Monday, March 31, 2008

How did I vacation before the internet?

I've spent the morning searching the internet for cabins large enough for ten family members in vacation spots in Tennessee. When I wasn't on the 'net I was on the phone talking to people about cabin rentals. Whew!

It looks like we'll be spending a week in Pigeon Forge.

Does anybody have any good tips on Pigeon Forge? Good restaurants- great thrift stores- activities for kids?? It's all welcome information.

And now that I have our summer vacation taken care of (what a pain to juggle three busy families calendars, work around school, and still get the off- peak price- but I did it... someone congratulate me please. Well, lest I sound whiny let me take this opportunity to also say it's a blessing to have family that wants to spend a week with you. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than planning a vacation. Oh poor me.)

I need to get back to my chores. The dishwasher isn't going to unload itself- as much as I wish it would. (Hey, Roomba guy- invent something I could really use.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fun busy things

Last time I left you with a grumpy blog.

But I've been busy turning my frown upside down (so cheesy- I know).

Yesterday I got to run through Global Foods and get some treats like halva, padadum, good ramens, cheap tea and fresh cilantro.

I have my Swap Sister's info so I've been busy working on that today. I'm having so much fun doing little things. It looks like I'm going to have some leftovers so keep looking for a future giveaway here.

It's Sunday evening and dinnertime. I've got a heart shaped veggie pizza in the oven.

Do you know what's really good? Mixing sugar free lemonade with cranberry juice. Yum!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bad Mommy Day

Today is one of those days where I'm wishing I could trade places with my working husband and talk to big people and make money doing something that other people consider working.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel on staying home- I love staying home most of the time.

But, it's just hard sometimes when I feel like everyday is a big circle of the same thing and all I have planned are the same chores I did yesterday and activities to run the kids to. I am less Mommy and more machine. And it's been a long two weeks of Spring and Easter break and two business trips for my husband. I just wanted to cry when my husband tells me on the phone that he's getting ready to go out to a nice lunch with co-workers while I'm headed home with two cranky kids and frozen Lean Cuisines on the menu for lunch. Somedays- it doesn't feel like such a blessing.

And now I have to get Little Guy from his room and get everyone ready for Gymnastics.
Deep Breath.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekly Dinner Menu

Weekly Dinner Menu

Monday- Tofu Stir Fry and vegetable egg rolls (Bake frozen egg rolls)

Tuesday- Spaghetti (add crumbles), green veggie and bread

Wednesday- Mac N Cheese with chopped veggie dogs and Mixed veg.

Thursday- Blueberry Pancakes & eggs (Feed kids early- Parent/Teacher Conf.)

Friday- Mushroom and Veggie pepperoni Pizza (take cheese from freezer?)

The "What's in Your Wallet?" Shopping Challenge.

Since the beginning of the year I've been on a personal care (especially for my own stuff) shopping hiatus until I use up my stockpile.
I think I've been making up for it by stuffing my pantry and freezer with food. When I'm bored and I want to get out of the house- I take the kids to the grocery store. We always can use groceries right?

Starting in April I'm going cash only and my budget is going to be $30.00. For the whole month. One week we'll be tagging along on a business trip with hubby so really this only for three and and a halfish weeks.

That $30.00 is going to have to buy us fruit, milk, eggs, and any other necessities that we run out of and must have. It also has to pay for any snack helper days at the pre-school and all runs through Taco Bell and McDonalds. So goodbye take out, delivery, and drive thru dining. Special dinners out with hubby (ie Date Night- a rare treat) are subject to negotiation. We'll be eating out enough on our trip.
This does not have to cover any medicines, entertainment or household goods.

In the next week I'll be buying our regular groceries as we run out but not doing any extra stocking up. I want to see the back of my pantry. I want to make snacks from scratch. I'm looking forward to having to count out change to buy a dozen eggs.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Well, it's snowing here (and flooding) this morning. And our Big Girl is still sick and fevery. As I was getting ready to put her in her fancy Easter dress I realized that she was hot and shivering. Poor thing. No church. No Easter pictures in their fancy clothes today either.

