Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celiac Disease Awareness Month

May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

"One in 133 Americans has celiac disease – a lifetime condition that requires those who are diagnosed to completely remove gluten from their diet. This can be a difficult transition for many, as gluten is found in several commonly used ingredients making it even harder for those who are unfamiliar with this intolerance to determine what can and cannot be served."

Up until a few years ago, when my cousin was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I'm not sure that I had much awareness of the disease. Now, when we have family dinners, everyone makes a concerted effort to make sure that foods that are gluten free are noted - so that she can easily identify those that are safe for her to enjoy. Some easy swaps that can be made include using cornstarch to thicken sauce and gravies, instead of flour; serving corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas; making homemade dressings and dips with gluten free ingredients. Sometimes, people will even make two versions of the same (or similar) dish, one that is gluten free and one that is not. Helping her have a variety of options to enjoy requires thoughtful preparation and reading the labels of the ingredients used in the dishes to make sure that each is Gluten Free. Sometimes, you have to read through the ingredient list, but other times manufactures will include a notation on the label noting that the product is Gluten Free.

Here are some tips provided by Frito-Lay Chef Ngoc Trinh, an expert in gluten-free cooking. With these tips, hosting a sans-gluten gathering is a breeze:
"Plan Your Menu:

o Create a mouth-watering menu that your gluten-free guests can enjoy from start to finish. Chips and dips make great starters, especially when you pair your favorite Frito-Lay snacks with delicious gluten-free dips.

Check the Ingredients:

o Be sure to check your ingredients’ labels for wheat, rye, barley and malt. We’re helping fans easily identify which of our snacks are made without gluten by placing a “GF” icon or a statement on the back of qualifying bags.

o Some of your favorite Frito-Lay snacks may already be gluten-free since many of our chips are made with just three ingredients – corn or potatoes, oil and salt. (you can check out the list here)

Prep for the Party:

o Incorporate place cards so guests can easily identify each dish and determine if it’s gluten-free. Use descriptive titles that incorporate ingredients so guests know exactly what to expect.

o Use color coordinating condiment bowls, utensils, and serving pieces to eliminate the hazards of cross-contamination between gluten-free and non-gluten-free foods."

Here are examples from a couple of Frito Lay products, on how they label their package with gluten free information.
a text label:
a gluten free symbol and text label:

Do you know someone that has Celiac Disease? How do you prepare foods for events with your friends that have this or other special dietary needs?

No compensation was received for this post. Frito-Lay provided me with a Gluten-Free Guide to Entertaining kit – including two bags of gluten-free Frito-Lay snacks, a color-coded condiment tray and chalkboard place cards, as well as information for this post. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This past weekend, the family decided to make it a long weekend. My son's school ended early, due to construction on the local schools (building some, tearing down some), so we decided to take a couple of vacation days and get away before everyone else was out of school.

We used to live in Pittsburgh. Not for many years, but for a few years during our engagement and our early years of marriage. We had been to Kennywood a few times while we lived there and decided that would be a fun place to take the kids. We were able to get our tickets at a discount by purchasing them at the local Giant Eagle.

We packed an overnight bag, figuring that we could decide on the fly if we were going to stay in Pittsburgh or simply make the drive home. We packed up some sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinks to eat for lunch when we arrived at the park. This is a favorite amusement park money saving tip - make one of your meals a picnic before you go in (or come back out to the car for a break). Not only is it an economical option, it also helps make sure that you have one reasonably decent meal.

We climbed in the car and made the just over 2 hour drive to Kennywood. The main observations from the ride - tolls have gone up and Pittsburgh traffic is the same. to us, it seems that Pittsburgh is the only place where you routinely see people breaking going UP the hill.

Upon arriving at the park, we were glad to see that they still offered free parking to their guests. We found a space to park and set up in the back of the van for a quick picnic lunch. After lunch, everyone put on sunscreen and we put water bottles in our backpack to carry in to the park. Water bottles are another favorite money saving tip. By packing an insulated refillable water bottle, we have a ready supply of cold water while waiting in lines. Most amusement parks, in my experience, will provide free cups of ice water to their guests. We would get a number of them - drink a few and then fill the water bottle with the others (most places will not fill your bottle, but some will). This allows us to stay well hydrated all day, and not fill ourselves on the costly and sugary sodas.

Based on where we were able to park, we felt pretty good that the waits shouldn't be too bad, but as our luck would have it, the first line we waited in was F O R E V E R. As we stood in line, we learned that it was Kennywood Day at many local schools. That would explain the buses that we saw in the parking lot and the large number of kids in attendance at the park before Memorial Day. Our first ride was Garfield's Nightmare - a 3D dark boat ride. At first, my daughter was a little uneasy, but after a while realized that it wasn't actually scary.

One of the things that I like best about Kennywood are the classic amusement rides that they have. So many amusement parks have become so focused on the thrill rides, that they are left with thrill rides and the kiddie section - making them less appealing as the kids get older. They aren't tall enough, fearless enough to rid many of the thrill rides, but really seem to have outgrown the true kiddie rides. At Kennywood, they have a Kangaroo, or Flying Coaster. The last of it's kind, based on a text I received in line was purchase in 1962 for about $30,000. They also have a Turtle, which has been a favorite at the park since 1927. A Merry-Go-Round, the Paratrooper, Pirate Ship, Whip and the Swings, are other classic amusement rides that they still operate. They also have Noah's Ark. My daughter was not a big fan of this fun house style ride, although she really did enjoy the shaking bridge near the end of the attraction. Navigating the fun house features while carrying my daughter created quite a challenge - especially since we were the first one's off the elevator and had to lead the pack through the dark.

