Friday, December 31, 2010

Freebies and Samples


Purina One Cat Food Sample (dog also available)
EmergenC Blue

Emergen C planet sample
Peanut Butter Crunch Time Slim Fast bar sample

Thursday, December 30, 2010

CVS Deals - 12/29

I made a trip to CVS on Wednesday, unfortunately, I left my main packet of coupons sitting on my counter at home, so I had to go with a very modified plan. I hope to head back out yet this week to pick up the other deals that I had intended to do.

1 - Covergirl Simply Ageless Sculpting Blush
1 - ProGlide Power Razor
1 - Pez Christmas dispenser (for my shopping assistant and because I had bad math and thought I would need a filler)

-$12.99 Covergirl free mfg coupon
-$4 ProGlide mfg coupon

Paid with $6 ECB and $2.24 OOP ($.74 + $1.50 tax). Earned $4 ECBs.

I had planned to use the Covergirl coupon to take advantage of the ECB deal on the Naturlux/Lip Perfection, but was disappointed to learn that the foundation was $13.99. The Lip products were all $7.99. The offer was based on spend $15, so getting the foundation wouldn't make sense and I didn't really need two lip products.

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crab Cakes

As I mentioned the other day, we have a buffet of appetizers for dinner to celebrate New Year's Eve. Crab Cakes are always included as part of our New Year's Eve dinner, because they are a favorite of mine.

Now, of course, I make them throughout the year, but on New Year's I make them a little smaller, so they can quality as an appetizer.

I have always enjoyed crab cakes, but much like creme brulee, they always seemed like something that would be a challenge to make. It wasn't until I was on a cruise and they had a cooking demonstration that I realized how easy crab cakes could be to make.

It took me a few recipes to find one that was right for me. I prefer my crab cakes to be mostly crab and little filler. In the end, I took parts that I liked from a few recipes to get the one that worked for me. The sauce can be an important part of the dish, as well.

Crab Cakes

1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
2 c bread crumbs
16 oz fresh, cooked crab meat or canned crab meat, drained
6 tbsp finely chopped red bell pepper
6 tbsp finely chopped green bell pepper

Saute celery and onion in olive oil until tender. Cool slightly. Combine egg, mayonnaise, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder and ground red pepper in a mixing bowl. Add celery mixture, 1 c bread crumbs, crab meat and the chopped red and green peppers. Mix well. Shape into cakes. Dip in bread crumbs.

Cook crab cakes in oil in a large skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a pan and keep warm in the oven until all have been cooked.

Mustard Sauce

1 c mayonnaise
5 drops red pepper sauce
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
3 tbsp Dijon mustard

Mix together. Serve with crab cakes.

I like to make the mustard sauce ahead of time to let the flavors meld. I also, like to make a side of homemade cole slaw to serve with the crab cakes.

This post shared on the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life As Mom.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chex Party Mix Prize Pack Winner

And the winner is...


Congratulations to Sarah, who was selected as the winner of the Chex Party Mix Prize Pack. An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-12-29 03:28:32 UTC

Mamavation Monday

Can you believe that Christmas is already over? I am really enjoying my time at home with the kids. I guess that is why, once again my Mamavation Monday post is being done on Tuesday.

We have a very active week planned for this week. I'm not focusing on the P90X this week - it's supposed to be a recovery week, but I figure I will more than make up for it with our fun days.

We went roller skating yesterday. We were there for two hours - of course, with two inexperienced kids, I certainly didn't get a full two hours of active skating - so, I decided to count 60 minutes of activity. It was worth 12 PointsPlus value! Wow - that is some good exercise and a lot of fun. My daughter can't wait to go again. We are thinking of trying to go to some open skates on the weekend.

Later this week we are planning some sledding (walking up and down the hill is a good workout, especially in the snow!), some bouncing, and some bowling. All of which are worth Activity Points.

From an eating perspective, perhaps it hasn't been the best food I have been eating, but by watching portions, I actually managed to lose weight the week of Christmas. Granted, it was only 0.2#, but a loss is a loss and over Christmas makes it feel that much better.

I plan to stay active this week with the kids, monitor my portions and gear up for return to routine next week. I'm joining in on the P90X Challenge on Mamavation. I am going to start in Phase 3 and will just cycle through that over the next 90 days.

I took a peek at the Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion App for the IPad yesterday (it's a free app). It looks really neat. I hope to find time to play with it and share my experience with you.

This post shared at Mamavation Monday.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Weight Watchers Insider for the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program and have received complimentary online access to Weight Watchers, an IPad with the Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion App downloaded, a Flip Camera and other tools to help me on my weight loss journey, using Weight Watchers. 'People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1 - 2 pounds per week.'

Tried It Tuesday: Tyson Any'tizers QuesaDippers

When I was a little girl, we had a family tradition (or so it seemed to me) that every New Year's Eve, we would eat dinner at any fast food place that we wanted. My mom would gather up coupons and we would stop at a couple of restaurants. I'm not sure when it ended, but I know that at some point we no longer did this.

Now that I am married and we have kids, we have a tradition too. We have a dinner full of bite sized foods, or appetizers. I typically will make crab cakes, bagel bites, popcorn shrimp, and more. This way, everyone can have a bite of everything on the menu, without feeling over-stuffed. We started this when my son was young. We had invited over friends, including those with young children to help us celebrate the new year. I wanted the menu to be kid-friendly, so I went with bite size treats.

I like to mix it up with purchased and prepared appetizers. One new appetizer that I recently got to try is the Tyson Any'tizers QuesaDippers

    Tyson is introducing Any’tizers® QuesaDippers™ snacks in family-pleasing varieties, such as Taco Seasoned Chicken with Zesty Garden Salsa and Fajita Chicken with Cilantro Lime Salsa. These tasty snacks combine flour tortillas, flavorfully seasoned all-white chicken and delicious Monterey Jack cheese, and are packaged with delicious salsa dipping sauces.

We recently tried the Fajita Chicken with Cilantro Lime Salsa for dinner. We were having enchiladas, so it felt like a natural fit. The QuesaDippers were very easy to prepare. Simply preheat your oven and put them on a pan to bake. In just about 10 minutes, your QuesaDippers are ready to serve. Much quicker than assembling your own. The salsa comes packaged in two separate thaw and serve packets, so you can make only a portion of the QuesaDippers at the same time if you prefer.

I like that they were made with all-white chicken. The amount of chicken and cheese feels like the right balance, neither seems to be lost in the other. The package indicates that there are 8 servings of 2 pieces. As a side or an appetizers, 2 pieces is a good number. (For me, it was a nice treat and had a value of only 5 PointsPlus.)

My husband and I agreed that the variety we tried could have used some additional spice. That being said, the milder seasoning and salsa certainly makes them more family friendly, especially for those with younger children that are more adverse to spice. Also, the other variety, sounds like it could be spicier (the salsa is described as Zesty) and we will give that one a try too. The other option could be to simply serve a second salsa that is spicier to kick it up a bit.

We will probably include these as part of our New Year's Eve dinner menu.

After dinner, usually at 7 pm, we do a count down and let the kids toast in the New Year with a bottle of sparkling cider. We follow that with a dessert and by then, it is bedtime for the kids.

What are your New Year's Eve traditions?

No compensation was received for this post. I received two coupons so that I could try the New Tyson Any'tizers QuesaDippers for free and share our experience with my readers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

CVS Scenarios - week of 12/26

There seem to be quite a few deals this week at CVS. I'm thinking I might need to make a trip there this week to take advantage of a few of the deals. I'd like to have a $/$$ coupon - maybe they will surprise us with one by e-mail, Twitter or the magic coupon machine. I wasn't one of the lucky ones to get the BOGO photo book coupon from and Kodak that were available early last week, but if you were, that is a great deal.

