Friday, November 30, 2012

Samples and Freebies

It was a quiet week in the sample department.

Requested:
CVS Essence of Beauty Hand Cream (Facebook)

Received:
Coupon for free Essence of Beauty Hand Cream (got to love e-mail offers that deliver immediately)


Thursday, November 29, 2012

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. My goal is to share with you 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.

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

There will be a Holiday Gift Guide link in the side bar. You will notice that it still links to previous years' suggestions, please note that some of them had giveaways associated and that those are obviously closed. Hopefully, the things that I have identified are toys that stand the test of time (they have for us), so last year's suggestions are still very valid.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Girl in the Glass

Imagine having a trip that you have dreamed of taking, since you were a child. Your father has told you, and promised your grandma, that he will take you someday. As you get older, you start to wonder if the trip will ever happen. You think of taking it on your own, you meet clients through work that live there, and it weighs on you. Finally, your dad comes and tells you that now is the time, soon you will book a trip. You start to hear that your dad may have done something that borders on bad and the next thing you know, you receive a parcel with a ticket for that day. You throw together a suitcase of stuff, send some quick messages to let your work know you won't be in the next few days, you find a friend to take you several hours to the airport and board a plane alone. You expect to see your dad when you arrive, yet when you arrive, he is no where to be found. You are alone in a strange city, a city you love and have always wanted to visit, but where you know only a couple of people that you have worked with but never met and you have no reservations, no plans.

This is what happens to Meg in The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner. The Girl in the Glass is a captivating story that tells the story of Meg, Nora and Sophia.

Meg fell in love with Florence as a child. Her grandmother had a painting of herself as a child near a fountain in Florence. All of her life, she has dreamed of visiting her grandmother's Florence and experiencing her beauty. She works as an editor for a publisher of travel books and two authors, Lorenzo and Renata, that she works with live in Florence. They all know of her dream to visit Florence. Lorenzo introduces her to Sophia, a woman that lives across the hall from him that wants to be a writer, by sending Meg some sample chapters from the book she is writing.

Sophia claims to be the last living descendant of the Medici family. She provides tours of Florence for travelers and is writing a personal memoir woven amongst the back drop of the great sites in Florence. Once Meg starts reading, she is hooked and keeps asking for more stories. The only thing that bothers her is how she will convince her company to publish the book, because Sophia claims to hear Nora Orsini speak to her through the great paintings and statues in Florence.

Nora Orsini lived in the late 1500s and was the descendant of Cosimo de' Medici, when Florence was in the prime of the Renaissance. Her story is woven throughout the book and told from her perspective. She is present in Sophia's manuscript, as well.

After many years of promising to take her to Florence, Meg's father comes to her one morning and says that this is the year. She expects that they will plan the trip together, but one day a package arrives with a plane ticket for her and a cash card. The ticket is for that day! She frantically pulls everything together and gets to the airport for her flight, certain that her dad will be waiting to greet her in Florence. After waiting around the airport for a while and having no sign of her father, she wonders what to do, where to go. She tries to text Lorenzo, letting him know that she is stranded at the airport but he does not respond. If only she had an address of her friends. It is then that she realizes that she has the address, Sophia has printed her address on her manuscript that Meg brought with her. She takes a taxi to their building, but Lorenzo and Renata are not home. Fortunately, shortly after arriving, Sophia returns home and welcomes her into her home.

Through the course of the next week, Meg experiences Florence and gets to know Sophia, Lorenzo and Renata better. I'd tell you more, but then, you wouldn't need to read the book. Suffice to say that the book is a wonderful tale that pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading. My only disappointment with the book is the inclusion of the Forward to Sophia's book. It's not that I was disappointed that her book was published, it was that I was disappointed to have two years summarized in two pages. I like that I don't have to wonder what happens to Meg and Sophia, but I would love to read more of the details of those two years. Who knows, maybe the author used that Forward as a way to provide a teaser for a future book that will explore the development of the story from the end of the first tale to the publication of her book.

No compensation was received for this post. A copy of the book was provided through Blogging for Books. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Rank my review:


Yo Gabba Gabba coming to Akron - presale starts today!

'Is your family ready to GET THE SILLIES OUT? Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! is going back on the road with a new show, "Get the Sillies Out!" featuring the one and only DJ Lance Rock, plus Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee, and Plex, and of course, hip hop legend Biz Markie.

Winner of Billboard’s Creative Content Award, Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! has performed in front of countless fans across the U.S. and Canada over the past three years, and the new show "Get the Sillies Out!" is sure to be one you won't want to miss. We've taken the fan favorites from the past two tours and combined them with some all-new music and other surprises that we can't tell you about… yet!

Buy tickets or Gabba Party Packages (including a meet & greet with the characters) right away and give your kids an experience they won't soon forget. Plus, you'll have just as much fun as they will!

For more information, visit http://www.yogabbagabbalive.com.'

Yo Gabba Gabba
Get the Sillys Out Tour

January 22, 2013 3:30 P.M. and 6:30 P.M.
Pre-Sale Starts Today @ 10am-December 2 @ 10pm.
Use the password: CIVIC

Tickets go on sale to the public on December 3rd at 10am


DIY Tinkerbell Slippers

On Thanksgiving, my daughter spent part of the afternoon relaxing and watching Secret of the Wings. After watching the movie, she decided that she needed to have shoes like Tinkerbell's to wear with her Tinkerbell dress. I was out running to CVS when the movie ended and my husband drew her a shoe on green paper that she cut out. When I came home, she told me all about the shoes.
After looking at her cut out, I had a plan in my head on how we could make a simple pair of slippers, so I asked her if she wanted to make a pair of Tinkerbell slippers that she could wear. Of course, she wanted to run right out and get the fabric and cotton balls to make them. I told her that we would have to wait and go on Friday to get the materials. After I finished my Black Friday shopping, I came home and we had lunch and headed back out to get materials for Tinkerbell slippers.