Of course, they do also have several thrill rides and coasters. We only rode a few of the coasters, missing out on trying the Skyrocket which we found closed for the day by the time that we went to ride and on Phantom's Revenge, a ride we know we enjoy but couldn't talk our son into riding. We rode the Jack Rabbit and the Exterminator as a family and my son and husband rode the Racer and Thunderbolt together. The Jack Rabbit was a hit with everyone, but the wild mouse of the Exterminator was not enjoyed by the kids.

For dinner, we shared a whole pizza. This is an economical option, in my opinion. We were able to feed the family for just over $20 and had more than enough food. We did allow the kids to each choose one treat to end the day. At first, my daughter wanted ice cream, but after seeing the make your own slushee blend that her brother was going to enjoy, quickly changed her mind.

It was a very enjoyable day, there was a little bit of rain while we were in line for a ride, but otherwise the weather was great. I think for me, one of the best parts is that we were able to ride most rides as a family. There was a vast selection of rides that were appropriate for all of us. They offer a parent swap, so for those rides that my daughter wasn't tall enough to ride, we could have chosen to both ride with my son, with only one wait through the line.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Changing up Lunches

As we got closer and closer to the end of the school year, my son seemed to be not only less interested in the daily lunch offered at school, but also less interested in the usual packing options. It seemed that no matter what I offered to include in his lunch, it was met with a resounding "No".

I totally get it, eating the same thing on a regular basis quickly leads to burnout. Sometimes, mixing it up just a little can make a huge difference in the appeal of a meal. I do this at dinner, turning pasta into Mexican dishes, pizza into a cheeseburger, and such - so why not try it at lunch?

There probably is more latitude for creative lunches for myself - since I have access to a microwave to warm up my meals. I have been known to pack myself an egg and cheese sandwich, when I need a change of pace. I simply pack an egg and a glass dish that I can microwave it in, a slice of cheese and an English muffin (I have access to a toaster too). It makes for a different and tasty lunch option.

I don't think that my son has easy access to a microwave at his school, although I am sure that the teachers would probably help him out by warming a meal in the teacher's lounge. As such, typically I rely on food that can be eaten cold from the lunch bag when I am packing a lunch.

Luncheon meat sandwiches are one item that we often will pack in a school lunch. Normally, my son prefers them plain. To mix it up, I prepared some recently using cheese - not normally a big fan of cheese, I found a Cheddar with Buffalo Sauce in it that he enjoyed. He loved the way that the cheese spiced up the sandwich and made it seem like something different.

packing the family a lunch for our recent amusement park trip
Another idea I have for mixing up the lunch is to cut up the turkey, ham or bologna and the cheese into small circles (use the top of a juice glass for the perfect shape and size). Pack your round turkey, ham and cheese, along with some round crackers (try the whole wheat varieties) that they can stack the meat and cheese on. This do it yourself 'sandwich' is a crowd-pleaser at my house.

Another packed lunch favorite at my house is peanut butter and jelly. To mix it up, try it with some new flavors of jelly - we have tried flavors like peach and blueberry, in addition to grape. Like the buffalo cheese, this is an easy way change up a familiar favorite.

There are also some meals that you can send the leftovers to school the next day for the kids to enjoy cold. So, look to your dinner for some other ideas of things to pack. I have done this with quiche and with pizza. They are both tasty, even when they are cold.

"Here are a few recipes from Hormel Foods Test Kitchen Director Joan Hanson that will be sure
to keep the kids happy and may even help you switch-up your own lunchtime routine! Joan has
recommended these recipes herself as fun ways to spice up end of the school year lunches.

Crisscross Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Three-Cheese Chili Pup Cups
Barbeque Chicken Tortilla Pizzas"

How do you mix it up to keep your family from becoming bored with the same lunch routine?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some of the information for this post.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/27

It's been a busy weekend and I am running behind. I finally took a look at this week's CVS ad and there isn't much that I am planning to pick up, but since there are a few free things, I figure I will stop by.

Transaction #1
2 - Mars Brand Candy Bars
2 - SunDrop 2-L

-$.75 $.75/2 Mars Candy IP
-$1 $1/2 Sun Drop mfg coupon

Total $.75 OOP, earn $.75 ECB.

Transaction #2
1 - Colgate 360 Toothbrush

Total $2.99, pay with $.75 ECB and $2.24 OOP. Earn $2 ECB.

Transaction #3
2 - Xtra Laundry Detergent

-$1 $1/2 Xtra Mfg coupon

Total $1.98, pay with $2 ECB adjusted down.

Not too bad of a day, for about $3 OOP you have about $9.50 in product. A savings of about 68%.

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

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

CVS Deals - 5/25

I made it to CVS this past week and was able to pick up a few deals and use a rain check that I had.

3 - Pepsi Brand 12 pk
2 - Tresemme Travel Shampoo & Conditioner
1 - Pepsi 2 L
2 - Nature Made Fish Oil (BOGO rain check)

-$1 Diet Pepsi IP
-$1 Diet Mountain Dew IP
-$1 Mountain Dew IP
-$1 Shampoo CRT

Paid with $10 ECB and $22.72 OOP. Earned $2 ECBs.