Transaction #1
Tone Body Wash
Colgate Toothpaste

-$1 Tone IP
-$1 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $4.87 OOP. Earn $3 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Honest Teas
4 - Vitamin Water

-$.50 Honest Tea IP
-$.50 Honest Tea IP
-$1 BOGO Vitamin Water IP
-$1 BOGO Vitamin Water IP

Total $3, pay with $3 ECBs. Earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
2 - Pantene Shampoo/Conditioner

-$3.49 BOGO Pantene mfg coupon

Total $3.48 OOP, pay with $2 ECBs and $1.48 OOP (or add a filler and use another $2 ECBs). Earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction 34
1 - Proglide power

-$4 ProGlide mfg coupon

Total $5.99, pay with $4 ECBs and $1.99 OOP. Earn $4 ECBs.

Total OOP of $8.54, with $4 ECBs to roll for about $30 in product, a savings of about 75%.

I am not sure on the details here, but I also hope to take advantage of the Covergirl Lip Perfection/Naturlux foundation deal of spend $15, get $5 ECBs and possibly the Softsoap deal of spend $8 get $3 ECBs.

For more deals and scenarios, check out Money Saving Mom and Deal Seeking Mom.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
Tone Body Wash
Colgate Toothpaste

-$1 Tone IP
-$1 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $4.87 OOP. Earn $3 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Honest Teas
4 - Vitamin Water

-$.50 Honest Tea IP
-$.50 Honest Tea IP
-$1 BOGO Vitamin Water IP
-$1 BOGO Vitamin Water IP

Total $3, pay with $3 ECBs. Earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
2 - Pantene Shampoo/Conditioner
1 - Dawn Detergent

-$3.49 BOGO Pantene mfg coupon
-$.50 Dawn mfg coupon

Total $3.92 OOP, pay with $4 ECBs adjusted down. Earn $2 ECBs.

Total OOP of $4.87 with $2 ECBs to roll for about $21 in product, a savings of about 85%.

For more $5 Scenarios, check out the CVS $5 Challenge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

I hope your holiday is a great one.

I will be spending the day with my family and am looking forward to a quiet day at home.

Christmas Eve Deals

Surprisingly, there were people out today and despite the parking lots being jammed, shopping was easy and quick.

I started out at the local bakery. They were offering a special and I was able to get one dozen fresh donuts for only $5! Normally, it is $7.75 and I have a $1 discount, so I saved money on some yummy treats for tomorrow morning.

Then I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts. My husband prefers their Butternut Donuts. Unfortunately, they were completely out of donuts! Seriously! I was terribly surprised that they would have run out of donuts. Fortunately, I was able to get a free coffee with a coupon I had from the paper. Concerned that my husband might not like the donuts I had picked at the bakery, I picked up two muffins with a BOGO coupon.

My next stop was Kohl's. The parking lot was jammed, but I was able to get in and out in about 5 minutes. It helped that I was there for only one thing and it was for me. I picked up 3 of the Daisy Fuentes Seamless Camis. Have you tried one of these? They are awesome. I already owned a couple, but that wasn't enough for me. I like wearing them under my sweaters. I had a 20% off coupon, so I was able to get them for $25 total with tax.

Next, I headed to Hallmark. I had a coupon that I gotten on-line last month for $10 off of a $10 or more purchase. I picked up some Christmas Cards and two rolls of wrapping paper. The person in front of me was buying chocolate, so I felt obligated to treat myself to a dark chocolate marshmallow. All told, my purchase came to $3.30 with tax after my coupon. I also picked up an ornament that my mom couldn't find at her stores.

My last stop was at CVS. I had the 20% coupon from Facebook. I wasn't seeing anything in particular in their ad that I had to have this week, but I figured I should try to use my coupon. I wound up picking up three packs of Boost High Protein (I use this as a protein shake after working out) and three birthday cards. I used my 20% coupon to save $6. Then I had 3 $1.50 peelies for the Boost and a $2 on 3 cards coupon from I paid with $15 in ECBs and $2.57 OOP, I earned $6 ECBs for the Boost, which is on a monthly deal. Not the best trip, but my ECBs were expiring and any other time I would have spent an additional $6, so I will take it.

All told, I spent $38.36 OOP during my stops at these 5 stores. Not a bad deal for everything that I got.

Now, it is off to enjoy the holiday with my family.

Samples and Freebies

Ritz Crackerfuls

Purina One Smartblend Cat Food and Target coupon
Vaseline Intensive Rescue repairing moisture sample and coupon
Kashi Go Lean Crisp Toasted Berry Crumble sample and coupons (VocalPoint)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cheap Today and other bzzz..

I have had quite a few Bzz Campaigns lately through BzzAgent, unfortunately, life has been busy and I haven't had a chance to post to share many of them with you.

Recently, I have been doing a BzzCampaign for Have you checked out this website? It is an accumulation of deals available both online and in store. I used the information on this site to find a deal on a Christmas gift for my son. Many of the deals I have seen elsewhere, but it is nice to have them all featured in one location. For the most part, they seem to be very current deals. I haven't found any that when I tried to participate that it wasn't working. Again, I wouldn't say that I found many new things here, but it seems to be a good collection of available deals.

Another website that I have been doing a BzzCampaign for is The Factor Tree. This site is supposed to help your child learn math. The first time we tried it, my son kept getting tired of taking their "qualification" test that they use to place you in the right group. They have been receiving a lot of feedback on their Facebook page from the campaign and are using the feedback to improve the site. This might be an interesting one to check out. I think it might be a good tool for those that home school, as well as for others. I plan to explore the site further with my son, once we get through that initial test.

Seems that they are doing a lot of website BzzCampaigns around now, as I am also doing a BzzCampaign with Cell Phone Post Cards. You can sign up to try it for free. The premise is you take pictures on your cell phone and then turn them into postcards. I'm hoping to use it with some Christmas morning pictures, to send to out of town family that sent gifts as thank you notes. I'm not sure how it will work, but I hope to give it a try.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a BzzAgent and have learned about these websites through BzzCampaigns. Sharing on my blog counts as Bzz and makes me eligible for "stuff" and "status".

DIY - Gingerbread House

Last year, we got a Gingerbread House Kit as a gift in a gift exchange. It was the first time that we had decorated a Gingerbread House. The kids really enjoyed decorating it and enjoyed eating it. Unfortunately, to me, the Gingerbread was dry and too crisp.

Wanting to recreate the experience in a more edible fashion this year, I undertook a new adventure. I made my own!

I started with a boxed kit for Gingerbread. I followed the recipe for making the cut-out cookies on the box. I rolled out the dough and cut the sides and roof pieces at 4" x 6". Then, I cut two ends. I'm sure there is a fanciful mathematical name for the figure I cut, but it is not coming to me right now - it was a rectangle with a triangle on top. I cut the sides at 4" and the angles of the triangle at 4". The base was about 5", that was what it worked out to be.

I placed them on the cookie sheet and baked. I had extra dough, so I made a few Gingerbread Men to go with the house. I also cut out two rectangles for doors and a circle for a window.

After baking them and cooling them, I used a tub of frosting and assembled my house. I started by placing some frosting on the pan I was using to hold the bottom of the walls. I built the four sides first and let them sit for a while before adding my roof. I "mortared" the corners on the inside to make them stronger. I added the roof pieces and let the Gingerbread House rest overnight uncovered so that the frosting could dry.
Then, today, I pulled out the candy that I had gotten near free on recent deals at the drugstores and gave them to the kids with some more frosting. The kids decorated the house and had a great time. They thought it was cool that they also had Gingerbread Men to decorate and eat as well.
We each had a decorated Gingerbread Man for a dessert this evening and they were good - not like the kit last year, they were so flavorful and not dry or overly crisp.

Those kits like we made last year, seem to retail around $10. By making our Gingerbread House on our own, we were able to have a better experience (there were Gingerbread Men! and they were more edible in my opinion) and at less of a cost (a couple of bucks for the mix and frosting and near free candy for accents).

This post shared at Frugal Friday.

Chex Party Mix - a giveaway

Last month, there was a deal on Chex cereals at my local store. On a whim, I picked up a box of Cinnamon Chex and a box of Chocolate Chex. I had never tried them before, but recently have found myself enjoying cereals that were cinnamon and chocolate flavors. I must say that I am hooked. They are both really delicious. When I was enjoying a box of the Cinnamon Chex (or was it the Chocolate?), I noticed a recipe on the back of the box for Snickerdoodle Chex Mix, which used both the Cinnamon and the Chocolate Chex Mix. How could I go wrong?

