RSVP. The fun starts at 9pm Eastern. Be sure to use the hashtags #gno #crayola when you join in on the fun.

Then, come back here and enter to win the giveaway I am hosting, courtesy of Crayola and MyBlogSpark for one Crayola Creativity Pack.

The Crayola Creativity Pack includes the back-to-school list staples like 24-ct. Crayola Crayons, 10-ct, Crayola Markers and 12-ct. Colored Pencils and some of the new, innovative, affordable variations on these classics:
24-ct. Crayola Crayons, the quintessential back-to-school tool that kids love for their vibrant colors, and moms and teachers choose for superior quality and value

  • 10-ct. Crayola Markers, with an array of consistent, true colors to complete any task

  • 12-ct. Crayola Colored Pencils, which come pre-sharpened with thick, strong lead made to tackle touch projects and art activities

  • Crayola Pip-Squeaks Colored Pencils and Glitter Glue, which give children big color in a small size and are perfect for jazzing up art projects with bright, bold, shimmering colors

  • Crayola Window Crayons, to help let your little ones transform glass surfaces into instant decorations with bright colors that lay down smoothly, dry quickly, and wipe clean with a damp cloth

  • Tadoodles Washable Crayon Buddies, which are colorful little characters that hold a triangular-shaped crayon that twists up when the tip wears down - perfect for little hands!

  • Crayola Color Explosion Black Extreme Surprises, which comes complete with a stencil sheet and two Broad Tip Color Explosion clear ink markers that reveal a different surprise design as they´re colored on 18-page tablet

  • Crayola Color Switchers, which are dual-ended markers that allow kids to magically change the colors of their drawings with a swoosh of the "color switch" tip

How can you enter?

Leave me a comment sharing one tip you learned during Tuesday night's Crayola Creativitycast. Please include your Twitter user name.

Weren't able to participate on Tuesday night? Leave a comment sharing a tip for Affordable Fun for your first entry and plan to join in on the conversation next week.

For extra entries:
Leave a comment sharing what is your favorite Crayola product and why.
Follow me on Twitter, tweet about this giveaway using @ABusyMomofTwo and then come back and leave a comment.

This contest will remain open until July 30th at 7 pm. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I will contact the winner by e-mail and they will have 36 hours to respond with their contact information or a new winner will be drawn.


I really love fruit. The juicier the better. When I was pregnant, I craved fruit, couldn't get enough. (I have a theory on why women crave things like ice cream, milk shakes and fruit, in my case. I was constantly thirsty. If I had tried to drink another ounce of water, I think I would have gagged, but I could quench that thirst with a "wet" treat like fruit or milkshake or ice cream. So, my craving was a way to satisfy my thirst without having to drink more water than I already was.)

I don't remember eating much beyond the standard fruit set when I was a child - apples, oranges, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, canned fruits. As I got older, I wasn't always convinced that I liked some fruits, but I tried them and I discovered that I did.

One such fruit that I tried recently was the Pluot. A pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. They are so sweet and juicy. I don't feel like the skin is as bitter as you can find on some plums, but the flesh is a little bit sweeter than a plum. They seem to only be available for a limited window of time each season, but I grab them up when I see them and eat them almost daily during that time. I was surprised to see when I looked it up that there are over 25 varieties of pluots.

The first one I tried, a few years back, was called Dinosaur egg. There was something very intriguing about the name Dinosaur egg. It was named that because of the "dappled coloring" of the skin. The store that I was shopping at (that's really bad, I can't remember what store, because I'm not sure where I was living at the time) was doing a demo of the Dinosaur egg. I asked the woman doing the demo, what exactly was this Dinosaur egg. She explained that it was a cross between a plum and an apricot. I was a fan of plums, so I gave it a try and was hooked at once. I bought a few of them that day to take them home and try them again. Turns out that Dinosaur egg has become a registered trademark for a specific variety - the Dapple Dandy.

This week is my first week of this summer enjoying pluots. I was at the grocery on Sunday and hoping to pick up some more of the delicious plums that I had had the past two weeks. Unfortunately, the only plums that I saw were huge and overripe. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that at the top of the one produce cart was a basket of dapple skinned fruit and walked over to check them out. They seemed to be the perfect ripeness. Just starting to give and smelling delicious. I packed one for lunch yesterday and another today. Have you tried pluots? What did you think? Have you tried something else and want to share? Leave a comment or a link to your post.

On a similar subject, have you tried Grapples? They are Fuji or Gala apples that are somehow infused with Concord Grape flavoring. I am dying to try them, but feel they are cost prohibitive at $5 - $6 for a four pack. When I was in college, I would always make my own juice mix in the cafeteria, filling my cup with 1/2 grape and 1/2 apple juice. I loved that and I figure I probably would love Grapples, but am concerned about that type of investment for 4 pieces of fruit.

Museums on Us - Free Admission this weekend

Museums on Us is an event sponsored by Bank of America. On the first weekend of every month (Aug 1 - 2), your Bank of America card will get you free general admission at over more than 100 participating museums nationwide. You can go here for more details and to find a participating museum. The current promotion runs through January 2010.

You have to be a Bank of America customer and with over 100 participating museums, this is a great way to share some quality time with your family.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Honey Kix Prize Pack - Winner

Congratulations to Kimberly in NC. Kimberly was the winner of the Honey Kix Prize Pack.

Kimberly did not leave an e-mail, please send me an e-mail with your contact information. She has until Wednesday at 10 am to contact me to claim her prize or another winner will be drawn.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-07-27 23:47:38 UTC

Giveaways - Reminder

Don't forget to enter the giveaways going on now in celebration of my one year blogging anniversary:
Honey Kix Prize Pack ENDS TONIGHT!
Smooshie Kit ends 7/29
Tyson Skillet Creations ends 7/30
Rock of Ages Original Cast Recording ends 7/31

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I was able to get to the grocery store this week. I bought a lot of produce, as we have a number of meals that include fresh ingredients, this of course, drove my total up, but it is so worth it.

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.

Cajun Chicken Jambalaya

Pork Tenderloins

Sonora Chicken Pasta


Sloppy Joes

#54 / Burritos


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.

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

CVS Scenarios - week of 7/26

Once again this week, there are a number of school deals that are only available 3 days, throuh Tuesday. There are some other deals that if you are fortunate enough to have a $/$$ coupon from CVS, you could do even better on the overall transaction.