The soda wound up being 3/$5 after the coupons and ECB. The travel shampoo & conditioner was $.48 total OOP after coupons.

I probably should have checked, I'm guessing that there probably were some coupons available for the Nature Made vitamins, but since the store that I was out still carries the large Fish Oil bottles, I didn't want to miss out on them. My local store no longer carries the large bottles.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Samples and Freebies

ob sample
Target Style - Summer Beauty Bag (Facebook)

TreSemme Split Remedy shampoo/conditioner and coupon

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SlurpFREE Day @ 7/11 - Free Slurpee Today!

"Lite’s out at 7-Eleven…Slurpee Lite that is. Slurpee season 2012 is here and 7-Eleven, home of the iconic frozen drink, is kicking-off summer with the introduction of Slurpee Lite, a new sugar-free category that contains 50% fewer calories than an 8 ounce Fanta Wild Cherry Slurpee drink – but with the same great taste! This launch marks the first time in 45 years (the life of Slurpee!) that 7-Eleven has expanded the Slurpee brand to include a sugar-free option on a national level. Flavored by Fanta, the new Slurpee Lite drinks are available exclusively at 7-Eleven stores. Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Mango contains only 20 calories in 8 ounces – a sweet treat for those watching their waistlines!"

Here are the limited edition flavors of Slurpee for Summer:

May – Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Mango

June – Slurpee Fanta Watermelon Lime

July – Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Strawberry Banana
& Slurpee Fanta Lemon Crème

August – Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Cherry Limeade
& Slurpee Fanta Orange Xplosion

To celebrate, today (May 23rd) from 11 am to 7 pm, you can get a FREE 7.11 ounce Slurpee drink - at SlurpFREE Day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

What a crazy weekend! Saturday was so busy, that we literally cancelled portions of our Sunday plans, just so we could do things like stop at the grocery store. We had two soccer games, one t-ball game, one birthday party and a family night out with friends. The saddest part is my house looks like I had that type of weekend. I am finally sifting through the accumulation of paper and mail from Saturday, in hopes of getting ahead of paper again.

Saturday night, we had a less than stellar Mexican meal out, so we are having a redo this Wednesday! Can't believe that next weekend is already Memorial Day. Hoping to fit in some cookouts with friends, but that depends on our baseball tournament.

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers on the grill



dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant


Sloppy Joes with Mac'n Cheese


Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning, although sometimes at school my daughter will have pancakes or french toast. For my son, lunch is either the menu item at school or a packed lunch with some type of sandwich. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/20

There are a few deals this week at CVS that look interesting to me, especially as we head into summer.

Transaction #1
1 - Coppertone

-$2 Coppertone Mfg coupon (hang tag)

Total $6.99, earn $3 ECB.

Transaction #2
2 - Irish Spring Deodorant

-$1.50 Irish Spring Deodorant CRT (got this one last week)
-$.50 Irish Spring Deodorant mfg coupon
-$.50 Irish Spring Deodorant mfg coupon

Total $4.50, pay with $3 ECB and $1.50 OOP, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #3
3 - Pepsi brand 12 pk

-$3 3x$1 Pepsi brand 12 pk IP (they have coupons for several varieties - limit one of each coupon)

Total $7, pay with $4 ECBs and $3 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #4
1 - Dentek Floss Picks

Total $2.50, pay with $2 ECB and $.50 OOP. Earn $1.50 ECB.

Transaction #5
4 - Pringles Cans

-$1 $1/4 Pringles mfg coupon

Total $4.96, pay with $1.50 ECB and $3.46 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

For the trip, the total OOP is $15.45, with $1 ECB to roll and $34.45 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 56%.

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

CVS $5 Scenario

Transaction #1
2 - Irish Spring Deodorant

-$1.50 Irish Spring Deodorant CRT (got this one last week)
-$.50 Irish Spring Deodorant mfg coupon
-$.50 Irish Spring Deodorant mfg coupon

Total $4.50 OOP, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Dentek Floss Pick
1 - Purex UltraPack

-$1 Purex UltraPack IP

Total $4, pay with $4 ECB and $0 OOP. Earn $1.50 ECB.

For the trip, the total OOP is $4.50, with $1.50 ECB to roll and $12 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 67%.

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Samples and Freebies

Ovaltine Sample (Facebook)

Metamucil Sample and coupon (Walmart)

CVS Deals - 5/17

I made it into CVS finally this week. I was starting to worry that it was going to be another one of those weeks where I just wouldn't find the opportunity to stop in to pick up the deals.

As I mentioned, I had stopped in last week. After a baseball game, I had gone to CVS to pick up some replacement ice packs for the first aid kit. They didn't sell any. I decided to pick up some of the deals, even though I didn't have my coupons with me. I had my CVS envelope, so I wasn't completely without coupons but know the deal would have been better with one more cereal coupon and some manufacturers coupons for the vitamins. The store I stopped at seems to have shrunk the Nature Made selection and only had the 60ct bottle of fish oil, instead of the 150 ct (which recently has been a bonus pack with 200). As such, I was worried if I could use the Coke coupon. Turns out, it worked, in fact she rang the coupon and it was only after I asked that she realized she didn't scan the Coke. I came home and had to quickly prepare for company, so no picture.
1 - Cherry Coke 12 pack
3 - GM Cereals
1 - Milky Way Caramel (yum!)
2 - Nature Made Fish Oil

-$2.51 99c Coke 12pk with $25 purchase in ad coupon
-$1.10 GM Cereal IP
-$2 Nature Made CRT
-$2 Nature Made CRT

Paid with $2 ECB and $15.84 OOP. Earned $4 (cereal), $1 (green bag) and $.75(candy bar) ECBs.