At Walmart, we were able to find a soft green brushed flannel material and matching thread and some white pompoms, although not as big as we had hoped. We also grabbed some puffy paint to create a non-slip bottom for the slippers.

When we came home, I pulled out my sewing machine and got started. Using the paper cut out and her foot as a guide, I cut a square of fabric along the fold.
I sketched in a pencil line to reflect the general shape that I needed to acheive for the slipper. I started by sewing the back. I then sewed the top seam. I flipped them inside out and had her put them on. I could tell that I was too tall in the toe, so we took them off and I sewed it a little lower. To get a more 'boxy' toe, I snipped the end of the slipper and flattened them so that I could sew a toe seam. Once we were happy with the first slipper, I used it as my guide to create the other one. Then, we added the puffy paint in designs of my daughters choice to the bottom of the slipper and allowed it to dry overnight. Then, I grabbed a needle and sewed on the pompom.


At first, she had reservations about them, but once they were done, she loved them. They were a simple and quick project that we could work on together. Of course, in the process of modeling the slippers with her Tinkerbell dress, we learned that the dress was getting too small. So, now we need a Tinkerbell dress to go with our slippers. (sounds a bit like a Laura Numeroff 'If You Give a Mouse A...' book!)
DIY projects work for me!




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

What a wonderful weekend!

Our weekend started late on Wednesday afternoon. The family headed out to see Finding Nemo in 3D at the local bargain theater with friends. It has been a long time since I have sat down and watched the whole movie. It was a treat to sit back and watch a familiar favorite in 3D. After the movie, we all headed out to Fazolis for a quick dinner. Then, a pre-Thanksgiving visit to BJs, where we bought things that begin with the letter B (we went for Brushetta, but bought Bananas and Batteries) and I found a number of things that I might buy for Christmas, if I wasn't shopping with the family.

Thursday, of course, was filled with the smell of turkey cooking and family. My husband snuck in a game of basketball with friends and managed to hurt his ankle and I snuck in a trip to CVS to get a bunch of great deals. Otherwise, we hung out and watched movies and relaxed. I tried out a new dessert - Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake. My husband told me it was one of the best cheesecakes I had made in a while.

Thursday night, serious Christmas shopping got underway. I left home around 7:30 pm and by 12:30 am I was home, having been to 4 store and getting most of what I set out to get. I started the Black Friday shopping the next morning around 7:00 am. All in all, it was a great bit of shopping. I even picked up some stuff for me.

Then Friday afternoon, my daughter and I did a bit of shopping. She had watched the new Tinkerbell movie on Thanksgiving and asked me to make her Tinkerbell shoes. So, we went out and got fabric, white pom-poms and puffy paint. When we came home, we set up the popcorn maker that I had bought on Thursday night. It disappointed, so we packed it back up and returned it. Then, I made her slippers when we got home.

Saturday was a normal day with swimming to start our day and soccer in the afternoon. We wrapped up the day with family pictures at Portrait Innovations and dinner at CiCis.

Sunday afternoon I made some pumpkin cookies - 2 varieties actually. My husband took my daughter shopping and my son had a friend over. It was a great way to wind down the weekend.

Sunday
Turkey Buffalo Cheesesteak

Monday
Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Tuesday
Tilapia Vera Cruz

Wednesday
Breakfast for dinner - pancakes and sausage

Thursday
Tacos

Friday
Chicken Gravy over biscuits

Saturday
Lemon Chicken Pasta

Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning. Lunch for the kids is either the school lunch or usually a couple of times a week they pack. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

CVS Scenarios - week of 11/25

I am thinking that CVS pulled out a bunch of different regional ads for this week. As I looked at other posts and their coupon match-ups, there were several more things available in their ads than in mine. I am feeling a little ho-hum about the deals in my ad. The 20% off shopping pass is nice, but it always seems like there are only a few items that it applies to that I need.

There is a coupon on CVS website for $2/3 American Greetings, but I am guessing that it is already depleted. It keeps saying that I have already printed it the limit amount, but I know that I have not. I will try again tomorrow, to see if it is reset. It would be a great way to sweeten the card offer this week.

Transaction #1
3 - American Greetings Cards ($1.99 or more, per the ad)

-$1 $1/3 American Greetings IP

Total $4.97, earn $3 ECBs. Of course, with the $2 coupon at CVS.com, this would be only $2.97 OOP.

Transaction #2
5 - Tide
1 - Dawn

-$2 $2/3 Tide mfg coupon
-$1 $1/2 Tide mfg coupon
-$.50 Dawn mfg coupon

Total $27.19, pay with $3 ECB and $24.19 OOP. Earn $10 ECBs.

For the trip, the total OOP is $29.16 (or $27.16 with the other coupon), with $10 ECBs to roll for $36.66 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 38%.

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

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1
3 - American Greetings Cards ($1.99 or more, per the ad)

-$1 $1/3 American Greetings IP

Total $4.97, earn $3 ECBs. Of course, with the $2 coupon at CVS.com, this would be only $2.97 OOP.

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


Friday, November 23, 2012

Samples and Freebies

Requested:
Tums Freshers

Received:
Set of 4 Airborne Samples and coupon
Nature Made Adult Gummies and coupon (Target)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

CVS Deals - 11/21

I must not have been fully alert this morning. I got up and I worked out, I got my shower and got the kids breakfast and walked out the door. Only, I forgot that I might need breakfast. I totally forgot to grab a protein shake or a protein bar before leaving. I'm not sure how I missed that. Clearly, for a change of pace, my stomach wasn't growling. I knew that I would pass CVS and that if nothing else, I could grab a protein bar, so I stopped in.