But, the Easter Bunny did make a delivery.

I bought Little Guy a Radio Flyer wagon toy (at Goodwill) before Christmas. I filled it with a like new board book, a new lift the flap Bible, some candy, and a Bob the Builder toy that I found at Goodwill.

Big Girl got a pretty basket (from Goodwill) filled with a new umbrella (that she needed), some socks, some hair bows, a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit book (from Goodwill), a new Veggie Tales Story Bible, and some candy.

Both kids got Kinder Surprise Eggs that we bought back from Italy. I think you can get them in the States but Kinder is everywhere in Italy.
I also hid eggs around the house. I added a few kisses and things that I bought on clearance after Christmas. To reduce the amount of candy I've saved my pocket change for the past month to fill their eggs. As we opened up our plastic eggs we sorted the candy into a mug and the change into their piggy banks. It worked well.

Now I have to go work on Tofurky and maybe watch some of Lady and the Tramp movie we borrowed from the library.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Feaster

Well, this is another year that I won't quite pull a delicious 'scratch' rabbit out of the hat for Easter. Oh well.
With one sick little girl and an active two year old I'll take what I can get.

Our feast:

One after Thanksgiving clearance Tofurky Roast with potatoes, onion, celery, and carrot and a orange juice, brown sugar and soy sauce glaze.

Deviled eggs made from our decorated Easter eggs

A can of reduced fat crescent rolls bought with double coupons.

A key lime pie made from a double couponed Keebler graham cracker crust, a 1.00 (Dollar Tree) Musselman's can of key lime pie filling , a sale purchased tub of Cool Whip and topped with shavings from a hershey's bar leftover from our power outtage that I found in the pantry.

Big Girl has had a fever since 2 am last night. I know she's sick when she actually sleeps during the day. She got in a good nap next to her Daddy though.

Mulling it over- Diaper Shopping Time

We're running low on diapers. I've been buying Aldi's Nanny brand and using Huggies Overnights at bedtime. I think it works great. Hubby is not convinced that the Nanny's are just as good at the Cosco Kirkland brand. The Kirkland brand are .20 cents per diaper. The Aldi's brand run about .17 cents a diaper.

I'm so tired of diapers and the piles of cloth diapers and covers are staring at me mockingly. The smell of two days worth of dirty diapers makes me gag. And hubby's complaining about cloth doesn't help. But, I'm considering them. Not only to stretch our diaper dollars but I really hate throwing out .20 cents of diaper in a landfill every two or three hours.

We're gingerly stepping our feet into the potty training pool. We started too early with our daughter and it backfired. As much as I love having a baby in the house I will not miss diapers- cloth or paper.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Cookies With Mommy

I'm short on time today but I wanted to do something special with my daughter. I also wanted to make a treat for Easter.
I called Duncan Hines and asked for a recipe to make cake mix cookies.

Here's the recipe from the company:

1 box dry cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup of oil

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies sit for two minutes before removing from the baking pan.

We added 1/2 tsp. orange extract, colored sprinkles, and some yellow and red food coloring to our mix.

Now it's time to tackle the toy pick up and the laundry.

If you still haven't finished your Easter baskets here's a Dollar Stretcher article by Debra Taylor-Hough.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Is here- Sister Swap

Monica over at the homespun heart (a blog I love) is co-sponsoring a Sister Swap for spring.

This is my first time joining a swap and I'm excited to get started. But, I'm not very crafty so I'm worried about how creative I'll be able to get.

I don't know if I'll use these or not but Wal-Mart had these cute little urchiny napkin holders on sale for .10 cents a box. Maybe I can find some cute flowery napkins in good shape at the Goodwill to go with them. I picked out some discount floral fabric too. Maybe I can talk my Mom into helping me make a tote or something with them.
I don't get my swap partner's information for another week so I'd better not get too carried away yet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And I was just excited about cheap cereal.