As the holiday season approaches, I find myself with many carry-ins, parties, guests and such. When I am busy, it is nice to have a familiar snack to share. But, familiar can get boring, which is why I like to mix it up. Chex Party Mix is one of the more familiar snacks that are shared at parties. Everyone is familiar with the original, but there are so many variations on Chex Party Mix - both sweet and savory. You can check them out here.

When I went to a Christmas party for my local women's club a few weeks ago, I decided this was the perfect chance to try out the Snickerdoodle Chex Mix. It was a hit. I was glad I made it to share - I was addicted. I kept going back for more. If I had made this for home, I would have been able to eat a lot more. Thankfully, not only was I addicted, so were many others at the party.

I substituted puffcorn (hulless popcorn) for the popcorn in the recipe, but otherwise followed the recipe. (You can find it here.) One woman commented on how the puffcorn reminded her of the Cinnamon Twists that you can get at a certain fast food chain. I think she was right!

Courtesy of My Blog Spark and Chex, I have the opportunity to give one A Busy Mom of Two a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack which includes 1 box of Rice Chex, a measuring cup set and a Chex® Party Mix tote bag.

To enter: Leave a comment sharing which Chex Party Mix recipe you would like to try.

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry)

Follow A Busy Mom of Two on Twitter.

Tweet about this giveaway. This can be done once daily, please be sure to leave a link to the tweet in your comment. You can use this if you would like: Enter to win a Chex Party Mix prize pack hosted by @ABusyMomofTwo. Ends 12/28. #myblogspark #giveaway

Post about this giveaway on your blog and leave a comment with a link to your post.

Sign up to receive daily updates. Leave a comment letting me know you subscribe (or that you already do).

Giveaway will remain open until December 28th at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winner will be selected using random number generator. The winner will be contacted by e-mail (Please make sure that your email address is either in your comment or clearly visible on your profile or blog) and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be selected.

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. MyBlogSpark and Chex provided one Chex Party Mix prize pack for me and one for the giveaway.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mamavation Monday

Yes, I know it is Tuesday, but I am on my own schedule this week. Speaking of which, it is hard to get the motivation to get up early to work out when I don't have to get up to go to work. The flip side of that is it can be a challenge to work out with the kids up. They generally do a good job entertaining themselves, so why is that as soon as I start to exercise (or get on the phone) they suddenly have a hundred questions, can't agree on a show, can't agree on the rules of the game or respect the other's personal space. I have been getting up, with some sleeping in, and I have been exercising this week - so I am proud of that. I must say that doing Ab Ripper X in the morning, immediately following my strength training is a challenge. I'm tired after the strength training and barely have the strength to muster my way through the workout. I also have decided I have been "cheating", when I do Ab Ripper X in the evening, I'm not wearing shoes and I don't think to put them on. The added weight on the feet is definitely a different workout experience. I think I am still getting the benefit, even without the shoes, but I never would have guessed how much harder it makes it.

I was doing really good at tracking my PointsPlus values last week, right up until I wasn't. It was a busy week at work with carry-in day and the company Christmas luncheon. That was followed by a weekend with family, which wound up including 3 meals out and dessert and treats and wine and lots of pop. I'm not normally a big pop drinker and I guess that I consumed it at all three eating out occasions. I also indulged in a glass of Eggnog, no alcohol. Love the stuff, rarely consume it.

The good news is that I didn't let it set me back and even as I stood in line at Wendy's on Sunday night, I looked at the nutritional chart hanging on the wall, looking for the item that minimized fats and carbs and maximized fiber and protein. I miss my slide for figuring Points on the run, but I guess with four metrics, it would be a challenging slide to configure and use for PointsPlus. Some would say that I could have used my mobile phone and accessed the Weight Watchers Mobile site, but I didn't.

Speaking of technology and tools, I'm really excited about the upcoming release of Kitchen Companion I-Pad App from Weight Watchers. It is due out soon and will allow you to access new recipes and to modify your recipes to be healthier. It is supposed to provide you ideas on what to cook and how to cook it as well. "It's the ultimate interactive healthy cooking tool". It will include featured recipes and videos on cooking techniques. Plus, if you are a subscriber to the online tools, you would have access to thousands of Weight Watchers recipes and can also use the Recipe Builder tool to create and edit recipes.

I attended my regular Weight Watchers meeting this week for the first time in a long time. My husband's class schedule had me busy during my regular meeting and sports had me too busy to find an alternate time. I have no problem with completing the program online, but was reminded of how great it is to have a support network and others to talk to about my experiences and theirs. I liked the quote that they had displayed, I don't know exactly what it was, but it was something to the effect that we didn't get where we are by eating too many bananas. It, of course, refers to the fact that fresh fruit is all 0 PointsPlus value. For me, I think this is one of the things that I like best. I enjoy fruit and I feel more free to include it as part of my routine again. Not that I was avoiding it before, but now it is less stressful to include - I don't need to measure it and I know it will fill me.

As for this week, my target is to continue to be vigilant about not only making healthy decisions in my eating, but also to track it. I hope to continue to meet my morning exercise goal (especially after having read this article about the benefits of exercising before breakfast). But, I also plan to play with my kids. We are planning some ice skating, roller skating, bouncing and bowling over the time that we have off from work and school.

This post shared at Mamavation Monday.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Weight Watchers Insider and will be receiving tools from Weight Watchers to help me in my journey using the new Points Plus program. 'People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1 - 2 pounds per week.'

Menu Plan Monday

Since, it clearly is Tuesday, I'm a little behind schedule this week. That's okay, it is the first of two consecutive weeks off at my house. We are loving it. In general, the menu is a little looser this week. I don't have to be able to take something out ahead of time, I can be more spur of the moment on what we have...but here is a look at what I think we will have (I have an edge with Sunday and Monday already done!)

breakfast casserole
Cassano's pizza (love it)
Wendy's (we were driving)

Spaghetti with meat sauce

canned pasta/leftovers
Italian Pot Roast and rice


lunch out with friends

dinner out/carry out

cinnamon coffee cake
Turkey (mid-day sort of meal)

We are all home this week, so lunch will be a combination of sandwiches, leftovers and whatever we find in the pantry/fridge.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brown Sugar & Spice Cutouts

As I mentioned yesterday, there is one Christmas Cookie that I make each year, because I love them - Brown Sugar & Spice Cutouts. I'm not really sure where I found this recipe, but I know I tried it because I like spice cookies (generally molasses based, but this one is not).

As requested, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar & Spice Cutouts
1 c light brown sugar
1/2c butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Gradually add to the sugar mixture.

On a well floured surface, roll out half of the dough at a time to 1/8" thickness. Cut into shapes with floured cookie cutters. Bake on prepared cookie sheets, 12-15 minutes.


Some thoughts...I just noticed that the recipe says grease cookie sheets, but I'm not sure that I have ever greased the cookie sheets when I make these cookies. I tend to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, probably because my regular cut out dough is supposed to be refrigerated. I always add maple extract to my favorite frosting when decorating these cookies. (my frosting is a butter/powdered sugar frosting) I tend to use a smaller cookie cutter for these than for my regular cut out cookies.

This post shared at the Ultimate Recipe Swap, Holiday Foods you Love edition.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Goodies!

I love to bake. Unfortunately, I love to eat what I bake too. The one time that I seem to be able to bake and not eat it all is Christmas. Why?, you ask? Well, because at Christmas, I bake to give it away. Most of my Christmas cookies and candies I make for others, there is one variety that I truly make for myself and don't give as many away. I'm not sure it is any healthier for me than the others, but it is a favorite of mine and it's the only time of the year that I have it. The funny thing, at least to me, is that many of the cookies that I make at Christmas time, I don't make any other time of the year. The thing is, aside from the cookie cutter shapes that I select, nothing makes them Christmas specific cookies and candies.