I wound up finding the South Beach Meal Bars that were part of the free after ECB offer and they even had peelies on them for $1 off. I decided to see if there were other freebies available and noticed a sale on the CVS vitamins.


1 - South Beach Meal Bar
2 - CVS Vitamin C, 50 ct
1 - Hot Wheels car

-$1 South Beach Meal Bar Peelie
-$2 CVS Vitamin CRT

Paid with $5.87 in ECBs and $3.41 plus tax OOP. Earned $4.99 and $1 ECBs.

Not too bad for a completely unplanned trip to buy a protein bar for breakfast.

Getting Shoes to Fit

I will admit it, I hate buying shoes. It's not that I don't like shoes, it's that I really struggle to find a pair that fits. So much so in fact, that when I find a pair that does fit, I have been known to buy multiple pairs - in the same color, but also the same shoe in several colors. I look with envy at the really fun and cute shoes that others wear. I want to be able to wear them too, but frankly, comfort comes first.

Recently, when a pair of shoes that I loved developed a hole (one of the seams simply came unstitched), I was forced to pick up a new pair of shoes on short notice. Of course, that same style was no longer available - you better believed I checked that first. I found a pair of shoes that seemed comfortable and they were leather, the problem was that the size 7 1/2 was a little tight and the 8, I slipped out of. I liked the way that the shoe fit and cushion of the insole. Despite being a little tight, they were the best that I had found.

I tried stretching them by wearing them with sport socks around the house in the evening - I am sure it was a sight to behold. This method of extended wear with bulky socks has worked in times passed, but with this pair, they just didn't seem to actually stretch though.

So, I decided to try something I had read once. The next morning, when I was drying my hair I took a break of drying my hair and aimed the hair dryer into the shoes - warming them on the inside. Then, I slipped them on with a pair of white socks, which are slightly thicker than the socks I wear with dress pants. For extra measure, I let the dryer blow over the tight spots for a few minutes. Then, I allowed them to cool.

When I finally took them off and put them back on with just dress socks, they fit wonderfully. The heat from the dryer allowed them to give and stretch just enough - and in just the right spots. It is so much better than having settled for the larger shoes and dealing with the inevitable blisters that would have developed from wearing them or trying to wear the shoes around the house for several days trying to get a little bit of stretch out of them.

Now that I know how wonderful this works, and how much quicker than trying to break them in for several hours, I might just try this trick on every new shoe before I wear them. Of course, if they aren't 100% leather, I'm not sure that it will work as well, but I will likely still try it.

Using a hair dryer to get shoes that fit, works for me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CVS Deals - 11/20

I never even really looked at my ad. I simply knew from assorted Facebook comments that there were several free deals this week at CVS. I hadn't had a chance to stop in yet this week, but I figured I would give it a shot tonight. I had a few minutes between haircut and dinner. They were out of a few deals, but had others in stock. I grabbed a rain check for two of the deals and figure I will try to stop at my regular store tomorrow to see if I can find some of the others.

1 - Charmin Basic
2 - Kleenex Slim Packs
1 - Powerade
1 - Carmex Lip Balm
1 - Nips

Paid with $5 ECBs and $.98 OOP. Earned $5.87 in ECBs.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Tips from the Hormel Test Kitchen

Preparing a feast to share with family on Thanksgiving can be a daunting task. I know that the first time that we hosted Thanksgiving at our house, the planning and preparation was shared with my cousin, who came to town to celebrate with us. From making a turkey to timing the food to all be ready at the same time, there is a lot that goes into the holiday meal.

Recently, Hormel invited their Hormel Extended Family Bloggers to submit their questions about holiday food preparation to their test kitchen director. Then, they compiled the responses into a short video.

HORMEL Thanksgiving Tips from Hormel Test Kitchen Director, Joan Hanson:


For me, Thanksgiving is actually a small event with just my family. I make my "Thanksgiving" meal each year for my daughter's birthday weekend at the beginning of November and we celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family this past weekend. We will still roast up a turkey breast and make a few traditional sides - it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it!

What are your Thanksgiving plans? Do you host or just bring a dish to share?

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 a thought starter and some of the information for this post.

Entertainment Book - a giveaway

I like to save money, it is no secret. One tool that I have used to help me save money for several years (over 20 years to be sure!) has been the Entertainment Book. I first learned about the book when I was a kid. My parents had the book and I can remember using the coupons. It was when I went off to college and started dating that I became a first-time owner of my own Entertainment Book.

It may seem odd that a college student would own an Entertainment Book, but I got a book with my boyfriend because of all the fine dining offers. The offers in the front of the book, were BOGO offers at local fine dining locations. It allowed us to be 'fancy' in dating while still on a college budget. It was also a benefit for us when we would order pizza or go to the movie.

When I moved to Pittsburgh after college, I got an Entertainment Book for a different reason - to help me explore the area. Being new, I wasn't familiar with the local restaurants and entertainment venues (movies, bowling, sports, and more), but with the Entertainment Book, I was able to flip through by neighborhood and find places that were near to where I lived or where I was. It gave me a chance to try new things and save.

Now that I am married and have kids, we still use the Entertainment Book. There are a number of offers for local movie theaters, local mini-golf and entertainment centers, local sports teams (minor league), and zoos and museums. Since these are things that we would do anyway, it is nice to be able to save while we have fun with the kids. We still, of course, use the restaurant and the dry cleaning coupons too.

The book has gone more high-tech in recent years. Now, when you register your book online, you gain access to additional coupons through their website and now, through your phone too!

We also like giving the Entertainment Book as a gift. They are a great option for those in your life that like to try new restaurants or like to golf or like to check out the arts and culture in their community.