At Dierberg's (the 'nice' grocery store) I found three boxes of Manager's Special (meaning it's close to the expiration date) Barbara's Bakery Shredded Oats cereal for .99 cents apiece. This is a cereal that I normally walk by because it's price is prohibitive. However, it's good stuff so I didn't hesitate to scoop up the last boxes on the shelf.

Also, I can get a nifty camping utensil by sending in two UPC's (click on the above link for information).

It's a simple thing but it makes me so happy. ; )

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spot On Lexicon

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Northeast
The Inland North
The West
The South
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Well, I am from Missouri so this makes sense. Although, there is a Ozark dialect here that I occasionally lapse into when I am at home with parents and I 'warsh' the dishes and let out the 'dawg'.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not buying new hangers- Closet Clean Out.

I'm always short five to ten hangers whenever I put away clothes. It's a bad day when I resort to using my husband's wire luggage hangers. As tempted as I am to just go buy another ten pack of plastic hangers, I refuse.

Instead I'll take another look at what I'm storing in my closet and pull out the things that don't fit, don't make me feel good, or I just never wear. I have to keep in mind the stack of mending that will take up hangers once it's completed. That means we need to get rid of at least ten items of clothing in our closet that are just taking up space. Is it finally time to donate my wedding gown (that I didn't like anyway)? Should I get rid of the renaissance style outfit that I bought for a friends wedding reception? Maybe my husband's old t-shirts that never get worn (but are kept for sentimental reasons) should get a new home somewhere else.

After years of reading Flylady and watching Clean Sweep the decluttering is getting easier but it's still not easy.

I'm going to tackle this mountain tonight after the kids go to bed. I'm actually looking forward to it.

*I'm also storing our sale/storage gifts container and all of my all occasion ribbons, bags and wraps in my closet. Last night I talked with Hubby and he's planning on giving me a "Jenny Corner" in the basement for crafts and gift wrapping. That will clean out a lot of stuff out of our closet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Product Review: Clean and Clear Oxygenating Oil-Free Moisturizer

Photo taken from
I'm so slowly cleaning out my beauty supplies and re-trying things that I had tossed aside in favor of my old standbys (which I am out of or running out of). I had a coupon for a free Johnson & Johnson product a few months ago and this is what I bought.

I try to stick with Spf 15 and higher facial moisturizers. This moisturizer is ultra light. It isn't heavy or greasy but I think I might need more moisturizing than it can provide. A nickel sized amount covers my face and neck decently. The oxygenating part of this lotion is really annoying. It stung the first few times I used it until I got used to it. It really hurts if you get it near your eyes though. The smell isn't overpowering but it is chemically. I am going to use this product up and then happily go back to buying my Oil of Olay (with a coupon of course).

Macho Business Donkey Wrestler- it's Fierce

With the writers strike and our trip to Italy, my hubby and I have been watching downloaded shows that we've missed on tv (yet one more reason to downsize our programming again). We just finished watching Project Runway 4. I was rooting for Christian and so glad when he won (although that ruffled neck thing was totally a hot mess.)

My husband just reminded me of a show we used to watch- Newsradio. This is from one of those shows that I just thought was hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing. I think we're going to have to download this one too.
Taken from episode #57 entitled "Super Karate Monkey Death Car."

Mr. James: "The original title of this book was 'Jimmy James, Capitalist Lion Tamer' but I see now that it's... 'Jimmy James, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler'... you know what it is... I had the book translated in to Japanese then back in again into English. Macho Business Donkey Wrestler... well there you go... it's got kind of a ring to it don't it? Anyway, I wanted to read from chapter three... which is the story of my first rise to financial prominence... I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street... many days no business come to my hut... my hut... but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no. I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo... dung. ...Glorious sunset of my heart was fading. Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space. But Jimmy has fancy plans... and pants to match. The monkey clown horrible karate round and yummy like cute small baby chick would beat the donkey."

Question: "Mr. James, what did you mean when you wrote bad clown making like super American car racers, I would make them sweat, War War?"

Mr. James: "Well, you know... it's LIKE when a clown is making like a car... racer... it's sorta... like... the FCC. The CLOWN... the clown is like the FCC... and I was opposed to the FCC at the time, right? So it was like I was declaring War. WARRRR!"