Here is what I made this year:

Christmas Cut Out Cookies
Brown Sugar and Spice Cut Out Cookies (mine!)
Lemon Squares
7 Layer Bars
Brutzel Bars
Mint Chocolate Cookies (think Thin Mint)
Sea Salt Caramels, chocolate dipped
Butter Caramels, both wrapped and chocolate dipped
Cookie Dough Truffles
Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies

The plate pictured above is what I am taking to work to share with everyone. I also made up containers of cookies for my son's two teachers last night and will make up plates for my daughter's teachers later this week. Many of these cookies are classics from my childhood, but others are ones that I made for the first time this year. I always bring cookies to share when we go to Christmas at my parent's house. In the end, I am usually left with just a few cookies to share when we have company and for the kids to enjoy as snacks over the holidays.

Baking cookies and making candies to share with others at the holidays, Works For Me!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mamavation Monday

It was a good week. I completed the first week of P90X Phase 2. I completed my second week on the new Weight Watchers Points Plus.

I must confess, I have a bad habit of weighing myself daily. I know that they say that you shouldn't do it, but I like the feedback that is provided by weighing daily. What it told me this week is that I lost a pound. You may wonder why I say it that way - well, you see on Sunday night, we went out to dinner after my son's Christmas show. When I save weekly Points Plus for a special occasion or a meal out, I find that I generally experience a short term gain that after a day or so, drops away. So, when I weighed in this morning, I was flat to last week, but based on my earlier weigh in, I know that I actually lost weight this week.

I think that for me, some of the things that have been a challenge to me the most with the new Points Plus, likely are the same things that are helping me out. For instance, the fact that many of the cereals in my pantry have a Points Plus value of 3, where as on the old system there was one that I ate that was 1 Point and the others were 2 or 3 Points. With the enhancements that were made to the program, where now the Points Plus values are based more so on where the calories come from, not just the calories, I think it's helping me make better choices. Really, when you think about your average cereals (to stick with my example), I think it makes sense that they would be similar in Points values.

I miss having the short cut "equation" that I had been using for a while to estimate Points based on the calories and fat. I need to better understand the interaction of all the different components that are used to determine the new Points Plus values, so that I can make better decisions when I don't have easy access to look up the values. Part of this understanding will of course come with time and experience, as I learn new things each week in the new program.

On the exercise front, I did well doing my P90X workouts in the morning, but life has been extra busy in the evenings and I had a little more of a challenge sticking to my Ab Ripper/Walking routine in the evenings. I hope to reinstate that this week. I'm a little worried about the two weeks of vacation that I have over the holidays and hope that I have the will-power to get up and workout daily. I know I could shift it and do it later in the morning, since I am home, but the kids might not like it.

I've also learned that walking 10000 steps is a lot harder when I am busy at work and the weather at lunch time is not conducive to walking. I might have to figure out a way to make a more concerted effort to walk in circles again, taking the long way around, to make sure that I get to my target of 10000 steps.

This post shared at Mamavation Monday.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Weight Watchers Insider and will be receiving tools from Weight Watchers to help me in my journey using the new Points Plus program. 'People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1 - 2 pounds per week.'

Menu Plan Monday

We had a nice weekend this weekend. It was a relatively quiet weekend. I spent Saturday running some errands and picking up some presents. I picked up some more free turkey and a few other items at Kmart on Saturday, but otherwise didn't really shop this weekend. Sunday afternoon we had my son's Christmas play for school and we followed that up with a family dinner out for Mexican.

Last week's theme was use up things in the pantry. I think we had four box meals last week - it was good. The boxed meals all seemed to give us about 6 servings, which meant it could feed us and leave us with some leftovers. This is one advantage of the box meals over the frozen meals. Of course, box meals require you to add the protein, but that was easy enough. I definitely appreciated how quickly our meals came together. This week the goal is to use up stuff from the freezer. I find keeping up on rotation in the freezer to be a bit of a challenge for me. As I shop, I add it to the top, slowly burying everything else. I've got to find a way to better organize and keep things moving in the right rotation. The turkey I bought on Saturday, I left in their grocery bags, I figure that will help me use the other, older stuff first. The good news is I know beyond a doubt that nothing could be more than 11 months old, as we emptied and defrosted the deep freeze last January.

Turkey is a part of the menu a few times this week - the meatballs on Tuesday and in the chili on Wednesday.

dinner out at the local Mexican restaurant

Chicken Gravy over Biscuits

Pasta with Meatballs



Homemade Pizza

Skyline Chili

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SeeHere - 60% off Site Wide

I wanted to quickly share a deal with you that I just took advantage of. I got an e-mail earlier today from SeeHere sharing this offer. It invited me to share it with friends, so here goes:

SeeHere is currently offering a 60% discount, site wide. To take advantage, enter the promo code thankyou at checkout.

Many of their photo gifts currently have free overnight shipping available (through 12/12), so this might be a great chance to pick up some personalized gifts at a great price.

Myself, I made a puzzle for the kids. I went with the 7 x 10 puzzle. I took pictures from our Niagara Falls vacation last spring to make the puzzle. I was able to do a photo collage - making a picture with the Falls fill the full puzzle and then adding three other small photo insets. I also added text to the puzzle, to identify the location/year. I can't wait to get it. I've always wanted to do a photo puzzle like this. The puzzle, after discount, was only $5.20 (plus tax). Unfortunately, I'm not sure it will arrive before Christmas, but that was because I didn't look into the processing/shipping time until after my order was complete (you can check it out here). If I had looked sooner, I could have chosen alternate shipping to ensure delivery.

Of course, there is some fine print, only one code per order, tax and shipping not included, etc. If you want full details, it is best to reach out to the company.

Kmart Deals

Currently, Kmart is offering a 10% discount on all food, health and beauty purchases to their Rewards members. I have been working on cleaning out the freezer, so since I was going to pass by my nearest Super K as I was out running errands today, I decided to stop by and pick some things up.

3 - Nestle Morsels
1 - Bisquick Mix
1 - Morton Sea Salt
2 - loaves Bread
1 - Arizona Tea, drink sticks (for my husband to try)
3 - bananas
1 - Peach Rings, bulk candy
1/2# - Turkey, luncheon meat
16 - packages of Jennie-O Turkey - ground, sausage, Easy Meals
3 - Whipping Cream
1 - Better'n Eggs
1 - Beau Monde seasoning
3 - packages Chicken Patties
1 - 20 oz Coke
1 - loaf Bread

-$8.80 10% Rewards discount
-$1.25 $1.25/3 Nestle chips coupon
-$.50 Bisquick mfg coupon
-$51 17x$3 Jennie-O mfg coupon (free turkey!)

Total $26.50 OOP. Not bad for enough meat to provide the protein at about 30 meals, plus some stuff I needed for baking. The third loaf of bread and the Coke were actually in a second transaction, I got register coupons for both free! If I had known I would get free bread, I wouldn't have bought two at the beginning, but since the store is about 45 minutes away, I figured I should redeem it while I was there.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Toy Story Action Links

A while back, I had the opportunity to host an in-home party featuring the Toy Story Action Links. We had some friends over for the evening and while the adults all hung out and played games and visited, the kids spent their evening in the family room playing with the action links.

The toys are each set up to have a "trigger" that when activated, sets off the action of that toy. When linked together, the action of one piece serves to activate the trigger of the next piece. We had a number of units and we set them up in series. The kids had a lot of fun rearranging the sequence of the action units and seeing how they still worked in series. They tried to link them up in a circle, but they couldn't stay ahead of the action and it didn't keep going - like I think that they wanted it to do.

As part of each unit, one or more Toy Story figures were used. We had Woody, Buzz, Jessie, the aliens, Lotso, and more. My daughter is a huge a Toy Story fan and plays with the figures outside of playing with the Action Links.

No compensation was received for this post. As part of the MomSelect HomeParty, I received a kit that included a number of Action Links toys. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Samples and Freebies

It's been a bit of a slow week. I didn't request anything until Thursday, after my bedtime!

Natural Dynamix Gummie Cuties
Purina One Smart Blend Formulas
Slimfast Peanut Butter Crunch Snack Bar (Sam's Club members)
Solgar Whey To Go® Protein Powder

The post office must be busy with cards, they only brought me one sample/freebie this week.