If you haven't checked out the Entertainment book, I highly recommend that you do. Review the discounts and deals in the book for your area. If you can find two or three offers that you know you will use and cover the cost of the book, then any other offers you use will be a good return on your investment. As an example, if you do a lot of dry cleaning, there are coupons in my book for 50% off your dry cleaning order, up to $10, each month. If I used these every month, I could save up to $120. Those coupons alone will pay for my book. If you are a golfer, or someone in your family is, there are a number of local courses that offer a free green fee with green fee, the senior rate to everyone, a free bucket of balls at the driving range, and more. Again, the savings opportunity for the golf alone will cover the cost of the book.

Giveaway!
Courtesy of Entertainment Book, I have the chance to give away to one A Busy Mom of Two reader an Entertainment Book for the community of your choice. Choose one for you or give it to a friend or family member (Christmas gift?!?)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway will remain open through December 6th. 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. I received a complimentary Entertainment Book to facilitate my review and one to give away to a reader. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family.

No-contract Phone and Prepaid Wireless Card Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Austin B. His entry was selected as the winner of the No-Contract Phone and Prepaid Wireless Card Giveaway hosted by A Busy Mom of Two.

Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out the other current giveaways and watch for more to come.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Toy State's New Car Collection

Toy cars are a timeless classic. It seems that every child enjoys toy cars. From the simple to those with lights and sound, there is just something appealing about a car and the way that it moves.

Toy State has a new set of cars that will appeal to children of all ages - including grown ups - check out the 007 cars, what fan wouldn't want to add one to their collection?

CAT® Mini Take-a-Part Trucks: Pull-back driving action and engaging Take-a-part play with classic Cat machines.
Styles include: Dump Truck, Wheel Loader and Skid Steer. (Suggested retail $9.99 available on Amazon.com)

Road Rippers® Hatchbacks: Free-wheeling rides with a unique rotating speaker bed feature on the new Road Rippers Hatchbacks! Perfect for the ages 3+, take the car for a spin, pop the hate and enjoy cool tunes matched with each of the 3 unique speaker bed designs.
Styles include: Ford Fiesta and Mini Countryman WRC. (Suggested Retail: $9.99, available on Amazon.com)

DUB® Garage Blazers: Lights, lights and more lights-hit the music and watch the new Blazerz design glow! Signature DUB Edition styles with motorized driving action, custom music, lights and sound. Perfect for ages 6+ its lights and sound action make Blazerz stand out from the crowd.

Styles include: DUB Edition DH5 (Sports Car), DUB Edition D17 (Muscle Car) and DUB Edition Dz8 (SUV). (Suggested Retail $24.99, available on Amazon.com)

007™ Secret Agent Cars: Motorized driving action complete with working head and tail lights on all the 007™ models, realistic vehicle sounds and the classic James Bond Theme music. Perfect for ages 6+.
Styles include: Aston Martin DBS (Quantum of Solace), Aston Martin DB5 (Casino Royale) and Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me). (Suggested Retail $9.99)

We recently received the Aston Martin DBS (Quantum of Solace) car. The box has a brief synopsis of the show and a 007 Secret Fun Fact. The car uses 3 AAA batteries, but fortunately it comes with a set of batteries for immediate play. With the push of a button, you can hear the car lock, hear the theme song or hear the car start and watch it race away. For added fun, the push of each button is accompanied by lights.

These cars are all currently available and would make a great Christmas present for the kids (or kid at heart) in your life. In fact, I'm thinking of getting one of the 007 Secret Agent Cars for my youngest brother - he is a big Bond fan and I think his son would enjoy playing with the car too.

No compensation was received for this post. Information for this post and a complimentary 007 Secret Agent Car was provided for my family to experience. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Samples and Freebies

I missed sharing last week, so here is what I have requested and received over the past two weeks.

Requested:
slow times I guess!

Received:
Green Mountain Fair Trade Kcup sample and coupon
Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy - Ultra Shea
Target Beauty Bag and coupons

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Organization - One Space at a Time

When it comes to organizing things and getting rid of things, for me, the only way, is one space at a time. There is something so daunting about wanting to even do a full room, let alone a full house. I like to celebrate the little victories...they keep me moving to the next challenge.

By focusing on one space, you can organize and declutter with minimal time investment. If I get done with a space and I still have time, I can choose to move to the next challenge or be satisfied that I accomplished the task at hand.

This weekend, I decided to clean out the utensil and gadget drawer. It had been a while since I gave it a good once over. I decided that there were duplicate tools that I simply don't use because I find one to be easier than an other. I knew that there are only so many measuring cups that a person can use - even during the upcoming cookie season. The last time I had given it a thorough look was when I moved some of my more frequently used utensils to a tool organizer.

As I looked at the drawer, I wondered about how those spoons and spatulas that are in my tool organizer once resided in this drawer.
I started by emptying the drawer. I started pulling out things that I knew that I didn't use. I checked to make sure that things still worked. I had two sets of inserts for a Pampered Chef Cheese Grater - turns out that they must have resized and the old set didn't actually fit into the new one correctly. So, I got rid of those. I had extra sets of measuring cups, so I chose the two nicest sets and removed the rest.

As I was starting to put things back in the drawer, I recognized that a couple of organizing baskets would help out. I made a stop when I ran my errands and picked up a few. I wasn't sure which combination would work best, so I got more than I needed - knowing it would be easier to return than to try to run back out in order to complete the project.

I wound up using three of the five organizers that I bought and easily returned the others while running some errands the next day.

I was able to pull out a small box of stuff that I can donate and I feel like my drawer is back in control. It hold many awkwardly shaped items, so it still may look 'unorganized' but now there is (for the most part) only a single layer and I can find everything easily since things aren't buried.


Works for Me!

You can also see my post on organizing dresser drawers here.




Monday, November 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

It was a good weekend. It was filled with friends and fun. We started our weekend with game night at our friends' house. We had pizza for dinner and we brought these simply amazing Brownie S'more Cupcakes that I made for dessert. It was a fun evening.

