Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happiness for pennies on the dollar

That old doll house of mine that my Mom refurbished for Big Girl was a big hit on Christmas day. Big Girl vociferously declared it to be her best Christmas present ever.

This black chair was a garage sale find for 5.00. I'm still not sure it was a good purchase but both of the kids have been enjoying it's slippery Naugahyde surface. The grey fabric with rockets on it was a steal for .25 on half off day at Goodwill. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it but for now the kids have been having fun with it's yard and a half length.

Some post Christmas thoughts.

Did you get any stinker presents? What did you do with them? Did you put them in a closet for clutter and to make you feel bad whenever you see them?

Donate them or give them to someone who needs them. Don't forget to thank the giver if you haven't already done so.

Do you have any ornaments or decorations that aren't your taste or don't make you happy when you look at them? Don't let them go into storage with your beloved decorations. Get them out of your house and into the hands of someone who will love them.

Are you depressed and experiencing a post Christmas let down? I used to do that too. But, this year I'm determined to enjoy my special candles and stocking candies from my sweetie. I'm going to simmer some orange peels with some spices for a stove top potpourri and then put them in my disposal to freshen it up afterwards.

First thing I'm going to do is take that ornament off of the tree that makes me unhappy every time I look at it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What's for dinner: Breakfast

I've been struggling with the dinner issue of late. Last night it was bean burritos from Taco Bell. The night before last it was a simple pot of spaghetti- no sides.

I'm behind on my pantry clean out anyway. There's a loaf of Bosnian white bread I bought awhile ago getting stale in my kitchen. I'm also itching to use up the last of the egg nog sitting forlornly in our fridge. I bought eggs yesterday so- tonight it's French Toast, scrambled eggs, and orange slices. Lazy, yes. But, cheap and delicious.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

After Christmas sales

I don't know where the camera is so I can't show you pictures but I'll just tell you what I've been up to.

I took my daughter shopping today to check out the after Christmas sales. I was after a one foot tall tree for my son's room. His sister has one in hers complete with a small light strand, gold star, skirt and miniature ornaments (a remnant of my dorm room days). I know next year it will probably occur to him to be jealous so I've been trying to set aside some small ornaments etc when I find them. I bought him a tiny tree skirt and some miniature ornaments on clearance. But, no tree yet.

Instead I found .50 rolls of Christmas wrap that are in neutral prints so that I can use them for all purpose wrap. One is gold and the other is a white lace on red background print.

I also found some pretty Christmas cards half price at the Dollar General. Even though I could go three years without needing to buy extra cards. I just get tired of sending the same ones every year. I like variety.

The kids 2008 ornaments were found for .50 apiece at Dollar General too. They are pretty simple felt and wood snowflake cut outs with a dangling jingle bell. I liked them and the price was right. They are now engraved (with Sharpie and a glittery gold ink overlay) with 2008 and each child's name and stuffed into a storage tote for next year. I'm always excited to find my bargain ornaments from last year. I never pay more than a dollar for them and I have to make sure that I have a flat surface to write on so finding them is a nice challenge.

Oh, and I almost forgot the 'sugary' looking non breakable ball ornaments that I buy every year from Dollar general. Two pretty ball ornaments for .50 and the reassurance that my children can't break them but if they do then no big deal. Priceless.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If you're buying it anyway- Unisex Clothes for Kids

As soon as I found out that I was having a boy I started saving Big Girls generic clothing for her little brother. I consciously try to buy pieces that I know can be passed on to her brother without looking too boyish. It's easy to do this with t-shirts, socks, sweat pants, and turtlenecks.

I will spend more money on quality pieces of clothing if they can be used for either sex. I have the storage space so I don't mind saving a shirt for two or three years until it's the right size. So, those turtlenecks from Talbots that I just ordered will be well worn by the time they reach the donation bag. I just redeemed a gift card that I ordered with my discover card bonus. Out of pocket costs were $8.00 after shipping and taxes (no applicable coupon codes- darn).
But, I don't mind that for good quality clothes that both of my children will wear.

Christmas Present Tally

In hindsight I see that I could have spent less but, I am satisfied with this years attempt at a more frugal Christmas for my Children. My biggest expeniditure was for the Read With Me DVD set that only includes one DVD.