Kashi Go Lean Crisp with coupons

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crazy Forts! Giveaway Winner

and the winner is...Laura! Congratulations, you are the winner of the Crazy Forts giveaway hosted by A Busy Mom of Two.

An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-12-10 03:03:07 UTC

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giveaway Winners...

I have two giveaways that I need to draw and here goes.

Congratulations to 2kidsand8cats. She was selected as the winner of the Hexbug Nano bugs giveaway.

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-12-09 03:13:03 UTC

Congratulations to Stacey M, she was selected as the winner of the Klean Kanteen giveaway.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-12-09 03:14:09 UTC

Both winners will be sent an e-mail. Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out the other giveaways going on now on A Busy Mom of Two.

Mamvation Monday

Wow! Where does the time go? How can it be that it is Wednesday and I am just now writing my Monday post?

Either way - last week was a great week! I had a lot of activities that lead me to some extra eating - it can be challenging to figure out how to tally up when you eat out or when you have a potluck type gathering, but I was able to stay within my Points Plus allowance, based on my estimates. I try my best to stick to easy foods, foods that I can track easily. As an example, I had a lot of steamed asparagus with a wasabi dip (the dip, a little difficult to figure out - should have asked for the recipe, it was good) at the potluck gathering. Not knowing what it was, I counted it all as if it were mayonnaise. I was pretty sure that was the base, and couldn't imagine that any other ingredients would make it worth more points. Dinner out can be hard too! Trying to build a meal from it's components up.

The other tactic that worked really well for me was to build in the known items ahead of time. As an example, I knew that at my work Christmas party, that I was having fillet and I knew I wanted to have wine. I simply put those on the tracker ahead of time so that they were already part of the "budget" and I wasn't adding them on to a meal plan that already was consuming that budget. This really helped me plan and succeed.

The first week of Weight Watchers Points Plus was definitely a bit of a learning curve for me. I was so used to the Points program - even had an equation that allowed me to quickly evaluate the number of Points. I can't do that with the Points Plus program. I am still trying to get my hands around the impact of more or less fat, carbs, fiber and protein on the calculation. I learned that many of my favorite items were more on Points Plus than on the old Points program. I found it interesting, for instance, that now all of the cereals in my cabinet are worth the same on Points Plus. It somehow makes it easier to allow myself a "treat" at breakfast or as an evening snack (seriously, a bowl of cereal and milk, especially a lightly sweetened one, makes a great, satisfying snack (even for a sweet tooth) for only about 5 Points Plus.)

Last week was my recovery week on P90X. I didn't do any evening workouts during the week, I was too busy. I hope to get back on track this week with doing the Ab Ripper X and Walking in the evening. I am starting into Phase 2 this week as well, which means some new workouts to help mix it up.

In the end, I lost 0.8# last week. Not bad for one lunch and two dinners out and a potluck meal one evening. I now have 26# that I would like to lose on my journey to my new goal.

This post shared at Mamvation Monday.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Weight Watchers Insider and will be receiving tools to help me in my journey on the new Points Plus program.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dollie & Me giveaway winner!

The winner has been selected for the Dollie & Me outfit and it is Caroline! Congratulations, an e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out the other giveaways that are ending this week (in time to ship for Christmas!).

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-12-07 02:12:51 UTC

Shutterfly Photo Cards and Gifts

Each year, we send out a lot of Christmas cards to our family and friends. I love receiving photo cards - it is nice to see how everyone's family grows and changes each year. (I've even started a scrapbook to capture many of those photo cards - and husband wonders if anyone keeps them). One source for our Holiday photo cards has been Shutterfly. They offer Holiday cards in a variety of styles and sizes - you are certain to find one that suits your style and needs. This year, we decided that we really liked the Confetti Flowers Christmas Card. I used my 10 free cards from my recent Shutterfly House Party to get some of these cards for this year. I like too that they offer coordinating address labels to match many of thier cards.

I know it might sound like cheating, but photo gifts seem to me to be an easy to give, great to receive, personal holiday gift that is appreciated and doesn't add to life's clutter.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I enjoy putting together and giving a Photo Book to our parent's each year. What I like about this gift is that I can share with them pictures of the kids (family really) from throughout the year. I try to select a highlight of the events from the past year, as well as some pictures of the kids simply being kids. I do a much more in depth Photo Book as a family scrapbook for us to keep, but the one that I am making as a gift is meant to just be a brief glimpse. I recently completed this year's Photo Book gifts on Shutterfly. Have you tried their photo books? I really like their Storyboard feature that is available to help you set up your book when you use the custom route. What I like about their Storyboard is that you can just start dragging and dropping your pictures on the page that you want them. Once you have the pictures on the pages that you want, you click a button and the program will auto-fill your book, selecting a default layout for each page based on the number of photos you placed on each page. Then, you can go in and add captions, adjust pictures, or tweak the layouts if you would like. To me, this makes the overall process both quick and easy.

There are so many other photo gifts to choose from on Shutterfly as well - puzzles, mouse pads, desk organizers, canvas art, notebooks, apparel, bags and more. Each year, my brothers and I also put together a wall calendar for my parents, filled with pictures of the grandkids. We generally split the months up, with a few months where everyone has a picture. My mom loves this gift and looks forward to receiving it each year. I've also considered the photo mug as a potential gift for our parents or even for myself. You can make the photo mug with one picture or a handful. What a great way to make you smile while you enjoy your hot beverage. (I also use a mug as a pen holder on my desk at work - so there is yet another use and a different way to display pictures at your desk.)

Outside of gifts for parents, I have also considered giving Photo Puzzles to my kids. They have two varieties - Center Stage (24 or 125 piece puzzles), where your child becomes part of a picture featuring Disney Princesses, Star Wars, Transformers and more and the photo puzzles (252 piece puzzles), where your pictures is transformed into a puzzle. My preference would be to get them the 252 piece puzzle, so I will likely wait until my daughter is a little older. I think they would find a puzzle made from their picture to be pretty cool.

Beyond the holidays, I know people who have used Shutterfly to make birth announcements and also used their photo cards for birthday party invites or thank you cards.

Their site is easy to navigate (I was even able to walk my mom through it over the phone and she successfully ordered Christmas cards and a photo book.). They frequently offer specials - right now, for instance, they have free shipping on orders over $50 and 30% off Photo Books.

Are you a blogger? Click here to learn how you can get 50 Free Holiday Cards from Shutterfly.

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. I am submitting this post to receive 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly.

CVS Scenarios - week of 12/5

Is it bad that I am totally uninspired by the CVS ad this week? There weren't many deals that jumped out at me. I am curious about a few, but I don't know shelf price, so I'm just not sure how good of a deal some of them might be. Here are a couple of deals to check out though.

Transaction #1
2 - Thermacare 2ct

-$3 Thermacare 2ct IP
-$3 Thermacare 2ct IP

Total $6.58 OOP, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - LL Bean $50 Gift Card

Total $50. Pay with $4 ECBs and $46 OOP, earn $10 ECBs.

Transaction #3
4 - ZhuZhu Pets
1 - Ice Cubes Gum (filler)

-$9.99 Buy 2 Get 1 Free CVS coupon

Total $10.98. Pay with $10 ECB and $.98 OOP. Now, I'll give you that $9.99 is a little high for one ZhuZhu pet, but when you can get four for that price, if you are planning to get them, this is a good price. My kids enjoy them, but I won't be adding to the hamster collection that we have.

Did you see the Pynk Ready Frames? I like this idea. When you purchase a Pynk Ready Frame, you can get a Smart Print Free with your Extra Care Card. Essentially, it is a collage frame and you can print one sheet that fits the frame and the openings from the Kiosk. I always struggle to keep pictures aligned in a collage - I use tape, but still it seems that something moves. So, this is something I might look into the cost of.