Saturday was a kid activity day. We started with swim lessons and then my son had soccer. I hosted a Shutterfly House Party in the afternoon. It was fun to just hang out and visit with some friends. After the party, the family headed out to dinner at Five Guys. It was rather tasty. They have those fancy new machines from Coca-Cola that let you customize your drink. My daughter and I tried Vanilla Barqs. My husband and son had Cherry Mello Yellow. After dinner, we did some shopping. I have been wanting to make a change in the foyer. We have one of those round tables with a glass top. It used to hold some figurines and seasonal decorations, but lately it has been holding baseball caps. I wanted to find a solution that would allow those things to be store out of site. We went to three stores before we found what we bought. Everyone seemed to have one thing that we liked, but not that we loved. Turns out it was a good thing, as I had mis-recalled the dimensions and the pieces that we were looking at were too wide. We found a piece at Pier 1 that will give us both storage and a place to put the seasonal decorations. They only had the floor sample, so we had to order it and it will be here in a week or two.

Sunday was a accomplish goals sort of day. I organized our utensil drawer and cleared out the excess. My husband cleaned up the leaves in the yard. I also ran some errands including the grocery store and making some exchanges. We tried a new recipe for dinner and it is a keeper.

Sunday
Cereal
Sandwiches
Slow Cooker Beer Chicken

Monday
Waffles and Sausage

Tuesday
Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Wednesday
Mexican

Thursday
Pork Chops

Friday
Scallops and Shrimp

Saturday
TBD

Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning. Lunch for the kids is either the school lunch or usually a couple of times a week they pack. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jet Pens

Have you heard of Jet Pens? I hadn't until I stumbled upon them a few months ago. They offer a variety of standard and unique writing instruments. They even have an entire section dedicated to White Ink Pens - which I think are really fun.

I requested a sample through a blogger promotion offer and received a cute little Elephant shaped eraser that is part of their Iwako Zoo Novelty Eraser - 6 Piece Set. My daughter simply couldn't wait to make it her own.

One thing that I find really nice is that they offer free shipping on orders over $25. I am just enough of an office supply nut that I could easily get there.

No compensation was received for this post. A sample was sent to me through a blogger promotional program. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Create Abilities for Kids

I don't know about you, but my kids are always looking for ways to entertain themselves. They love to create, color, and draw. When they were in preschool, I was always amazed at the ideas that their teachers had for crafts and creative expression.

I like to believe that I am creative, but I think that in reality I am good at creating something when I have an example in front of me. I look for inspiration (or full-blown direction) when I am creating scrapbook pages, decorating a cake or doing a needlepoint. Same is true when it comes to activities for the kids. I am not good at coming up with the ideas, but am great at working with them to complete a craft or activity.

We recently had the chance to check out Create Abilities for Kids.

"Create Abilities for Kids offers a unique solution to busy parents looking for ways to maximize quality time with their young children. [Their] age-appropriate art kits are designed for ages three, four or five. They contain all of the materials and instructions needed to create an art 'masterpiece'. And these all-inclusive kits will be delivered to the subscriber's mailbox each month. This saves the parent time in planning, getting the materials, and doing the prep work because [they've] already done all of that for them."

I really like that the kit comes with everything that is needed for the activity. It even includes the glue and the paint brushes!

My daughter was looking for something to do, so I pulled out one of the kits. It was nice because I could simply open up the zipped storage bag and pull out all of the supplies that she needed. The project that we had chosen was a Cinnamon Acorn. The pieces for the acorn came pre-cut and there was a container of paint, a container of glue and a container of cinnamon. There was also a foam brush and a small paint brush.
Paint the bottom of the acorn:
Sprinkle cinnamon over the wet paint on the bottom:
Place the black diamonds on top:
The finished acorn:

I liked that I was able to set her up with the activity and guide her through each step. She thought it was pretty cool and as she was making it asked if she could hang it in her room when it was done. When she was adding the cinnamon to the craft, she kept saying "I like the smell of cinnamon, it smells so good". It was a simple and straight-forward craft. I liked that the directions were simple and that there was flexibility - she could put the diamonds on the top in whatever way suited her and she could add as much cinnamon as she wanted. There was no right or wrong.

In addition, the instruction sheet also includes some facts to share with your child. These are not only interesting, but can spur additional conversation. On the acorn activity, one of the facts was that a 100 year old oak tree produces on average 2200 acorns. So, we started to talk about how Scrat (from Ice Age) would love to find a mature tree. For all the trouble that he had with that one acorn, imagine if he had an old oak tree around - he would have more than he would know what to do with.

Creative Abilities for Kids offers monthly subscriptions for their kits. You can choose to receive 2, 3 or 4 kits per month and can select them for a 3, 4, or 5 year old. If you have several children that you are buying for, they do offer discounts for kits for multiple children at the same address. Many of the kits are themed around holidays or events - the acorn craft was for the celebration of the start of fall.

With Creative Abilities for Kids, you can have a steady supply of activities and crafts, without having to maintain an extensive amount of supplies or having to buy more than you need of the supplies.

No compensation was received for this post. A complimentary set of kits was provided so that we could experience them and share about our experience. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

CVS Scenarios - week of 11/11

I didn't make it to CVS last week. I had thought about it a few times, but it never seemed to fit into my schedule. There were even a couple of nice days, where it would have made a good walking destination. I am sure that this week will be equally busy, so I might have to see what I can do about getting there early this week.

There are a couple of deals that I am hoping to pick up and a few that I want to check out.

Transaction #1
1 - Colgate MaxClean Toothpaste

-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $2 OOP. Earn $2 ECB.

Transaction #2
1 - Colgate MaxClean Toothpaste

-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $2, pay with $2 ECB and $0 OOP. Earn $2 ECB.