For the Stockings-
crackers and stuffers - (two mystery goody bags at thrift store- sorted, cleaned, and wrapped for crackers), one crayola free with rebate craft set) 1.00
candy- (two chocolate figures 2.00 apiece Dollar General) 4.00
2.50 apiece

For Big Girl:

veggie tales Sumo of the Opera Playset-2.99 (KBToys online clearance)
Little People castle - (garage sale) 2.00
Strawberry Shortcake Princess Figure- (Dollar General) 2.00
Little People Castle Figurines- (Big Lots) 10.00
Read with me DVD player - (KB Toys outlet) 15.00
3 Read With Me dvds (one from KBToys online & two from Big Lots) 13.00

Total= 47.49

For Little Guy:
Wooden Elmo puzzles- 3.00 (KBToys online clearance)
Little People Dump Truck- (KBToys online) 10.00
Wooden 8-in-one play set (puzzle, blocks etc.)- (clearance Tuesday Morning) 6.00
Sandra Boynton Counting board book- (Target- full price) 6.00
Stuffed puppy dog - (clearance Tuesday Morning) 3.00

Total= 30.50

I'm already excited about seeing how low I can go next year since typically I have spent $60-75.00 per child.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

On Christmas Day in the Morning

My purposeful scaling back on Christmas spending was not apparent this morning during the unwrapping party. I spent quite a bit less than normal by purchasing some secondhand presents and by hoarding small trinkets during the last few months.
It worked and I'm definitely going to duplicate it again. Big Girl is thrilled with her two dollar garage sale castle (with new batteries). The Veggie Tales toy set was on clearance for 2.99 online at KBToys.

This was our first year doing Christmas crackers in stockings. It was a hit so I think I'll be doing that again next year too. I filled the crackers with bulk thrifted trinkets and Halloween candy.

Now we're off to Grandma's house for more presents (and food). I'm taking homemade cheese balls, an Impossibly Easy Coconut pie, and extra Christmas baking goodies.

Wishing you all abundant Christmas blessings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Last Minute Gift Giving

A trip to Big Lots 30% off closing sale prompted me to buy gifts for my sons two babysitters. He's only there for two half days a week so I didn't feel it was necessary to join in the gift card fund with the other parents. But, they do take good care of him so I thought small tokens of my appreciation were probably a nice thing to do.

I found Bigelow English Breakfast tea and packages of fancy chocolate tea biscuits to go with them for 1.10 apiece. I added a Christmas tea towel from the stack that I bought in bulk when K-Mart had them marked for .59. I attached a metal clearance cookie cutter (.12 and .32 each on clearance) to the ribbon on the package. Each gift ends up being around $3.00. I added a Christmas card with a thank you note.

And I think that is officially the last gift I should buy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Boiled in my own Pudding with a Merry Christmas on my lips.

Ok, I've made the Scrooge pack her bags.

I finished my necessary Christmas baking for the neighbors tins (and bags). I revised my menu a little bit to fit my time needs. I made orange flavored fudge topped with pecans, sugar cookies, m&m walnut cookies, and oatmeal scotchie bars. I filled in any holes with a few starlight mints and a peanut butter bon bon or two for the bigger bags. The tins came from Goodwill. The bags were an after Christmas clearance purchase. The tea tins were 1.00 apiece from Big Lots. I used recycled ribbon from Christmas presents my SIL sent last year. I think the total cost per tin was 2.00 apiece. The bags were probably one dollar or less (no tea tins).

This year my husband is making the deliveries with Big Girl. She plans on caroling them with a song of her own making. She sang one for me and it was cute so I think that's better than our standard jingle bells. Although who could resist a little girl with a red nose from the cold bringing you cookies and singing you a made up carol? I mean, really?

Here's a picture of Little Guy playing in the snow we got last weekend. It's been melting since but it was nice to have as a pre-Christmas herald.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seasons Overwhelmings and the beginning of the terrible twos.

My delightful little boy has chosen this month to enter into the beginnings of the terrible twos (which with my daughter lasted until she was 3.5).

I am getting nothing done except wrestling crayons and markers away from him and keeping him from imminent death.

Thank Goodness I don't have to do anymore Christmas shopping. But, I'm dreading the Christmas baking and assembling. How am I going to get it all done when I use his naps to recooperate from his toddlerly tirades and to do basic chores like laundry?

I'm feeling less like Martha Stewart and more like Peg Bundy.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gingerbread Afternoon

Awhile back I wrote about buying gingerbread graham crackers to make gingerbread houses.

Grandma, Big Girl and I had a nice, snowy, lazy afternoon to put them together. Nothing special or fancy about them but the three of us had a good time. We used a lot of halloween candy up too.