Here is this week's deal (with picture!):

2 - Lifesaver Gummy Packs
5 - Finish Dishwasher Detergent
1 - Finish Jet Dry
1 - Moisturizing Body Wash

-$1.50 $1.50/2 Lifesaver CVS IP (have to share or it is only $.50)
-$1 $1/1 Lifesavers IP (from a few weeks ago)
-$.50 Finish IP
-$.75 Finish Mfg coupon
-$.75 Finish Mfg coupon
-$.75 Finish Mfg coupon
-$.75 Finish Mfg coupon
-$.50 Finish Jet Dry IP
-$3 Free Moisturizing Body Wash Offer CVS (interesting, it was for $2.37 but ran up as $3)

Paid with $5.75 in ECBs (from last week) and $12.36 OOP. Earned $10 ECB. My net 'cost' for the trip was $8.11 including tax. I figure that amounts to about 6 months of dishwashing at about $.08 per load (for detergent and rinse aid).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leftover Fish

I have always enjoyed eating fish (and other seafood for that matter).

Of course, when I was younger, my perspective on fish was more limited than it is today. Back then, it consisted of Long John's Silvers, McDonalds, canned tuna and battered Walleye that my uncles would bring for the family cookout.

Somewhere along the way, I have learned that fish is so much more. It is a meal that I enjoy eating when we go out. I even have gotten more adventurous in preparing it at home.

I'm not sure why preparing fish was always so scary to me, but it was. The kids are pretty good about eating most of the fish dishes that I make. I have several recipes for preparing fish inside, but I really think my favorite way to prepare it is to simply grill it. We do this with Marlin, Catfish, MahiMahi, Tuna and occasionally Salmon (although, my husband doesn't care for salmon, so this is when he has other plans).

One of my challenges has always been what to do with leftover fish. I have a memory in my head of my mom broiling fish when I was younger. All I remember is the smell. It is the same smell that results from microwaving the fish to reheat it. As a result, I usually try to only buy what I know we will eat and figure we can have a little more side if we are a little short.

Monday night, we grilled MahiMahi for dinner. It was delicious. I had bought the individually sealed fish bags in the grocers freezer (gives me more menu flexibility than fresh fish - which I only buy the day I am preparing), they each indicated that there were two servings. I didn't open the bags before thawing them and was surprised when I went to prepare the fish and found three filets in each pack. Of course, that meant that I wound up with two extra pieces of fish. I didn't want to throw away the fish, so I started thinking, what could I do with the leftovers?

Then, it occurred to me, why not eat like I would tuna. I didn't mix it up like I do tuna salad, instead, I toasted my bread added some mayo and pickle relish and the fish from the fridge. It was delicious and moist and a wonderful break from the typical packed lunch. I am not sure why it had never occurred to me before. Of course, other preparations beyond a simple season/marinade and grill might not work for a fish salad style sandwich, but this definitely worked.

I still will try to only buy what we need, but at least now I have a way to eat the leftovers and won't have to worry about wasting them.

This post shared at Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. For me, it was a busy Saturday, followed by a relaxing Sunday. Not everything went according to plan, but it was still good.

Saturday was a sports day. We started in the morning with two back to back soccer games, which we learned this year are on opposite sides of the soccer park. It meant that I had to miss more of my son's game to get my daughter to her game on time. Then, there was a T-ball practice for my husband and daughter, while my son and I stopped at the grocery store. We headed home just in time for my son to put on his baseball uniform for his game. When we came home from the game, we had to get everything ready for a picnic and game night. A great time was had by all, but I stayed up too late.

Sunday was a much quieter day. I got some wonderful homemade gifts from the kids and spent the afternoon first playing games in the backyard - wiffle ball and then Spud, which I haven't played since probably elementary school and then, watching Hop with my daughter. A quick run to Kohl's to use my 30% discount and then dinner at Chipotle. Originally, we were going to have grilled fish for dinner but my husband asked about us going out for Mother's Day. Unfortunately, time got away from us and we decided that leaving town for dinner wasn't the best choice, leaving us with little choice. Our favorite local Mexican restaurant had a wait and at that hour of the evening, we decided to skip it. I enjoy Chipotle, so it was an okay back-up, just hadn't envisioned 'dinner out' being carry out Chipotle.


Grilled Mahi-Mahi with corn on the cob and baked potatoes

Cheeseburger Pasta

Chicken Patty Sandwiches


Sandwiches and Turkey Noodle Soup

TBD - Dinner with Friends

Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning, although sometimes at school my daughter will have pancakes or french toast. For my son, lunch is either the menu item at school or a packed lunch with some type of sandwich. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, May 14, 2012

CVS Scenarios - week of 5/13

I actually made it to CVS twice last week. The first time I picked up some cards, the second time I picked up some deals (I'll share them later). This week looks like a good time to pick up some dishwashing supplies and perhaps a few other deals.

Transaction #1
1 - Jet Dry
5 - Finish Dishwashing Tabs

-$.50 Finish IP (Finish Dish Washing)
-$.50 Finish IP (Finish Dish Washing)
-$.50 Finish IP (Home Solutions News)
-$.50 Finish IP (Home Solutions News)
-$.50 Jet Dry IP (Home Solutions News)
-$.75 Finish Mfg coupon

Total $17.75 OOP, earn $10 ECBs. There are two different sites for the IPs, so you can do this with only one computer/one e-mail address.