Transaction #3
1 - Gillette ProGlide/Venus Razor

-$4 Gillette ProGlide mfg coupon

Total $5.99, pay with $2 ECB and $3.99 OOP. Earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #4
2 - Axe Shampoo/Conditioner/Gel

-$1 Axe mfg coupon
-$1 Axe mfg coupon

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

For the trip, the total OOP is $9, with $3 ECBs to roll and $24.50 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 67%.

I am also going to check out the Crest ProHealth deal. I have several Crest ProHealth mfg coupons, but am not sure what the shelf price might be and what type of deal I can work out. I might also look to gather some cereal coupons and pick up some of the GM cereals that are on sale for $1.97/box. I also need some Vitamin C and the Nature Made is on sale BOGO, so I might pick some of them up.

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

CVS $5 Challenge
Transaction #1
1 - Colgate MaxClean Toothpaste

-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $2 OOP. Earn $2 ECB.

Transaction #2
1 - Colgate MaxClean Toothpaste

-$.75 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $2, pay with $2 ECB and $0 OOP. Earn $2 ECB.

Transaction #3
2 - Aussie Shampoo/Conditioner

-$1 Aussie mfg coupon (blinkie)
-$1 Aussie mfg coupon (blinkie)

Total $3.97. Pay with $2 ECB and $1.97 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP is $3.97, with $1 ECB to roll and $11.47 in product at sale prices. A savings of about 68%.

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


Friday, November 9, 2012

Fort Rapids Indoor Water Park

Where does the time go? It has already been almost two weeks since we took a mini-vacation to Fort Rapids Indoor Water Park. Indoor water parks are a great family getaway - in fact, we try to go one or two times every winter. Typically, we do a late fall trip and an early spring trip. We often try to align to a day off of school, but sometimes go on the weekend.

I have been to several indoor water parks and I feel like each of them has their pros and cons. I love how they all do a great job of theming the entirety of the resort. They also offer a variety of non-water activities to entertain your group when the water park is closed.

This was our second trip to Fort Rapids. The theme at Fort Rapids is the wild west. The lobby is large and features a giant fireplace. It is around this fireplace that you can gather in the evening for a bedtime story and cookies & milk (at least on the night we were there)
The water park is not a huge place, but this is a good thing.
The centerpiece of the park is their Rascal Round Up. Featuring several slides and constant running water, the highlight is the 1000 gallon bucket that is perched atop the play area that tips over on a regular basis, sending a lot of water splashing down.
My daughter is a big fan of the purple slide in the Rascal Round Up Area. I think she likes the blue tube as well, but since it is enclosed and dark, she is less inclined to choose that slide. What is nice is that your child can grow through the slides - there are three lower level ones and then the two larger ones at the top.

For the younger crowd, you can spend time at the Kiddie Korral. This area features low depth water with water toys, an umbrella that I call a 'mushroom' and four kid size slides.

One nice thing that you will see throughout the park are a number of 'Science of Splash' signs. They have partnered with COSI and share about the science behind some of the attractions.

They do not have a wave pool, but they do have a lazy river. They also have three large tube slides that all empty into the lazy river, including Black Out Pass - which is the ride my family calls the toilet bowl, because after a course through a winding tube, you are shot out into a large bowl and you circle it a few times before dropping down the tube into the middle and into the exit pool. For all three of the tube slides, you can ride alone in a single tube or pair up in a double tube. My son was tall enough to ride and even adventurous enough to ride on his own. I liked that we could experience the slides together or 'race' each other to the bottom.

Speaking of racing, they have a set of slides called Shoot Out Racer, we just call them the racers. It features four tubes that you ride through on your stomach on a racing mat. They all follow a similar course and finish four across. At the tubes, each slide is a different color, at the bottom they are all open, yellow slides. My daughter was a little nervous about riding them the first time. The lifeguard was very kind and suggested that she try the yellow tube. Turns out that the yellow is translucent, making the slide more light than dark through the tube portion of the ride.
Catching pictures of your family sliding can be a challenge, but can give you some rather 'artsy' looking pictures.

The water park has a very limited supply of towels available. They make this very clear on their website and encourage you to bring your own. Having been to other parks where they are readily available, it was a little disappointing to not have them easily available. They also have a limited number of life jackets available for the little ones. Again, they have some, but not many - so it is a good idea to plan ahead and bring your own if you have it.

After a long day at the water park, we were happy to go back to the room for the evening. The resort has a variety of rooms that will meet a variety of needs. They have guest rooms and family suites. The guests rooms are available for parties of 2 - 6, with the 2 being the room with one king bed and an in-room Jacuzzi. Have a bigger party, or want some common space where the parents can stay up longer than the children? Then, I would recommend the family suites, which can sleep from 6 to 12 guests. We have stayed in both the Havazu Canyon and the Kings Canyon. The Havazu sleeps 8 and the Kings Canyon, 10. I like the set up of the smaller room, because sleeping for 6 of the 8 are in bedrooms. This means that the kids can go to bed and the doors be closed, while the adults hang out. The common area featured a couch and a chair. I also like that it had a kitchenette and a small table that makes it easy to eat a meal in the room (we picked up some food to go and relaxed and ate it in the room). The Kings Canyon had sleeping for 2 in a bedroom and 2 in a loft, with the other 6 spots in the common area. It had a sofa and a chair in the common area, but the only other seating was on the 2 beds in the common area. I definitely loved though that this room featured 3 bathrooms! This made changing to go to the water park a lot easier. I also like that the rooms featured a dryer - making it easy to dry the cover-ups, suits and towels for the next visit.

There is also plenty to do after the water park closes. There is an arcade, they do evening story time, and there are restaurants.