I could have spent less by making my own gingerbread and using what candies we had on hand. But, by buying the boxes of crackers and spending a dollar on mints the total was $5.00 for these three houses. I don't know if it will be a yearly tradition but I know that we had fun and it might be one of those fun memories that my Big Girl cherishs for years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Urge to Splurge-- Christmas picture Gotcha

You know how when you go to pick up your portraits and the clerk then lays out the photos that you didn't purchase and tries to sell them to you? Well, I almost never fall for that. And today I almost got away clean- until she lowered the price by five dollars and threw in a photo ornament. This was the first time we attempted a whole family portrait too. And I didn't buy any since both of the kids were looking in opposite directions and I look a little squashed and perturbed.

But, when I looked at them again I thought, "Well, those aren't so bad."

So, I'm twenty dollars lighter, I have a family picture, and I don't have to fuss over whether to send Aunt Susie or friend Sally a picture. Everyone is getting a picture this year since I have pictures aplenty.

Do I feel my customary frugal guilt? Surprisingly, not one bit. And now I don't have to buy an ornament for this years Christmas picture.

Now back to my regularly scheduled programming. The In-Laws are coming tomorrow and I've loads of chores to do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lip Smacking Freebie

Go here for a free sample of Country Bob's Steak Sauce.

For some fun- A Christmas Meme

Copied this from a great little blog- Cuppa, Cuppa, Cuppa.

Holiday Fun

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrap if at all possible. It's more personal.
2. Real tree or Artificial? I love real trees except for two things 1. the expense 2. the cats eat the needles (so the litter box has a weird porcupine effect- ouch). So, I can't beat my .50 cent garage sale tree.
3. When do you put up the tree? Right after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down? New Years Day
5. Do you like egg nog? Yes, but I prefer it mixed half and half with skim milk.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? My wooden doll house and the Barbie Kitchen that went into it.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. one glass one and one that Big Girl made at preschool.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My brothers.
9. Easiest person to buy for? my children.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A half broken shelf/picture frame that a friend had bought for herself and then decided that she didn't need it. I ended up throwing it away.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Elf
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? The Day after Christmas
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. But, I usually make sure it's something the recipient will really want.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Buckeyes
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored. White lights are too fancy for my tree.
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay Home and then drive 1 1/2 hour to parents
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? no
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning. Although this year the kids will get to open their Christmas pjs before bedtime on Christmas Eve.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Too much to do. It doesn't last long enough.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? No themes.. I am partial to the ornaments that I made when I was a kid or were from my Mom's tree growing up.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Broccoli with cheese sauce and rolls. And cherry delight.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A dvd copy of Fiddler on the Roof and a dvd of the new Harry Potter movie.

If you've read through this whole thing consider yourself tagged!

Burnt Cookies, A Messy House and a Cheerful Heart

I started making cookies yesterday for gift tins. The sugar cookies I made last night turned out ok and taste pretty good.

But, the chocolate m&m cookies are burnt and not that appetizing.

The house is a mess from the weekend of living (playing & eating). The Christmas tree is hijacked daily. There are ornaments scattered across the house by mischievous little fairies. Here is a picture of the toilet paper that Big Girl used as decorative trim for our much abused tree. I should take it down but I'm - A. apathetic B. Highly amused C. afraid of the hurt feelings and tears that might ensue from it's removal.
I'll take it down before my In-Laws come later in the week.

So, rather than throw up my hands and give it up as a lost cause I'm telling myself that it will be ok if the neighbors get tins of starlight mints and a nice Christmas card. The in-laws won't care how my house looks-they just want to see us. (although everyone with a mother-in-law knows better... you need a clean house). No one ever died from having a downright tacky Christmas tree... and the photo is blackmail for when Big Girl is older.
All of the presents are bought (and sent off too). Most are wrapped. Santa will still come on Christmas morning even if the cookies are burnt and there are toys and mislaid socks across the house. The Christmas letter might only be three quick paragraphs with a semi-bad photo hastily tossed into the envelope.
My blessings are abundant... My blessings are abundant... My blessings are abundant.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Two more for the Easter Basket

One reason that I love Easter is that it's a relatively low cost holiday. I always manage to find small basket fillers throughout the year either through yard sale/thrifting or getting good deals on clearance. It's also easy to gather kid freebies throughout the year and hoard them for stockings and baskets. The only purchase I make right before the big day is for chocolate bunnies.

I guess this isn't necessarily completely free since it includes a purchase and a stamp but I thought it seemed like a good deal. I was buying my Quaker Instant Oatmeal at Big Lots but now will have to find another cheap source or even make my own.

