Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu is mostly from our freezer and pantry. I needed a couple of things and headed out to Giant Eagle to pick them up. In addition, I picked up some good deals (I saved 61%), but more about that in another post.

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.

Dinner Out at favorite local Mexican (real #54 for my husband)

Turkey Soup and Sandwiches

Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Sloppy Joes

Rattlesnake Pasta


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.

CVS Scenarios - week of 1/31

Well, I never bought anything at CVS last week. I did stop by, but realized I was missing my extra bucks and after checking on a few of the deals, I decided they weren't as good as I thought, and sometimes the best deal is skipping the deals that aren't worth it.

This week, there are quite a few things that make me want to head out to CVS. I just wish I had some $/$$ coupons - even a $10/$50 would be good this week with lots of spend $$ to get $ ECB deals.

Transaction #1
1 - Dove Men + Care Body Wash
2 - Slim Fast Bars

-$1.25 Dove Men + Care Body Wash Mfg coupon
-$1.25 Slim Fast Bars Mfg coupon
-$1.25 Slim Fast Bars Mfg coupon

Total $6.73$11.72, earn $5.49 and $1.50 ECBs. (I for some reason, thought that the Slim Fast Bars were BOGO, they are not)

Transaction #2
1 - Theraflu
1 - Colgate Max Fresh

-$2 Theraflu Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Mfg coupon

Total $5.98, pay with $5.49 ECB from Transaction #1 and $.49 OOP. Earn $2 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
2 - Hellman's Mayo
3 - Ragu Pasta Sauce

-$.75 Hellman's Mayo IP
-$.75 Hellman's Mayo IP
-$1.25 $1.25/3 Ragu Mfg coupon

Total $8.24, pay with $1.50 from Transaction #1 and $4 from Transaction #2 and $2.74 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs.

Total OOP for the three transactions is $9.96$11.95 with $3 ECBs left to roll.

Update: just learned that the Dove Men + Care Body wash is limit of two, so I will modify as such:

Transaction #3
1 - Dove Men + Care Bodywash

-$1.25 Dove Men + Care Bodywash

Total $4.24, pay with $4 ECBs from Transaction #2 and $.24 OOP. Earn $5.49 ECBs.

Transaction #4
2 - Hellman's Mayo
3 - Ragu Pasta Sauce

-$.75 Hellman's Mayo IP
-$.75 Hellman's Mayo IP
-$1.25 $1.25/3 Ragu Mfg coupon

Total $8.24, pay with $1.50 from Transaction #1 and $5.49 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $1.25 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs.

Total OOP for the four transactions is $8.71$13.70 with $3 ECBs left to roll.

There are some other potential scenarios that I am considering as well (and one that I figured I would share, even though we have now officially been out of Pull Ups for a week! Yeah!)

Scenario #1
2 - Huggies Jumbo Pack Pull-ups
-$2 Huggies Pull Ups mfg coupon
-$2 Huggies Pull Ups mfg coupon
Total $16 OOP, earn $5 ECBS. That's like getting each jumbo pack for $5.50.

Scenario #2
3 - Pringles
3 - Powerade
2 - Old Spice Deoderant
1 - Secret Flawless (not part of deal, but free with coupon)
2 - Herbal Essence family size
1 - Fuze

-$3 3x$1 WYB Pringles and Powerade (CVS tearpad, mfg coupon)
-$1 $1/2 Old Spice Mfg coupon
-$? Free Secret Flawless Mfg coupon
-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon
-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon

Total $19.48 OOP, earn $10 ECBs. I don't think that $9.50 net cost for all of this is too bad.

Scenario #3
1 - Irish Spring Body Wash
2 - Softsoap Soap
2 - Softsoap Body Wash
1 - Lady's Speed Stick

-$.75 Irish Spring Body Wash mfg coupon
-$.35 Softsoap Mfg coupon
-$.35 Softsoap Mfg coupon
-$1 Softsoap Bodywash Mfg coupon
-$1 Softsoap Bodywash Mfg coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon

Total $11.55 OOP, earn $5 ECBS. Again, $6.55 for 3 Bodywashes, some soap and deodorant isn't too bad.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - Dove Men + Care Bodywash

-$1.25 Dove Men + Care Bodywash Mfg coupon

Total $3.99 OOP, earn $5.49 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Slim Fast
1 - Theraflu

-$1.25 Slim Fast Bars Mfg coupon
-$1.25 Slim Fast Bars Mfg coupon
-$2 Theraflu Mfg coupon

Total $6.48, pay with $5.49 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $.99 OOP. Earn $1.50 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Colgate Max Fresh

-$1 Colgate Mfg coupon

Total $1.99, pay with $2 ECBs from Transaction #2. Earn $2 ECBs.

Total OOP for the three transaction is $4.98 with $3.50 ECBs left to roll. (or since you can repeat the Dove Men + Care Bodywash, you could do that as a fourth transaction and spend $.74 OOP. It would make your total $5.72 OOP, with $5.49 ECBs to roll.)

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kraft Coupons

There are some new Kraft coupons on Kraft's website. It's part of their Game Day Game Plan page and also include some recipes for your Game Day party (they print with your coupon).

Coupons include:

$1 on 4 Philadelphia Cream Cheese
$1 on any Velveeta Loaf
$1 on any Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese
$1 on 2 Capri Sun 10-packs

There are also coupons for A-1 Steak Sauce, Claussen Pickles, Oscar Mayer Bologna, Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh, Planters and Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fat Burnin' Friday

Another week has passed and January is almost over...where does the time go? I think I just might have gotten past my plateau. After many weeks of just barely losing - .2#, .4#, etc, I finally had a breakthrough week. I lost a full pound.

Of course, when I weighed myself and realized I had finally lost a good amount, my first thought was, wow imagine what I could have lost if I had exercised better control of my diet this week. It wasn't that I hate horribly, but I had this amazing mock lemon meringue cake that we made at my Pampered Chef party. The party was under-attended, so there was a lot left and I love lemon meringue pie (lemon anything really) and this was so much like it. I had a piece on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - and not a small one either. But, I guess that just goes to show that a splurge doesn't haven't to be your downfall. As long as you are watching and practicing good eating most of the time, an occasional treat (probably 4 times in four days doesn't qualify as occasional - but I do have a valid point) will not set you back. In fact, my guess is that an occasional treat makes it easier to stick to it. If you feel deprived, you will go overboard when you get something you want. If you allow yourself small treats, it makes it easier to control eating.

This week, there seemed to be a lot more people that noticed (or at least mentioned) that I had lost some weight. I felt so wonderful and had a huge smile when I would acknowledge, that yes I had - over 20# in fact. In addition, my old pants have gotten so big that I had to safety pin them to keep them up...I guess I might have to buy a few more pairs of pants in this new size. I was hoping to wait and see if I could get one size smaller first, but I don't think that is an option. I won't go overboard, but I think I should have at least 7 pairs of pants that fit.

At Weight Watchers this week, when I weighed in I showed a good loss on the scales (even though I at 2 of those servings of mock lemon meringue cake before the meeting) of just over 1#. There were a lot of people that reached milestones at this meeting. They had all joined at various times, but there were four people that reached 5% weight loss. There is something so inspiring about hearing of others successes, it is one of my favorite things about going to meetings. It helps bolster the thought that if they can be successful with this program, so can I.

At the meeting, there was a pamphlet passed out to allow members to share "how Weight Watchers has Changed Your Life" by submitting their story. I remember a few years ago (gosh, it's probably been eight or nine years ago now - as I said at the beginning of the post time really flies), one of my friends was a success story, along with her dad. They went to New York for a photo shoot and were featured on the website and everything. Years later (and two kids) and she still looks great. She has kept off the weight she lost on Weight Watchers - she is an inspiration.

If you want to read success stories of Weight Watchers members to find your own inspiration, you can find them on The winners' stories aren't posted online yet, but Weight Watchers just named the six winners of their 2009 Inspiring Stories of Change contest (I would think they will post soon they are featured in this month's magazine). Each of the winners experienced improvements in their health by setting short-term weight loss goals and incorporating changes, such as portion control and increased activity. Stories of the everyday person's success inspires me - to read about the changes that they accomplished through changing their lifestyle helps me see that it can work for me.