The Nivea spend $20 get $5 ECBs and the Tresemme spend $10 get $5 ECBs are both deals that I would like to take a look at. I am pretty sure I have some Nivea coupons and might even have a Tresemme coupon. I don't know what things cost though, so it might not be worth it to me - I still have a pretty good stock of both bodywash and shampoo/conditioner, but I will see. The P&G, spend $30 get $10 offer is also an interesting one. I'll have to look at my coupon match ups and see - if you need diapers, this might be a deal to consider.

For more deals and scenarios, check out Deal Seeking Mom and Money Saving Mom.

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
2 - Thermacare 2ct

-$3 Thermacare 2ct IP
-$3 Thermacare 2ct IP

Total $6.58 OOP, earn $4 ECBs.

Doesn't quite qualify, but your net cost is under $5!

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

Menu Plan Monday

We had a good weekend. It was rather snowy here. We did some fun activities on Saturday, had dinner with friends and did some shopping. Sunday, we had a chance to play in the snow and the rest of the family went to the movies, while I spent most of my day at a local craft fair that the women's club I am part of sponsors and runs.

Turkey is a part of the menu a few times this week - the filling for our Enchiladas, the sausage as part of our Breakfast for Dinner and in our Lasagna Soup.

Chicken Piccata

Teriyaki Chicken


Breakfast for Dinner

Lasagna Soup

Mediterranean Chicken


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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black Friday deals

Yes, I know that Black Friday was over a week ago, but I haven't had a chance to share what I consider to be the best of my deals with you yet. I'm pretty happy about the deals I got.


I bought two 5 piece sets of luggage that were "normally" $199.99, for $47.99. I had a 15% off coupon and I earned $10 Kohl's Cash for every $50 I spent. I picked up a Christmas outfit for me and for the kids as well, so the two luggage sets essentially netted me $20 in Kohl's Cash Total. I will be submitting each for a $10 rebate. Making it feel like I paid about $27.99 per set. In total, I saved $620.30 and spent $264.76 with tax. I earned $50 in Kohl's Cash. Not too shabby! A savings of 72%, when I include the Kohl's Cash.


I headed to JCPenney to look for a coat for me. I wound up buying four coats, 2 for me and one each for the kids, plus a pair of pajamas for Christmas. My two coats were regularly $200 and $180, and I got them for $49.88 and $39.88, respectively. For my son, the coat was regularly $79.9 and was on sale for $14.88! My daughter's coat wasn't as good of a deal, but not too bad - it was regularly $79.99 and it was on sale for $31.99. The pajamas were $13.99, down from $34.99. My total with tax was $160, with a savings of $424.35 on the day! A 73% savings!

I love that my total savings at these two stores was over $1000!

In addition, I stood in line at Staples and picked up two laptops for my husband. He needed them (wanted them?) and since I was out and they were a good deal, I waited in the cold and bought them. I also picked up some bowling shoes for my husband and a few gifts while I was out, some of which simply can't be shared because I don't want for others to read them.

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.

CVS Deals - 12/4

On our way home from dinner last night, I had my husband make a quick stop at CVS for me. It was snowing, so I guessed that if I didn't stop now, I wasn't very likely to head back out after the kids were in bed. Again, because I only had a few minutes, I was selective in my deals. I picked up on current deal and one rain check deal.

3 - Benefiber Drink Sticks
3 - Fiber Plus Antioxidant Bars

-$2.50 Benefiber IP (from long ago?)
-$1 Benefiber mfg coupon
-$1 Benefiber mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 Fiber Plus mfg coupon

Paid with $10.35 in ECBs and $16.52 OOP. I earned $10 and $5 ECBs. I was a little bit frustrated because she started pulling things out of my basket and didn't let me split my transactions. So I spent more out of pocket than I had planned, but I figured it wasn't worth arguing. I might have paid more out of pocket, but I also have more ECBs to spend, so in the end, I guess it might be about even?

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Klean Kanteen, includes giveaway

I used to not think much about using disposable cups and bottled water. But then, I started thinking not only about the added cost, but the environmental impact that using them has, and decided that I could make a small difference by making changes in my home. We picked up some plastic bottles that we could use for water - so that we could take them to go, take them for sports, and such. I started to carry a plastic cup with me to work each day to use for my water throughout the day.

A few months ago, I received a Kid Kanteen, a small Klean Kanteen bottle with a sippy lid, as well as a regular lid. It was part of the kit for the Healthy Home Party that I hosted. My daughter loved it when I received the bottle and immediately claimed it as her own. She was so excited to have her own "silver" bottle for water, because her brother had been using one of mine to take water to soccer and football. She was also impressed that her bottle had a soccer ball printed on it (at least that is what she thought their logo was)!
In addition, courtesy of Klean Kanteen, I more recently had the chance to check out the 16oz Café Mug-To-Go Combo Pack, a 16oz Wide Insulated Bottle which comes with 2 caps - the standard LOOP cap and a CAFÉ cap. I have been taking the bottle to work with me each day for enjoying my tea or coffee (I never was a big coffee drinker, but there are some really good flavored coffees and creamers out there, that I now find myself having a cup from time to time - but I still love my tea!). I noticed that it was doing a good job of keeping my drink hot and I was really happy about that. I have a bad habit of not being able to finish my drink right away some mornings, as I get pulled into meetings, phone calls, etc and routinely, found myself dumping out almost half a cup a day of my favorite hot beverage. Since I started using this mug, I haven't had to dump out my drink because it got cold. I had hoped that the cafe cap, when closed would help me in my bouts of clumsiness, but I can tell you, from experience, that if you knock over the bottle, the drink will still come out, just much more slowly than normal - so where it hasn't prevented my spills, it certainly has minimized the size of them.

Last week, I really put the Klean Kanteen Mug-to-Go to the ultimate test. I took it shopping with me on Black Friday. I left my house about 3:15 am that morning, right after brewing up a mug of coffee (used my Keurig, which I learned that the Klean Kanteen bottle does not fit under - so I had to brew into a standard mug and transfer). I left my coffee in my car while I ran into Kohls. Then, I drank a little on my way to JC Penney. After leaving JC Penney, and heading to Staples, I took it with me when I got in line at Staples at 5 am. When I finished drinking it around 5:30 - that last drink was still hot! I was happy for that, considering it had spent the time I was shopping sitting in my car, at what was a very cold outside temperature.

In addition to the fact that it does a great job of keeping my beverage hot, I love that I am no longer using so many Styrofoam (or whatever all the new "hot" cups are made out of) cups. It makes me feel better in terms of the reduced environmental impact of no longer using a disposable cup and of course, there is the savings associated with no longer having to buy that cup too. Sure, I am only one person, so there are still cups being bought and disposed, but each person that makes the change to a reusable mug, creates an impact.

Now, when summer comes, I could also elect to use the insulated bottle to keep my cold beverages cold. I'm not sure if I would use the cafe lid or return to the loop cap, but I know that it would be good for taking beverages to all of the kids sporting events and trips to the park. The insulation seems to be very effective based on my experience. In fact, according to the information on Klean Kanteen, their insulated bottles keep "contents hot or cold for up to six hours, while iced drinks stay frosty for more than 24". I think that is a great feature.

You can purchase Klean Kanteen through their website or find a local retailer using their store locator.

You can find Klean Kanteen on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to Klean Kanteen, I have the opportunity to allow one A Busy Mom of Two reader to win a free 16oz Café Mug-To-Go Combo Pack. I have set the giveaway so that the outfit can ship to the winner in time for Christmas.

To enter: Leave a comment sharing what you and your family have done to make the world a better place.

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry)

Follow A Busy Mom of Two on Twitter.

Follow Klean Kanteen on Twitter.

Tweet about this giveaway, include @ABusyMomofTwo and @kleankanteen in your tweet. This can be done once daily, please be sure to leave a link to the tweet in your comment. You can use this if you would like: Enter to win a @KleanKanteen 16oz Mug-to-Go combo pack hosted by @ABusyMomofTwo. Ends 12/8.

Like Klean Kanteen on Facebook .

Post about this giveaway on your blog and leave a comment with a link to your post.

Sign up to receive daily updates. Leave a comment letting me know you subscribe (or that you already do).