Send in 1 valid Quaker Instant Oatmeal UPC and receive a free copy of The Chimpanzees of Happytown while supplies last. Mail the UPC with your name, address, email address and phone number to:

Quaker Book Offer
557 Broadway
P.O. Box 711
New York, NY 10012

OFFER TERMS: To receive your free copy of The Chimpanzees of Happytown or another Scholastic book of Sponsor's choice (estimated retail value $3.99) simply mail in one original UPC from any Quaker Instant Oatmeal product along with your name, daytime phone number, email address, and complete mailing address to (see above). Offer expires April 1, 2008 or wile the supply of 5,000 books lasts. No copies, facsimiles, or reproductions of the UPC codes will be accepted. Duplicate requests will constitute fraud. Limit one free book per person or household. No group, commercial, or business requests. Not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, illegible, damaged, postage-due or otherwise undeliverable mail. Offer goo din U.S. only. Offer void where taxed, restricted, or prohibited by law. Please allow 4-6 weeks for shipment.

Also, if you haven't already ordered the free Planet Heroes dvd I think it's still available through this link.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Free Grocery Shopping Bag

If you go to Rice Select and join their flavor club they will send you a coupon and a free reusable shopping bag.

I could have used the shopping bag this morning at Aldi so I wouldn't have had to buy a few paper ones.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Goodbye Big Lots

I went to Big Lots today in search of applesauce, tortilla chips, and diapers and found out that my favorite store is closing. They didn't get enough business and will not be re-opening. I am sad. Is it weird to be disappointed by that? First my Dollar Tree was demolished to make room for the Wal-Mart to be super sized. And now Big Lots.

I can't tell yet if I'll be saving money by not shopping there (and buying extra un-needed things) or I'll spend more because I don't have those close-out prices.
The entire store was on a 20% off closing sale. But, they were cleaned out of all the things that I went in for. I left with some .80 cent boxed mint cookies (hoarded for Christmas treats for visitors), a small Santa train set (1.60), a stuffed Ernie doll as an emergency Christmas present (3.70), a playdoh/cutter set (1.60), and some cold medicine.
Oh well, one less reason to leave the house.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A tale of two Advent calendars

We don't remember every night but one of our fun Christmas traditions is doing the advent calendars after dinner.

The Santa one has small pieces of imported German chocolate which came from Trader Joe's for 1.99. The felt one was a gift from Grandma last Christmas. It's so fun to see how excited Big Girl gets as we get closer and closer to having the calendars finished. She's especially excited about the birth of baby Jesus. I am too.

I love seeing Christmas again through her eyes. May we all be blessed with the faith of a child this Christmas season.

The Parenting Files: When peanut butter and cheerios meet

At least the peanut butter and cheerios are organic. ; )

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What's for dinner: 'I don't feel like cooking' casserole

I still feel yucky. Thankfully, my children are behaving and I didn't have anywhere I had to be today.
But, housework and chores.. do I have to?
I did manage to tackle Mt. Washmore and unload/reload the dishwasher. But, dinner?
I was ready to tell hubby we're having delivery pizza.

But, then I remembered we have a fridge full of bits of leftovers. And how easy is it to throw together a casserole and turn on the oven? For a side dish I'll just put out some bread and butter.

Casserole components-

From the Freezer-
Lima beans (Big Girl and Hubby love them. weird)
Peas & carrots
1 pack (equivalent to half pound) of Boca crumbles

From the fridge-
Part of a raw onion
half a baked potato
a handful of tater tots
three spoonfuls of corn
leftover veggie gravy
half a container of veggie broth
two cups of leftover rice
one lone raw egg taking up space in a big container

Veg spike
Salt & Pepper

I may get crazy and top it with some shredded cheddar. Who knows.
Anyway, dinner is prepped. All I have to do is heat the oven.
Dessert is a dollar Capitol pound cake that I bought from Deals yesterday (read that they were good somewhere) topped with leftover from Thanksgiving whipped topping.

It sure beats another mac and cheese meal or burgers and tater tots. Plus, I have room in my refrigerator again.

*For those of you who've linked from Frugal Upstate- I realize that this isn't an egg heavy recipe. I just wanted to highlight how easy it is to throw together a casserole and eggs are a great protein rich binder.*

Monday, December 3, 2007

Too Early to discuss Easter baskets?

For those of you who have little girls (or boys) who are Angelina Ballerina fans, there is a Angelina Plush doll giveaway.