Transaction #1
3 - Kashi Cereal
2 - Aussie Stylers
2 - Neutrogena Cosmetics (BOGO - psa $3.50)
1 - Colgate Total Advanced TP
2 - Arm & Hammer Detergents

-$4.50 $1.50 x 3 Kashi IP (also here or here)
-$2.99 Aussie BOGO mfg coupon
-$3 Neutrogena Cosmetics mfg coupon
-$3 Neutrogena Cosmetics mfg coupon
-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon
-$2 $1 x 2 Arm & Hammer IP

Total $16.11. Earn $5, $1, $2, and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - CVS Tampons
2 - Composition Notebooks
2 - Pilot Easy Touch
1 - Sticky Notes
1 - Stapler
2 - Pencil Cases
2 - Pencil top erasers

Total $11.79. Pay with $10 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $1.79 OOP. Earn $1.89 and 5 x $1.98 ECBs.

Total OOP $17.90, with $11.79 in ECBs to roll. Net cost would be $6.11 for all of the above.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
2 - Composition Notebooks
2 - Pilot Easy Touch
1 - Sticky Notes

Total $4.95. Earn $1.98, $1.98 and $.99 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Pencil Cases
1 - Stapler
2 - Pencil Top Erasers

Total $4.95, pay with ECBs from Transaction #1 and earn $4.95 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Colgate Advanced
1 - CVS Tampons

-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $4.02. Pay with $1.98 and $1.98 in ECBs and $.06 OOP. Earn $2 and $1.89 ECBs.

Total OOP for the two transactions $5.01, with $3.89 in ECBs left to roll. For more $5 Scenarios, check out the CVS $5 Challenge. See some Newbie Deals at Saving Cents with Sense.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crayola Creativity

On our recent vacation to New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, we had a number of destinations. We spent on day at Sesame Place, one day at the beach and part of a day, on our drive home, at the Crayola Factory.

The kids had a great time at the Crayola Factory. They were able to learn about the history of the different Crayola Factory, but more importantly, they got the chance to explore and create with the different products. They checked out the Color Explosion, Color Wonder, crayons, water paints, modeling clay, glass markers, finger paints and more. We watched a live show, where they demonstrated how crayons are made, labeled and packed for the sample packs and how markers are made.

Everyone had a great time. We even posed for pictures with a giant red crayon and saw the World's Largest Crayon in the gift shop.

With back to school just around the corner, Crayola wants to help you get ready with tips and creative ideas to make the back to school season less stressful and more fun! Starting July 28 and every Tuesday night (9 pm Eastern) through the month of August, Crayola is sponsoring "Girls Night Out" on Twitter - the mommy social gathering featuring colorful and engaging discussions on all things back-to-school. Crayola has teamed up with, the creator of "Girls Night Out" (GNO), to bring you the "Crayola Creativitycast." The weekly Crayola Creativitycast will feature a new topic each week, like Affordable Fun 101 and Back to School Survival Guide, to help you better prepare your kids for the best back to school ever. Tweet the night away with other moms, Crayola creativity experts, and noted mommy bloggers, and get great ideas to help you prepare for the best back to school ever for your kids!

Here's how it works:

Every Sunday through Tuesday, you can RSVP for the party by clicking on the RSVP post on There, you can include your Twitter URL in the link list and see the list of others that plan to participat in the GNO party on Twitter. (In the event that Mr. Linky is not showing up in the RSVP post, please leave your Twitter URLs in the comments, this will allow everyone to know who is participating and follow them.)

Visit each Monday for more information and a custom Tweet Grid for that week´s event.

On Tuesday nights, starting at 9pm Eastern, tweet using the hashtag #gno and chat away.

GNO participants will have the chance to win great prizes.

In addition to the prizes that will be awarded during the weekly GNO party on Twitter, I will be hosting a weekly giveaway, following the Crayola GNO on Twitter, I will be giving one Crayola Creativity Pack each week for 4 weeks. That's 4 winners over the next month.

In the Creativity Pack you will find things like...
* 24 pack crayons
* 10 ct. crayola markers
* 12 ct. crayola colored pencils
* crayola pip - squeaks colored pencils and glitter glue
* Crayola window crayons
* Tadoodles washable crayon Buddies
* Crayola color explosion black surprises
* Crayola Color Switchers
All from

Come back here after the Crayola Creativitycast to enter the giveaway. The giveaways will follow the theme of the GNO discussions - check back here for more details.

Sound like fun??? Hope to see you Tuesday evening!

CVS Deals - 7/25

I had to make two trips to CVS to make my picture DVD. I went on Friday, but I had 200 pictures on my card, not realizing that 60 was the limit. I started to try to pare it down at the store, but realized that was not going to work real well. So, on Saturday morning, I headed back out with only 60 pictures on my disk. The process was easy and I like the result. We are watching it as I type, in fact. I was excited to find some different GE Nuts in snack size - double dipped chocolate peanuts and some mixed nuts. We have a great stockpile of Almonds and Cashews, so it was good to mix it up.

1 - Kodak Picture Movie DVD
2 - 24ct Caliber Pencils (raincheck)
2 - CVS School Glue (raincheck)
4 - GE Nuts, snack size

-$2 $2/2 GE Nuts CRT
-$2 $2/2 GE Nuts CRT

Paid with $15.85 in ECBs and $.79 OOP. Earned $15.99 in ECBs.

For more deals:
Super Savings Saturday
CVS Superstars

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rock of Ages Original Cast Recording

This week on the way to and from work each day, I have been listening to the Original Cast Recording for Rock of Ages. Now, normally, I would wait until I had actually seen a show to get the Original Cast Recording, but I was given the opportunity to check it out as part of One2One Network. Unlike many Broadway Shows, for this show, I knew all of the music before I ever listened to the CD. I knew all of the music for the show, because the soundtrack is full of songs that I grew up listening to. Whitesnake, Poison, Journey and more.

Now, I must start by saying, it is important to remember that this is an Original Cast Recording. These songs are not the full song, not sung by the original artist and some of the words are fit to the show. Many of the songs are constructions blending two songs together, starting with one song and moving into another. The songs are interjected with dialogue from the show. But, that is part of the draw. As you listen to the songs and the bits of dialogue, you get a glimpse of the story that the musical is telling. And, now that I have been listening (and singing along) to the CD, I am ready to go see the show. I want to know the full story of Drew and Sherrie and the rest of the crew and what happens to them. Unfortunately for me, I don't live near New York and the show doesn't appear to be on tour just yet, so I will have to wait to experience Rock of Ages live on stage.