I am confident that with the lifestyle changes that I have made, that I too can lose the weight and keep it off. At the meeting last week, which was about getting active, the leader mentioned that some percentage like 75% (I didn't write it down but that's close) of people who were able to maintain their weight loss continue to exercise at least 3 days a week. Hearing that is a great reminder that I am making a lifestyle change. I'm not simply exercising to get to a goal, but am exercising to lead a healthier, happier life. I already feel better and I am only part way to my goal. I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like when I lose the rest of my weight.

Having lost 1# this week, I now have only 17.2# to go to meet my goal. I do think though that my goal of having lost 10# from Christmas to Valentine's Day is not realistic - as that would mean 7# in the next two weeks. I guess, I will revise to make that a goal of at least 5# by Valentine's Day. I'm not moving my ultimate goal of being down the full 40# by Memorial Day - that would be great. It is only 18 weeks away, so I will need to stay focused and consistent if I will meet that goal.

Samples and Freebies

Kashi Go Lean Crisp (you can choose from three different samples)
Free bag of Pieces.

Green Works Laundry sample and coupon
Avery Removable Label Pad sample
Refresh Your Nest for Less coupon booklet

Pampers Cruiser with Dry Max sample

Today, you can head over to and sign up to receive a free 3 diaper sample of the new Pampers Cruisers with Dry Max. When you get your diapers, if one of them is a specially marked diaper (stamped Team USA), then you win diapers for a year from Pampers.

Everyone at our house has moved passed diapers, but I have many pregnant friends, so I will be requesting the sample to share with them in hopes that I can help them out with the ultimate shower gift - a free one year supply of diapers. (I know I would have liked that!)

Thanks "Cents"ible Sawyer.

Updated: learned that they are available through P&G Everyday Solutions and updated link.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Birthday Cake Roundup

It's that time of year again over at Life As Mom - Birthday Cake Round Up - a chance to share creative birthday cakes from the last year. As always, I had a lot of fun with the birthday cakes for my kids this year.

My son's birthday theme was Star Wars. I debated for a while on what to do for a cake for a Star Wars theme. Finally, I decided to do dueling light sabers. My son was very excited by the idea for this cake and couldn't wait for me to make it. I got to learn some new techniques with this cake. I needed to find a way to make the sabre and finally decided to try fondant. This was my first adventure with fondant - I made a simple marshmallow fondant from a recipe I found online. The handles were cake with a butter cream frosting and the sabers were Rice Krispie treats covered in the colored fondant.

For my daughter's birthday, the theme this year was Abby Cadabby. For the cake, I made a magic wand. I used a star shaped pan for the cake and used chocolate covered pretzels to form the wand itself. As an accompaniment, I made star shaped cookies on a stick to mimic the wand and decorated them in a pink frosting - they were a hit with all of the little fairy princesses in training at the party.

For more kid's birthday cake ideas, you can check out my post from last year, with the following assorted themes:
Blue's Clues
Cars: Lightnin' McQueen

For other themed cakes, check out the Birthday Cake Roundup over at Life As Mom.

Another round-up, summer edition: Birthday Cake Roundup.

Eating Regular Food on a Diet

When I used to think of dieting and watching what I eat, I always thought that you had to have basic simple foods to succeed. But, I always knew that for me to succeed at losing and maintaining my weight, I needed to be able to eat what everyone else was eating, including casseroles, pasta dishes, lasagna and other recipes. I wanted to continue to provide flavor and variety for my family and not wind up cooking two meals.

The hardest part for me on any diet is figuring out how many calories (or in the case of being on Weight Watchers, Points) are in a dish. You know, it's easy to determine the calories in a piece of chicken or in a cup of pasta, but what happens when it's all blended together and cooked? I have tried on my own to count up all the component calories and divide it into the number of servings to estimate the calories in what I am eating and I can tell you that it is very difficult to do. Not only do you wind up with thousands of calories, plus if you are looking at fat grams and such, there is even more to track, but you also spend a lot of time looking up how many calories are in things like 2 Tbsp flour or 1/4c sugar or in a banana - items where there's not normally a label to check readily available.

One trick I found for figuring this out are recipes sites, like Recipe Zaar, and recipe software, which will provide some nutritional information for you. For long recipes, this was easier than trying to do it on my own.

With Weight Watchers, when I started using the eTools, I found another tool that works and that I really like. It is the Recipe Builder on eTools. With Recipe Builder, I am able to build a recipe by entering each ingredient and the amount, enter a number of servings and it provides the point information per serving. That makes it so much easier for me to succeed.

I also like how easy I can adjust the serving count on the Recipe Builder. If I build a recipe of a favorite dish and split it into 6 servings and I find that the Points are higher than I would like to eat for a meal, then I can adjust and make it 8 servings. This way, I can still enjoy all of my family favorites, in healthy portions that fit into my daily/weekly points.

Another great feature is that it provides substitution recommendations. Now, I have already done this with many favorites, replacing the cream with milk, using a little lemon juice instead of oil when I am cooking up the dish, etc. in an effort to reduce the calories and make the dish healthier. But, if I haven't or I have and still would like to reduce the Points in my dish, I can reference this list for ideas on how I might be able to reduce the Points.

Knowing that I can prepare a normal menu for my family and eat with them, works for me.

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

I received no compensation for this post. I did receive complimentary online access to eTools so that I could experience it and share my experiences.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Google Docs

Since I started hanging out in the blogosphere a few years ago, I noticed that a lot of people were using applications, like Google Docs, to do surveys, gather entries to giveaways, share files and more. I had always wondered how they did it, but had yet to take the time to look into it. So, last week I finally decided I would, after years of considering it, figure out how to put a survey on my site.

My final result was my Reader Survey. (if you haven't already done so, would you mind taking a few minutes and completing the survey here. Thanks!)

Putting together my survey was much easier than I expected. I simply headed over to Google Docs to begin. I selected the Create New button and chose Form from the drop down list. This brought up a blank form. I could start with a title. Then, for each question, I simply entered a question, could add help text for the question, and selected a question type (text, paragraph text, multiple choice, check boxes, choose from a list, scale or grid). Most of my questions were check boxes. This type of question allowed for multiple answers to questions. With check boxes, I got to enter each of my potential answers and could even check select other, which gave an other check box and an accompanying text box for the entry of other. Then, select Done and you got to see how the question would look. After entering all of the questions, I simply Saved. Then, I clicked the More Actions button, and selected embed. This gave me some html text to copy and place in my post.

Once my post was up, readers could enter their responses and they populated to a spreadsheet that only I have access to. I could see the responses by selecting that form from the Google Docs page. Of course, you can also make your document public, if you had something that you wanted to share with everyone.

I really was amazed at how easy it was to create and embed a Google Doc in my blog. Have you tried Google Docs or another on-line document program to do surveys or share documents? How did it work?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu is mostly from our freezer and pantry. I need to pick up a few things for Tuesday night, but otherwise we have everything else that we need for the week.

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 Jambalaya Pasta

#54(Chipotle Chicken)/Burritos

Homemade Pizza

Cube Steaks

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Dinner Out

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.

DiGiorno House Party

As a participant on HouseParty, I have signed up for a chance to host a number of parties, and occasionally, I'm one of the lucky ones selected to host a party. Recently, I was selected to host a DiGiorno HouseParty.

A few weeks ago, our party pack arrived. It included rally beads for the guests, a football shaped hot pad, a pizza cutter, some stickers to allow the guests to proclaim why they believe that DiGiorno is better than Delivery and of course, product coupons. They all came in this really cute pizza box, like you get with delivery. There were free pizza coupons for us to use in hosting the party and some $4 coupons to share with the guests.

