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.

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.

Like Crazy Forts! 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 9th at 6 pm and is open to residents of the Continental US and Canada only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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 CardStore.com 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 CardStore.com, 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 CardStore.com - 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. CardStore.com 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.

Holiday Gift Guide - Dollies and their accessories


My daughter is 4 years old and loves her dolls. She has two special dollies, their names are Jammie Dolly and Purple Dolly. They were named by my daughter, based on their clothes. Jammie Dolly, as you might have guessed is wearing pajamas, not only does she normally wear a nightgown, if she is "undressed" her standard outfit is a set of yellow pajamas. Purple Dolly, wears a purple nightgown. When we got her, she actually was wearing a rain coat and boots, but she spends most of her time in her purple nightgown.

Our two dollies share a bed located right next to my daughter's bed. The bed that they use was the doll baby bed that my Grandma and Grandpa made for me when I was a child. A while ago, I had my parents pull it out of my closet, so that I could give it to my daughter. It was showing its age, so I repainted it and put a new mattress cover on the pad that serves as the mattress. I think that it is neat that my daughter is using the same bed for her dolls that I once used to use for my dolls.

We have one umbrella stroller that they try to share, but my daughter tells me that they don't fit well and usually wind up fighting. This means that one of the two is usually carried or stuck in a bag, when they are "traveling" around the house.

Those two dollies are an important part of my daughter's play. A few weeks ago for her birthday she received a gift card for the toy store, given the choice of what to buy she chose a new diaper bag for her dollies. This one evidently was better than any bag we already had and it included two additional bottles, some small cloths, a container of "powder" and a diaper. She makes sure her bag is well stocked before she heads out (around the house) with her two dollies. There are books, a set of Akron Aero dog tags that she tells me are her cell phone, iPod and DS, blankets, and of course, the bottles, cloths, powder and diaper that came with the bag. When she is done feeding them, she cleans the bottles with her cloth. When the dollies need to be changed, she finds a changing pad and changes their diaper (we only have one, so she pretends - because she knows that if she uses it for real, that it won't work again).

I love watching her play with her dollies. Some things, make me giggle, like the way that when the dollies are napping, she covers their face with a blanket. I asked her once why she covered their faces and wondered if they could still breath. She explained that she covered their faces because they can't close their eyes - there just is something about that line of thought - I never would have considered that they couldn't sleep if they couldn't close their eyes. Some things I find really touching, seeing how she is a little mommy to her dolls. She feeds them their bottles and then she washes them, wiping them clean with her new cloths. I definitely see a lot of things from her life acted out through the dollies. She takes them to daycare. Only she is both the mom and teacher, as she sets up centers for them to play. Occasionally, one of the dollies will misbehave and she will be sent to time out.

My daughter loves her dollies. I love how playing with dollies lets her act out the things that she is experiencing and observing in her life. My son pretended to be the daddy for his stuffed monkey, which I always found very sweet. Of course, he didn't have the advantage of all the accessories that come with a dolly. Sometimes, he will join my daughter in the play with her dollies, it is great to see them play together and to act as parents, teachers, etc to the dollies.

Speaking of accessories for a dolly, on important accessory (as any girl will tell you) are clothes! Last year, we found some pajamas for my daughter that came with a matching pair of pajamas for her dolly. She received them as a Christmas present from Grandpa. When she opened them, she was ecstatic and couldn't wait to wear the matching pajamas. I wasn't surprised at all by this - my daughter thinks it is great to wear things that are similar to mine, so why wouldn't she want for her dolly to match her?

Since she received those pajamas, she has asked more than once for more clothes that have a matching outfit for dolly. We found another pair of matching pajamas for the summer and got those for her, but I just wasn't seeing many clothes (outside of special occasion wear). Then, a while back, I came across a line of clothes that feature a matching outfits for girls and their dollies from Dollie & Me. We were shopping at Kohl's and they had a few different options of dresses and pants outfits. The outfits are available in sizes from 2T up to 16 (varies based on style) for the girls and the dollie outfit will fit their favorite 18" dollie. Dollie & Me also offers accessories and toys for girls and their dollie. They even have their own line of 18" dollies designed by the Alexander Doll Company, Inc.

I like that you can find their line of product from a number of retailers, both online and in stores, including Kohl's, Sears, and Amazon. The outfits and accessories retail from $6.99 to $80 and the dolls have a suggested price of $29.95. (you can link directly to the online sites through their Shop tab, select the style you are looking for and it will link you to the retailer or if there are multiple, let you choose which retailer to link to.)

We received a couple of dresses for my daughter and her dolly to check out. The clothing is cute and nicely made, the one skirt is even lined. The dress styles that we received both pull over the head to put on. This makes it easy for my daughter, who is super independent, to put on her own dress and then, I only have to tie the bow. I really like that the outfits for the dollie feature a full open back that is secured with Velcro tabs. This feature makes it a lot easier, especially for a younger girl like my daughter, to be able to dress her dollie on her own. No need for me to button and unbutton the outfit every time she wants to change her. Our dollies are slightly smaller than 18" and the sleeves are a little bit long, but I simply rolled the cuffs under and the dresses look fine on the dollies. I guess that summer outfits will be better for our dolls, since they are slightly smaller. I'd buy a new doll for her, but I'm not sure that anyone could ever take the place of Jammie Dolly or Purple Dolly - so we will just have to improvise.


Giveaway
Thanks to Dollie & Me, I have the opportunity to allow one A Busy Mom of Two reader to receive a free Dollie & Me outfit. The winner will be able to specify the size needed, but will not get to choose the style. I have set the giveaway so that the outfit can ship to the winner in time for Christmas.

To enter: Leave a comment sharing who would be the recipient of the Dollie & Me outfit - if you know the Dollie's name, include it too. I think that the names that little girls choose for their dollies are cute.

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry)

Follow A Busy Mom of Two on Twitter.

Follow Dollie & Me 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.

Like Dollie & Me 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 6th at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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. I received two Dollie & Me outfits for review. The outfit for the giveaway is provided courtesy of Dollie & Me.

Menu Plan Monday

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope that you did too! I didn't make a grocery run this weekend, other than a quick trip on Thursday morning to pick up milk and some produce for the balance of the week. My husband did pick up some baking supplies for me when he was out. My plan is to do a lot of my Christmas baking this week...it's just three weeks until Christmas break starts and I use baked goods as part of the teachers' gifts.

Turkey is a part of the menu a few times this week - the sausage on Monday, the Turkey Roast on Thursday and the Taco Meat on Saturday.

Sunday
cereal
on the go
Omelets with Tomatoes, Red Peppers, Onions and Cheese

Monday
Pasta with a Roasted Red Pepper/Vodka sauce

Tuesday
Roasted Shrimp and Tomatoes

Wednesday
Sloppy Joes

Thursday
Penne Cardinale

Friday
Pizza

Saturday
cereal
sandwiches
TBD

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, November 28, 2010

Walgreens Scenarios - week of 11/28

I know for a fact that I will be near a Walgreens today, so I took a look to see what deals would be worth stopping in for. My list started with a lot of candy, not a good thing, seeing as how I am trying to monitor what I eat and I have a large chocolate tooth, but I figure that if I need the candy for the holidays, it is at least better to get a good deal on it.