Giveaway will remain open until December 8th at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using random number generator. The winner will be contacted by e-mail (Please make sure that your email address is either in your comment or clearly visible on your profile or blog) and will have 24 hours to respond or a new winner may be selected. This is to ensure that the outfit can be sent in time for Christmas.

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Klean Kanteen provided me with a 16oz Mug-to-Go combo pack for my review. In addition, Klean Kanteen is providing a 16oz Mug-to-Go combo pack for the giveaway.

CVS Deals - 12/3

I only had a few minutes on Friday to swing by CVS. I wanted to pick up a few deals, but given my limited time, I simply grabbed the rolls of wrapping paper that were on sale BOGO. I hope to head back yet today to get the deals that I had planned for the week. I didn't realize that the sale was limited to only a certain size, so I had to check out twice.

2 - 90sq ft rolls of wrapping paper

-$2 $2/$6 Wrapping Paper CRT

Paid with $3.97 in ECBs and $.41 OOP (mostly tax). Earned $1 ECB for my Green Bag Tag.

Now, I am ready to finish wrapping some of the deals that I have been picking up over the past few weeks.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Samples and Freebies

Matrix Volume Therapie Biolage

Breathe Right strips and coupon

Scavenger Hunt

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Scavenger Hunt Free Photo Book Giveaway yesterday. It was fun to get a lot of e-mails from everyone. The two winners have both been notified and sent their coupon codes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free Photo Book Giveaway - Scavenger Hunt

As I promised yesterday, here is the second Scavenger Hunt question. Remember, the first one to e-mail me (you can find my e-mail in my profile) with the correct answer will receive a coupon code for a free 20-page 8x8 Photo Book from Shutterfly. The answer can be found through recent posts.

What cheese was part of my recipe for the family's dinner on Tuesday night?

No compensation was received for this post. I have the coupon codes for the free Shutterfly Photo Book from a recent Shutterfly House Party that I hosted.

Free Photo Book Giveaway - Scavenger Hunt

As I promised yesterday, here is the first Scavenger Hunt question. Remember, the first one to e-mail me (you can find my e-mail in my profile) with the correct answer will receive a coupon code for a free 20-page 8x8 Photo Book from Shutterfly. The answer can be found through recent posts.

What are the names of my daughter's dollies?

No compensation was received for this post. I have the coupon codes for the free Shutterfly Photo Book from a recent Shutterfly House Party that I hosted.

Free Gas for a Year!

Now that is a prize that would be nice to have. MapQuest is giving away free gas to 31 people - one winner, everyday for the month of December.

You can enter once per day at Share your participation on social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter and you will get an extra entry, up to 25, for each person who enters through your share.

Some of the fine print:
- Contest begins December 1 at 8:00am ET and lasts through December 31 at 5:00pm ET
- Participants can enter once, everyday at - Winners are announced on the site daily at 3:00pm ET
- The prize is valued at $1,220

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Photo Books

Photo books are a great holiday gift for just about anyone you are close to. Photo books are a great personal gift, that the recipients will find themselves sharing with others.

You can make a photo book of the kids for the grandparents or of the family for the kids. A few years ago, we started doing books each year for the grandparents. I pull together many of my favorite pictures of the kids, as well as pictures of them with the family, from the past year and put them together in a photo book. Another option is to gather pictures of your family and put them together in a photo book for your kids.

Of course, instead of making a book that spans the full year, you could also make a book from a special occasion or event from the prior year to share with all of those involved. If you take a family vacation with your larger family, gather every one's pictures and assemble a book full of the memories. Order a copy for everyone (for each family, really) so that everyone has a collection of all of the pictures from the vacation. Similarly, if there was a reunion or an anniversary party or other event, you could make a photo book capturing the fun.

I have also seen people use photo books as a way to get a personalized book. I saw one where they made a book of ABCs, featuring one or more of their own pictures for each letter. I think this is a neat idea, but is not something that I have done.

I have two codes for a free 20-page, 8x8 photo books remaining from my Shuttefly House Party that I hosted a few weeks ago (I still haven't shared about that, have I?). I hate to see them go to waste and they are only good until December 6th. Since that doesn't really give me enough time to do a giveaway, I'm going to do a site scavenger hunt type giveaway. I will put up two posts in the next 24 hours each with a question that can be answered with information contained in one of my posts from the past couple of weeks (or through a link in one of those posts). The first person to respond by e-mail with the correct answer to that question, will be the winner. I will post at 7 am Eastern and at 5 pm Eastern on Thursday, December 2nd. I will notify the winner and send their codes over on Thursday night.

No compensation was received for this post. I have the coupon codes for the free Shutterfly Photo Book from a recent Shutterfly House Party that I hosted.

My Princess Party to Go - Winner!

Congratulations to FreeGal! She was selected as the winner of the $25 Gift Certificate to My Princess Party to Go.

An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out all of the other giveaways that are going on right now on A Busy Mom of Two.

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Timestamp: 2010-12-02 01:01:45 UTC

Giveaway Reminder!

Don't forget to enter to win in the current giveaways hosted by A Busy Mom of Two. All are set up to have the items to you in time for the holidays, so that you can use them as gifts for children in your life.

The first giveaway ends tonight, so enter now!

$25 at My Princess Party to Go, ends 12/1

Dollie & Me Outfit, ends 12/6

Hexbug Nano giveaway, ends 12/7

Crazy Forts!, ends 12/9

Holiday Gift Guide - Teachers, Babysitters and others

I love to give holiday gifts, but one challenge that I face is what to give to teachers, babysitters, and others outside of the family. I don't want to just give something to give something. I want to give something that is personal to say thank you, something practical that won't go to waste and something that isn't typical (especially to a teacher that has 25 students giving little gifts each year).

When it comes to neighbors and co-workers as a whole, my goal is to help spread holiday cheer. For my neighbors, I like to put together a small platter of baked goods to share and I also take a large platter of baked goods to work to share with everyone.

This works great for the general population, but I felt the need to personalize things a bit more for those that are more in my life. I thought back to the gifts that I like to give at wedding showers - themed baskets (basket is optional, gift bag or other container works well too!). What I like best about giving themed baskets is that a portion of my baskets are always consumable, which I think makes it more practical. The nice thing about a themed gift basket is that you can make it more or less personal, depending on your recipient and how well you know them.

In recent years, some of the gifts that I have given have been coffee gift baskets, bread dipping gift basket, wine and cheese, and so on. In a coffee gift basket, I might include a package of coffee (holiday flavored perhaps), a pair of holiday mugs, a coffee cake mix (either a box mix or there are websites that offer "recipes" for gifts like here), a holiday tea towel, and other associated goodies. For the bread dipping basket, I found a set of dipping bowls (you know those flat bowls like they have at Bravo!, Macaroni Grill, etc), a container of dipping blends (I found one with four varieties), a bottle of olive oil, a holiday tea towel and a gift card to buy bread. You get the idea.

For the kids teachers, I know that they are getting a number of gifts and try to avoid filling their life with more clutter. When my kids were first in daycare, I struggled with what I was going to give their teachers, I have a friend who is a teacher and she said - no apples, no smelly stuff and no mugs. Okay, that helped narrow things down a bit, but I still wasn't sure what to give.

So, I thought, why not make a plate of tasty treats that they could eat or share with friends and family that visit during the holiday season. For the teachers I decided it would be better to give them a plate that they could use over and over again, instead of the typical paper plate I use when giving plates of cookies to neighbors. I headed out to the store and found some really cute little square plates (like these here, here and here). They were winter themed, not just holiday themed. I piled them with our homemade holiday cookies and candies, covered them in some plastic and attached a big bow.

I got a nice of lot compliments and thank you notes from the teachers. I've had teachers who didn't have my kids express disappointment that they didn't have one of the kids in their class at Christmas, so they could get the holiday treats. Now that the kids are older, they help me with baking the cookies and making the candies. Which, of course, makes it an even better gift for them to give to their teachers, because they helped make it. Homemade treats and a fancy plate as a Christmas gift for teachers works for me.