When we headed to the store the other day to pick up some pizzas, I was amazed by the varieties they offered. Not only did they have different types of toppings, they also had different varieties of crust. I have never had DiGiorno before, so I was excited to try all of the varieties. We selected a thin crust, a rising crust, a stuffed crust, an ultimate toppings, a supreme pizza and a chicken pizza. I was excited to find a supreme pizza with no mushrooms. As a non-mushroom eater, it is always frustrating to me when my only choices seem to be cheese, pepperoni or meat. It is nice to be able to have more toppings on a frozen pizza, just like a fresh one.

We had everyone over last night for pizza and games (although, we never got around to games, we were too busy just visiting). We had bagel chips and cut vegetables with dip, salads, cheese ball, nuts and M&Ms for munching with our pizza and then we had brownie ice cream sundaes for dessert. We started with two pizzas, the supreme and the rising crust cheese. With only one oven, I figured two at a time would be my limit. We selected the cheese for the kids and the supreme for the adults. Then, as the evening progressed we put in different varieties.

Compared to the lackluster delivery available locally, these pizzas definitely had the edge. The sauce was flavorful. The dough was chewy, but not too chewy. The toppings were flavorful, although (much like delivery) there wasn't always enough of some of the toppings. There was a good variety, so you could choose the pizza that fits your taste.

Everyone tried many of the varieties, but there definitely were favorites. For me, the supreme was my favorite. Again, I love to have toppings on my pizza but do not like mushrooms. It was very flavorful with a tasty sauce, some peppers, onions and pepperoni. I also liked that it was a thin crust, which is my favorite style of crust. I know that one of my guests really enjoyed the Spicy Chicken. I didn't have that one (it was the 4th pizza I made and I was starting to get very full), but did have a piece of chicken that had fallen off and it definitely had a good flavor. The one family indicated that they normally bought the stuffed crust pizza and were excited to try the other varieties as well and also enjoyed that there was a supreme pizza choice with no mushrooms.

As I shared the coupons with the guests at the end of the evening, ever being on the look out for a deal, I made sure to mention that one of our local grocery stores had them all on sale for $4.88 this week. With the coupons I was sharing, that meant that they could get a pizza for just $0.88 - which is much cheaper than delivery too.

Of course, I didn't think to grab my camera during the party, so there are no pictures of the pizza party itself to share.

I received no compensation for this post. As a participant in the DiGiorno HouseParty, I received stuff to share with my guests as well as coupons for free pizza and $4 coupons to share with guests.

CVS Scenarios - week of 1/24

It looks like CVS brought back their Pepsico deal again this week, the limit is stated as one. Of course, last week, it was stated at 2 and even after having completed the deal 3 times, it had not yet reached the limit. Not sure if that will hold true this week or not. We have a lot of 12pks and chips, so I'm not sure I will try again this week. We will see. Perhaps if CVS is kind enough to mail out a $/$$ coupon or I get one from the coupon machine, then perhaps.

This looks like a week to stock up on some makeup and shampoo.

Transaction #1
1 - Almay Intense Eye Color
3 - Revlon Eye Shadow/Lipstick

-$1 Almay IP (from Target site, but is a manufacturer coupon)
-$1 Revlon Mfg coupon
-$1 Revlon Mfg coupon
-$1 Revlon Mfg coupon

Total $16.99. Earn $4 and $7 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Ivory 3 pack
1 - Crest Toothpaste
1 - Cheezit 2-pack
1 - Always Infinity 28-36ct
1 - Always Infinity 14-18ct

-$1 Ivory Mfg coupon
-$.75 Crest Mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 Cheezit Mfg coupon (YMMV - my store let me use a $/2 coupon for a multipack last week)
-$? Buy One Always Infinity 28-36ct Get One 14-18ct Free
-$1 Always Infinity Mfg coupon

Total $12.21. Pay with $11 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $1.21 OOP. Earn $3, $1, and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
I don't know the cost of the Pantene/Aussie/Herbal Essence/Gillette Shampoo/Conditioner/Styler, but I plan to purchase a few to meet the $10 requirement and use some combination of the following coupons:
-$1 Aussie Mfg coupon
-$3/2 Pantene Mfg coupon
-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon
-$1 Gillete Mfg coupon

Total ?, pay with the ECBs from Transaction #2 and earn $3 ECBs.

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

CVS $5 Challenge
I'm torn, do I get makeup or Cheezit - or both and just be $1 over? I will just go over.

Transaction #1
1 - Almay Intense Eye Color

-$1 Almay IP (link above)

Total $4.99, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Cheezit 2-pack

-$1 Cheezit Mfg coupon

Total $4.99, pay with $4 ECBs and $1 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Crest Toothpaste
1 - Ivory 3-pack
2 - Mars Singles
1 - CVS Bagged Candy

-$.75 Crest Mfg coupon
-$1 Ivory Mfg coupon

Total $3, pay with $3 ECBs from Transaction #2 and earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP $5.99, with $1 ECB to roll (that is sort of like only spending $5, right? :-)! )

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fat Burnin' Friday

What a week! My parents decided to come and visit last weekend. That was fine, but for whatever reason I decided not to track what I was eating - not a good thing. As I said here, keeping track of what I eat is so helpful to me. I don't think I did too bad on Saturday, when I went back and built my day from memory I was only a few points over for the day. Sunday, now that was a different story. We went to brunch at Bob Evans. They have these new biscuit bowls and I decided to try one. I went with the Sausage Gravy version. It was delicious and now I know why, it was over 1000 calories and was worth 25 Points. That is more Points than I get for a whole day!!! Needless to say, I had already eaten a bowl of cereal in the morning and I had to eat something for dinner, so I really used up my weekly Points, which I don't normally use many of.

So, Monday, after a weekend of relaxed eating, I was super munchie girl. Everything that I saw sounded good. I didn't do awful, but I had a granola bar and a few other snacks during the day, when I normally would not have snacked.

After Monday, I managed to get back on track with eating. Thank goodness! Lesson learned, look up calories or ask for a chart at the restaurant. If I had prepared myself, I wouldn't have chosen that for brunch, but rather would have gone with something a little less caloric.

On a positive note, I exercised every morning this week, even the day I had a 7 am flight. I only have 2 weeks left to go in Phase 3 of P90X and then I have the recovery week. I can definitely see a difference, but not like they show on infomercials. I'm happy with the changes and will continue to use many of the routines in my weekly exercise cycle. It probably doesn't help that I skip the Yoga each week and only do the Ab Ripper occasionally. I would like to incorporate that one more regularly, I know it works - I can feel it in my abs the next day. I am excited though to be so close to finishing, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment to complete something as intense as that.

At my Weight Watchers meeting on Monday, I lost but 0.2#. I was glad to have a loss and know that wiser decisions on Sunday would have made it better. Better things for next week I hope.

For the week, I finished down 0.6# and now have only 18.2# to go. The pounds have been slow recently, but I am hoping that soon I will be off this plateau and moving towards my goal.

Giant Eagle Deals - 1/18

Monday night, after my Weight Watchers' meeting, I headed to the grocery store, by myself. I had my coupons organized and ready to go. I was able to efficiently pick up a number of deals. I saved 52% ($71.81 saved) on my transaction with a final total of $65.61 and got back $6 for my next visit, as well as $3 off my next purchase of chicken or beef coupon.

Some highlights from the trip:

Special K Protein Water packets - 5/$10, submit for the $10 Jeans certificate - so pretty much a wash.

Green Giant Vegetables - 10 boxes for $3.60, or $.36 each

Smart Ones Frozen Meals - 6 meals for $5 or $.83 each

Starkist Tuna - 6 cans albacore + 2 pouches chunk light for $3.50, or $.43 each

Old el Paso Sides - 6 packets for $1.50, or $.25 each

I also used my free half gallon of chocolate milk coupon from the Great Gallon Giveaway.

Overall, it was a great stock up trip and my freezer is full once again. With the exception of some produce, I had a coupon for every item I purchased.

For more deals, check out Super Savings Saturday.