Transaction #2
1 - Crest Pro Health Clinical Toothpaste
1 - Tone/Dial Bar Soap
2 - Softsoap Body Wash

-$1 Crest Toothpaste Mfg coupon
-$.75 Softsoap Bodywash Mfg coupon
-$.75 Softsoap Bodywash Mfg coupon

Total $9.77, pay with $10 ECB adjusted down (or add a filler and pay the difference). Earn $2, $1 and $4 ECBs.

For the trip, the total OOP is $17.75 for over $33 in product at sale prices, with $7 ECBs to roll. A savings of about 56%.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - Crest Pro Health Clinical Toothpaste

-$1 Crest Toothpaste mfg coupon

Total $2.39 OOP, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Tone/Dial Bar Soap
1 - Twix Fun Size 8pk (or other filler)

Total $2.88, pay with $2 ECBs and $.88 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

For the trip, the total OOP is $3.27 for $6.27 in product and $1 ECB to roll. A savings of about 55%.

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

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

To all of the moms I hope you have a wonderful, happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Samples and Freebies

Home Made Simple coupon booklet
CVS free full-sized bottle of moisturizing body wash (Facebook)

Lipton Tea & Honey Tea Mix and coupon
Tully's K-Cups and coupon
Carefree sample and coupon (CVS offer)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to read. I am fortunate that I can read anywhere, and when I get into a book, will take that book along in case I get even just a minute to read.

During a recent trip for work, I had the opportunity to start the book Maine. Maine is written by J. Courtney Sullivan, a new author to me, but also the author of the best-selling Commencement.

Maine explores the lives of four women, who have nothing in common other than being family. The family has a summer cottage (and house) on the shores of Maine. Won in a bet years ago, everyone of them has memories tied to that property, but it hasn't been quite the same since the patriarch of the family has passed away. This summer, finds them all on a course to be at the property together, if only for a few days.

The story is set in a present day and is told from each of the four women's perspective. The author uses flashbacks to slowly build the back story and help the reader understand a bit more about the make-up of each women and how they came to be the family that they are today.

I really enjoyed getting to know the four women, and found myself wishing that perhaps they could know each other better. How often does that happen in our own lives? How much better relationships could we as women, sisters, mothers, daughters, have, if only we better understood each other and our history?

I've always found the concept of a summer home both intriguing and romantic. I can only imagine what it must be like to be able to 'drop everything' and head to the shore for the summer. It certainly was refreshing to learn that while there were those that could actually just go to the summer house for the full summer or even a full month, there were also those that had to coordinate a vacation at work to get away for just a week or two at the summer house. In my life, I certainly relate better to the schedule of coordinating a vacation; but if I ever become independently wealthy, would be more than willing to explore escaping for the entirety of summer to a relaxing beach house.

To me the ending left me hanging a bit, as I believe the author intended...wondering, exactly who was it that called out to Alice.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to going back to read the author's earlier book, Commencement.

Are you local to Columbus? Early next month, you can participate in the Thurber House, Evenings with Authors event featuring J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine.

Evenings with Authors Event Details:

J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine
When: June 5, 7:30p
Where: Columbus Museum of Art, 480 East Broad St., Columbus
Cost: $20 for adult; $18 for students and seniors
About: The coast-to-coast bestseller about four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family—set in their Maine summer cottage, where not even cocktails at sunset and the magical ocean air can create order out of chaos or soothe the pain of secrets revealed.

You can read more about the event, purchase tickets on-line and read a brief synopsis of the book on the Thurber House website for this event.

No compensation was received for this post. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review and information about the upcoming Evenings with Authors event from Thurber House. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Navigating Technology with Children

Yesterday, I joined my son on his class field trip. Since the bus was leaving right after school started, I drove him to school. After dropping off my daughter at daycare, we were getting back in the car to head to his school. My son started to get in on the 'wrong' side of the car. I made a comment that in a few years, when she no longer uses a booster seat, he'll easily be able to sit on either side of the car. Then, I said but by then, you will almost be old enough to sit in the front seat, I think. It's either 12 or 14. His response was, "I think it's 12, the year before you can have Facebook."

As a parent, one of the challenges that I face is when to let kids have what technology (and where)?

When I was a kid, I can remember that my parents tried to keep things 'even' and our 'big' Christmas gifts aligned to this approach. I can remember my frustration with the fact (seems rather minor now, but it was a big deal to me at the time) that I got my stereo when I was a freshman and got my CD player as a junior, yet my brothers got both as freshman. What I failed to recognize is that although the CD player was 'newer' technology. It wasn't yet a standard part of packaged stereo systems when I got my first stereo, but by the time my brothers got them you couldn't buy a packaged stereo without a CD player. Not only that, my first CD player was a single disc player and they got changers.

With the way that technology is evolving today, I expect to have that type of experience amplified in my children's life.