Question: "So then did the American yum yum clown monkey also represent the FCC?"
Mr. James: "Yeah, it did. Thanks a LOT!"

Question: "What did you mean when you said, "Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey, donkey donkey?"
Mr. James: *Sigh*


That's (free) Entertainment.

After dinner last night the whole family attended a Parents As Teachers Spring Training night at the local pre-school. There was free face painting, homemade playdoh to roll into hot dog shapes, a mini t-ball game, board games, dress up etc. We all had a good time. We briefly debated ice cream treats but came home to eat one girl scout cookie with our leftover milk from dinner.

After breakfast this morning I took the kids to Barnes and Noble to play with the Thomas the train table. Last time I took the kids to play my son had a -MAJOR- tantrum when we left. I was so embarrassed. Today I decided to try again with a game plan. I packed crackers and juice boxes (rare treats) and the camera. I also took a library book for myself to read so I wouldn't be tempted to purchase. I warned them many times (mostly for my son's benefit) that if they threw fits or acted out in any way we would immediately leave and there would be no snack. I also planned plenty of time for them to play so they would be ready to leave when the time came. It worked great. I got to read half of my book, 14-Hours-Til-Bedtime which is just right for me since it's chopped into short paragraphs were I can easily stop and say, "Share." When our playtime hour was up both kids seemed ready to go.
We mosey over to the cafe area (with me holding my breath the whole time waiting for the wailing & gnashing of teeth and the sputtering of "CHOO CHOO"). I let Big Girl pick out a giant cookie to share between the three of us and I ordered myself a small machiato. I was so pleased with my kids and so glad that Barnes and Noble has that train table with chairs for Moms. I enjoyed that cup of coffee- feeling smug that I had given birth to two such angels (ha).

I made it through a fifteen minute clearance session at Old Navy but the kids were weary and starting to get loud. I picked up three things for a friends new baby boy (a heavy knitted sleep suit for 2.99, a cardigan for 1.99, and a sleeper set for 1.99) and a winter shirt for Big Girl all for less than ten dollars.

It's warming up here so I took a longer tour of the neighborhood and we pretended we were on a wild animal safari. In our neighborhood there's normally a dog or two being walked or an errant bunny. All we saw today were five geese, a blue jay, a grackle, and one plump bellied robin. I'm so glad spring is on it's way.

Now I have to get back to my chores.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Egg Pie? I won't tell if you don't.

Is it wrong to tell my son (who loves pie) that the quiche he normally won't eat is Egg Pie? I don't think so.

update. turns out that it didn't matter what I called it. he said, "no way." but for the crust he said, "more peas." oh well, you can't win them all.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Eggs in a basket.

Do you need to fill an Easter basket or two? My local Goodwill had a ton of baskets for sale. Most of them were a dollar or two. They had shredded paper grass in baggies for .19 cents and a dozen plastic eggs for about the same. There was other packaged goodies that I didn't price and Paas egg coloring kits for .49 cents.
I bought a bag of cellophane Easter goodie bags for .30 cents to fill and send to my nieces.

I bought a mini Radio Flyer wagon for my son at Goodwill a few months ago. I've saved it to use as his Easter basket.

I bought a fancy Easter basket for Big Girl today that I will use in her closet for storage after Easter.

When Target had their dollar area stuff on a 75% off sale we picked out four items apiece for my twin nieces. I'm going to fill four plastic eggs for each with some leftover birthday party candy and put them in the cellophane baggies and send them on their way.

Scholastic books frequently has a .95 cent book in their mini catalog. I buy one or two every time to save for cheap gifts and fillers.

This year I bought new Bible story books for each kid at Wal-Mart because they had exactly what I wanted. But, in the past I have found great books at the Goodwill for .35 cents.

I bought a package of cheap jelly beans for .50 cents and a package of Reese's Peanut butter eggs for the candy. I'm also going to fill their eggs with change from my wallet. They love feeding their piggy banks so much and I don't have to deal with the extra candy or a junky plastic toy.