I did the same things a few years ago. After hearing part of the cast from Jersey Boys singing on Good Morning America (or was it the Today Show), I had to hear more. So, I checked the CD out from the library. It was another one of those shows where I already knew all of the music and could sing along. Listening to the Original Cast Recording got me interested in seeing the show. Fortunately, that one soon was touring and when it finally came to Cleveland about a year ago, I was able to go and see it. And, now that I have, I enjoy listening to the CD even more. I expect the same to be true for this show when I finally get to see it.

You can go here to check out the making of Soundtrack video:

Cool info: New Line Records just hammered the in-store release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of five-time Tony Award nominated "ROCK OF AGES." For those of you not in the know, Rock of Ages is the new Broadway musical starring American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis. Set in 1987 in a legendary Sunset Strip rock club, a small-town girl meets a big-city dreamer and they fall in love to the greatest metal songs of the 80's. The musical is an arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Reo Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, Whitesnake and more.
Just Like Paradise / Nothin' But A Good Time
Sister Christian
We Built This City / Too Much Time On My Hands
I Wanna Rock
We're Not Gonna Take It
Heaven/More Than Words / To Be With You
Waiting For A Girl Like You
Wanted Dead Or Alive
I Want To Know What Love Is
Cum On Feel The Noize / We're Not Gonna Take It (Reprise)
Harden My Heart / Shadows Of The Night
Here I Go Again
The Final Countdown
Any Way You Want It / I Wanna Rock (Reprise)
High Enough
I Hate Myself For Loving You / Heat Of The Moment
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Can't Fight This Feeling
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Oh Sherrie
The Search Is Over
Don't Stop Believin

You can preview the soundtrack (and purhcase it) here.

You can win your own copy of Rock of Ages Original Cast Recording, courtesy of One2One Network. To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite Broadway Musical Soundtrack.

For additional entries:
- Blog about this giveaway. Be sure to come back and leave a link to your post in the comments.
- Follow me on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway using @ABusyMomofTwo. Leave a comment with a link to the Tweet. You can get one entry per day for tweeting.

This contest will remain open until July 31st at 7 pm. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I will contact the winner by e-mail and they will have 36 hours to respond with their contact information or a new winner will be drawn.

Don't forget to enter my other giveaways going on now in celebration of my one year blogging anniversary:
Honey Kix Prize Pack ends 7/27
Smooshie Kit ends 7/29
Tyson Skillet Creations ends 7/30

Samples and Freebies

Wow! It's Friday already. Not that I'm complaining!

Sure has been a slow week on the samples and freebies front. Until this morning, I hadn't requested anything, but I came upon two items this morning.

Gain with Febreeze freshness


As for my mailbox, it was slow too. I did recieve my coupon for a free pint of Starbucks Ice Cream though.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Giant Eagle Deals - 7/22

I headed off to the grocery store in need of just milk and bread (actually bread and buns), but as I looked at the ad, I decided I would head to a different store and pick up some deals that ended on Wednesday. So, I headed to Giant Eagle to pick up the following:

1 gallon milk
2 8ct Hamburger Buns
1 8ct Hot Dog Buns
1 Loaf Wonder Whole Grain White Bread
8 8oz Shredded Cheeses
4 boxes of cereal
1 Creamy Dijon Mustard
1 Taco Sauce
1 6ct Yoplait Kids Yogurt cups

After sales and coupons, I got all of this for $21.23. My savings was 51%. And to think, I only needed milk and bread.

Tyson Skillet Creations

I was recently given the opportunity to try the new meal kit from Tyson - Tyson Skillet Creations. "Tyson Foods has teamed up with Food Network host Robin Miller to offer their brand new Skillet Creations Meal Kits, which have 45 percent less sodium than their previous frozen meal kits and less sodium than many of their key frozen meal kit competition competitors."

I sent my husband to the store to choose the variety, he came home with Grilled Chicken Tuscanny and Penne. The description indicates penne and grilled chicken with cherry tomatoes, onions, fire roasted zucchini and red bell peppers in tomato sauce.

The preparation is rather easy. I took the bag direct from the freezer, dumped the contents into a pan over medium heat, placed the lid on the pan, and let it cook for 10 minutes, stirring once. When I dumped the bag, I could see the pasta, the chicken, the peppers and onions, the zucchini and the whole cherry tomatoes. What I didn't see was sauce - but it is in there somewhere, because when I opened the pan to stir it up there was a nice tomato sauce covering the pasta.

Overall, the meal was pretty tasty. The zucchini and red peppers are fire grilled which gives them both a nice flavor. The tomato sauce is a nice simple sauce, although my husband felt it could have been more flavorful. He adjusted that by adding some Tabasco sauce.

Each serving has 320 calories, 6g of total fat, 5 g of dietary fiber and 22g of protein. To me, for a dinner entree, this seems like a reasonable amount.

As to value, the Tyson Skillet Creations were priced at $5 at my store. Not a bad price for a meal kit that includes the protein. The Skillet Creations also come in Steak Stroganoff with Noodles, Asian Style Orange Chicken, Grilled Chicken Fajitas and Grilled Steak Fajitas. One thing that I do have to say that I like about all of the meals is that they really are a complete meal - they have the protein, the vegetable and the grain - a pasta or a tortilla - as part of the meal kit. I have seen meal kits that don't include the protein and those that don't include the pasta or the tortillas, so the fact that these are complete is great.

The biggest challenge I have with the Tyson Skillet Creations is a challenge I have with other frozen meal kits - they are only 2 servings. Out of fairness, the line is positioned "as a convenient way for busy couples to prepare high-quality meals at home without high sodium levels" (MediaPost Publications). I just want to express my interest in a convenient way for busy moms to prepare high-quality meals at home without high sodium levels. It only seems fair right? We had more time when we were a busy couple than we do now that we are a busy family. Right now, I am able to stretch this 2 servings package to feed my family as long as I add a side dish or a salad, because my kids are young and don't eat as much. I have to imagine though that when my kids are older, this would not be enough to feed the family, even with a salad and side dish. A busy mom needs options like this for a quick family meal - only 10 minutes of prep time allows me more time to play with the kids before and after dinner and the complete kit means no prepping or special ingredients to buy. I think that companies could offer a 4-serving bag (preferably with a price advantage to purchasing two 2-serving bags) that would be better suited for families.

In addition to trying the Tyson Skillet Creations, I also am able to extend to 2(two) of my lucky readers a chance to try the Tyson Skillet Creations for free.

To enter, leave a comment telling me which Tyson Skillet Creation you are most interested in trying.

For an additional entries:
- Blog about this giveaway. Be sure to come back and leave a link to your post in the comments.
- Follow me on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway using @ABusyMomofTwo. Leave a comment with a link to the Tweet. You can get one entry per day for tweeting.