CVS Deals - 1/22

After work this evening, I headed to CVS to pick up some more soda as part of the Pepsico deal. Unfortunately, they didn't have caffeine free Diet Pepsi, but they did have the two Throwback items. I still had one more set of coupons for the Stacy's chips, so I included that in my deal.

5 - 12 pk Pepsi products
1 - Stacy's Pita Chips
1 - Sobe LifeWater

-$5 $5/$20 CVS coupon
-$1 Stacy's Mfg coupon
-$1 Stacy's CVS coupon
-$.50 Sobe CVS coupon

Paid with $12 in ECBs and $1.72 OOP. Earned a $10 ECB. Based on the wording on my receipt, I am questioning if the deal is limited to two. I think I might head back tomorrow and do another Pepsi deal, this time with some Amp for my husband. Total cost for the product was a $2 decrease in ECB and $1.72 OOP, or $3.72 for 5 12pks of Pepsi products.

Has anyone done the deal more than twice?

For more deals, check out Super Savings Saturday.

Samples and Freebies

Kerasal Exfoliating Foot Ointment
Cream of Wheat - choose your own flavor

Lipton Green Tea sample and bag

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Last Surgeon Winner!

Congratulations to lauralearussel, the winner of the autographed copy of The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer.

An e-mail has been sent to the winner.

Thank you to everyone for entering and be sure to check out the events surrounding the launch of The Last Surgeon here.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2010-01-21 23:20:38 UTC

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pantry Creole Gumbo

Many years ago, I went to visit my friend and her husband (maybe they were still just dating at the time). She was vegetarian, but ate seafood. It was one of those recipes that was super easy and super tasty, so of course, I asked for the recipe. The nice thing about it is most everything can be found in your pantry (okay, you would have to buy some of it, but when you brought it home, you would put most of it in your pantry).

Pantry Creole Gumbo

1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
1 bottle clam juice (8 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 jar roasted peppers, drained and chopped (7 oz)
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/8 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14 1/2 oz)
1 bag frozen okra, thawed (10 oz)
2 cans (6oz, ea) white crab, drained and rinsed

In a heavy soup pot, combine onion and garlic. Cook covered, over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add a little clam juice, if necessary, to keep from scorching.

Add remaining ingredients, except okra and crab. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Add okra and crab and cook, covered for two minutes, or until heated through.

Serve in a bowl over brown rice.

You can make the dish ahead of time and store in your refrigerator. Wait to add the okra and crab until you are ready to serve.

For more pantry inspiration, check out the Pantry Inspiration: An Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life As Mom.

Don't forget to enter...

to win your own autographed copy of The Last Surgeon, by Michael Palmer. If you aren't familiar with Michael Palmer's books, here is your chance to check out his latest book, scheduled for release in February. I must say, his books really draw you in and you don't want to put the book down until you are done.

But hurry, the entries are only open until tomorrow night (1/21) at 6 pm Eastern.

Reader Survey

From time to time, I am asked about my readers. I know a little about some of my readers. Some I know in real life, others I have met online and as I stop by their blogs and view their profiles, when they leave comments, I learn glimpses about those readers. But, to say that as a whole I could describe my readers, well, that is not the case.

Could you please take a few minutes and help me out by completing this brief survey for me?

Monitoring What I Eat

If you had asked me before if I watch what I eat, I would have told you yes. Sure, I thought about the food I was eating and tried to make healthy decisions, and for the most part, I did at meal time. But then, there was all of the little stuff I would nibble at that I some how lost track of.

One of the things that has really helped me on my weight loss journey is tracking what I eat. Not just what I eat, but how much I eat. When I first started to track, I used a little spiral notebook that I kept with me. It was small enough to carry with me during the day and helped to serve as a reminder. Keeping it with me allowed me to easily record what I ate and how much. If had calorie information from packaging, I would write that down too. If I didn't, I would look the food up later. This worked really well for me. First, it helped me to look back and see what I had been eating and what was working for me and what wasn't. But, it also acted as a strengthener for my will power. Somehow, knowing that I had to write down those chips or that cookie made me less inclined to grab them. I became more aware of what I was eating, especially what I was eating when I wasn't hungry and it wasn't meal time.

After a while, I got the opportunity, as part of my relationship with Weight Watchers to check out their eTools program. I love it!!! At first, I was still keeping my notebook during the day, when I was away from home and my computer and then would record everything at the end of the day. But then, I learned that their site was mobile friendly. I started accessing it through my phone. This made it really nice for me as I was out to dinner, I could look up items for that restaurant or just type in food names to help me in making the right decision. It was definitely a learning for me, as I would discover what was a better choice and some of them surprised me. They don't have everything in their database, but they have a lot. It was also nice using my phone, because I was more current on where I stood with regard to my daily Points. When I was tracking on paper, I sometimes wouldn't know the points until I came home and looked them up, on line or in my book. Knowing where I was at during the day helped me to resist temptations because I knew that I wanted to have a certain amount of Points left for dinner or the evening and if I ate something, I wouldn't have those Points available later.

Tracking what I eat, on paper or through the convenience of Weight Watchers eTools, works for me. Sometimes, I need to be reminded of that, because when I get "loose" about tracking, it shows up on the scale - with no loss, or even worse a small gain. Last week, when I was sick, I went through a period where nothing tasted good. I would eat a bite of something and decide I just didn't want it. Because I didn't track all of these nibbles, I got off track and have found that coming into this week that I am still nibbly (not sure that's a real word, but it best explains where I'm at). My plan is to get completely back on track with recording what I eat and how much, so that I can get things back under control.

For more tips and tricks that work, check out Works For Me Wednesday.

There are many other features of the eTools that work for me, but that I will share on another day.

I received no compensation for this post. Weight Watchers has provided me with some complimentary meeting passes and access to eTools that I might experience them for the purposes of sharing my experience.

Monday, January 18, 2010

CVS Deals - 1/18

I headed out to CVS today at lunch time, because it was still a little too cold to walk. I got a lot of stuff for a great price! I strolled down the candy aisle and found a blinkie with $1/2 M&M coupon, which was a good thing, because my area didn't get the M&M coupon. When I headed to the cooler to get the Gatorade, again no coupon in my area, I found a 50cent Sobe Lifewater coupon - so I traded from Gatorade to Sobe to save.

I got all of this in two transactions:

2 M&M Valentine's Day
4 Hershey Extra Dark
1 Windex Twinpack
2 CVS Spectravite Multivitamin
1 Sobe Lifewater
3 Pepsi brand 12 pk
3 Stacy's Pita/Bagel Chips

-$1 M&M CVS e-mail coupon
-$1 $1/2 M&M blinkie
-$1 Hershey Extra Dark Bar mfg coupon
-$1 Hershey Extra Dark Bar mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 Windex mfg coupon
-$.50 Sobe Lifewater CVS coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita mfg coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita mfg coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita mfg coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita CVS coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita CVS coupon
-$1 Stacy's Pita CVS coupon

On the first transaction I paid $12.50 in ECBs and $1.01 OOP, earning $2 and $2 ECBs. Then, on the second transaction I paid $8 in ECBs and $.83 OOP, earning a $10 ECB. My net cost, OOP and reduced ECBs was $8.34.

I likely will head back and repeat the Pepsico deal with 6 12-packs of soda, but am hoping for more selection at another store.

Check out Super Savings Saturday for more deals.

Great Gallon Giveaway

Did you enter the Great Gallon Giveaway last week and get your coupon for a free half gallon of milk? Well, it seems that they have changed up the coupon that you get for entering (I still haven't won the instant win game). Now, when you enter, you can get a coupon for a Free Gallon of Milk with $100 grocery purchase (first 125,000 entries).

You can enter to win a year's supply of milk, once per household per day. See the Great Gallon Giveaway for the rules and other details.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu is mostly from our freezer and pantry. I am planning to head to the grocery store tomorrow, mostly to pick up deals, but I also will pick up milk, bread and produce for the week. I have my coupons all ready, as I was planning to go today but never made it out.