Transaction #1
2 - Nyquil/Dayquil Sinex

-$4 any Sinex product
-$4 any Sinex product

Total $2 OOP, earn $5 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #2
2 - Cap'n Crunch Cereal
3 - Eclipse Gum

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

Total $6, pay with $5 Jingle Cash and $1 OOP. Earn $2 and $1 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #3
4 - M&M Holiday

-$1 $1/2 M&M mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 M&M mfg coupon

Total $8, pay with $2 and $1 Jingle Cash and $5 OOP. Earn $5 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #4
1 - Gillette ProFusion Razor

-$4 Gillette ProFusion mfg coupon

Total $5.99, pay with $5 Jingle Cash and $.99 OOP. Earn $4 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #5
2 - Quaker Oatmeal

-$1 $1/2 Quaker Oatmeal mfg coupon

Total $4, pay with $4 Jingle Cash. Earn $2 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #6
4 - Arizona Iced Tea (w/ in ad coupon)

Total $2, pay with $2 Jingle Cash.

For my trip, I will have spent $8.99, for $43.99 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 80%.

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

Walgreens $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
2 - Nyquil/Dayquil Sinex

-$4 any Sinex product
-$4 any Sinex product

Total $2 OOP, earn $5 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #2
1 - Gillette ProFusion Razor
1 - Disney Christmas puzzles (w/ in ad coupon)

-$4 Gillette ProFusion mfg coupon

Total $6.38, pay with $5 Jingle Cash and $1.38 OOP. Earn $4 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #3
2 - Quaker Oatmeal

-$1 $1/2 Quaker Oatmeal mfg coupon

Total $4, pay with $4 Jingle Cash. Earn $2 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #4
3 - Eclipse Gum

Total $2, pay with $2 Jingle Cash. Earn $1 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #5
4 - Arizona Iced Tea (w/ in ad coupon)

Total $2, pay with $1 Jingle Cash and $1 OOP.

Total OOP $4.38. The total value of product is $29.38, for a savings of 85%.

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

CVS scenarios - week of 11/28

Now, that I built up my ECBs with my money-making Thanksgiving day trip to CVS, I am ready to take advantage of some deals this week at CVS.

Transaction #1
1 - Complete solution

-$1 Complete peelie

Total $8.99, receive $9.99 ECBs.

Transaction #2
4 - Pantene Shampoo/Conditioner
2 - Dawn Hand Renewal
1 - Charmin Basic

-$3.33 Free Pantene Shampoo WYB One
-$3.33 Free Pantene Shampoo WYB One
-$.50 Dawn Hand Renewal mfg coupon (from last month's Brand Saver)
-$.50 Dawn Hand Renewal mfg coupon (from last month's Brand Saver)
-$1 Charmin Basic mfg coupon

Total $11.75, pay with $9.99 ECBs and $1.76 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Olay Body Wash
1 - Secret Trial Size
3 - Planter's Nuts

-$5 Olay Body Wash wyb one Secret (from last month's Brand Saver)
-$1 Planter's Nuts IP (First Taste)
-$1 Planter's Nuts Mfg coupon
-$1 Planter's Nuts mfg coupon

Total $9.79, pay with $5 ECBs and $4.79 OOP. Earn $2 and $3 ECBs. Of course, if the Flavor Grove are included, I will use my $1 CRT for them and reduce my OOP.

Transaction #4
3 - Benefiber Stick Packs

-$1 Benefiber mfg coupon
-$1 Benefiber mfg coupon
-$1 Benefiber mfg coupon

Total $20.07, pay with $2 and $3 ECBs and $15.57 OOP. Earn $10 ECBs. Anyone know if there are any links out there for the $2 or $2.50 Benefiber IPs? As I mentioned here, I love to flavor my water and find their flavors to be good.

Total OOP for the day would be $31.11 for $71.26 in product with $10 ECBs remaining. About a 62% savings.

Of course, there are a few other deals that I am kicking around, like the Gillette Shaving Spend $25 get $10 deal. I like the Venus Razors and my husband likes the Gillette Fusion razors. I will have to see what type of deal I can get with the coupons from the paper this week. The Softsoap/Irish Spring deal is another one I am considering. I am pretty sure that I have some coupons for both and this might be a good time to grab some. I might also take advantage of the BOGO Gift Wrap offer, I have a CRT the expired last week, but generally, my CVS will take them for a week or two past expiration.

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

CVS $5 Challenge
Wow! So many of this week's deals exceed this threshold, but here's my best shot.

Transaction #1
1 - Olay Body Wash
1 - Secret Trial Size

-$5 Olay Body Wash wyb any Secret

Total $2.79 OOP, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Infusium 23 Shampoo

$2 Infusium mfg coupon

Total $3.99, pay with $2 ECBs and $1.99 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

Total OOP was $4.78 with $2 ECBs to roll. Not too bad for $13.78 in product at sale price. A savings of about 70%.

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Board and Card Games


We are a game family.

For me, playing games is something that I remember doing a lot as a child. At home we would play board games and card games. I remember playing games like Scrabble and Monopoly and Clue. And, if I was playing with my brothers, there was a chance it was Dukes of Hazard or some such game.

I can remember going to my Grandma and Grandpa's house to spend the night and playing games into the evening. We played mostly a dice game or Hand and Foot, but then later played a game called Give and Take and Rummikub. I remember Sunday dinners at Grandma and Grandpa's where my aunts would play Euchre, and sometimes I would get to play too.

When my husband and I started to date, and ever since really, we have enjoyed playing games together. We like to get together with friends to play games (admittedly, this is harder with a family). We have a full game closet in our basement. Long before we had children old enough to play, we had our own copy of Pay Day! and Life. I frequently would give him a game for Christmas, when we were first married. We have games based on classic television game shows and classic board games too. Sometimes, I can even convince him to play a game of Scrabble.

Now, with young kids, we get the chance to play games with them. Lately, we have been playing Monopoly Deal, Pay Day! and Life. Last weekend, my son grabbed Cribbage and Score Four out of the closet (I'm missing a couple of pieces if anyone has extra?) and I taught him how to play both. Of course, my daughter was anxious to play a game then, so after our games, we joined her on the floor for a game of Memory, which she pointed out we hadn't played in a long time. I love not only playing with them, but also observing them playing games together - a recent favorite is Horton Hears a Who, wear they don an elephant hat and following the activity required on the card, race the timer in search of clovers.

When we travel to my parent's house, the kids get a chance to play with many of the toys I played with as a child, including some of my games. My son has tried out Chinese Checkers and a few others. In addition, my mom has shown them Shut the box and Mexican Train. When anyone visits, the kids are always eager to play games with them. One of my hopes is that when they are grown, that they too will have memories of playing games with the family.