This contest will remain open until July 30th at 7 pm. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I will contact the winner by e-mail and they will have 36 hours to respond with their contact information or a new winner will be drawn.

Not the winner and still want to try the meals for less? You can always use this $1 coupon to purchase or use this Try Me Free rebate.

Don't forget to enter my other giveaways going on now in celebration of my one year blogging anniversary:
Honey Kix Prize Pack ends 7/27
Smooshie Kit ends 7/29

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spinach Salad

I am a fan of salads. I remember as a kid that we would go to dinner at Ponderosa. I liked the steak, but I really looked forward to the salad bar. I always liked the combination of the flavors. I tended to use a sweet dressing like Catalina most of the time and a lot of cheese.

When it came to salads at home, I kept them simple - generally only having lettuce and dressing. Sometimes, I would add croutons or Parmesan cheese when I was having a Caesar dressing, but generally fairly boring.

Then, one summer picnic a friend brought over this Spinach Salad. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but something about the combination of flavors is irresistible to me. After enjoying the salad, I had to have the recipe for the dressing. Now, I make it at most of my picnics and parties. I always buy two bags of spinach and two tubs of feta - anticipating an enjoyable few days after my event eating the salad for lunch and with dinner.

Spinach Salad
2 bags of baby spinach
1 tub of feta cheese
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
crushed pecans or walnuts (can toast)

3/4 c sugar
1/3 c cider vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 onion, finely diced
1 c olive oil
1 1/2 T poppy seed

Okay, so the dressing doesn't all fit in those fancy cruets. I generally mix it in a bowl and then pour most into the cruet. The rest, I store in the refrigerator and add to the cruet later. I keep thinking, I should scale the dressing recipe, but I never do.

Now, for dessert, I really want to try this Chocolate Quesadilla posted over at Bake at 350 for WFMW.

For more salads, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap Salad's On over at Life As Mom.

CVS Deals - 7/21

I headed back to CVS on Tuesday because Monday I got a B3GO CRT for American Greetings Cards and as I was pulling out of the lot, I got a text from my husband to pick up a birthday card. While there, I got some Band Aids as part of the J&J/Band Aid deal.

Here's what I got:
4 - American Greetings B-day cards
3 - First Aid Kits
2 - Character Band aids
2 - Gold Emblem Nuts
2 - Caliber 6x4 Notebooks (they were out yesterday)

-$3 3x$1 J&J First Aid Mfg coupon
-$.50 Band Aid mfg coupon
-$.50 Band Aid mfg coupon
-$2 Gold Emblem Nuts CRT
-$.99 American Greetings B3GO CRT

Paid with $7.99, $4, and $1 ECBs and $.72 OOP. I earned $5 and $1.98 in ECBs. I got all of this for a net cost of $6.73 - not a bad deal.

For more deals, check out Super Savings Saturday.

CVS Deals - 7/20

I headed to CVS on Monday, figuring I would need to get a bunch of rain checks for the back to school deals. Turns out, I was in luck, they had some of the free after ECBs deals in stock. When I got to the store, I scanned my card and got a $1.50 on Speedstick CRT, making it a better than free deal for the Speedstick Pro.

Here is what I got:
2 - 1 Subject Caliber Notebooks (raincheck from last week)
1 - Skittle Crazy Core Movie box (clearance filler)
1 - Gold Emblem Gummy Bears (I'm a sucker for chewy candy)
1 - Duracell AA 4pk
2 - 150ct Notebook Paper (weren't these 200ct when I was a kid)
1 - CVS Pantiliners
2 - Papermate 10ct pens
2 - Speedstick Pro
2 - Gold Emblem Nuts

I paid with $7.99 and $5 ECBs and paid $.49 OOP. I earned $1, $1, $.89, $1, $4, $1.98 and $4 ECBs. Net cost was a profit of $.39. I am fairly pleased with the transaction.

For more deals, check out:
Super Savings Saturday
CVS Superstars

Blog Hop '09

Blog Hop '09 @ PENSIEVE ~ sidebar graphic

Since I'm not one of the lucky ones that will get to experience BlogHer, I am going to be participating in the Blog Hop '09 party.

To learn more about Blog Hop '09 and join in on the party this weekend, hop on over to

Lists, Lists, Lists

I love lists. I am definitely a list maker. I make lists of things to do at work and things to do at home. I make lists of what to pack for a vacation or weekend getaway. Together my husband and I have created a list of future house projects. I make lists of what to buy at the store and lists of what to have for dinner.

There is something so simple about the list and yet it is such a great organizational tool.

It also creates for me a sense of accomplishment as I cross things off of my list and then, progressively consolidate lists.

For more tips and tricks, check out Works for Me Wednesdays at We Are THAT Family.

Don't forget to enter my two giveaways:
Honey Kix Prize Pack ends 7/27
Smooshie Kit ends 7/29

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Smooshie Review and Giveaway

There have been some pretty crazy creatures hanging around my house lately!

I'm not alarmed though, my kids just have been playing with the Smooshie that I received to review through One 2 One Network.

If you are anything like I was when they first contacted me about reviewing a Smooshie, you are probably thinking - What exactly is a Smooshie? "Smooshies are a fun and easy way to release kids' creativity! Kids can create anything they can imagine - a friend, a monster, a dog, a robot or an alien from another planet." The bodies are soft and smooshy, really huggable. The center of the body and some well placed tabs, 6 in total, around the outside of the body can be used for attaching an assortment of parts. The parts attach with Velcro strips and include legs, arms, wings, antennae, eyes, hair, and mouths.

"Smooshie are the proud recipient of multiple toy awards and have been praised by parents for being a fun and educational toy for children". Over at the Westrim Crafts official Smooshie web page, you can submit your Smooshie picture and story at My Smooshie, you can download games and activities at Playtime and you can read the story of Smooshies, who once were known as Rockies. You can also find a complete collection of kits, bodies and parts.

For the most part, I am pretty satisfied with the toy. I like that the toy provides a creative outlet for the kids. My son has always been one to ask lots of what-if questions out of left field - to which, many of my answers are, that would be crazy. The Smooshie allows him to build the creature that has eyes for arms or whatever zany idea he has that day. The only issue that we had was that the one eye had the Velcro pull off of the back - this was easily corrected with a little bit of glue and has been intact since.

My kids have had a good time switching the parts around, as evidenced by the assortment of creatures we have seen lately. The Smooshie is cuddly and my daughter likes to carry the Smooshie around like a dolly. Overall, I would say my son, almost 6 years old, does more with creating new creatures and my daughter, 2 1/2 years old, does more playing with the built creature.