I stockpiled small sized art supplies from clearance racks over the past year to add to their baskets instead of toys too.

Since I bought new books and I spent a few dollars on their 'baskets' (which will be very usable after Easter) I wasn't exactly frugal this year. I spent about $10-15 dollars on each child. But, I'm also trying to bypass the extra clutter and get functional items instead.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Couponing at the 'good' Grocery Store - and Free Pizza for Readers

Our nice grocery store here is usually out of my price range despite it's pristine aisles and the variety of goods. But, it does double coupons up to .40 cents.

Last night I went thru the flier and matched my coupons with their sales and pulled out any good .40 cent and under coupons. This is what I bought:

Some of the Campbell's soup was on sale 10 for $1.00. I don't think one dollar is a good price for a can of soup so I normally buy the soup from Aldi or make my own. But, combined with my .40 cent coupons I bought eleven can of soup for .60 cents apiece. My stockpile of cream soups is ready for those casseroles and Bisquick pot pie recipes I've been avoiding. I had free product coupons for the Idahoan potatoes and the Yoplait yogurt which are normally things I would not buy. Aldi has great low fat yogurt and I usually make my potatoes from scratch or buy a big generic box of instant for thickening soups or quick dinners. But, I love free. The pizza rolls were on sale for $1.00 but I doubled a .40 cent coupon and got them for .20 cents. These are strictly junk food in my book and I wondered if I should even pay .20 cents.
But, we just checked out fresh library dvds so maybe they'll be a good movie/family night snack. The Riceland rice was normally .99 cents a box. The grocery store across town has them for .79 cents a box. But, I had .35 cent coupons (doubled) so I got these boxes for .20 cents. We eat a lot of brown rice so this was a great buy.
The granola bars I did not have a coupon for but I figured that we love our quick grab and go snacks so they wouldn't go to waste.

I noticed that a lot of the packages I bought has Boxtops for Education on them. Big Girl probably contributes less than her other classmates to the Boxtops jar because I just don't buy name brand unless it's on a great sale. But, she'll have a handful soon. That should make her happy since she loves putting them in the jar. And those Campbell's labels are another bonus to put in the school collection box.

Pizza Hut is giving away a free personal pizza to students at our preschool who read at least eight books. Big Girls is so excited about earning a free pizza I don't think I'll have to remind her to pick out a book at bedtime. We checked out a few books for her list at the library today to help spur us on.

So, far it's been a good day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Aldi- What a nice store

We did have a few problems using our check card from our credit union in Italy. Mostly it was due to the time difference and the bank maintenance hour being the morning rush in Rome. And I perhaps should have called the bank to let them know that we had returned to the US- even though- I called them twice to remind them of our departure and return dates.

I guess it shouldn't have surprised me when my debit card was denied at Aldi but I was. Wow, I hadn't had that happen since I was a credit silly college student with no money. I was so embarrassed and scared that perhaps my credit info was being misused.
The cashier was so nice about it- even as I'm turning beat red, with a fussy toddler in tow and a line up of people behind me. He let me leave the store with the full cart (with my boy in the front seat) and push it next door to the ATM. But, that didn't work either. After my defeated return he simply kept my receipt and pushed my full cart into the cooler and told me to come back after I'd ran to the bank. I drove across town to my credit union (and was getting irritated because I was reminded that I should have called to tell them I was going out of the country- ARGH.) and got the problem fixed. With my fist full of fresh twenties I made it back to the Aldi just in time to reclaim my cart, pay for my stuff, and still be on time for preschool pick up. And he was so nice again. No big deal. Just pay when you can. Wow. I love Aldi.

Thank You Allen.. you made my day brighter.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Waiting for the Egg Sales

With the rise in the price of eggs (and everything else) I've been anxiously awaiting the pre-Easter egg sales. Looking through my grocery fliers today I still didn't see those harbingers of spring on sale. But, if you like corned beef you're in luck.

Too bad I've got a serious craving for deviled eggs.