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 & Meatballs

Breakfast for Dinner

Sloppy Joes

Chicken Nuggets


DiGiorno House Party

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 1/17

Aside from the ongoing Bonus Days items, there don't seem to be many offers at CVS. There is one that is interesting, as our soda inventory is getting low. I was hoping that the Baked line was included, but they are specifically excluded in the ad. Also, I wasn't one of the fortunate ones, but if you were lucky enough to get a $/$$ e-mail last week and haven't used it, you can pick up a few more things for an even better deal.

Transaction #1
3 - 12 pk Pepsi Products
1 - Gatorade
3 - Stacey's Pita Chips

-$.50 Gatorade Mfg coupon
-$3 3 x $1 Stacey's Pita Chips IP
-$3 3 x $1 Stacey's Pita Chips CVS IP

Total $13.75 and earn $10 ECBs.

Transaction #2
6 - 12 pk Pepsi Products

Total $20, pay with $10 ECBs from Transaction #1 and $10 OOP. Earn $10 ECBs.

Overall, OOP is $23.75 for 9 12-pks of Pepsi, 3 bags of chips and one Gatorade and you will have $10 ECBs left to roll, making the net cost $13.75 or about $1.50 / 12 pk (with the other stuff "free").

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
2- M&Ms

-$1 M&M mfg coupon
-$1 M&M mfg coupon

Total $3. Earn $2 ECBs.

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fat Burnin' Friday

Anymore, if it's not one thing, it's another. I feel like every week when I sit down to write about my most recent week on my weight loss journey there was a challenge. Wouldn't it be nice to just once sit down and say, I ate well, I exercised, I wasn't challenged and I lost weight. Thing is, if it were that easy, I probably would have lost the weight years ago.

This week was impacted by my catching a cold. At least, that is what I think it is. I did have a fever of 102 on Tuesday night and stayed home on Wednesday, so as not to make my coworkers sick. To me, the cold offered two disadvantages. First, the ability to breath is important in exercising and of course, the fever didn't help either. I wound up missing my morning exercise two mornings - Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, I was convinced that I must get up, lest I get off of my routine. I actually was able to get out and walk at lunch too on Friday - hadn't been able to do that since before the holidays. Sure, I nearly slipped in a few spots where the sidewalks still had some slushy snow, but it was nice to be out and moving. The second disadvantage of a cold is this whole loss of taste. I was looking for something appealing to eat. I didn't eat much of anything, but ate a little of lots. I'd have a few bites of something and it wouldn't cut it and I'd move on and try something else. It's really hard to measure a few bites of something, so I'm sure my Points were way off.

At Weight Watchers, on Monday, as expected from my getting back in the routine week the week before, I had a slight gain (less than a pound)...but nothing that worries me. I'm going to get back on track and moving towards my goal. The good news is that every week that I have had a gain, the following week I recaptured that gain and lost more, so hopefully next week's weigh in will be consistent.

As for my Friday weigh in, I was pretty much flat with just a .2# weight loss. I have 18.8# to go on my journey and am starting to wonder if my Valentine's Day goal of being down to only 10# to go can happen. Hopefully, I will get over this cold, back on routine and moving towards this goal again next week.

Samples and Freebies


Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets
Kleenex sample
Free salt blend sample from Beyond the Shaker (sign up for their newsletter by entering e-mail and they will give you a coupon code good for a free sample)
Gold Bond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer Moisturizer
Nescafe Taster's Choice Instant Coffee - I had already requested for me, but it turns out it is limit of one per person, two per household, so I requested for my husband.


Lubriderm Intenes Skin Repair

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CVS Deals - 1/14

Headed back out to CVS on Thursday over my lunch hour. I found those Hershey Extra Dark coupons, but when I got to this store, they didn't have them. I might try to get back to the other store yet this week to see if they still have any of the clearance pouches. The $1 coupon would make them free. I did get some great deals though.

Transaction #1
1 - 20ct Cottonelle Double Roll (don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a Cottonelle Gift Basket)
2 - Oust Surface and Air

-$5 $5/$20 CVS coupon
-$.50 Cottonelle Mfg coupon
-$3.99 BOGO Oust Mfg coupon

Paid with $11 in ECBs and $1.37 OOP ($1 was tax). Earned $4, $6 and $1 (bag tag) ECBs. So, if you consider it, my net cost for all of this was $1.37 or for just the toilet paper, that is less than 7 cents per double roll! I think that is a great deal!

Transaction #2
3 - Boost High Protein
1 - Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Santa (moment of weakness, saved OOP by allowing me to use an ECB)

-$5 $5/$20 CRT
-$2 Boost Peelie
-$1.50 Boost Mfg coupon
-$1.50 Boost Mfg coupon

Paid with $14 in ECBs and $.16 OOP. Earned $6 ECBs. So, I got 18 bottles of Boost for a net cost of $8.16 or $.45 each. Not too bad for the protein shake to go with my exercise (plus I got a free treat!).

For the day, my total OOP was $1.53 and my ECBs decreased by $8. Total "cost" for the day was $9.53.

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

How Do You Roll

What a fun contest.

Enter in on the Great Debate - how do you roll your toilet paper? Over or under?

I'm definitely a member of Team Over. I find that it is easier to use that way.

Head over to Cottonelle Roll Poll and let them know how you roll. When you do, come back here and leave a comment letting everyone know which team you joined.

By leaving a comment on this post, you will be entered to win 1 of 10 Cottonelle gift baskets randomly chosen on January 29, 2010 from all entries, courtesy of Cottonelle and the Mom Blogger's Club.

I received no compensation for this post, but am posting as an entry into a contest to win a one month's supply of Cottonelle toilet paper as a member of the Mom Bloggers Club.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mexican Corn Bake

A few years ago, my cousin brought this dish to a family dinner. I love it. It is sort of rich with the cream cheese and certainly not something you would want to eat regularly if you are watching what you eat, but it is creamy and cheesy and yummy. Plus, you could always make it healthier by using low fat versions of the cheeses, although the melt can be different.

I have scaled it back, as the original recipe made enough for a family gathering. You can easily double this recipe to serve more.

Mexican Corn Bake

1/2 c butter
1 - 8oz package cream cheese
3 Tbsp milk
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies
2 (16 oz) can shoepeg corn, drained
1 c shredded cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; add cream cheese, stirring until melted. Add milk, stirring very well.

Add chilies and corn to the cream cheese sauce and stir. Pour into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes.

For more vegetable recipes, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life As Mom.

CVS Deals - 1/13

I stopped by CVS when I went to pick up my daughter today, because I realized i had an ECB expiring and I didn't want to lose money. I only picked up one deal, despite meaning to grab all of my coupons before leaving, I only had the ones that I had printed earlier and set with my CVS stack. So, I will have to head back later this week. I was just glad not to lose a $5.98 ECB to expiration.

1 - Benefiber Powder
1 - Benefiber Stick Pack
1 - Hershey Extra Dark Chocolate (60% Cacao) Pouch

-$5 $5/$20 CVS coupon
-$2 Benefiber IP
-$2 Benefiber IP

Paid with $5.98, $4 and $2 ECBs and $.52 OOP. I earned a $10 ECB.

So, my net "cost" for everything was $2.50, primarily in the decrease of ECBs. Not a bad deal though, because my quarterly ECB printed, and it was $2.50.

The chocolate pouches were part of the Christmas clearance (at least that's where I found them) and they were 75% off. I am excited because each square is only 1 Point on Weight Watchers and I love my chocolate. I think I might have a Hershey coupon and if I do, I hope there are some left when I go back.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

I am a BzzAgent, which means I get the opportunity to try products and share my experience with others. Currently, the product that I am trying through BzzAgent is RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream.

The Deep Wrinkle Night Cream combines RoC RETINOL (a form of Vitamin A, first stabilized by RoC in 1995) and a mineral complex of magnesium, zinc and copper. The formula has been optimized to improve the appearance of deep wrinkles, while providing intense moisture. Night time is when your skin is in repair mode, so by using this product at night, you are able to capitalize on the time when your face is most receptive to renewal. When you apply it, the upper layers of the skin begin to firm, providing visible reduction in expression lines. Then, as you sleep, the formula continues to work on smoothing even the deepeest of wrinkles, allowing you to "wake up to beautiful, luminous skin."