The Smooshie definitely allows the kids to be creative and build unique creatures, but it doesn't seem to be a toy that they gravitate to consistently. When we first received it, as with any new toy, the kids played with it a lot. Now, they will play with it for a while, creating and recreating different monsters or other creatures, but then will set him aside for a day or two. The most sure fire way to get them interested is to take him apart and leave the parts in a pile. Then, they notice and begin to build and rebuild new creatures again. I definitely think that the more body parts available, the more creative the kids can be with the creature and the more fun I think that they have.

Smooshies are currently available to purchase online at At there are 5 body shapes to choose from and an assortment of parts. In addition you can purchase kits and parts at these Jo-ann and Michaels stores. Smooshies kits are only $9.99 at retail and a set of additional parts is just $1.99.

As part of my product review, I was also given the opportunity to give one of my readers the chance to win their own Smooshie kit.

How can you enter? For the first entry, leave me a comment about who in your life would enjoy playing with a Smooshie.

For additional entries:
Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with a link to your post.
Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS and leave me a comment letting me know you subscribe.
Grab my button (on right sidebar) for your blog and leave me a comment with a link to your blog.
Follow me on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway using @ABusyMomofTwo. Leave a comment with a link to the Tweet. You can get one entry per day for tweeting.

This contest will remain open until July 29th at 7 pm. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I will contact the winner by e-mail and they will have 36 hours to respond with their contact information or a new winner will be drawn.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Honey Kix Giveaway

Thanks to My Blog Spark, I was recently given the opportunity to try new Honey Kix Cereal and share a Honey Kix Prize pack with one of my readers.

Honey Kix has all the goodness of Kix with the Great Taste of Honey! Honey Kix has 16 grams of whole grain to keep the kids (and you!) going in the morning and 3 g of fiber. Honey Kix also has no artificial flavors or preservatives.

I received my package from MyBlogSpark last week and had my husband pick up a box of the new Honey Kix when he was running errands. I was excited to try the new Honey Kix. Kix is one of those cereals that I have always enjoyed eating - I always find that they have a light, natural sweetness - and I thought that the honey would add an interesting flavor and sweetness to the classic cereal.

Saturday morning, the kids and I each had a bowl of Honey Kix for breakfast. I was pleased with the cereal. To me, the flavor of the honey is more noticeable when eating the cereal in milk than it is eating it dry. They taste very similar to regular Kix but are a bit sweeter. I definitely like that they are only 120 calories per serving with only 6g of sugar. Makes me feel good about serving it to my kids and not guilty about eating it myself. The kids asked for more, so I would say that they enjoy the cereal. In fact, it was the cereal of choice on Sunday morning for both.

To help with the launch of this new product, MyBlogSpark has generously offered a Honey Kix prize pack to giveaway to one of my readers. The Honey Kix prize pack includes a coupon for a free box of cereal, a honey jar, a cereal bowl, a handy container to take your cereal and milk on-the-go, and a large container with pour spout to keep and serve cereal at home.

How can you enter? For the first entry, leave me a comment about your morning routine and how new Honey Kix would fit in it.

For additional entries:
Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with a link to your post.
Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS and leave me a comment letting me know you subscribe.
Grab my button (on right sidebar) for your blog and leave me a comment with a link to your blog.
Follow me on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway using @ABusyMomofTwo. Leave a comment with a link to the Tweet.

This contest will remain open until July 27th at 7 pm. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I will contact the winner by e-mail and they will have 36 hours to respond with their contact information or a new winner will be drawn.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I didn't make it to the grocery this weekend. I had planned to go on Sunday, but my daughter insisted on joining the family for the autograph session at the Akron Aeros game - so I figured, shopping can wait.

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.

Spaghetti Warehouse

Grilled Chicken Tuscany and Penne (Tyson Skillet Creations)

Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Breakfast for Dinner


Hamburger and Hot Dogs on the grill

favorite local Mexican restaurant

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.

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

CVS Scenarios - week of 7/19

Once again there are a number of back to school deals to pick up at CVS.

Transaction #5
1 - Speedstick Pro
1 - CVS Pantyliners

-$1.50 Speedstick IP (not all zip codes have this coupon)

Total $2.39. Earn $2.89 in ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Memo book
1 - 24ct Pencils
1 - Papermate Pens

Total $4.97. Pay with $2.89 in ECBs from Transaction #1 and $2.08 OOP, earn $4.97 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - 24ct Pencils
1 - Papermate Pens
1 - Filler Paper

Total $4.98. Pay with $4.97 in ECBs from Transaction #2 and $.01 OOP. Earn $4.98 ECBs.

Transaction #4
1 - Filler Paper
1 - Binder

Total $5. Pay with $4.98 in ECBs from Transaction #3 and $.02 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

Transaction #5
1 - Binder
1 - Duracell 4ct AA batteries

-$1 Duracell mfg coupon

Total $4.99. Pay with $5 ECBs from Transaction #4, adjusted down to $4.99. Earn $4 ECBs.

Your total OOP for the series of transactions is $4.50 and you have $4 to roll. Or use your ECBs this week to pick up some other deals. It is important to note that many of these deals are only good through Tuesday, so make sure you shop early. So, the above, all though more scenarios than rules allow, is my CVS $5 Challenge Scenario as well.

If I can come up with the pictures to do it, I might do the Kodak Picture Movie DVD. I really liked the ones I did last year, but figuring out the pictures can be a lot of work.

For more scenarios and deals, check out the "Cent"sible Sawyer, Money Saving Mom, and Deal Seeking Mom. For more $5 Scenarios, check out the CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Discount Drug Mart deals - 7/18

Thanks to Saving In Akron for sharing this deal.

2 - Finish (Electrasol) Powerball Tabs
2 - Twix Bars

-$2.50 Finish Mfg coupon
-Free Real Chocolate coupon
-Free Real Chocolate coupon

$2.38 OOP. A savings of 78%.

For more deals, check out:
Shopping Superstars
Super Savings Mom
Drugstore Divas

CVS Deals - 7/18 - 97% savings!

Had a great day at CVS today. I went to pick up the photo book deal. While there, I scanned my card and I got a $10 / $50 coupon. I had my $4 / $20 coupon from e-mail, so I figured out how to use both and did really well.