For me, one challenge is that unlike you get a bicycle at age 5, because that is when I got mine and that is when you are physically ready to learn the mechanics of riding, there aren't clear guidelines or experiences in my life to support what is the right age for technology. The first family computer at my house was one that my dad had brought home from work. I seem to recall that it was around my junior or senior year that we got it. I went off to college with no computer and relied on my roommate's computer and the computer lab for writing papers and checking e-mail (of course, only my classmates had e-mail - so I didn't get many - as an aside, I had over 80 e-mails come in while off from work yesterday to join the field trip). I got my first cell phone when I was working as a co-op. The plan didn't come with minutes and I paid the monthly fee to provide the safety of having a phone for my 1 1/2 hour drive from my hometown to my apartment for work.

The field trip yesterday made me think even more about it. There was an hour long bus ride for the field trip and many kids brought along 'technology' to pass the time. I saw Gameboys, iPods, iPads, and iPhones in use by this group of third graders. They were playing games and singing songs, fully entertaining themselves with their technology.

The reality is that our kids are growing up surrounded by technology - not just at home, but at school too. I remember there being one computer in my sixth grade class, I remember learning to program the TRS80 in junior high math class (there was one lab), I learned to type on a electronic typewriter (somewhere between manual and word processor), and I remember blue ditto copies of papers and overhead projectors using clear sheets that the teacher wrote out ahead of time. Now, they have computers at every level. There are a few in the classroom and a computer lab and a mobile computer lab. The teachers have touchscreen smart boards that they project on.

I want to balance the simple of being children with the reality that they need exposure to technology to be caught up with classmates. I like that technology can give me peace of mind. I like that my son, with his iPod and access to his friend's wireless network is able to send me iMessages to 'check in' when he is at a friend's house, so I know that things are okay. I want to take advantage of the great learning applications that are out there, but balance that with keeping them safe from all of the bad stuff that is lurking out there.

So, when is the right time to allow children access to technology? When is the right time to allow them to have their own technology? When is the right time to allow them to 'take' their technology with them (to their room, to a friend's, to school, on the go)?

So far, we have made a few moves in the world of technology, but I expect many more questions will come up soon.

The kids share a laptop that sits in our family room. It is a place for them to play games, research a report for school, and send e-mails to Grandma and Grandpa.

The kids each have a digital camera that they got when they were about 4. It is interesting to see what they capture on their cameras and to see things from their level. The nice advantage here is that we don't have to print any of them - like we did when I was a kid. Their cameras also allow them to capture video. Watching their videos also shows a lot about them and their viewpoint.

We gave them their first CD player that they could use when they were about 5. It is a little 'boombox' style player that sits on the bookshelf. We gave them books with read-along CDs to go with it.

My son got his first iPod a few years ago and when it broke, was upgraded to an iPod Touch. Now, he has a docking station with speakers so that he can listen to his iPod now instead of CDs. I think that he was seven.

The first question at hand is when does my daughter get her first iPod. Does she get his old one and he get a new one or do we buy the new one for her?

When do we allow them to have a cell phone? Do we have them take our house phone (which is a cell phone hooked up to an xLink), when they need it or do we get them their own? This is a mix of responsibilities - not losing a costly cell phone, using the phone responsibly, etc.

Do we allow them to join Facebook at 13, as long as we are their Friends?

Do we stick with a family room approach for the laptop or do they eventually get their own laptops or are allowed to take the shared one up to their rooms?

What has worked for you? How do you navigate technology with your children?

This post shared at Works For Me Wednesday - although I guess this is more of a backwards Works for Me since I am seeking input.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheerios - new 2 box packaging - a Giveaway

I have been a club shopper for years. I think I was working my first real job when the company gave away a thank you gift that included one of those fold up chairs and a one year membership at a local club store. At the time, I was not yet married, but engaged. There were only a handful of items that it really made sense for me to buy at the club store. As my family has grown, shopping club stores has been a great way for us to get both unique products and good values. We actually belong to two different clubs - BJ's and Sam's Club. I think if the Costco weren't almost an hour away, we probably would have a membership there too.

We buy a variety of things at the club stores. We frequently pick up clothes, books and other mid-store items. They are a great place to shop in advance of a family gathering or a picnic. They offer a value over the grocery store on many items. What I like best are those items where I can buy what amounts to a multi-pack of a 'normal' size item or a multi-use item with a resealable container. This is the most practical for my family. As example, when you buy bread, the bread is priced as a buy 2. You get two standard loaves in one overwrap (and at about the same cost as just one loaf at the grocery). Another example is the 8 pack of pasta - where you get 8- 1# boxes that are bundled together. These types of packages are just easier for storing and serving. There is no need to store half a can of this or several pounds of that. They are in sizes that I use regularly and work well for meals and snacks.

One thing that I have never bought at a club store is cereal. In part, the big box with several bags in it was a deterrent. But, General Mills is trying to change that with their 2 box Cheerios packaging format for club stores. Stickers with a tear away tab at the top and bottom and some of that fun glue that you can peel off between the boxes (I'm sure there is a name, but really it escapes me if I know it) hold the two boxes away. Simply separate them and you have two large boxes of Cheerios. For me, with the way that we store and use cereal, this works much better for me than the one large box with several bags.

"While buying Cheerios at Club is already easy and affordable, new 2 box Cheerios packaging format makes Cheerios an even better purchase! You can cheer on the value by purchasing the new 2 box Cheerios packages in Club!

What’s so exciting?

- New 2 box Cheerios contains two individual boxes, making them easier to store and easier to pour!

Not to mention…

- By reducing the amount of air in each individual bag, these enhanced containers fit 10% more cereal than before and use less packaging
- While each box contains more cereal, packaging material has been reduced by over 200,000 lbs, saving 1,000 trees and taking 130 Cheerios trucks of the road, decreasing CO2 emissions

New and improved 2 box Cheerios are now available on the shelves of Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s nationwide."