RoC Skincare was founded in France and has been available there since 1957. It's products were introduced to the US in 1999.

The use of RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream promises to remove 10 years off the look of your skin in just 12 weeks (on average, based on clinical trials). In an idependent clinical study, it was found to be 7x more effective than another leading brand in diminishing signs of aging. It was 4x more effective at reducing the appearance of under eye and forehead wrinkles and 7x more effective at treating crow's feet.

So, far, I have really liked the product. After cleaning my face at night, I apply the cream over my face. Within a few minutes, I usually notice a tightening feeling on my skin. I assume this is firming of the upper layers. Unfortunately, I am not the most consistent at applying it daily. I have never been one to apply moisturizer at night, so even though I leave the tube on my bathroom counter, I still am inconsistent at using it. I can tell you that I notice a difference in how my face feels on the days that I have used it. My skin seems softer, less dry in the morning following the use of the cream. I plan to continue to use it. I like the way that it makes my skin look and feel, and who knows, if I continue to use it, maybe it will become a habit and I too can experience younger looking skin after 12 weeks of use.

You can get a $3 coupon here to try it for yourself.

I received no compensation for this post. Through my participation in BzzAgent, I was provided with product to try and share, in order that I might form my own opinion and share that. The facts provided in this post are based on the BzzGuide provided for this BzzCampaign and any questions about those facts should be posed to RoC Skincare.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Great Gallon Giveaway

Enter the Great Gallon Giveaway for a chance to win free milk for a year. As an added incentive, the first 125,000 to register can print a coupon for a free half gallon of chocolate milk when you purchase two gallons of white milk.

I signed up a little while ago and was able to get the coupon.


I am so sorry. I had it in my head that today was the 12th and the YooHoo & Friends Plush Giveaway was ending. I ended it, drew a winner, notified them and posted. I know that I ended it too soon (since it is actually only the 11th), but I don't feel right undoing what I have done. Please accept my apologies.

YooHoo & Friends Plush Winner

Congratulations to Sarah! She is the winner of the YooHoo & Friends Plush Giveaway. An e-mail will be sent to Sarah.

Thank you to everyone for entering. Be sure to check out my current giveaway for an autographed copy of Michael Palmer's The Last Surgeon.

Random Integer Generator
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Timestamp: 2010-01-11 23:09:52 UTC

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Well, we all survived the first week back to work and school. It was very nice to have a weekend though. I did some big shopping trips today. Two of my stores were having deals on meat, and well, I took advantage of them. I spent almost $100 on groceries, but I got the main portion of 28 dinners (some of which actually provide enough leftovers to freeze for a second meal and some of which will at least provide leftovers for lunch or a leftover night) and specific lunch items for 10 lunches. In addition, I picked up some cereal, some cans to replenish items I was out of, and some weekly essentials like milk and bread. I did save on average 40% between the two stores, between coupons and sales and that made me happy too (much better than the $167 it would have been before sales and coupons).

It seems like a lot of shopping when I keep reading about everyone else's eating from the pantry challenge, but we pretty much didn't buy much more than produce and dairy for about 6 weeks while we emptied out our freezer to defrost. My deep freeze is getting plenty stocked again, but we are actually working on eating our way through our regular freezer now. We had it absolutely stuffed when we squeezed in the last of the deep freeze and I want to use most of that up.

For dinner on Sunday, we tried out a new recipe. My husband texted me from the store a couple of weeks ago in response to a frozen meal he had seen - Rattlesnake Pasta. I did a search for the recipe and found it. It's a restaurant knock-off, but we've never eaten it before, so I can't really say how it compares to the original. Everyone enjoyed the pasta and the recipe is a keeper. I did separate for the kids before adding the jalepenos, as I thought they would be too much for the kids. I also used just milk, no half and half and it was still plenty creamy and rich.

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.

Rattlesnake Pasta

Ravioli Lasagna

Dinner Out at our favorite local Mexican (authentic #54 for my husband)


Turkey Tetrazinni

Pork Chops


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.

Disney On Ice Let's Celebrate!

Disney on Ice Let's Celebrate is a party on ice with all of your favorite Disney friends as they celebrate all of your favorite holidays. It is described as a magical medley of holidays, celebrations and festivals from around the globe, including a winter wonderland, a Halloween haunt, a Royal ball and more.

Last night, the family headed to Cleveland to watch the Disney On Ice Let's Celebrate Show. The show was very good, and very current, even the characters from Princess and the Frog was part of the show. The opening of the show gradually brought out many of the familiar Disney characters - from Mickey Mouse to the Mad Hatter and, of course, the Princesses. My daughter was totally in awe of the Princesses. As each Princess came out, she wanted to know who it was and where was Cinderella.

The first half of the show included an Un-Birthday Party, a Halloween Haunt, a Royal Ball and more. The Halloween Haunt was an interesting way to include a number of your favorite villains - including Cruella De Vil, Ursula, and the Evil Queen from Snow White, amongst others. The Royal Ball featured the Princesses and their Princes, dancing to their theme song as they tried to help Minnie answer the question how will I know if I have met my Prince.

The second half of the show seemed to be much shorter than the first half and many of the celebrations didn't include many of the Disney Characters - which made those feel a little like filler to make the show longer. It did introduce some new favorites that had not been part of the first half - Lilo and Stitch, Woody, Buzz and other toys from Toy Story. I think the cutest one to see on ice was Hamm from Toy Story. I couldn't imagine being the skater in that costume in a crouched position for that long though.

Both my son and daughter enjoyed the show. When asked, my son told me first that the part of the show where the brooms came alive was his favorite and then, that seeing the skating was his favorite. My daughter told me that seeing Alice from Alice in Wonderland was her favorite (I would have guessed princesses, but you know she's 3). My daughter asked if we could go again on the ride home. Seeing the skaters spinning, jumping and lifting was great. It makes me look forward to the Winter Olympics. We went ice skating with the kids a few weeks ago for the first time and this was the first ice skating performance the kids had seen. I think it will be fun to watch some of the skating with them during the Olympics, now that they are more familiar.

Disney on Ice Let's Celebrate will be in Cleveland for 17 shows at the Quicken Loans Arena from January 8th to January 18th.

Friday, January 8th at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 9th at 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, January 9th at 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 9th at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 10th at 1:00 p.m.
(too late for these)
Sunday, January 10th at 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 12th at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 14th at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 16th at 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, January 16th at 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 16th at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 17th at 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.
Monday, January 18th at 1:00 p.m.
Monday, January 18th at 5:00 p.m.

A special offer for you!
Purchase a 4-pack of tickets for only $44 for weekday shows or receive $4 off weekend tickets. Head over to and enter the coupon code MOM. Minimum purchase of 4 tickets required, but additional tickets can be purchased at $11 each. According to the website, the show is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, including a 15 minute intermission. (I think it was a little shorter at our show. We were in our car leaving by 9:10)

Not from Cleveland? This coupon code will also work for shows in other cities. You can find out more about the tour here.

I received no compensation for this post. My family and I received tickets that we might be able to enjoy the show and share about our experience. Tickets were courtesy of FELD Entertainment and Mom Central.

CVS Scenarios - week of 1/10

I didn't make it out to CVS at all last week. In fact, other than a last minute store run during making dinner one evening, I didn't get anywhere. It was just cold and snowy and there weren't any deals that made me want to go out in it or stay out longer.

There are quite a few extra value days ECB deals advertised this week. My problem is that many of them only get to regular sale prices with the ECBs factored in and since they are two packs, you can likely only use one coupon per package, rather than per pack. So, to me, for most I would be better off waiting until they are on sale elsewhere, where I can buy two individual packs and use two coupons. Now, of course, if I get a $/$$ coupon or have ECBs to burn, I would probably include some of these value packs as they aren't bad prices, they just aren't better than I could find normally.