Transaction #1
1 - 6x8 Photobook
2 - Purex 3-in-1 20 ct
2 - Caliper 5" Blunt Scissors
3 - Benefiber Sticks
3 - Caliper #2 Pencils 10ct (raincheck from last week's free after ECB deal)

-$10 $10/$50 CRT
-$7.50 Purex Free Mfg coupon
-$2 Benefiber Mfg coupon
-$2 Benefiber Mfg coupon
-$2 Benefiber Mfg coupon

Paid with $1, $2, $3, $4 and $10 ECBs and $4.83 OOP. Earned $10, $7.99 and $3 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - 6x8 Photobook
1 - Pampers Easy Up (raincheck from $8.99, get $5 ECBs)
1 - Dean's Strawberry Milk
2 - Gold Emblem Almonds Snack Size

-$4 $4/$20 e-mail coupon
-$1 Pampers Mfg coupon
-$2 $2/2 Gold Emblem Notes

Paid with $3 and $10 ECBs and $.22 OOP. Earned $7.99 and $5 ECBs.

Transaction #3 - #5
1 - 6x8 Photobook

Paid with $7.99 ECBs, earned $7.99 ECBs.

I spent a total of $5.05 OOP and saved $124.46 (97% savings). I started with $20 ECBs and now I have $20.98 in ECBs. My effective cost for everything was $4.07.

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

CVS - $.23 OOP

It was a small trip, I picked up a bunch of Rain Checks, a clearance Chef Boyardee Meal and 2 packs of Gold Emblem Almonds.

-$2 $2/2 Gold Emblem Nuts

Total $.23 OOP.

I do hope to go to the store tomorrow to get some photo books (I hear the limit is 5, not the 1 that was listed in the ad), some detergent and use a $4/$20 e-mail coupon.

For more deals, check out:

Super Savings Saturday
CVS Superstars
Shopping Superstars

Happy Anniversary - A Busy Mom of Two

It's been a year since I posted my first blog post. That really amazes me. It doesn't feel like a year. I have had a lot of fun this first year of blogging.

Being part of the blog world has been a great experience though. I have learned a lot about saving, and I thought I used to know a thing or two about it. Since I started into the blog world, I discovered out CVS. I had shopped there before and had a card forever but never understood ExtraBucks. Imagine my surprise when I did this post after spending $100 at CVS for just under $2000 in products, a 97% savings.

Being a rather analytical person, I am ever interested in how people find the blog. Thanks to Google Analytics, I have access to see what keywords or referring sites are bringing people to A Busy Mom of Two. Here are some of the top keywords (aside from Busy Mom of Two) that have brought people in and a link to the article:
Can (Canned) Goods Rack
Shaving Cream Alternative
(Silicone) (Cupcake) Baking Cups

The top recipe found by keywords was:
Cheeseburger Pasta

Of course, there were numerous searches for CVS Deals, CVS Scenarios, Frugal Deals, and more that helped readers find A Busy Mom of Two.

The top referring sites, based on my participation in the assorted weekly roundups:
Money Saving Mom (almost 2x any other site - Thanks, Crystal!)
The "Cent"sible Sawyer
Keeping the Kingdom First

In celebration of one year of blogging, I have lined up a few giveaways that I will post this week.

Honey Kix
Tyson Skillet Creations Meal Kit

I hope to share a few recipes and all of my regular posts as well.

Thanks for reading and here's to a great year #2!

Samples and Freebies

Triple Flex
Viva Papertowels
Splenda Hazelnut Sweetener
PureViasample and coupons
Vaseline aloe fresh
a free copy of Something Missing by Matthew Dicks as part of Random House Read it Forward Program. This is the first I have learned about it over at "Deal"icious Mom. It sounds like an interesting program.

Staples Rebates - $7.98 for paper; $11.98 giftcard for photo paper
Great Value Cereal Bar
Double Roll Scott Extra Soft Toilet Paper (not just a roll, a double roll!) and Scott Naturals Wipes and coupons

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Free Lasagne

Become a Fan of Spaghetti Warehouse on Facebook and they'll give you some free lasagne on National Lasagne Day, July 29, 2008 from 11 am - 3 pm.

To become a fan:
Go to
Click the "Become a Fan" button to go to their Facebook page.
At the top of their Facebook page, click the "Become a Fan" button.
They'll send you an e-coupon for a FREE serving of their Incredible 15-Layer Lasagne.
Then, visit Spaghetti Warehouse on National Lasagne Day, July 29 from 11 am to 3 pm.
Enjoy your free lasagne.

I don't work near enough to a Spaghetti Warehouse to take advantage of this deal mid-week, but hopefully you can.

Birthday Cake Roundup

Jessica over at Life As Mom is hosting another Birthday Cake Round-up. I haven't actually made a decorated birthday cake since the last round-up.

Last time, I featured pictures of the cakes that I had done over the past few years for our assorted themes:
Blue's Clues
Cars: Lightnin' McQueen

This year, our themes will be - Star Wars and Abby Cadabby. For Star Wars, I was thinking of doing a Light Saber, but not 100% yet on that execution. For Abby, I was debating taking the easy way out and using the Wilton cake pan. Any thoughts on how you would do a Star Wars or Abby cake? Please share!

Normally, I just prepare a standard cake mix or two. But, earlier this year, I had the opportunity to try a cake out of the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook and I think I might try using that to make my cake. I always use a standard Buttercream Frosting (perhaps it is a Wilton recipe? I got it from a friend). How do you make the cake for your decorated cakes? I always have heard that "real bakers" who use mixes doctor them to make them better for decorating and eating. Any secrets or suggestions?

For more cakes and ideas, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap - Cake Roundup Edition at Life As Mom.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Giveaway

"Deal"icious Mom is currently hosting a giveaway for Jennifer Weiner's new book Best Friends Forever.

All Those Samples and Freebies

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing some travel for work. Some of the travel has been by air. As you probably know, you are only allowed one quart sized zipped bag of liquid in carry-on luggage. Thanks to all of the companies that have provided samples to me over the past few months, I have an awesome collection of products, from facial moisturizer to shampoo to body wash, in convenient small packages that easily fit into a quart size zipped bag and allow plenty of room for things like contact solution. That works for me.

For more tips and tricks, check out Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What a Racket!

You may have noticed that I was missing over the last week, I was off enjoying a family vacation. It was great to spend some time with the family and do some new things. This year, we decided to focus our vacation around family and headed towards New Jersey, where my husband's family lives.

My daughter had never been to the beach and my son had only been to the beach of the Delaware Bay on a previous vacation, so one destination that was a must for me was the beach. In New Jersey, of course, it's not the beach, it's the Shore.