You can watch a video here.

Thanks to General Mills, through MyBlogSpark, I have the opportunity to give away to one A Busy Mom of Two reader, not just one, but two 2 box packages of Cheerios!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway will remain open through May 23rd. Giveaway is open to residents of the US only. One winner will be selected through Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected.

No compensation was received for this post. Prize pack, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family.

Big G Curvy Straws Prize Pack Winner

Congratulations to Patricia! Her entry was selected as the winner of the Big G Curvy Straws Prize Pack Giveaway.

An e-mail was sent to the winner.

Thanks everyone for entering.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

It was a fun, but busy weekend. Saturday morning we had a baseball game. I took advantage of the proximity of the field and walked to the game with my daughter. The almost 2 mile walk was a bit of a stretch for her 5 year old personality, but we did it. We had a leisurely afternoon, relaxing and spending time with the kids working on crafts. Then, in the afternoon, we had T-ball practice. We had the Turkey Hot Browns just before watching the Derby. My husband's horse didn't win, but it was a good race. After the race, we headed out for some ice cream. Sunday we fit in a family game of Monopoly, Bible Study and a soccer game.

No exception to the rule, this is another busy week. Tonight at bedtime, my son concluded that we had 10 activities this week - including a field trip to the zoo, a Weird Al concert, some soccer games, baseball games, kindergarten meetings, T-ball pictures and more. Needless to say, there are some 'quick' meals included in our menu plan again this week.


Chicken (used Fresh Take kit)


Salad & Pizza

Chipotle Chicken

Hot Dogs

Cook Out

Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning, although sometimes at school my daughter will have pancakes or french toast. For my son, lunch is either the menu item at school or a packed lunch with some type of sandwich. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

CVS Scenario - week of 5/6

It has literally been weeks since I have been to CVS. I have missed out on several free and better than free deals. I have some ECBs that are expiring (perhaps some that are expired), so I am making a point of going this week.

Transaction #1
1 - U By Kotex
1 - Mars Single Candy Bar
1 - Cottonelle Jonathon Adler Roll Cover
1 - Good'n Natural Bar
3 - General Mills Cereals
1 - Lindor Truffles (bag)
1 - Arizona Iced Tea
1 - Coke 12 pack

-$1 U by Kotex mfg coupon
-$.99 Free Good'n Natural Bar mfg coupon
-$1.10 $1.10/2 General Mills Cereal IP
-$.50 Cheerios Cereal IP
-$1 Lindor Truffles IP (BzzAgent offer)
-$2.51 Coke in Ad coupon (total before Coke and coupons is $20.38)

Total $13.28 OOP, earn $3, $.75, $1.99, $.99 and $4 ECBs.

For the trip, the total OOP is $13.28, with $10.73 in ECBs to roll, for $23.88 in product. A savings of about 62%.

I am also going to check out the Heidi Klum Fragrance. If there is a size that is about (but still above) $25 (and of course, if it smells nice), it could make for a decent deal.

1 - Heidi Klum Fragrance

-$3 Heidi Klum Fragrance IP
-$5 $5/$25 Fragrance CRT

Earn $10 ECBs.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
1 - U by Kotex
1 - Good'n Natural Bar

-$1 U by Kotex mfg coupon
-$.99 Free Good'n Natural Bar mfg coupon

Total $2.99 OOP, earn $3 and $.99 ECB.

Transaction #2
1 - Mars Single
1 - Jonathon Adler Roll Cover
1 - Arizona Tea

Total $3.40, pay with $3 ECB and $.40 OOP. Earn $.75 and $1.99 ECB.

Total OOP for the trip is $3.39, with $3.73 in ECBs to roll, for $8.38 in product. A savings of about 72%.

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Samples and Freebies

Garnier Skin Renewing Cream
Garnier Sleek & Shine

One a Day VitaCraves Gummies (full bottle!)
Target Spring Beauty Bag with samples and coupons
Sani-Hands samples and coupon
Garnier Ultra-Lift sample and coupon
$15 Olay Gift Card Rebate
I also got an e-mail telling me that the International Delight Teacher's pack was going to be delivered to my school.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Quaker Oatmeal Squares - free sample

I mentioned I was doing a couple of BzzCampaigns, here is a chance for you to try the product that I am Bzz-ing about. Quaker Oatmeal Squares. My kids love this cereal. I love that it is good for them, even if they don't know it!

"But in fact, all four flavors, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Golden Maple and New Honey Nut Quaker® Oatmeal Squares, are heart healthy* and deliver 46 grams of whole grains (that's 96%** of your minimum daily recommendation of whole grains), 5 grams of dietary fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving. Great taste that's great for you? That's pretty darn great. Welcome to the table, Quaker® Oatmeal Squares!

*3 grams of oat soluble fiber when part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease. This product has 1 gram."

You can request a free sample here through Quaker's Facebook page.

No compensation was received for this post. I received product and coupons to share, as well as information about the product through the BzzCampaign as a BzzAgent. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm

Recently, I started a new BzzCampaign. I with through a long period where I didn't have many BzzCampaigns, but I actually have three going on right now! The one I wanted to share about today though is the Neutrogena Cosmetic BzzCampaign. One of my favorite products in the mix is the Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm. I love having color on my lips and if that color can help my lips "look softer, rosier, fuller and more defined" in just one week, all the while providing SPF 20 protection - I'm in!