Here are my thoughts on the deals that I likely will try to do this week.

Transaction #1
2 - Pantene Shampoo/Conditioner
3 - Benefiber Sticks pack

-$3 $3/2 Pantene mfg coupon
-$2 Benefiber Mfg IP
-$2 Benefiber Mfg IP
-$2 Benefiber Peelie

Total $20.92 OOP, earn $2 and $10 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Herbal Essence
1 - Covergirl Clean Foundation
1 - Mascara

-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon
-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon

Total $13.76. Pay with $12 in ECBs from Transaction #1 and $1.76 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

Total OOP of $22.68 with $5 ECBs to roll.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

coming soon

Saturday, January 9, 2010


We've had a few days of snow in a row here. Yesterday was supposed to be a heavy snow day, they were calling for 4-6" during the day and 2-4" overnight, but thankfully they were wrong and we only got a little bit of snow yesterday.

I measured the snow out the back door and the current stack is about 9" high.

The Last Surgeon

Do you have a favorite author? Or, perhaps more than one? One of my favorite authors is Michael Palmer. I started reading his books by chance, and continue to read them and share them with friends. It all started a few years ago. Every year, after graduation, there was a trip coordinated from the University of Dayton to Daytona, where I went to college, called Dayton to Daytona. Some of my friends and I decided to join the trip the year we graduated. It was a great time, we all shared a ride down in someone's van and then shared a few rooms in Daytona. It was great to hang out with friends and enjoy the beach before we all headed our separate ways to start our careers.

As with any vacation, I had taken along some books, but I found that I read more than expected and soon had read all of the books I had brought along. So, since vacation wasn't yet over and I knew I had a car ride home after vacation, I headed to the store in the hotel lobby to check out the books. I thumbed through a few options, settling on a copy of Natural Causes. The idea of a medical thriller intrigued me. I had read other thrillers, mostly by Dean Koontz. This was the first Michael Palmer book I had read and after the first few chapters, I was hooked. After reading that first book, I went back and read my way through his other books. I continue to read his books, trying to read each new book as it is released (I fell behind during the baby years...I didn't read much of anything during those years). Including the newest book scheduled for release next month, he has written 15 medical thrillers.

As I indicated above, Michael Palmer writes medical thrillers and he has the background for it. You see, he's a doctor. He went to med school at Case Western Reserve and worked at a private internal medicine practice in Cape Cod. His education and experience give him an advantage in writing a medical thriller. He has the insider details on being a doctor, med school, working at a hospital and such, that really is reflected in the story. Once he started to write, he went to work in the ER. His bio says that it was so he would have more time to write, but I also have to believe that there is more inspiration and ideas to incorporate in a book in an ER job than in a private practice.

All of his books have a way of pulling you in. Sure, you can put down the book easily in the first few chapters, but by about chapter 3 it becomes increasingly difficult. A bad thing happens when I am reading one of his books - I lose a lot of sleep. I'm very guilty of "I'll just read one more chapter" and then 100 pages later, I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open and decide I really do need to put down the book and come back to it tomorrow. Needless to say, it is best for me to read his books on the weekend, when I can read the whole book in just two days. Reading during the week gets to be too hard, there just aren't as many hours to read and I just want to keep reading.

I'm drawn by two things in Michael Palmer's books. The characters and the scary thought that this could be real. I'm generally an optimist and believe in the greater good of people, but the stories that he writes really leave me questioning: Could this actually happen? Has this actually happened? His characters are great too. You have those that you love and those that you love to hate. I feel like I can relate to the characters, no matter how different they are than me, because he does a good job developing the characters in his stories - helping you understand who they are and a bit about what makes them tick. As I read, I find myself wanting to continue reading to know more about them and what happens next in their story. There is frequently even an element of a love story coursing through the storyline.

All of that being said, you can imagine my excitement when I was contacted, by Michael Palmer, to read an advanced copy of The Last Surgeon, his newest novel which is scheduled for release on February 16, and to write about it on my blog.

When the book arrived, I couldn't wait to start reading it. The book follows two main characters, Jillian Coates, a psych nurse, and Dr. Nick Garrity, a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and features, Franz Koller, a psychopath who prides himself on being the master of the "non-kill".

Jillian's sister recently was found dead and the death deemed to be a suicide. Jillian, knowing her sister like she did, doesn't believe that it was a suicide, but suspects it was a murder and sets off to figure out what's going on. Her sister left a clue for her in the form of some comic books, that eventually leads her to Dr. Nick Garrity. Nick Garrity is working as a doctor on a mobile clinic and has been in search of his friend, who saved his life during the war, that had simply disappeared a few years ago. Together, as they look for answers, they start to uncover things. When they learn of a series of recent deaths that tie back to a fatally botched operation a few years ago, they come dangerously close to being the next "non-kill". Will they discover the truth before it's too late?

As expected, I was up much too late reading this book a few nights in a row. It was a great story and I found myself cheering for Jillian and Nick and hoping that Franz Koller would be tripped up and found out.

You can read more about the book here. In addition, you can even read a prequel to the book here, where you can learn more about the back story of Franz Koller.

Intrigued? Would you like a chance to enter to win your own autographed copy of The Last Surgeon? You are in luck, thanks to Michael Palmer, I have the opportunity to have one reader win an autographed copy of this new book.

Primary Entry:
Leave a comment answering the following questions: Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?

Additional Entries:
  • Share this giveaway with friends - on your blog, on Facebook or by e-mail. Leave me a comment letting me know how you shared.

  • Follow @ABusyMomofTwo and @MichaelPalmer on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway. You may complete this entry once per day. (You may use the following or write your own: I just entered to win an autographed copy of @MichaelPalmer's latest thriller, hosted by @ABusyMomofTwo.

  • Follow A Busy Mom of Two. Subscribe to updates in your feed reader or in e-mail. Leave me a comment letting me know that you signed up, or that you already subscribe.

  • Leave a comment with a link to your blog where you have either my button or have a link to A Busy Mom of Two in your blog roll.

Giveaway will remain open until January 21st at 6 pm. One winner will be selected using a random number generator. The winner will be contacted by e-mail (be sure to leave one!) and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected.

I received no compensation for this post. I received an autographed advanced readers' copy of The Last Surgeon from Michael Palmer to read and review. In addition, he is providing an autographed copy of the book to one reader through the giveaway.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fat Burnin' Friday

Going back to the same old routine was a little bit rough this week. Over break, I had continued to watch what I ate and had exercised each morning, but getting back to normal was a change regardless. When I was off, I didn't get up to exercise until about 7. This meant that I didn't have breakfast until closer to 9. Lunch followed closer to noon and dinner, since I was home to prep things, was closer to 5. Back at work this week, I had to shift back to exercising at 5. I tend to drink my protein drink on the way to work and then nibble on breakfast at my desk. Usually, this means that by about 8 I have had my breakfast. This left me feeling munchy around 11. I tried hard to wait for lunch, but I just couldn't do it. Then, I found myself mid-afternoon needing an energy boost. All this extra snacking was hard. I hope to have overcome the need by next week. Thankfully, I keep relatively healthy snacks on hand and didn't have crazy snacks - sticking to granola bars and 100 calorie snack packs.

I did miss one day of exercising, as my daughter couldn't get back to sleep and in an effort for her not to be up for the day at 5, I tried to convince her to go back to bed. Next thing I knew it was after 5:30 and I had lost the time needed to exercise. I am proud to say though, that I have now completed the first eight weeks of P90X. That is further than I got last time. Next week begins the final phase, where I will alternate weekly between the workout sequence from the first two phases.

I really wish that I had listened and measured myself before beginning. I know I am losing weight and seeing that accomplishment on the scale, but I also know that I am losing inches, as I am seeing that in the clothes I wear (I bought four new pairs of pants over the holidays, all of them smaller than I have worn in at least the 4 years that I have worked in my current job). It just would have been nice to know how many inches I had lost, sort of like I know how many pounds I have lost.