Having only lived in New Jersey for 7 short months (can it be that it really was 12 years ago already?), I guess I never fully understood the workings of the Shore. I knew that it thoroughly messed with my commute home from Philadelphia on Friday evenings and made North/South travel a challenge on Friday and Sunday. Many of my months in New Jersey were winter months, but I did make it to the beach (sorry, the Shore) a couple of times with friends while I lived there.

Tuesday was the day we selected for going to the Shore. We headed to Point Pleasant. When we got there, the first thing we encountered was parking - you had a few choices: park at a meter and return to feed it coins, park in a pay in advance for the day lot for $15 or more, park in a prepay lot at an hourly rate of $2. We went with the last option, which was cheaper than the pay for the day lots and less work than feeding a meter and conveniently located right across the street from access to the boardwalk.

The next encounter floored me...we got to the boardwalk and the beach access and - did you know that they charge people to go to the beach!!! Okay, I knew that it existed for private beaches, but I have in all of my years, I have never paid to access a beach. Sure, we rented condos and hotels and houses near the beach, which you can argue was my "fee" to access the beach, but to actually pay a fee to enter the beach? It was unfamiliar territory. The person that collected our money pointed out the bath house for this particular stretch of beach, located across the boardwalk. Okay, so at least we get access to the bath house, I thought.

We spent some time playing on the beach and jumping in the waves. The kids were a little intrepid of the waves at first, but with a little bit of time, they were jumping in the waves and loving it. At one point, my daughter was trying to race the waves and run away from them. We built some sand castles and buried our feet in the sand. The time quickly passed and we decided to call an end to the beach adventure and we headed up to the boardwalk. They had a great time playing on the beach.

My husband ran to take some stuff back to the car and get clothes for changing into. In the meantime, I decided to take my daughter to the bathroom. I had my shorts on my shoulder, as my swimsuit was wet. When I got to the bath house, the attendant told me I could go in to use the bathroom, but I needed to leave my clothes at the desk. Excuse me? Well, as it turns out, the bath house usage included in our beach admission was just the bathroom facilities, if you wanted to change (it's illegal to change in a public restroom in Point Pleasant - it was posted everywhere), there was another fee for the shower, which of course was per person.

Wow! I finally was starting to understand why my husband was never a lover of the beach...if I had to pay to park, pay to access the beach, pay to shower/change after the beach, I can see where he always thinks of the beach as a hassle.

We wound up changing in the car - which was quite an experience - before heading up to the boardwalk for lunch and some games. As we walked on the boardwalk, we quickly learned that we should have "shopped" around for beach access. Just a few feet from the beach we were on was another beach that was $1 / person cheaper and a little further down the way was one where both kids would have been free. Who would have thought that there would be that much variation in beach access.

Lunch wasn't bad. They offered the standard fare - slices of pizza, hot dogs, fries, and more. Prices weren't great - but I actually expected that. We timed our lunch well, as it rained the whole time that we were at lunch. After lunch, we hit the arcade. My son really took to Skee Ball. He was having a grand time and even managed to hit the bonus level and get the 100 ticket bonus twice. Unfortunately, unless you had played for hours and had 10's of thousands of tickets, the prizes were a little disappointing. We selected some plastic cups, some jibbitz for their shoes, and some color your own puzzles. Again, it was raining, so we stayed captive for a little while until the rain stopped. Then, it was a walk down the boardwalk to get some ice cream and head home from our day at the beach.

All in all, it was a fun day and the kids really enjoyed their beach and boardwalk experience. I love this picture we captured: Seeing the two of them holding hands watching the waves come in, makes me a little less bothered by all the crazy costs and challenges of our trip to the beach and glad we took them. I think next year we might have to head to a beach for vacation - maybe rent a house nearby.

Sesame Place

Last week we took our family on a summer vacation to New Jersey. In addition to our family, we have many friends in New Jersey, and many of them would talk about taking their kids to Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. With our kids at the prime “Sesame” ages of 2 and 5, it seemed like the perfect time to pay a visit to the home of Big Bird, Elmo and the Sesame Street gang!

As we were planning for the vacation, we mentioned to our daughter that we were going to go to Sesame Place and we’d get to see Elmo and the other Sesame Street characters. She started referring to our vacation as her Elmo-cation and was asking regularly, “When is our Elmo-cation?”

As we began to look into planning the visit to Sesame Place, the first thing that jumped out at me was the price of admission. The single-day price of $50.95 seemed high - especially for my 2-year old. Upon further reading, I did learn that the 2-day park ticket also was $50.95. The 2-day ticket can be used on any 2 days in the season; there is no limitation of using it on consecutive days, which makes it a nice option for those that live close enough to make the drive twice during the summer. With the 2-day pass, the admission seems much more reasonable at about $25 per day.

It actually wasn't until I was at the park, watching my daughter dance in the aisles during the shows that it dawned on me - the admission price is as much for the rides as for the shows. Seeing her dance reminded me of the videos you see of Sesame Street Live or The Wiggles Live, with all of the kids singing and dancing along. When Sesame Street or The Wiggles come to town, those prices are $15 - $35 and more per ticket. At Sesame Place, you can see three shows with your admission! To compliment the shows, there’s also the huge Rock Around The Block parade down Main Street. Suddenly, that $50 admission for one or two days was feeling like a really great deal!

Speaking of the shows - they were great. The first show that we experienced was Elmo's World Live! They did an amazing job of recreating the television show on the Sesame Place stage. It included audience participation, video presentations and even Mr. Noodle. My daughter was in total awe watching the show. She couldn’t believe that she was seeing Elmo right there in front of her. The next show we saw was Abby Cadabby's Treasure Hunt. Abby is admittedly my daughter's favorite character, with Elmo a close second. She was very excited to see Abby and every time she would go off stage, my daughter would ask with concern, "where's Abby?” After the awe of being on the "set" of Elmo's World, by the time we got to Abby's show, my daughter was really getting into the performance. She was standing on the bench, dancing along with the characters on stage, having a grand old time. By the time that we got to Big Bird's Beach Party, she was adventurous enough to walk up by the stage on her own and dance along. These shows are expertly performed and except for Elmo’s World Live!, they feature an ensemble cast of Sesame Street regulars. Abby’s Treasure Hunt also included Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Rosita, and Oscar. Big Bird’s Beach Party also included Ernie, Bert, Telly, Zoe, and Elmo. One of the best things about the shows is the performer participation. During the shows the Sesame Street gang makes visits to the audience, gives high fives and makes their way around the stage several times so everyone in attendance gets to see each character. No matter where you sit at these shows, you’ll have a great view of all the fun.