Visit With Santa & Climbing back into the Mommy Saddle

We took the kids to see Santa at our neighborhood clubhouse on Saturday. We had an appointment so it was nice that we could take our time and it was just the kids having a little visit with Mr. Claus. Big Girl asked him to bring her a plastic toy castle. (I have to admit I did put that bug in her ear so she's not disappointed Christmas morning) She also asked him to please bring her little brother a set of Bob the Builder tools for Christmas because he's been a good kid too. (heart melts). Then she quizzed him a little bit about how he got to the clubhouse. Did he bring Rudolph because she knows Rudolph leads the team? Little Guy didn't seem to care too much- he definitely prefers women over men. But he didn't do his customary back into your lap and dump himself on you thing. But, he stayed there and looked a bit bored. Maybe next year.
I finally got to dig out the Polly Flinders dress I've been hanging onto for ages waiting for her to grow into it. I'm not sure where it came from... once upon a time my Mom/brothers use to buy the contents of unclaimed/past due storage sheds. A lot of our Christmas ornaments and baby items came from those.
Little Guys overalls and shirt came from a garage sale this summer.

Feeling' Slightly More Spry-
After a trip to the walk in clinic yesterday I found out that I do not have strep like I thought. That's good? Instead I have a nasty viral infection and have to let nature take it's course. That's bad.
But, today is a better day and I found two hours to do errands like mail my last two Christmas packages (whoo hoo... today I lost 14 pounds at the post office), pick up two prescriptions, and get groceries.

I was trying to think about how many Christmas presents I had for each child and it seemed like Little Guy was going to be short one. So, I was wracking my brain to come up with a good gift for him. I strolled the toy aisles in Target. Nothing seemed right. And quite frankly none of it seemed worth the price tag. I've been doing a lot of shopping at Goodwill (even buying new in the package toys) and I know I could do better. So, I left Target with only my prescription for eye drops (-still- dealing with pink eye running amok) and a small bag of vitamin C cough drops. I was really thirsty though and -almost- succumbed to the cooler filled with bottles of icy cold pop. Has anyone noticed that the price of those end cap sodas has gone way up while the size has decreased? I was not about to pay 1.34 for one of those when yesterday I bought a two liter of name brand cola for .99. So, I went to the snack area and bought a pretzel (breakfast) and a medium soda for 2.14. I can live with that.

Then to the grocery to pick up another prescription and get my weekly food and a few baking supplies. I am out of white flour. I don't even remember the last time I bought white flour. Over a year ago? But, I can't very well make sugar cookies with whole wheat. There are just some things you need white flour for. I spent $43.00 on groceries (frozen veg, baking supplies, fresh fruit, organic milk, wheat buns, veggie meat products, and oj concentrate). $3.00 of that was a donation to the local food bank. So, not too bad.

The grocery store happens to be right by the Deal$ store. I had priced Pillsbury frozen waffles in the grocery and they were $2.19. They always have them for 1.00 at Deals (along with Bird's Eye frozen veggies). I took a stroll through there. I got my waffles, two bags of veggies, a new June Carter Cash cd for Hubby, a counting book for Little Guy (my official last Christmas present of 2007), and some orange extract.

In a few days when I feel less snotty I will set up the 2007 Holiday Baking Kitchen.
I'm cheating a bit with dollar store bought Chocolate chip cookie mix (but I add nuts and m&m's). But, I'm going to make a double batch of Oatmeal Scotchies, a batch of Earl Grey Tea cookies, and some oreo candy balls. I have been stockpiling tins to make homemade presents for friends and neighbors.
I think delivering our handmade goodies is one of my favorite things about the holiday season.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Not under the tree this Christmas

This Fiji Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker is only 379.99 at Linens & Things. When I asked Hubby if he'd buy it for me he laughed. Darn.

Barbie's Fashion Fever Boutique (with the credit card that never runs out of money!) will also not be under our tree. But, it is only 29.99 at

Unfortunately, Little Guy will have to live without this ride on zebra toy this Christmas too. I actually think it's kinda cute but with our handful of ride on toys (curb side recycled or hand me down) we can live without it- especially since it's 49.99 at

Hubby will just have to live with out this $700 professional hockey table from It's too bad too because it might have been a nice place to put my Margarita concoction maker.

A Few Days Ago- Dinner

This is the last meal I made before I got sick. Boca burger 'meat'balls- actually turned out pretty good. And I found some whole wheat spaghetti at Aldi. It was actually very decent tasting. And neither of the kids seemed to notice that we weren't eating the white flour junk.

I found a recipe for quick and easy garlic sticks. I didn't find them particularly good. I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (which I get at Trader Joes) but they were a bit dense.

I had to fudge the banana bread recipe a little bit since I only had two bananas to use. I added Stonyfield Farms Banilla yogurt in place of one of the bananas. Kids and hubby think it's great.