In fact, the weekend that we were there, there was a family Halloween costume party. It included a DJ, games, Caricatures, Pictures and snacks. I just wish I had known ahead of time that when they snacks, they meant a mini-meal. The snack area featured pizzas, chicken fingers, marshmallow ghosts, candy and caramel apples, punch, and more. We had already eaten dinner, so we only picked at a few of the treats. There was a costume contest, which we missed because the kids were anxious to get more time in at the water park. The prizes included future stays, vouchers for the arcade and more. They also offered trick or treat around the resort. The kids had a great time putting on their costumes and having a little fun, before returning to the water park for one last hour of play before it closed.

One of my favorite things about Fort Rapids is that it is a short drive from Cleveland and allows us to easily meet up with friends and family from southern Ohio for a weekend get away.

No compensation was received for this post. Information was provided through US Family Guide, of which I am a member blogger. My family was invited to enjoy a complimentary visit to the water park to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweaty Bands Fitness Headband Review and Giveaway

My hair used to be longer, when I went for a run or worked out, I would simply pull my hair back in a ponytail. It was easy and once I found the no slip ponytail holders, I didn't have to worry about adjusting my hair fifteen times during my run or work out. Well, a while back, I decided to cut my hair shorter. Now, it's not super short, but too short for a ponytail.

This created a new challenge for me. How do I keep my now shorter hair off of my face? I had some plain, cloth-style stretch head bands. I decided that they should keep the hair off of my face while I work out. Well, they did keep my hair off of my face, but over the course of the run, they would slowly slip towards the back of my head. I'm not sure if my head is shaped funny, but there was no way that was going to stay in place, it found a slope on my head that would allow it to slowly slide back. This was mildly annoying, I felt like I had to adjust it most days one or two times. It was still holding my hair back, but I found myself worrying it would simply fall out and then, what would I do?

I had to find a no slip solution for the headband, like I did for the ponytail. I had some headbands that aren't supposed to slip, but they are plastic ones and I didn't think that would work so well for me when I was running. Plus, standard head bands always feel like they are pinching my head.

So, I decided to try out Sweaty Bands. Sweaty Bands come in all sorts of fun patterns and a great array of colors. The top part is fabric backed by a velour like fabric. The bottom part is elastic, allowing it to fit everyone. I started to wear this daily for my run. It was great, the hair would stay out of my face and I didn't have the sensation that it was going to fall off of my head and didn't feel the need to readjust mid-run like I had with the plain cloth-style stretch head band I had been using.

I tried to take some pictures of myself post-run with both the cloth-style one and the Sweaty Bands Headband. I am here to tell you that taking a self-portrait of the side of your head with an iPhone front facing camera is not easy. The pics were super fuzzy and it was hard to get the angle to show the position of the band post-run. Of course, there isn't anyone else up in my house at that hour. I had my son try one morning, but since he is shorter, it was an even more awkward photo.

Long story short - you will have to believe me when I tell you that it stays put better than others, because I can't show you. I really love that they work as described. I also like it that they are an Ohio based company and their product is made in the USA.

You can purchase Sweaty Bands online through their website, or use their website to find a store near you that carries Sweaty Bands, after all, they are carried in over 1000 stores.

Giveaway!
Courtesy of Sweaty Bands, I have the opportunity to giveaway to one (1) A Busy Mom of Two reader a Sweaty Band Headband - the one pictured above, actually.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway will remain open through December 2nd. 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. I received a complimentary Sweaty Bands Headband to facilitate my review and one to give away to a reader. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family.


Menu Plan Monday

It was a wonderful and busy weekend. We celebrated my daughter's 6th birthday with family. We enjoyed a turkey and all the fixings, including homemade rye bread that is very similar to the bread that my grandma used to make. My mom said it was pretty close and since she ate the bread for many more years than I, I like that she agreed that it was pretty close.

With a large bird and a smaller than normal crowd, we will be having turkey a few times this week.

I will share about the party and cake later - I am pretty proud of my cake.

It is a reasonably quiet week ahead. No sports and no meetings are currently on the schedule. I am looking forward to a 'normal' week.

Sunday
cereal
leftovers
Spaghetti and Meatballs

Monday
Turkey Buffalo Cheesesteak

Tuesday
Turkey Tacos

Wednesday
Homemade pizza

Thursday
Fish and Fries

Friday
Dinner with friends

Saturday
cereal
sandwiches
Pork Chops

Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal each morning. Lunch for the kids is either the school lunch or usually a couple of times a week they pack. Lunch for my husband and me is typically sandwiches, frozen meals or leftovers.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Method Products & Giant Eagle - a giveaway

Method Products - "Made up of biodegradable products that clean like heck, smell like heaven and leave nothing nasty in their wake, Method is ideal for People Against Dirty. With naturally derived ingredients, free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan or EDTA, moms can feel secure using Method around the house and with the kids."

One of the things that I really like about Method Laundry detergent is that you get 25 loads of product in a nice small compact container. I feel like I have limited storage in my laundry room, so the compact size is nice. Plus, it takes up less space in the garbage can too. It is a concentrated detergent that can be used in both standard and HE machines. To compare, here is a bottle of another HE detergent with about 25 loads compared to the Method 25 load bottle:

We also use their hand wash refills. Unlike other refills we have used, they come in a stand up pouch with a pour spout at the top. They offer the same refill, but they take up less space in the trash after we use it.

I have purchased the Method Laundry Care at Giant Eagle before, but now you can also find additional Method products at Giant Eagle. New at Giant Eagle - Method Handwash, foaming and gel and Method Dish, for hand-washing or the dishwasher.

Use the coupons from the recent coupon inserts to save more:
* $1 OFF any one (1) Method Hand Wash
* 75¢ OFF any one (1) Method Home Care Product

Like Giant Eagle on Facebook to take advantage of a limited time Facebook eOffer (quantities limited) and Save $2.00 OFF any one (1) Method Product.

You can find Method online at mehtodhome.com and Giant Eagle at gianteagle.com.


Giveaway!