In addition to the shows and the parade, several Sesame Street characters make frequent appearances on Sesame Street (Main Street) for hugs, high fives, and of course, photos! Lines form quickly for on-the-street meet and greets with Bert & Ernie, Count Von Count, Zoe, and Cookie Monster. Bert & Ernie gather next to the 1-2-3 Steps in front of a black & white background. This makes for fantastic color-popping photos! As comfortable as my daughter was, dancing along at the shows, she was still not comfortable meeting the characters. We got one picture with Zoe, but only because I stood there and held my crying daughter. It was nice in that there are park photographers who take your picture, but they also allow time for you to take your own picture.

Now let’s get to the rides and other attractions! The park consists primarily of water rides, but there is also a carousel, roller coaster and some other dry rides/activities in Elmo's World. When we got to the park, my son asked what he could ride there, we told him that he could ride virtually all of the rides - there were a couple of water slides that he wasn't tall enough to ride, but all of the other rides he could ride, either on his own or accompanied by me or my husband. He thought that was pretty cool because at the amusement park that we normally go to, there are only sections of the park where he can ride the rides, as the others are geared toward adults. One nice thing was that on Ernie's Bed Bounce (an open air bounce house, if you will), they divided the line into two sections: ages 4 and under & ages 5 to 7. This made it easy for them to alternate between the age groups and make sure that the kids bouncing together were of similar size, which you know is a good thing if you have ever watched your toddler bouncing with a larger child.

The water rides are located throughout the park and includes a wave pool (with a maximum depth of 24"), a lazy river, an assortment of slides, and other water features. The new feature for this year was The Count's Splash Castle. Life jackets are provided for many water rides and are required for children of certain height on a ride-by-ride basis. The water rides were very enjoyable; however, after waiting in our first queue line, we understood clearly why Sesame Place recommends wearing water shoes! We were all wearing our Crocs, which we would leave in the shoe caddies provided at the entrance to each water ride. The problem is that many of the line queues were a pebbled concrete walkway which, especially when heated by the sun, was not very comfortable to walk on. Those wearing water shoes had no trouble with the hot, pebbled surface. But for those of us with bare feet, it was no picnic.

The park was nice & clean and everything was in good condition. As we were standing in line for one of the water rides, we were talking about the date listed on the raft next to a Sesame Place logo and began speculating about how old the park was. When we got home, we looked it up – Sesame Place opened back in 1980. The park is very well maintained and based on the condition of the park, I would never have guessed that it was nearly 30 years old. In addition to being in great shape, the park is Smoke Free, which, as a mom of young children is something that I really like.

With all of this playing, you will be sure to be hungry and thirsty. At Sesame Place, you are allowed to bring into the park a soft-sided cooler no bigger than 10 x 10 x 12. In addition, there are picnic groves near the parking areas, which make it easy to enjoy a picnic lunch. Cups of ice water were available at no charge at each of the concession locations where we asked. The food and drink prices seemed to be fairly reasonable compared to other theme parks. Of course, if you’re looking for the full Sesame Place experience, they also offer character dining. The buffets, available by reservation for breakfast, lunch and dinner, range from $15 - $17 for the kids and $17 - $22 for the adults. Breakfast is with either Cookie Monster or Elmo, and friends as available. Lunch and Dinner is with Big Bird and friends as available.

Since we only were able to visit for one day and we were so busy playing, aside from a picnic lunch we enjoyed at the park, we ran out of time to eat much else. We had planned to have dinner at the park, but the next thing we knew it was 7 pm and with only one hour left to play, we decided to wait and eat when we left so that we could get the most playing in.

Towards the end of the day, as we were walking towards attractions at the front of the park, my husband was asked to take a short survey pertaining to our park experience. He had many positive things to say, save for the pebbled concrete surface in the water ride area. It was great to see that the folks at Sesame Place value customer input as much as they do. That sort of customer service goes a long way and it really sets them apart from other theme parks.

I would say that my 2 year old daughter enjoyed the overall experience the most. She had a great time on all the rides, although early on it was clear that Snuffy’s Slides (the dry tube slides in the Elmo's World section) were her favorite and she definitely loved the shows. My nearly 6 year old son thought it was great that he could ride almost every ride and with time, he even worked up the courage to ride some of the water slides on his own. However, he was not overly interested in watching the shows or the parade. My husband and I had a lot of fun sharing the experience with our children and, having grown up watching Sesame Street, the nostalgia of Sesame Place really hit home.

My overall Sesame Place experience was wonderful. I really appreciated being at a park geared toward younger children, where my kids could enjoy almost every ride and attraction and were familiar with all of the characters. It was nice to be able to enjoy our day at a family-friendly, smoke free, and clean theme park. I definitely would plan a return visit and would recommend the park to friends and family.

I’d like to extend a very special thank you to the group at Sesame Place that provided me with the one-day tickets to the park. My family and I had a great time visiting Sesame Place as part of our Elmo-cation.

This blog entry has been brought to you today by the letter A and by the number 2. (My husband made me do it!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chocolate Sale!

As you probably know from reading my Blog, I am a bit of a chocolate lover. So, when I learned today (not new news, but new to me) that Hershey's Gifts is closing their catalog and web business and having a sale, I just had to share.

Head over to Hershey's Gifts where they are holding a customer appreciation sale with 25% off every item.

The orders must be placed by July 30th for delivery by August 14th. Shipping and handling applies and sale is limited to available stock. See the site for full terms.

Dropps Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, Cassidy! You are the winner of the Dropps Laundry Pac 3-month supply giveaway.

I have sent the winner an e-mail. If they don't respond in 24 hours, a new winner will be selected.

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-07-14 00:17:48 UTC

Menu Plan Monday

Having been away for most of last week, I actually did my menu planning and shopping on Friday, so this is a slightly extended version of Menu Plan Monday. My shopping consisted of a trip to Buehler's, where I got a great deal on sugar and ground turkey, and a couple of trips to Kmart (details here and here) to get some paper towels, toilet paper and a few other items.

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.

Frequently, my menu consists of many meals that don't require a recipe (typically quicker and easier), but this week there are a few recipes. I hope to get them posted and linked up soon, so check back.

dinner out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant

Chicken and Dumplins

Pampered Chef Party Tastings
Spaghetti & Meatballs (only I didn't realize I was out of Spaghetti, so this turned into Penne & Meatballs)


Homemade Pizza


Chicken Rustica

Honeyed Chicken Teriyaki and Fried Rice

Hamburgers/Hot Dogs

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.

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