In addition to bringing families together, games can really be a learning tool for kids as well. There is a lot to be said about learning to be a good loser and a gracious winner. It can be a very difficult concept for a young child at first, but with time, it is something that will help them in life. Of course, there is also learning to follow rules. Not that this is only seen in game play, but certainly, it illustrates on another level the importance of following rules. Games like Cranium and Pictionary also involve a creative element and can help foster those skills in children - typically with much laughter ensuing. We love games that challenge the mind too, like Blokus, Masterind and Police Blockade (you can learn more about Police Blockade here). Today, my son pulled out MindTrap. I was happy to see his interest in one of my favorite games, but knew this game was in general beyond his 7 years, but we picked through the cards and found questions that he could try to solve. I love how this game challenges you to think of things differently than you normally do. (If you aren't familiar with this game here are two sample questions from the side of the box: 1. "Picture two plastic jugs filled with water. How could you put all of this water into a barrel, without adding the jugs or any divider to the barrel, and still tell which water came from which jug?" 2. "Barney Dribble left the 'Soul-Ace Hotel' and walked toward the parking lot. Without the benefit of moonlight or any artificial light, he was able to spot his black car 100 meters away. How was this possible?" I'll put the answers at the bottom, so you have some time to consider them.)

My children have a number of games on their Christmas Wish List this year - Sorry Spinners, any of the U-Build games, the Curious George Helps the Zoo Game, Diary of a Wimpy Kid game, Chinese Checkers, and probably a few more. I think games are a gift that keep on giving and know that my kids will find a game or two under the tree on Christmas morning.

In case you are playing along, here is the answer to the MindTrap questions: 1. "First you would freeze the water in one or both jugs, and then cut the plastic away from the ice." 2. "It was daylight."

Friday, November 26, 2010

CVS Deals - 11/25

Before beginning to prep for our Thanksgiving meal, I made a quick trip to CVS. I knew I needed to pick up a few things at the grocery store as well, so it seemed like a good idea. When I got there, I noticed that the grocery store I had planned to stop at was closed, so I wound up having to drive to another store to get the few items I needed. But, the trip to CVS was well worth it. I picked up quite a few things and made money (ECBs, but that's just as good!).

I got all of this in 6 transactions:

2 - Listerine Pocket Packs
2 - Renpure Organics Shampoo/Conditioner
2 - Herbal Essence Hydralicious Shampoo/Conditioner
1 - Advil PM
1 - Excedrin
1 - Speedstick (they substituted for the Gillette they were out of)
5 - King Size M&M Mars
5 - Reese's Singles
1 - Eucerin Lotion
1 - Carmex Lip Balm
2 - Colgate Sensitive
1 - Phillips Headset (is it me or do they seem to have these free after ECBs at every holiday?)
1 - Bioluxe Conditioner Sample Size
6 - Arizona Iced Tea

-$.50 Listerine Pocket Packs
-$.50 Listerine Pocket Packs
-$2 Clariol family Product
-$.50 Herbal Essence
-$2 Gillette Deoderant (they took the coupon on the substitution)
-$.30 Twix CRT
-$1 Eucerin Lotion
-$1 Colgate Sensitive
-$1 Colgate Sensitive
-$1.99 Free Bioluxe CVS e-mail offer

I paid with $5.98 ECBs on the first transaction and rolled ECBs through the others, ultimately spending $1.07 plus $3.29 tax (total of $4.36 OOP). I now have $13.31 in ECBs, for an increase of $7.33 in ECBs. A net profit of $2.97 in ECBs, after considering OOP and tax. According to my receipts, I saved $85.48. So, with some fuzzy math, I guess you could say I got $89.84 in product and was paid about $3 to take it home. Not too shabby for a quick trip to the drugstore. Plus, both of my Renpure Organics items came with a Try Me Free hang tag. I'm wondering if I can use both? It doesn't say limit of one per household. I will have to find out, but I should get back either $4.99 or $9.98 back with the MIR. Which only improves the money making nature of this trip.

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.

Samples and Freebies

Requested:
Purina One Smart Blend Cat Food (Target)
Vaseline Intensive Rescue sample

Received:
Wisk sample and coupon
Purina One Smart Blend Cat Food

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cottonelle Fresh - Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Mary! She was selected as the winner of the Cottonelle Fresh wipes giveaway.

An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check my current giveaways in the upper right hand column of the blog.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

35
Timestamp: 2010-11-25 04:48:53 UTC

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post to wish everyone and their families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Crazy Forts


I've mentioned before how much my kids enjoy building forts. I think it probably all started with a tent and tunnel that my kids had when they were younger. It was easy to assemble and leave set up for them all of the time. As they have been getting bigger, it didn't work as well and we moved from a tent and tunnel to fort building. I based the initial fort building on skills that I had developed myself as a child - using cushions, pillows, blankets, chairs, couches, and tables to build forts. (I used to build forts with cards too, carefully laying out my rooms on the floor and then moving about my "house".)

A month ago, I had the opportunity to play with and review Crazy Forts. With Crazy Forts, you use the balls and sticks to build the framework for your fort and then you cover them with bed sheets to make a private hideaway.

My daughter is a little young to be able to design and build, but she loves playing inside. My son, on the other hand, has mastered building the Crazy Forts. We started with the directions, available on their site, for each of the forts pictured on the box. Then, we moved on to free-form forts. We built one, just last weekend, where we really only had an arched wall structure that bridged between our recliner and our sofa in the basement. Then, when we covered it with bed sheets, we put the sheets between the wall and the furniture to allow for a bigger fort.

The kids will play in the basement for hours with the fort. Sometimes, each visit to the basement to check on them reveals a new fort that they have built. They have left a "mailbox" outside their door, which is where I am supposed to leave notes to let them know when dinner is and such. I love sitting just beyond sight and listening to their pretending out loud that they do with each other when they are playing inside their private fortress.

I like that the directions for building the different forts - igloo, castle, rocket, house and tunnel - provided the foundation to help my son understand how to use the different angles on the ball to build varying heights and shapes. Now that we have moved on to the free-form forts, it challenges my son's (and mine, too) sense of spatial orientation to be able to construct the fort with different angles and have the sticks meet up to be connected with a ball. When we built our arched wall last weekend, we had to do a bit of a rebuild when we found that it wouldn't work the way that we constructed it. Building the forts also helps him understand a little bit about strength and stability in construction and where you need a supporting "beam" and where you can skip it.

I will say that you have to make sure that you put the words Crazy Fort on the ball up to ensure things align correctly. This also puts the flat spot on the bottom, which is good for the bottom layer. Sometimes, you will find that you have to rotate the ball 45 degrees, to get some of the angled positions where you need them - as long as you figure this out early enough in the build, this is fairly easy to accomplish. In addition, you have to make sure that the sticks are firmly seated in the ball so that they don't come undone as the children are crawling around and bumping into the frame as they play inside. It took us a little while to master this, but now we know to simply do a once over to check all the connections before adding the sheet. We still have instances of the sticks coming loose, but there aren't as many as their had been initially and typically are simple enough to reconnect.

I like that Crazy Forts challenges my children to think, but also provides them hours of entertainment. My kids like playing with Crazy Forts - in fact, they have added a second set (and third, if you consider they both have asked for another set) of Crazy Forts to their Christmas lists, so that they can build bigger forts with more space.

No compensation was received for this post. I was provided with one box of Crazy Forts to review and share my experience. All opinions expressed are my own.

CVS Deals - 11/24

I made a quick stop at CVS this afternoon. I had hoped to pick up some things, but couldn't find my list when I got there, so I wound up picking up only a few items.