I have only been using it for a couple of days, but I love how it stays "wet" feeling on my lips. As I rub my lips together, I can still feel the moistness on my lips. The color selection is great - Sheer Shimmer, Healthy Blush, Sunny Berry, Petal Glow, Soft Caramel and Fresh Plum.

Deal Seeking Mom shared a Target deal and it shows the Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm in the picture, but the description in the deal simply says Neutrogena Lipp Balm. I'm not sure the Revitalizing one is included or not, but if it is this is a great deal!

(this color is one of my favorites: Sunny Berry)

Neutrogena Lip Balm - $2.49

-$2/1 Neutrogena Cosmetics Target IP

Total OOP $.49!

Now, even if the Revitalizing line is not on this deal for $2.49, the $2 coupon could still make it a good deal.

No compensation was received for this post. I received product and coupons to share through the BzzCampaign as a BzzAgent. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wahl Deep-Tissue Massager Review and Info on a Giveaway

I don't know about you, but lately, I seem to have a lot going on in my life and quite frankly, with that has come a lot of stress. When I get stressed, I definitely can feel it in my shoulders and back. I think this is a combination of things - both the physical impact of the stress itself and the side-effect of tossing and turning or sleeping in an awkward position at night (stress either causes me to be constantly moving and awake at night as my mind runs or it causes me to conk out not noticing that I am in a bad position for sleeping).

Sometimes, I can rely on exercise and stretching to help relieve some of this stress, but the deep down tension, sometimes that only remedy for that is a massage. I would love to have the time (and the money) to go for a therapeutic massage at the spa on a regular basis, but there just isn't time (or money) for that. So, sometimes, you have to find other ways.

Recently, I had the chance to try the Wahl Deep-Tissue Percussion Therapeutic Massager through MamaBzz. Wahl makes a whole series of massagers, including Deep-Tissue, Flex Therapy and Heat Therapy. They are currently running a Facebook promotion, where you can nominate a mom to win a mom relief package:

• Moms work hard all day, every day, and to thank them, Wahl - the company that invented the electric massager - is giving 50 massagers to 50 deserving moms this Mother’s Day.
• Through its first-ever Mom Relief Initiative, Wahl is providing the tools to help moms achieve the kind of sought-after relief that causes spas to book out Mother’s Day weekend months in advance, and why the spa is among the top gifts for mom every year.
• Wahl therapeutic massagers are serious pain management tools that offer powerful motors variable intensity control and interchangeable heads, allowing you to customize your massage experience.

Health Benefits of Massage
• Massage is not only an effective method of pain management, but it also contributes greatly to overall well-being.

• Massage can increase blood flow, which effectively reduces pain tension, relieves muscle tension and soothes inflammation.

• In addition to providing effective pain relief, massage can also greatly improve circulation, regulate blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and provide an immense feeling of relaxation, all of which contribute greatly to physical and emotional well-being.

For more on the health benefits of massage and the full line of therapeutic massagers, make sure to visit This new online resource is the first of its kind and provides consumers with information on chronic pain management methods tailored to fit their specific needs.

The massager features a 9' cord, allowing you to plug it in and settle yourself in some place to enjoy the massage.
The handle is designed so that you can use it to work out tension in your own back.
The massage intensity is controlled by a dial that allows you to adjust it to just the right intensity for you and even adjust it as you work an area if needed.

The massager includes four attachments, further allowing you to customize the massage experience. The first is the Deep Muscle Attachment. This attachment "thumps smoothly, creating a gentle, relaxing massage for all over general body use." The second is the Raised Bump Attachment, which has a "wide surface for an all-over muscle massage". Then, there is the Accupoint Attachment which "targets deep into tissue, great for pinpointing concentrated areas." Fourth, is the Four Finger Flex Attachement with "soft finger-like nodes" which "replicate a human touch massage."

One thing that I thought was really nice is that the directions provide information on massage techniques for everything from your shoulders and neck to your legs to your scalp.

Previously having owned one of those massagers that were designed to attach to the back of your chair, I must say that I really liked that with this Wahl Deep-Tissue Massager I was able to target a specific section of my back to work out the tension in a particular area. I also liked that it was useable to massage my legs and arms as well. I like that the design of the massager allows you to address your own tension, but you could still use the massager on someone else (which might be more relaxing).

Although the directions provide techniques for massaging the face and scalp, I found the percussive nature of the massager to be too intense for me to use on either of those areas, even on the lowest setting.

Would you like to win a "relief package" from Wahl? As I mentioned, they are currently running a giveaway on their Facebook page, here are the details:

• Beginning April 26 and running through May 13, those who like Wahl Home fan page on Facebook can nominate a mom to win a mom relief package from Wahl, whether it’s your mom, grandmother, wife, daughter, a friend or yourself.
• To enter the Mom Relief Initiative, simply post a comment explaining why the mom on your list deserves relief—maybe they’re a single mom who does it all, a working mom who never takes a break, a grandmother who’s always been there…every mom has a story and every story matters.
• Entries will be judged on their uniqueness and sincerity and the winners will be selected once the contest wraps up on May 13. Stories MUST be submitted before then in order to be considered.

No compensation was received for this post. A Wahl Deep-Tissue Massager was provided for the purposes of this review. Information was provided by Wahl, through MamaBzz about the product and giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.