Courtesy of Giant Eagle, I am able to offer to five (5) A Busy Mom of Two readers a chance to try Method with VIP Free Coupons for Method (up to $5).

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway will remain open through November 30th. 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. Giant Eagle provided a Method product sample pack, information and coupons for this post. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Samples and Freebies

Requested
Centrum Flavor Burst sample (and can print a $2 coupon)

Received
Nectresse sample and coupon


CVS Deals - 11/1

When I was at CVS on Wednesday, I noticed that there was a good amount of Halloween candy and treats remaining. Since I already saw the Christmas candy scattered about, I figured that there definitely would be a clearance sale on Thursday, so I stopped in. One of my goals was to get some snacks for the kids lunches.



2 - Halloween Oreo Fun Size
1 - Halloween Teddy Grahams Fun Size
1 - Mars Classic Mix
1 - Brach's Candy Corn

Total $12.51 OOP. Earned $1 ECB for the Green Bag Tag.


CVS Deals - 10/31

I stopped by CVS on Wednesday evening to pick up a few of this week's deals and to use a rain check and a 20% off coupon that was expiring. I seemed to be without a part of my coupons, so I had to skip a few deals, but I hope to go back.

2 - Tootsie Pops
1 - St. Joseph Aspirin (rain check)
1 - CVS Aspirin
1 - GUM Toothbrush
1 - Suave for Men Shampoo

-$3.60 CVS 20% CRT
-$2.25 St. Joseph mfg coupon
-$1 CVS Pain Killer CRT
-$2 Hair Care CRT

Paid with $9 in ECBs and $11.20 (plus tax) OOP. Earned $1 and $3 ECBs. It wasn't the cheapest transaction, but


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Green Giant Seasoned Steamers - a Giveaway

"With a dash of imagination, a pinch of culinary skill, and a heap of flavor, Green Giant Seasoned Steamers™ are giving you a new reason to enjoy eating your vegetables. Shake up your vegetable routine with these flavorful, chef-inspired options that are seasoned to perfection, without a drop of sauce. Now, more than ever, you can leave your family craving more vegetables with every meal and break through meal monotony with a new palate-pleasing vegetable option for everyone! With new Green Giant® Seasoned Steamers™, eating vegetables just got easier and more delicious!
- Available in six different varieties, Green Giant Seasoned Steamers™ are one of the first sauce-free seasoned vegetables to bring unique chef-inspired seasonings and premium cut vegetable blends to your dining room table
- These tasty Seasoned Steamers are bound to spice up any meal with six varieties including: Mediterranean Blend, Tuscan Seasoned Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, Honey Roasted Sweet Corn, Honey Dijon Carrots and Backyard Grilled Potatoes"

At our house, we try to have vegetables with our meals. We do a mix of fresh vegetables - raw or cooked, frozen vegetables, and canned - green beans and corn only. I like the brightness of fresh vegetables, but they aren't always in season and so, we tend to mix in other options.

These new Seasoned Steamers from Green Giant sound so delicious to me. They will make a nice (and convenient) addition to our meals and I can not wait to try many of the varieties. Take Backyard Grilled Potatoes - a seasoned blend of roasted potatoes, peppers, and onions or Honey Roasted Sweet Corn - a blend of corn and peppers with a touch of honey. The Tuscan Seasoned Broccoli has Parmesan cheese and Tuscan seasoning. I have never had Brussel Sprouts, but strangely have wanted to try them lately and I figure that this is probably the 'no fail' way to do it (vs trying to prepare fresh).

Want to try them? You can download a printable coupon for $1.00 off the purchase of one package of Green Giant Seasoned Steamers™.

Giveaway!

Courtesy of Green Giant, through MyBlogSpark, I have the chance to give away to one A Busy Mom of Two reader, a Green Giant Seasoned Steamers gift pack, which includes:
- (1) VIP coupon for one free package of Green Giant Seasoned Steamers™
- Apron
- Green Giant Serving Spoon
- Mixing Bowl
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway will remain open through November 27th. 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. The coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by Green Giant® through MyBlogSpark. All opinions expressed are entirely my own or that of my family.


True Colors by Kristin Hannah

After finishing, Not This Time, I moved right into another book. This time, I chose to read True Colors by Kristin Hannah. Hannah is another one of those authors that once I discovered her, when I read Night Road, I just knew that I needed to read more of her books. She writes with such an authenticity and her characters are well developed. Her books are the type that I want to keep on reading because I want to find out what happens next to people in the story. This certainly held true with True Colors.

The story opens with a short prologue, that helps to paint a little bit of the back story of the three Gray sisters and then moves forward 13 years to find them as young adults. Winona, Aurora and Vivi Ann may be sisters, but they are very different people. As we head into the start of the story, we find that Winona, the oldest is living on her own, overweight and a successful lawyer. Aurora, the middle child, is married with children and the family peace keeper. Vivi Ann, the youngest and most beautiful is living at home helping to run the family ranch. A lover of horses, she is also an active rodeo participant. Things always seem to come easy to Vivi Ann.

What follows is a story about the relationship and bond between sisters. The story explores their relationship as they weather love, jealousy, loss, and more. One thing that I enjoy about Hannah's writing is that she explores the full gamut of emotions - the reality of life. It really draws you into the story and makes you feel a bond with the characters. As I shared in their triumphs, their sorrows, their disunity and their coming back together, I couldn't help but want to have sisters like these women, to know that I had constants in my life to be there to celebrate with and cry with. (for the record - my only sisters are sisters-in-law and sorority sisters and a cousin that is almost like a sister and they are all wonderful)

The book may appear overwhelming at over 500 pages, but I would recommend it. With the page turning power of the story that Hannah weaves, those pages quickly melt away and you find suddenly that (hours have passed and) you have completed a captivating story.

No compensation was provided for this post. I bought the book and read it for my own pleasure. I just wanted to share it with you.