2 - Frosted Flakes
1 - Excedrin 8ct
1 - Advil PM 4ct

-$1 $1/2 Kellogg's Cereal coupon

Paid with $6 in ECBs, adjusted down to $5.98 and $.09 in tax OOP. Earned $2, $.99 and $.99 ECBs. I feel like getting the cereal for a "cost" of $2 ECBs or $1 ECB each, was a pretty good deal.

Now, I'm ready to head to the store and check out their 3-day sale. In previewing the ad online, I see that there quite a few free after ECB offers. I hope I have some coupon match-ups to make some of them moneymaker.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Hexbug Nano


A while back, I had the opportunity to host a Hexbug Nano In Home Party. These little bugs seemed a little odd to me at first, but surprisingly, they keep the kids entertained. The kids enjoy setting a few of the bugs loose in the habitat and watching them scamper about. You would think that they would lose interest, but over the past few months, they continue to come back to them. We haven't even redesigned the habitat. Sure, we don't go in and watch them daily anymore, but when they see the habitat and are reminded of it, they are anxious to play.
video
I have to admit, I enjoy watching the kids watch them. It's interesting to see how the bugs choose this path or that. It's interesting to watch them try to right themselves when the fall off the bridge and land on their back or when another bug runs into them and causes them to fall on their side. We've even played with the stops that came with the set, basically creating an exit only doorway from a path or room.

I like that the Hexbugs and their habitat don't take up much space and can easily be carried from room to room, fully assembled. There is an online experience available as well. Through the Hexbug Nano website, your child can register and track their bugs online. Then, your child can play games, collect points, and learn about science. It looks intriguing to me. "The Hexbug Nano is built around an ancient, fabled society called Hands & Stars, dedicated to human progress through science." The site is built on this and geared to children 7 to 14. Based on the descriptions, it seems like it could be an educational experience including challenges and quizzes. The website is http://www.blogger.com/www.handsandstars.com. I started to play the game Possibility, which really stretches your spatial abilities as you try to figure out how to move the Mold around the tiles without it falling off or through, while collecting lumens and trying to do it in as few moves as possible. I do like that I didn't have to register to play.

I have seen the Hexbug Nano at Target and was pleasantly surprised by their pricing - the starter set is only $17.99 (MSRP). The habitat set is $29.99 (MSRP) and comes with 3 Hex Cells, 7 bridges (track pieces) and 2 Hexbugs. They also have a case for storing your Hexbugs, which might be something I will pick up for the holidays.

Giveaway
I have a couple of unopened Hexbug Nano bugs from our in home party and would like to share them with one A Busy Mom of Two reader.

To enter: Leave a comment telling me that you would like to win.

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.

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 7th at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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 shared are solely my own. I received a set of Hexbugs and habitat pieces for the in home party that I hosted. The Hexbugs that I am using for the giveaway were remaining from this party package.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mamavation Monday

Last week was a very busy week. I had dinners many evenings for work. This made it very difficult to stick to both my eating plan and my workout plan. And, I did pretty good. I worked out both in the morning and the evening to start the week. The morning was P90X and the evening was either Ab Ripper X or Walk At Home 2 mile workout. It started to crumble on Thursday. I was so exhausted that I decided to sleep for a little bit, since I knew I couldn't fit in my full workout. I did walk on Thursday night...but I also ate a wonderful delectable dessert and some appetizers at dinner, I had steered clear of both earlier in the week, but I was weak and how could I pass on Pumpkin Creme Brulee? So creamy smooth, yum. On a positive note, I did share it with a co-worker, so it was only half bad. Friday was a return to routine, but I'm not sure I gave it my all.

This weekend was relatively smooth, until I tried this new bread dip - you know those seasonings that you add to olive oil? - it was absolutely addictive, I ate way more bread than I normally would or would reasonably expect to. I have to figure that one out, how do I enjoy that bread dip at home and not over do it?

Needless to say, the scale was a little bit flat for the week.

The good thing is that I started right back onto my P90X morning/Ab Ripper or Walk At Home routine this morning. I am confident that I will do better this week, even with Thanksgiving. (writing that makes me want to break out in "I have confidence in confidence alone, besides which you see I have confidence in me...", but that is another story - I never did share about my trip to the Sound of Music Sing A Long at the theater or the CD soundtrack I listen to all the time now - have you ever noticed how it's hard not to smile when singing many of those songs. But, I digress...)

This post shared at Mamavation Monday. Subway Fresh Buzz and their Commit to Fit is the sponsor of this week's Mamavation Monday. They ask, what fit commitment are you going to make? My first answer is to complete P90X, but then I would like to mix it up and try some of the other Tony Horton DVDs. They are sponsoring a giveaway of $100 to support one participant's Commit to Fit.

Disney On Ice! - Toy Story 3


Last year we took the kids to their first Disney on Ice show and they both loved it. This year, I am excited to take them to see Disney on Ice when it comes to Cleveland from January 7th to January 17th. The show this year is Toy Story 3. Both kids love the Toy Story characters and I can't wait to watch them watch the show. My daughter could watch any of the Toy Story movies daily.

Read on to learn more about the show and for a special Disney on Ice reader discount!

    The summer’s biggest hit movie, Toy Story 3 and famed moments from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are hitting the ice in this sensational live production coming to Cleveland.

    Catch all the heroic action when Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie and the Toy Story gang escape from the rambunctious Sunnyside Daycare tots and hit the ice, in their most daring adventure ever, introducing Barbie’s groovy bachelor Ken and Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear. It’s the biggest Toy Story experience on ice, jam-packed with fast paced adventure including Buzz’s galactic battle with Emperor Zurg and a hoe down on the set of Woody’s Roundup.

    Rediscover the humor, friendship and unique toy ingenuity when Disney On Ice presents Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3 takes family fun to infinity and beyond!


I’m excited that I have been provided with a special ticket discount code for A Busy Mom of Two readers!
CODE: MOM2
DISCOUNT: Flat $11 discount on ALL performances
RESTRICTIONS: Not valid on Front Row or VIP seats; no double discounts; limit 4 per order
LINK to purchase tickets: http://www.theqarena.com/events/disney_110107/

For more event details including show times and ticket prices visit the Quicken Loans Arena website.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Feld Family Activator and will have the opportunity to take my family to the show.

Holiday Gift Guide - An Easel


A few years ago, while shopping at Ikea, my husband and I picked up an easel for my son. It has a chalkboard on one side, a whiteboard on the other side and a roll of paper on the bottom that can be threaded through to write on it on the easel (or rolled out on the floor, which is generally how we use it). The frame is constructed out of wood. If memory serves, it cost us around $15-20 and we have gotten more than our money's worth from that easel. (I wanted to share a link but when I went to Ikea's site I can still see pictures of my easel, but I can't find it listed for sale in the products?)

I have found that our easel, with the chalkboard and whiteboard provide endless entertainment for my children. They use both the chalkboard and the whiteboard, depending on their mood, to draw pictures. They will draw and redraw pictures, until they are just right. With our easel being two sided, it actually allows both of them to draw at the same time (if they can agree to each using a different side!). I've seen them use the board to "map out" their plans for playing - showing their path from the family room to the bed room to the basement.