This post (and series) shared on the Holiday Gifts themed Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crazy Forts! Giveaway

About a week ago, I shared with you as part of my Holiday Gift Guide Series a product called Crazy Forts!. I just learned today that I have the opportunity to host a giveaway for one box of Crazy Forts to one lucky A Busy Mom of Two reader. You can read my review here.

You should check out the pictures submitted by fans and the winners of some of their Crazy Forts! Crazy Design Contests featured on the Crazy Forts! Facebook page - it is amazing the different types of forts that you can build.

To enter: Leave a comment saying that you would like to win a box of Crazy Forts!

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry)

Leave a comment on the Holiday Gift Guide - Crazy Forts post.

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Giveaway will remain open until December 9th at 6 pm and is open to residents of the Continental US and Canada only. Winners will be selected using random number generator. The winner will be contacted by e-mail (Please make sure that your email address is either in your comment or clearly visible on your profile or blog) and will have 24 hours to respond or a new winner may be selected. This is to ensure that the Crazy Forts! can be sent to the winner in time for Christmas.

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Crazy Forts! is providing one box for the giveaway.

Holiday Cards

It's that time of the year, time to figure out what to do for Holiday Cards. When we were first married, we used to go the route of a box of cards. I generally would pick them up on December 26th and tuck them away with our Christmas decorations. It made it easy the following year, we would simply write out our cards when we decorated the house. The boxed cards worked for us, after all it was just my husband and I - what more did we need? Then a few years into our marriage, we started to add a newsletter. I think we did our first couple newsletters before we had children, just to update our family and friends with what had happened in the past year. Our cat was even included in the updates. Then, when we had kids, we decided that photo cards were the way to go. This way, the family and friends that we sent cards to could see the little ones at their best. We still include a newsletter, but now it's more about the kids. Just a few years back, my husband decided that we could take the our newsletter digital. He set it up as a second page on our website and we simply printed little business cards with the URL for our newsletter. It was sort of nice (I like paper newsletters) that with the digital version we weren't constrained by our paper in terms of the length of the newsletter - plus, we could include more pictures in the digital version (since we weren't printing them). My husband has told me more than once that he would prefer to take our Holiday Cards digital, but I'm not willing to go that route yet. I like having a physical card at Christmas, especially a photo card. I know that I love to receive cards, pictures and newsletters in the mail and suspect that others do as well. I enjoy going through the stack of pictures and newsletters that my mom gets, when we are at her house around the holidays. I feel like going digital entirely, takes away from the experience.

This year, I received the opportunity to give a try for my Holiday Cards. When I sat down to start my card, I was overwhelmed by the choices. There are so many ways to shop their site - you can shop by color, style, number of pictures and more. They have Photo Christmas Cards, Christmas Greeting Cards, Christmas Postcards, Business Christmas Cards and more to choose from.

I finally settled into the Shop Christmas Cards by Type approach. I knew that I wanted a flat 5x7 card. There were so many cute choices, that I couldn't decide on just one. So, as any reasonable person would do, I opened up new tabs for all of my favorites. After narrowing it to my top 10 or 15, I uploaded two pictures, one horizontal and one vertical to use on the various cards I was considering. It was super easy to upload the pictures, and once I added them, they were available on all of my tabs! I started playing with personalizing the card, adding my pictures to the cards and seeing what I liked. This allowed me to narrow my choice - for some, the colors weren't right for the picture I had and for others, the position of the text or artwork didn't work for the picture I had. Adding the picture to the card and adjusting the zoom and position of the picture was very easy to do. Some of the cards had preset text, but on many you could change the greeting and of course, personalize the signature line. There was freedom to adjust the font style, the size of the font and the color of the font. There were limitations of course on the size, as it needed to fit in the space available for the message.

I finally settled on this card with a picture of my two kids in their Christmas pajamas in front of the tree:

(image from, not an image of my actual card)

I liked that it had a second small photo on the back - we added a picture of the whole family to the back.

As I was checking out, I was given the option to add a return address to the envelopes (which I did! one less thing I have to do). There were other options, like adding the addresses of the recipients and stamps to the envelope and then, sending them all to you to mail or sending them directly to your recipients. I didn't select this option, but it appears that the only added cost is the cost of postage, but if you are pressed for time, this might be a great option to explore.

I expect to receive my cards later this week and will let you know what I think.

CardStore has kindly offered to extend to my readers a discount of 20% off their first order at - use the following coupon code: CSHOLIDAY20. (*for first purchase only.) This offer is good through December 31st. Shipping lead time, is listed as 2 business until they are sent to you, could be a little longer during peak periods, so there is still plenty of time to order your photo cards for this holiday - or maybe you could use them for thank you cards after the holidays.

No compensation was received for this post. provided me with a credit so that I could experience their site and products and share my experience. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mamavation Monday

Yahoo! Last week was Thanksgiving and I had a really great week! I managed to stick to my exercise plan for the first part of the week, but not so well at the end of the week - I find that it's really hard when I have a day off to exercise (or when I get up at 3 am to hit the Black Friday sales - then I was just too tired to think about exercising, certainly shivering in line burned some calories?). As for eating, I did a little bit of splurging, having homemade bread and apple pie on Thanksgiving and snacking on that homemade bread over the course of the weekend. We had pepperoni, cheese, crackers and wine one evening as we played darts. But, in the end, the week was a success. I lost 2.2 # last week. I am really excited about that.

Today, when I logged into my Weight Watchers eTools, I started to learn more about their new Points Plus program. I have a lot to learn (and plan to share more with you) about the program, but from what I can gather, the new Points Plus are calculated based not only on the calories, but on where the calories come from. It considers the fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein of the foods that you are eating to calculate the Points Plus. From what I read, the goal is to move from simply calorie counting to encouraging you to make better food choices. Many fruits and vegetables are worth 0 on the Points Plus program. Many foods values have gone up, but so has the daily and weekly allowance. I also was contacted today about being an Ambassador for this new program and look forward to the opportunity to share my experience and learnings with you.

From an exercise perspective, I have been doing my best to strive for 10,000 steps a day, but have not been able to get there every day. Today, I started the recovery week for Phase I of P90X. I will try to do my walking and Ab Ripper workouts in the evening, but will tell you that it didn't happen tonight.

Here's looking forward to another great week!

This post shared at Mamavation Monday. As an aside, this post on Mamavation is one worth checking out - 'Do You Have Twitter Butt?' - it is a video post.

No compensation was received for this post. I have been invited to become an ambassador (an Insider) for the new Weight Watchers Points Plus program and will be receiving tools to help me succeed and share my experience.

Walgreens Deals - 11/28

While out and about yesterday, I stopped by Walgreens to do my shopping. I got some deals and realized I had left a filler out of one transaction and learned that now, $1/2 type coupons count as the coupon for two items, meaning that if you have two items, a $1/2 coupon and a RR/JC - you need a filler or the RR/JC won't go through. Thankfully, the Russell Stover chocolates were right next to the register.

Transaction #1
2 - Dayquil/Nyquil Sinex

-$4 Sinex mfg coupon
-$4 Sinex mfg coupon

Total $2.65 ($.65 was tax) OOP, earn $5 JC.

Transaction #2
3 - Wrigley Eclipse gum
2 - Cap'n Crunch

-$1 $1/2 Cap'n Crunch mfg coupon

Paid with $5 JC and $1 OOP, earn $1 and $2 JC.

Transaction #3
4 - M&M (pretzel and mint)

Paid with $1 and $2 JC and $7 OOP, earned $5 JC.

Transaction #4
1 - Gillette Fusion Razor
1 - Russell Stover chocolate (filler)

-$4 Gillette Fusion mfg coupon

Paid with $5 JC and $1.93 ($.65 was tax) OOP, earned $4 JC.

Transaction #5
2 - Quaker Oatmeal
1 - Russell Stover Chocolate (filler)

-$1 $1/2 Quaker Oatmeal mfg coupon

Paid with $4 JC and $.29 OOP, earned $2 JC.

Transaction #6
4 - Arizona Tea

Paid with $2 JC and $.13 ($.13 was tax) OOP.

Total OOP was $13.00 ($1.43 was tax) for about $41 in product. A savings of about 71%.

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.