Product Review: Maybelline Lash Discovery Washable Mascara

Photo from

I bought this mascara last fall before my beauty product hiatus. I've been using this tube for the better part of three months and now I'm ready to toss it. I packed my mini tube of Lancome mascara (that came free with purchase) for our trip to Rome last week. After a week of that great mascara- going back to the Maybelline made me realize how bad it was. I guess I was using it just because well, I am really trying to use stuff up and I don't have a great stock pile of mascara. But, it's clumpy, not lengthening, flaky and it doesn't wash off well. I will not be buying this product again. Instead I'm wondering if it's worth it to buy the Clinique and Lancome mascaras that always work so well when I finally run out of mascara.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Back to the Grind

We're back to our normally scheduled programming. Getting away is great if only for realizing how much I like my life. I've got dinner planned- lentils and rice meatloaf with leftover green beans and gravy. I took the little guy to Wal-Mart this morning and bought some Easter basket fillers and some canned goods. There are lots of chores to get done and the house is a mess of plastic toys. But, I'm happy. Time to pick up the preschooler.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rome, Italy Redux

Well, we're home now. After a crazy taxi ride, thirteen hours on two airplanes, a shuttle bus to the parking lot, and a half hour drive home yesterday we've returned.
I missed home. I -missed- my kids! My wonderful in-laws just left and the house is once again ours. Whew. As much as I love to travel I'm not looking forward to leaving again soon and I'm not going anywhere without my babies for a long time.
By the last two days of our trip I was starting to sour on Italy. Oh, it is so beautiful. The people are so full of life and so fabulously well dressed. Our hotel was very nice with almost no problems except for crazy internet fees. But, I was tired of the nagging fear of pickpockets- really I think I over exaggerated the problem. There were only a few situations that seemed shady where I was worried for my property. I never feared for my safety though. Two things that I just plain
wearied of- the perpetual need to spend money and the dirt. Very few things in Rome are free. Public toilets are few and far between and not desirable. Water is not free although there are a few public fountains that you can drink from that have safe water. There are wonderful little pet Roman dogs everywhere and no one bothers to clean up their messes. Everyone smokes and drops their butts where they may- not even bothering to stub them out. So, the streets are beautiful with ruins and ancient buildings on virtually every street but the beauty is marred by dog feces, the smell of human urine (lack of toilets), and trash.
A view of the Colosseum from Across the Street.

All in all- Rome is an incredible city. Relatively safe if you're smart with your valuables and know that nothing is free there. There are the normal tourist scams (don't get your picture taken with the gladiators outside of the Colosseum unless you want to get ripped off- don't take a 'free' flower from a nice man- count your change from your taxi ride and be prepared to argue if you get shorted- which happens). Use your common sense and you'll be ok. Crossing the roads with the crazy Roman traffic is easy once you realize the trick. You either wait for the locals to cross and follow behind them or you just walk and put up your hand to 'stop' the cars from crossing. They are crazy drivers but are mostly courteous with pedestrians. I almost like the driving there better. People will let you in even if they drive like crazy around you if you go too slow. And the cars- I fell in love with the tiny little Smart Cars.
Tiny Roman car.

Walking in Rome isn't a problem if you have good shoes and a lot of time. Taxis are everywhere. This sitedoes a better job of explaining. The maps in our travel books were really poor and not helpful when you get lost in a tangle of small streets. It's best to ask for a map of the city at the hotel front desk or a tourist info kiosk. Also, most of the people are very friendly and will have a smattering of English so they can help point you in the right direction. Just make sure you have the right Italian pronunciation of where you want to go.

Here are some more pictures from our trip.

Near where Julius Caesar was killed. Now a cat sanctuary.

Eating wonderful zabione and dark chocolate with rum gelato.

Delicious street vendor panini and pizza.

Ceiling in the Vatican Museum.

Pompeian Wildflowers.
Street in Pompei.

I loved spending a precious week in Italy with my husband. It's something I'll cherish forever. Rome is a veritable treat for your senses.

But there really is no place like home.