We have used the easel to help my son learn and practice math. The easel is also a great way to write out the words for the kids to write in a card or thank you or other note. I write it on the board and then they can copy it into the note. Not only does this allow them write their own notes, making them more personal, but it also gets them in the practice of writing thank you notes and such, as well as a chance to practice their handwriting and learn spelling. (I am certain that this helped my son to get the nice handwriting he has). Now that my son is older, he uses the board to write notes to us and we write to him sometimes too.

We also will roll out the roll of paper on the bottom of our easel and use it to make long story board type stories in pictures. We have used it to paint and to draw.

From my experience, an easel with a chalkboard and a whiteboard is a great way to allow your child to be creative and to stretch their minds.

Menu Plan Monday

I am really looking forward to a short week this week. I didn't head to the grocery store over the weekend, so I will likely stop early this week to pick up a few fresh ingredients that are needed for some meals later in the week.

Saturday night we had some friends over for dinner. I had picked up a dipping oil set and some olive oil and it was delicious with a loaf of Ciabbata bread. I made a knock off version of Pasta Bravo! that was mighty tasty if I do say so myself. I will have to post that recipe for everyone else to try.

Turkey is a part of the menu a few times this week - the sausage on Monday, the Turkey Roast on Thursday and the Taco Meat on Saturday.

Sunday
cereal
leftovers
Pasta Bravo! leftovers (knock off version)

Monday
Pierogies/Sausage

Tuesday
pizza

Wednesday
dinner out at our favorite local Mexican

Thursday
Turkey Roast

Friday
Cube Steaks and Rice

Saturday
cereal
sandwiches
Tacos

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, November 21, 2010

Walgreens Scenarios - week of 11/21

There are a few deals at Walgreens this week, even a few that are free after coupons. I have seen some posts about Black Friday and there are some good deals. You can preview the ad on their website.

Transaction #1
1 - Colgate ProClinical

-$1 Colgate ProClinical IP

Total $2.49 OOP, received $2.50 Jingle Cash (RR).

Transaction #2
6 - Kleenex Tissue (w/ in ad coupon)

-$.50 $.50/3 Kleenex Mfg coupon
-$.50 $.50/3 Kleenex Mfg coupon

Total $4.74. Pay with $2.50 Jingle Cash and $2.24 OOP. Receive $3 Jingle Cash (RR).

Transaction #3
2 - Playtex/Playtex Sport
1 - Nabisco Crackers (w/ in ad coupon)
1 - Jello Pudding (w/ in ad coupon)

-$2 Playtex IP
-$2 Playtex IP
-$1 Nabisco Cracker mfg coupon

Total $4.58. Pay with $3 Jingle Cash and $1.58 OOP. Receive $2 Jingle Cash.

Transaction #4
2 - Coffeemate Creamers
1 - Boston Simplus
1 - Hershey Chocolate Santa (w/ in ad coupon)

-$1.50 Coffeemate IP
-$1.50 Coffeemate IP
-$1 Boston IP

Total $8. Pay with $2 Jingle Cash and $5.99 OOP. Receive $2 Jingle Cash.

Total OOP for the trip is $12.30 with $2 Jingle Cash remaining, for $33.30 in product (a savings of 65%).

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

Walgreens $5 Challenge
Transaction #1
1 - Colgate ProClinical

-$1 Colgate ProClinical IP

Total $2.49 OOP, receive $2.50 Jingle Cash

Transaction #2
6 - Kleenex Tissue (w/ in ad coupon)

-$.50 $.50/3 Kleenex Mfg coupon
-$.50 $.50/3 Kleenex Mfg coupon

Total $4.74. Pay with $2.50 Jingle Cash and $2.24 OOP. Receive $3 Jingle Cash (RR).

Transaction #3
2 - Coffeemate Creamer
1 - Nabisco Crackers
2 - Olay Bars
1 - Vanity Fair Napkins

-$1.50 Coffeemate Creamer
-$1.50 Coffeemate Creamer
-$1 Nabisco Crackers mfg coupon
-$1 Olay product mfg coupon
-$1 Olay product mfg coupon

Total $3.48. Pay with $3 Jingle Cash and $.48 OOP. Receive $1 Jingle Cash.

Total OOP for the trip would be $5.21 with $1 Jingle Cash remaining for $21.20 in product (a savings of 77%).

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

CVS Scenarios - week of 11/21

There are a few small deals this week, that I might try to get out for. I definitely plan to get out later in the week too and hope that they have some great deals for Thanksgiving/Black Friday.

Transaction #1
1 - Excedrin 8ct
1 - Advil PM 4ct

Total $1.98, earn $1.98 ECB.

Transaction #2
2 - Kellogg's Cereals

-$1 $1/2 Kellogg's IP

Total $4, pay with $1.98 ECB and $2.02 OOP, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Chapstick Ultra

-$1 Chapstick IP

Total $2.99, pay with $2 ECB and $.99 OOP, earn $1 ECB.

Transaction #4
1 - Secret Deodorant

-$1 Secret mfg coupon

Total $1.99, pay with $1 ECB and $.99 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

For the trip, the total OOP is $5.98 with $1 ECB to roll, for $14 in product at sale prices, or approximately 60% savings.

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

CVS $5 Challenge
Transaction #1
1 - Excedrin 8ct
1 - Advil PM 4ct

Total $1.98, earn $1.98 ECB.

Transaction #2
2 - Kellogg's Cereals

-$1 $1/2 Kellogg's IP

Total $4, pay with $1.98 ECB and $2.02 OOP, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Chapstick Ultra

-$1 Chapstick IP

Total $2.99, pay with $2 ECB and $.99 OOP, earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP is $4.99, with $1 ECB to roll for $11 in product at sale prices.

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

CVS Deals - 11/19

I finally headed out to CVS on Friday. It had been a busy week and I didn't have a chance to make it any earlier. They were out of the Fiber One Chewy Granola bars, so I had to get a rain check for them.

Transaction #1
2 - Kellogg's cereal
1 - Herbal Essence conditioner

-$1 $1/2 Kellogg's cereal IP (Kelloggs.com)
-$2 Clairol Family mfg coupon

Paid with $4 in ECBs adjusted down to $3.99 and $.14 OOP. Earned $1 and $2 ECBs.

My ECBs were expiring, so this was a great way to use them, getting 2 boxes of cereal and conditioner at a loss of $1 ECB.

This post shared at Super Savings Saturday.

Holiday Gift Guide - Dress-Up Clothes


There is something that is simply magical, almost transforming when a child puts on dress up clothes. It gives them license to be someone or something completely different than who they are. Sure, children can pretend without dress up clothes, but dressing up takes it to the next level.

Before we had dress up clothes, I can remember tucking a baby blanket into the back of my son's shirt so that he could be transformed into a super hero. He would fly around the house and return regularly to be re-tucked.

Then, we got a few hats that they started to use for dress-up. We had a hat that I think might have been a Diego hat. And, then some plastic fire fighter hats that they received at school.

Then, we started our collection of dress-up clothes a few years ago at Halloween. After the events were all over (we try to maximize the number of events where the kids can dress up), we hung the costumes in their closets. We now have a Fairy Princess, a Tinker Bell, a Superman, a Darth Vader and a Clone Trooper in our former Halloween collection of dress-up clothes.