Speaking of losing pounds, I passed an important milestone this week at Weight Watchers...I have now lost 10% of the weight I was the day I started Weight Watchers. Now, it is time for me to think about my ultimate goal. I'm tempted to stick with the goal I have set, but I think that I might set another interim goal of losing the next 10% and then see from there whether to stop at my current goal or push it a little further. I was pretty excited to share my success during the meeting portion...there I was, emerging from the holidays, surrounded by not just those that have been there for this portion of my journey, but with new members and returning members as well, showing that this program works...not only had I lost 10%, I did it coming off of a holiday season that is full of challenges, a time period when normally, I would have gained at least a few pounds. If that doesn't speak to the lifestyle changes that can be realized through the Weight Watchers program, I'm not sure what does.

As for my Friday morning weigh in, I lost a little this week. It was clear that the snacking didn't help, as I lost only about 1/2#. I now have 19# to go.

Samples and Freebies


Post It Durable Tabs
Avery Label Pads
EmergenC Alert! Fizzy Drink mix
Ivan Mog's gourmet Caramel Apple sample You can choose your flavor or let them choose.


Hellman's Mayo taste test sample and coupon

Taco Bell Fresco Taco

Did you have a chance to try Taco Bell's new Fresco Taco?

We printed the coupon here (still available) a few weeks ago and picked them up over the holidays. They seemed okay to me...seemed like their standard taco, minus the cheese, plus a tomato salsa like topping. Their Fresco menu is touted as 7 items under 9 g of fat.

If you already used this coupon, you can now get a free Fresco Taco with the purchase of a drink. You can print that coupon here.

I do like that the coupons are good for the chicken, steak or beef taco, despite the fact that chicken and steak are more than the beef ones. I will tell you though that my store didn't know how to enter the coupon for the chicken, so they entered the beef and said they would have them make the chicken. I didn't check my bag...of course, I got the beef. Interestingly enough, they entered the order the same way for my husband and he got the chicken one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

We really enjoy eating a variety of foods and many of the foods that we make at home are based on meals we had while dining out. Sometimes I find a recipe, sometimes I make it up based on what I think is in the dish and still other times, I start with a recipe and tweak it to our tastes.

One dish that we like to make at home that we first had at a restaurant is Cajun Jambalaya Pasta. I like that it is a fairly healthy meal, but offers a lot of flavor. This dish is based on a dish offered at the Cheesecake Factory. Since our nearest Cheesecake Factory is an hour away, we almost never go unless we are traveling.

Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

Spice Blend:
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2# large shrimp, peeled and deveined

12 oz Fettuccine

2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small green pepper, sliced
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1 small white onion, sliced

1 1/2 c chicken stock
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp white wine
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Make spice blend by combining the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle cut up chicken with 1/3 of spice blend. In another bowl, sprinkle shrimp with 1/3 of spice blend.

Prepare pasta.

While pasta cooks, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, saute chicken for about 2 min per side. Add shrimp to pan and cook another 2 minutes. When chicken and shrimp have been seared, move shrimp and chicken into a bowl. Without rinsing, put pan back on high heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add tomato, peppers, and onion. Sprinkle the rest of the spice blend over the vegetables. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables start to brown. Add chicken and shrimp back to the pan. Pour in 3/4 c chicken stock. Cook over high heat until stock has been reduced to just about nothing. Add remaining broth. Stir constantly, reducing broth a bit. Then, turn the heat down to low. Combine cornstarch and wine in small bowl, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved. Add to pan and simmer over low heat until sauce thickens slightly. Serve over pasta, top with parsley.

In the winter, when fresh peppers and tomatoes are not as cheap, we use a bag of frozen peppers and onions and a can of petite diced tomatoes. (This can also be a time saver, since everything is already cut and prepped.) To make the dish healthier, use Spinach Fettuccine and/or Whole Wheat Fettuccine. With so many fresh ingredients and so much flavor, it is a great healthy meal to serve to your family. I will caution that you might want to start with less spice if you are serving children. I actually have only worked up to using about half of the spice blend in cooking. I put the rest on the counter and allow my husband to add more spice to his bowl. Otherwise, the dish would be too spicy for the kids.

For more healthy recipe options, check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap Healthier Eating at Life As Mom.

This recipe also shared at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


A few years ago, when my son was born, I decided I wanted to do scrapbooks for my kids. I quickly learned that it takes a lot of time and a lot of supplies. I completed my son's first year and started on his second year. My daughter's first year book isn't even close to done. This is both frustrating and discouraging.

One of the biggest challenges was handling the pictures so many times. First, I had to go through all of my pictures from the year and select those that I wanted to print out. Then, once I printed them, I had to put them in order, which turned out to be more challenging than I would have guessed. Then, I had to work with the pictures to crop them and lay them out on the page. I spent time cutting paper and taping it all together. Then, I would journal (in my not so great handwriting).

I tried to scrapbook at home, but the paper, books, pictures, and tools seemed to take over the dining room. I would go to weekend scrapbooking events, but found that I was too social, talking with others and reminiscing as I flipped through pictures.

The costs seemed to be high too. I had to buy the book, the pages, the papers, the stickers, etc. I had to pay to print the pictures and fees for attending weekend scraps.

Then, last year, we made photobooks online for our parents at Christmas. We had them printed and I was very happy with them. It was after that that I decided it would probably work better for me to do my scrapbooking online and print the books. Sure, there was some loss of personal touch, but I was still the one assembling the pictures and providing the thoughts through the journaling. Initially, I thought that the costs might be high, but when I considered all of the other costs I had with making paper scrapbooks, I decided they weren't that far out of line.

Certainly, my experience making the books for Christmas showed me that it was a lot quicker than what I was doing with the paper scrapbooks. Additionally, I was handling the pictures less and as long as I named them appropriately, I could easily sort the pictures I wanted.

So, this year, as I went through the past 12 months selecting pictures for our parents book, I also selected pictures for our books. All of my pictures are in a folder and ready for me to upload.

Now comes the hard part. Who should I use to do my photobooks? I am looking for flexibility - who offers the most layout options both in arrangement as well as in number of pictures per page. Do any of the sites offer better options for journaling than others? Which books are high quality and value.

What has been your experience with photobooks? Who would you recommend? Who would you recommend steering clear of?

This question posed at the backwards edition of Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tyson Any'tizers Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to JC and Tamara B, the two winners in the Tyson Any'tizers giveaway.

An e-mail will be sent to each of the winners.

Thank you to everyone for participating and be sure to check out my YooHoo & Friends giveaway.

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Timestamp: 2010-01-04 23:07:59 UTC

The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2

I recently had the opportunity to review The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 from Tyndale House Publishers.

There is a page for each day of the year (including February 29th for leap years). Each page features a short verse from the Bible, a devotion, an illustration featuring the Little Blessings characters and a short rhyming prayer. The devotions are short and simple, which is good for younger children who have short attention spans. While simple, the devotions are about things your child can relate to, making it easy to start a discussion with your child about the bible verse and devotion. Some of the devotions even include questions, from which your discussion with your child can springboard.

I think that the format of the book is a great way to share the bible with your younger children. When my son was first born, we bought a Bible for toddlers and while it shared a number of stories with minimal detail, I always felt it was lacking in that it didn't bring about many discussions and didn't seem to teach but rather only familiarize them with some of the basic Bible stories. This book, because of its styling with daily passages makes it easy to share with the kids and leads to discussions about the lessons it is sharing. It's not telling the stories of the Bible, so much as it is allowing your children to understand the teachings of the Bible.

The book is titled to suggest that it is for Preschoolers, but I also think that it would be appropriate for older children. The passages are simple enough that an early reader could read it and think about the devotions.

Title: The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2
by Carla Barnhill; illustrated by Elena Kucharik
Age range: 3-6 years old
Publisher: Tyndale
Price: $14.99 (hardcover)

I received no compensation for this post. I received a complimentary copy of The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 to review and share with my children, through MamaBzz.