Last Christmas, I learned of an online company called My Princess Party to Go. I was looking to get some additional dress-up clothes for my daughter. We had been to my niece's house for her birthday party and the two girls had so much fun dressing up as princesses, complete with shoes, jewelry and crowns. After watching them play, I simply had to get some princess wear for our house too! I went together with a few friends to save on shipping and we purchased some dresses, crowns and wands. I also picked up a Pirate set for my son, not wanting for him to be left out of the dress up fun. I was impressed with the quality value of the product. The dresses offered cost less than what I had been seeing at the store and the quality of the dresses have been completely satisfactory.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity to experience more of their product. I won a Twitter giveaway, a giveaway on a blog, attended a birthday party where the dresses and accessories were from My Princess Party to Go and purchased some dress-up clothes for my daughter's 4th birthday - both princess and prince gear.

My kids enjoy dressing up. Sometimes, they will pull out a full outfit, other times it will simply be some of the accessories. I enjoy listening to the tales, describing what they are doing, "pretend that..." as they play in their dress-up clothes. As a mom, I like that dress-up clothes allow them to imagine that they are something else. I think that pretend play and imagination are important in their development and that is part of why I recommend dress-up clothes as a holiday gift (or really, anytime).

Giveaway
Do you have plans to include dress-up clothes as part of your holiday gifts? Thanks to My Princess Party to Go, I have the opportunity to provide one lucky A Busy Mom of Two reader a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to My Princess Party to Go.

To enter: Visit My Princess Party to Go and then come back and leave a comment on what you think you would use your $25 towards.

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry)

Follow A Busy Mom of Two on Twitter.

Follow My Princess Party to Go 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.

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 1st at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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. My initial experience with My Princess Party to Go was through a purchase I made last holiday season. Since that time, I have won two separate giveaways and made an additional purchase. The gift certificate for the giveaway is courtesy of My Princess Party to Go.

Holiday Gift Guide


Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you some ideas that might inspire you as you start your Christmas shopping this year. I'm not an expert, but I am a mom and I can share with you the types of things that I feel have given us the best value and most enjoyment.

My plan is to share ideas for gifts for children that (at least in my opinion):
Foster Imagination
Stimulate Creativity
Challenge their Problem Solving
Stretch their Minds

Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.

Some of my ideas will include giveaways, but not all of them.

In addition to gift ideas for children, I will also share some gift ideas for others in your life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Samples and Freebies

Requested:
wow! I didn't request anything this week. I think it is because I was too busy.

Received:
Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh Sample
Healthy Choice BOGO coupon (Facebook progressive coupon)
Root Awakening Shampoo and Conditioner and Smoothing Lotion sample and coupon

Black Friday Survival Kit

One of my original winners drawn yesterday did not reply, so I have selected a new winner.

Congratulations to Mary S, she was selected as the new winner.

An e-mail has been sent to Mary.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

35
Timestamp: 2010-11-19 10:32:28 UTC

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Date Night Prize Pack Winner!

Congratulations to Mami2jcn! She was selected as the winner of the Date Night Prize Pack giveaway hosted on A Busy Mom of Two.

An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks for entering and be sure to check out the current giveaways, posted on the upper right sidebar.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

80
Timestamp: 2010-11-19 01:38:01 UTC

Giveaway Winners Announced!

Congratulations, Jackie, Cathy, Theresa, Charlotte, 22bmommy2, The NEW Mommiez Blend, missysids, SLS (altmuzicfanzinc), Laura and Tracey. They were selected as the winners of the Hormel Natural Choice giveaway hosted by A Busy Mom of Two. An e-mail will be sent to the winners.

Congratulations to bettycd, Jennifer, MirandaR 7-8, and Jay. They were selected as the winners of the BJ's Black Friday Survival Kit giveaway hosted by A Busy Mom of Two. An e-mail will be sent to them.

Thank you to everyone for entering and be sure to check out the current giveaways, featured in the upper right corner of the blog.

UPDATE: MirandaR 7-8 you need to send me an e-mail by tonight at midnight to claim your prize. You can find it on my profile.

Charlotte you need to send me an e-mail by Saturday morning to claim your prize. You can find it on my profile.

Unfortunately, you didn't provide an e-mail through which I could contact you.


Hormel Natural Choice:
Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

55 21
7 22
23 20
40 27
11 13
Timestamp: 2010-11-18 11:34:48 UTC

Hormel Natural Choice, take 2 - since Charlotte was the commenter on both number 20 and 21 and we needed 10 different winners, I had to select one more winner.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

4
Timestamp: 2010-11-18 11:45:22 UTC

BJ's Black Friday Survival Kit:
Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

18 19
3 11
Timestamp: 2010-11-18 11:37:06 UTC

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Flavored Water

When it comes to drinking water, I generally have no problem. I fill a cup each morning before I exercise. I fill a cup for the drive to work. I fill the cup for my morning. I fill the cup for lunch. I fill the cup for the afternoon. I fill the cup for dinner. The cup holds 16oz, so I get 96 oz without much trouble. The trouble is that sometimes drinking that much plain water, it doesn't work for me.

To keep my water fresh, I mix it up. Sometimes I add lemons to it to get that fresh lemon flavor. If I don't have lemons, a couple drops of lemon juice can give it the same fresh flavor (just don't put too much in, a drop will do it). Sometimes I rely on drink sticks (generally something with an added advantage like the protein in Special K Protein Water sticks or the fiber in Benefiber flavored drink sticks) to give me flavor. Sometimes, I still just drink plain old water from the tap.

Speaking of tap water, I'm one of those strange birds who prefers plain water barely cool from the tap. If I'm adding lemon or a drink stick, the colder the better, but plain water I'm not a big fan of super cold water (except when I was pregnant and I couldn't make it cold enough?).

Mixing it up, helps me meet my daily water intake and that Works for Me Wednesday and other days too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to DebbieLynn and Christie. They were selected as winners of the Lose for Good T-shirt and Tote giveaway.

The winners will be contacted by e-mail.

Thanks to everyone that entered and be sure to check out the other giveaways listed on the right sidebar.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

22
11
Timestamp: 2010-11-16 02:03:31 UTC

Mamavation Monday

I am so proud of myself. I restarted P90X last week, officially starting my fourth round of P90X. I set a plan for myself that was more intense than previous rounds. I did my P90X DVD each morning during the week. I walked at least 10,000 steps a day during the week. Each evening, I either did Ab Ripper X or walked 2 miles using the Walk At Home DVDs. I've tried before to do Ab Ripper X in the morning, but more times than not, I ran out of time and wasn't able to fit in consistently. The evenings work so much better for me.

I did a pretty good job with eating. I tracked everything, and I ate more than I planned. I had dinner out on two evenings (one with dessert and wine), which didn't help me with keeping my Points consumption down. Then one evening, I was in a funk and had some snacks - only I had a little crunchy, a little sweet, a little salty. The good news is that after doing that, I did my Ab Ripper workout - telling me it was just a minor set back.

I realized after posting last week that I rounded up my weight loss goal. That's okay, I'll stick with it. I did lose 1# last week, despite my challenges of eating out and my one evening snack binge.

This coming week is expected to be more of a challenge for me. I have some lunch meetings and a few nights out to dinner that face me this week. I hope to stick to my evening exercise plan despite the busy evening schedule that I have this week.

This post shared at Mamavation Monday.

Menu Plan Monday

This week is sort of mix of freezer meals and easy to prep meals. I have a number of evenings where I have obligations and my husband is in charge of dinner on those nights. I made two quick trips to the store on Sunday - the first, with the family to grab the ingredients for Sunday's dinner and the second, a regular trip with coupons in hand (of course, if I had had them with me, I would have only stopped once!) I got some good deals - I saved about 50% on my total bill.

Turkey is a part of the menu only a few times this week - in the Philly Cheese Steaks on Sunday and the chilis on Monday.

Sunday
cereal
canned Pasta/Soup
Philly Cheese Steaks, with Turkey
Monday
Chili - regular and Skyline

Tuesday
dinner out

Wednesday
Pizza

Thursday
Pasta

Friday
Chicken Rustica

Saturday
cereal
sandwiches
TBD

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, although this week it will be homemade Turkey Soup.

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

Philly Cheese Steak

Last weekend, we roasted a turkey to celebrate my daughter's birthday. Even with a crowd, there are always leftovers. We enjoy eating it for a couple of meals, but then you just don't think you can eat turkey again. Typically, I portion out the meat and freeze it for use later. Some was frozen with broth to make Turkey Soup in the future and some was frozen "dry" to use it in future meals - like Leftover Pot Pie.

This weekend we made Philly Cheese Steaks with leftover turkey. They were a great way to use up some turkey without feeling like we were eating turkey again. I stuck with breast meat, but it could work with any part of the turkey.

I sliced up red and green bell peppers and onions. I sauteed them in my skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Then I added the turkey, which I had sliced into long narrow strips. Once it was all warm, I portioned off enough for a sandwich and melted provolone over the top. Placed my hoagie roll over the melted cheese and then using my spatula, flipped it over and out. For my husband, I doused it all in Frank's Red Hot before adding the cheese for a Buffalo-style cheese steak.

It was really good and felt a lot less like re-purposed turkey than some other uses might have. We made enough for 5 hoagies, and my husband is having what remains of the filling for lunch today - he will just warm it in the skillet, add hot sauce, melt cheese, top with a hoagie, flip and serve. Making for a quick, tasty leftover lunch with flavor!

Of course, if you don't have leftover turkey, I also use this same recipe with some deli sliced Chicken to create Chicken Cheese Steaks or with sandwich steak from the meat department to make traditional Philly Cheese Steaks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CVS Scenarios - week of 11/14

Despite good intentions, and a need for dishwasher detergent, I did not make it to CVS last week. I would like to make it this week.

Transaction #1
1 - Fiber One Chewy Granola Bars
2 - Kellogg's Rice Krispies

-$.50 Fiber One Chewy IP
-$1/2 Kellogg's IP

Total $6.49 OOP. Earn $1 and $3 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Blistex
1 - Herbal Essence Shampoo/Conditioner

-$.50 Herbal Essence mfg coupon

Total $4.08, pay with $4 ECBs and $.08 OOP. Earn $1.50 and $2 ECB.

Transaction #3
4 - Holiday M&Ms

-$1 $1/2 Holiday M&M mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 Holiday M&M mfg coupon

Total $8, pay with $3.50 in ECBs and $4.50 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs. I didn't actually receive the M&M coupon in my paper, but understand that other areas did. I wonder if they have Pretzel M&Ms included with the Holiday offering this year.

Total OOP $11.07 for $22.57 in product plus $3 ECBs to roll (a savings of 57%).

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - Fiber One Chewy Bars

-$.50 Fiber One IP

Total $3.49 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Herbal Essence
1 - Blistex

-$.50 Herbal Essence mfg coupon

Total $4.08, pay with $3 ECB and $1.08 OOP. Earn $1.50 and $2 ECBs.

Total OOP of $4.57 with $3.50 in ECBs to roll for $8.07 in product (a savings of 60%).

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preparing for Black Friday (a giveaway)

Today was an unseasonably warm day in North East Ohio. When I headed out to take my son to a friend's house and make a quick stop at Target, I was amazed by the number of people that were putting up their Christmas lights. Why hadn't I thought of that? Of course, it is so much more fun to put them up in the freezing cold!

Seeing all of the Christmas lights made me think about how close Christmas really is. In less than two weeks, I will be hitting the stores along with thousands of other crazy people, to partake in the tradition of Black Friday.

I can remember going shopping on Black Friday ever since I was a little girl. I would get up early and go with my mom and my grandma. We would start our day at Elder Beerman - they always gave away a $10 on $25 coupon for the first of the shoppers. Then, we would head over to the mall and would meet up with my aunt and cousin and the group that they were shopping with for lunch at the mall.

When I was a "grown up", I can remember having to work on a few Black Fridays, but that didn't stop me from heading to the store - after all, the mall opened so early in the morning, that I could shop and still get to work on time. The one year that I remember, was the year that I headed to KB Toys to get the Deluxe Scrabble game for my mom. I got there and there was a line outside of the store, I waited in it, knowing that I only needed the one item and could see that it was in the front of the store. Only catch was, that the way things were organized, you had to snake through the entire store to get to the check out. I knew that there was no way that I could wait in that line and still make it to work on time. So, as I stood in line, I pleaded my case with another shopper that was close to checkout. She agreed to put the game on her purchase and I gave her cash to pay for it and was able to avoid waiting in the long line. The only catch was that I wouldn't be able to return it, but I was fairly comfortable that my mom wouldn't want to return it.

I like to be prepared before heading to the store for Black Friday. I spend part of Thanksgiving combing the ads and determining what store is best to hit first and which ones I need to get to by a certain time. I set out my clothes and a quick breakfast to go before heading to bed on Thanksgiving night.

This year, BJ's is offering to provide 4 (four) of my readers with a Black Friday survival kit.

    BJ’s Wholesale Club is kicking off this holiday shopping season by offering major savings for Black Friday on its wide selection of top quality, name-brand products, including gifts you may be surprised to find! We all know that Black Friday isn’t all fun and games as proper preparation leads to less headaches and optimum savings!

    From snacks to keep your energy up to hot drinks to stay warm while waiting in line, items included in BJ’s Black Friday Survival Kits will get [you] ready for the busiest shopping day of the year! [They]’ve also included multiple items to help plan your shopping strategy, like Black Friday tips directly from [their] Facebook fans and BJ’s complete Black Friday coupon book to use in-Club. The coupon book contains tremendous savings on the newest technology for TV’s (think 3D!), electronics like notebook computers, wireless printers and touch screen cameras, and small appliances from a digital convection toaster oven to a 20-bottle wine cellar! If you’re not a BJ’s member, don’t worry – [they]’ll include a free 60-Day trial membership, too.

    In addition, one lucky winner will receive a surprise “hidden gem” in BJ’s Black Friday Survival Kit: a unique item guaranteed to provide relaxation after the stresses of Black Friday!

Giveaway
To enter: Leave a comment sharing your favorite Black Friday memories.

Additional Entries (leave a comment for each additional entry):

Follow A Busy Mom of Two and BJ's Wholesale 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.

Add my button to your blog. Leave a comment with a link to your blog.

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 November 18th at 6 am and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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 18 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected. (Has to be quick, so that the Black Friday Survival Kits can be sent to you in time for Black Friday!)

"Headquartered in Natick, Massachusetts, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. is a leading operator of membership warehouse clubs in the Eastern United States." You can also find BJ's Wholesale on Twitter and Facebook.

No compensation was received for this post. BJ's Wholesale is providing me with a Black Friday Survival Kit, as well as four to giveaway to A Busy Mom of Two readers. All opinions shared are solely my own.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Samples and Freebies

Requested:
2 Quest Protein Bars (indicated that there could be a delay in receiving)

Received:
Scope Outlast Crest Toothpaste sample
Glad Odor Shield with febreeze sample and Target coupon
Barilla Plus free box coupon and BOGO coupons to share (VocalPoint)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Knights of Arrethtrae Winner

Congratulations to SLS(atlmuzikfanzinc). They are the winner of the Knights of Arrethtrae books giveaway.

An e-mail will be sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out the other giveaways currently hosted by A Busy Mom of Two.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

13
Timestamp: 2010-11-12 02:13:37 UTC

Veterans Day

I just wanted to take a quick moment and say Thank You! to all of the Military Vets and active Military as well. You help to protect our freedom and for that you are being honored today.

You can visit the official US Department of Veterans Affairs and Wikipedia for some information and history about Veterans Day, which is celebrated elsewhere in the world as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, in honor of the Armistice that was signed on November 11, 1918 ending World War I. It even explains that the official spelling does not contain an apostrophe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flushable Wipes

My bathroom habits were never anything I expected to be writing about, but then a few months ago, I wrote a quick article called How Do You Roll?, where I shared that I prefer to place my toilet paper so that the new sheet rolls over the top.

Today, I wanted to share about flushable wipes. When the kids were potty training, we started using assorted flushable wipes to keep them clean after they used the potty. Initially this was necessary because there pull-ups were rarely completely dry. As they got older and were fully potty trained, we continued to keep them in the bathroom. They made it easier for them to clean-up when they were done. Over time, we have migrated from the smaller toddler size wipes to regular wipes - I find that overall I can get them at a better price with sales and coupons. Don't get me wrong, when I can find a wonderful deal on the toddler wipes, I will still pick them up from time to time, but with their smaller size, we just prefer the regular flushable wipes. For a better value, and less waste, we generally buy the refill packs of wipes and then refill our current tub.

But you know, flushable wipes are not just for kids. I found myself in the bathroom one time with an empty roll of toilet paper. Likely, one of the kids finished it, as both my husband and I are good about replacing the roll of toilet paper. Anyway, we had the box of wipes sitting there, so I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised, I was always a little worried they would leave me feeling wet, but they didn't. Now, I don't use them every time I go, but there are certain times where they just are more effective and gentler than using toilet paper.

Not sure where to store flushable wipes in your bathroom? Specially marked packages of Cottonelle Fresh now come with a Cottonelle Easy Reach Hanger. It uses a Command Strip to allow you to hang the wipes within easy reach.

This post shared at Works for Me Wednesday.

Did you "Get Fresh with a Friend" yet?
    Last month, the Cottonelle brand challenged America to “Get Fresh with a Friend ” and to Get a Tub when you Give a Tub to friends. And get fresh, they did. At the height of website traffic, there were up to 22,000 “Give a Tub. Get a Tub” requests per hour - that’s more than 15,000 wipes per minute! And GetFreshWithaFriend.com attracted up to 900 hits per second at the launch of the campaign. Clearly, fresh lovers across North America were getting hooked on fresh.
To get a tub and share a tub, you can sign up here.

Giveaway
You could also win a free tub of Cottonelle Fresh flushable wipes! One lucky A Busy Mom of Two reader will win a free tub courtesy of Cottonelle.

To enter: Leave a comment telling me that you would like to win.

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.

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 November 23rd at 6 pm and is open to residents of US only. Winners will be selected using Random.org 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. Cottonelle provided me with a tub of Cottonelle Fresh flushable wipes with the Cottonelle Easy Reach hanger and provided one for a giveaway. All opinions shared are solely my own.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mamavation Monday

I did it! I started back on P90X officially and 'I hate it, but I love it'. I started Monday morning with Chest and Back and then as I said I would I did the Ab Ripper in the evening. It worked out really well with doing the Ab Ripper in the evening. I traditionally have not been able to do it, because I never seem to have time to do an extra 20 minutes in the morning. I can already feel the workout - which to me is great, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something. Of course, after taking about 6 weeks off to do the 30 Day Shred Challenge, my body is definitely not used to the intensity of P90X which makes it a little more of a challenge to jump in where I left off in terms of number of push ups, etc.

This morning I did Plyometrics. I think it is my favorite workout. I feel so invigorated when I am done with it. I know that I will be sore tomorrow, but that is okay, because I know that it is making a difference.

On the eating front, I didn't do such a great job of tracking my Points using the Weight Watchers eTools. I would track my breakfast and lunch before I left, but then something would happen and I wouldn't get to eat my lunch and I wouldn't get back in and update and dinner was a lost cause. I've started using the mobile application on my phone and it is working well for me. I can add things and change things no matter where I am. I am hopeful that this will help. Yesterday, I did eat the lunch that I packed and I did track my dinner, so far so go.

I know that there are only 8 weeks left this year but I would like to try to lose 1/2 of the weight I need to lose by then. With a total goal of 30#, that would mean 15#, which is a stretch goal, but I figure I will aim high! I am confident that with the right eating and activity that I can be at 1 - 2 # per week.

I am sharing this post at Mamvation Monday. The post over there talks about Muffin Tops - I totally can relate. I can fit into my small jeans but with the couple of pounds I put back on this summer, I am increasingly aware of them and feel very self conscious if I have a fitted shirt on with my jeans. This week's posts are sponsored by Earth Footwear. By linking up, I am entering for a chance to win a pair of shoes from Earth Footwear.

No compensation was received for this post. I am an Advocate for Weight Watchers and they provided me with complimentary access to their eTools and a gift certificate to a local grocery to help me get started. I am entering a giveaway to win a pair of Earth Footwear shoes by linking back to them in my post.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I didn't make an actual trip to the grocery store this weekend. My husband stopped for me on Friday and picked up what we needed for the weekend. This week, our menu pulls a lot from the freezer - making it an easy week.

Saturday afternoon, we had Turkey and fixings as we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday. I made a Princess Doll Cake, which she loved! I will share that with you later this week. After carving my turkey, I used the carcass to make Turkey Soup, so I will be packing that in my lunch this week. It is such a nice meal for the cold weather that we have been having.

Turkey, besides the turkey that I roasted, makes an appearance in the menu in the Skyline Chili and the Spaghetti and Meatballs this week.

Sunday
cereal
leftovers
Skyline Chili

Monday
Leftover - turkey and all the fixings

Tuesday
Chicken Alfredo with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Wednesday
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Thursday
dinner out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant

Friday
Chicken Cheese Steaks, some Buffalo style

Saturday
cereal
sandwiches
Homemade Pizza

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, although this week it will be homemade Turkey Soup.

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