Saturday, December 27, 2008

Save-It Saturday: Recycling the Christmas Tree

Ok, I will save the which tree, real or fake, is better for the environment debate for next year, but for this year, I will discuss ways to dispose of a live (real) tree. Since the trees are organic in nature, they will break down on their own in a landfill anyway, but there are more environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of them. Before doing any of the following things though, you first need to remove ALL decorations (this means each and every strand of tinsel) and should remove any plastic bags, wires, nails, etc as well.

- Probably the most economical way to recycle your tree is to have it mulched or chipped. Where I live, this is a free service offered by many towns. The resulting mulch is then free for residents to use in their gardens and plant beds. It is important to note, if you plan to use the mulch in your plant beds, let it decompose first. Otherwise, as it decomposes the plants and the mulch will be competing for the nitrogen in the soil. They can also be used in a compost pile, but they do take a while to compost.

- See if your city or town offers tree recycling. Chances are they will do the same as above, but use the mulch or chippings in city parks and trails.

- Look into donating the tree to a wildlife refuge or using it in your own yard as a place for small animals and birds to take cover from predators and harsh weather. You can either simply toss it on its side or put the entire thing outside in a stand, allowing it to be used as it would have been naturally used. You can then mulch or chip it in the spring.

- Drop it into a pond or lake (check local laws first) that is stocked with fish. The fish will use the tree for cover as well and a safe place to locate food.

- Use the wood to build a bird house.

- Cut the branches off and then cut into logs for a campfire. It is not recommended to use unseasoned pine logs in a fireplace though because a resin can build up and start a chimney fire. Of course you can season the pine logs by allowing them to sit outside for at least one year to dry out the sap. Then they are safe for burning in a fireplace. The needles and branches can be allowed to dry out for use as kindling and tinder for campfires as well.

However you choose to dispose of your tree, please be sure it is safe and that it does not violate any local laws. Any of the above ways are great for keeping the trees out of the landfills. While they will eventually decompose, they do take a long time and take up valuable landfill space.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Family Friday: Time Capsule and an assignment

As another year comes to a close, I look back at how much has happened in the past 12months and how much my kids have grown. For our household, we experienced quite a bit in 2008. Grandma came to visit us from Washington state (to NY), not just once, but twice this year. We traveled to Florida for a family vacation and to visit old friends of ours from when we lived there. I got very sick and spent some time in the hospital prior to giving birth 6 weeks early to our beautiful son, and then had to stay in the hospital several days more after delivery. Our son stayed in the NICU for almost 3 weeks and we were so happy when our entire family was home together. Our last big event in 2008 (I hope) was our recent move. We did not move too far, but far enough that the kids had to say goodbye to some acquaintances that they probably will not see again. These were just family events from the past year and do not include the historic presidential campaigns and election, the major flucuations of gas prices, or the financial crisis we have witnessed in the housing and stock markets.

I am sure we are not the only family that experiences such major changes each year and I know millions of others experienced the other events along with us. How neat it would be to look back on past years and see the changes experienced not just in the world, but also in your home. This year, we are planning to put together a family time capsule as part of our New Year's Eve celebration. We wil include a family picture taken at Christmas, several pictures from throughout the year (depicting the major events of the year), news clippings, and any special pictures or crafts made by family members. Additionally, each person (who can write) will write a little about themselves and their personal events of the past year. They will include favorites (foods, colors, etc) friends, future goals, etc. We will then pack the time capsule away with our Chirstmas decorations to be reviewed next New Year's Eve. I am hoping to do this every year and slowly add to the time capsule collection so that we can review not only the prior year, but also 5 years prior or 10 years prior, etc. Another option would be to create a year-end scrapbook together.

Now onto the assignment: Another thing I am planning on New Year's is to set some goals as a family for 2009. Next week's Family Friday will be to discuss the goals we have set. Your assignment is to think about what goals you would like to set for your family and either discuss them with your family to agree on them (they ARE family goals, not OUR goals for the family) or set up a time to do so. Be sure to include goals that span a variety of areas in your family life. For us, we will have spiritual goals (can include setting up regular family scripture reading or prayer, regular church attendance, etc), time goals (committing to spending a certain amount of time to certain activities), economic goals, health goals (can include increasing eating healthy foods, decreasing eating unhealthy foods, increasing exercise, decreasing idle time) and recreation goals (can include vacation plans or extracurricular activities).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take this time to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. If you do not celebrate Christmas, that's ok too, I still hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: A Healthy Christmas

Why wait until the new year to start eating healthy? Here are some healthy recipes for Christmas cookies and Christmas Day breakfast.

Santa eats a lot of cookies on Christmas Eve. Why not offer him a slightly healthier cookie this year, that still tastes yummy? Add a glass of fat-free milk and he is ready to go.

Glazed Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (recipe created and owned by Danielle Garcia, please contact me if you want to reprint this)
yield: 28 cookies

1 c. wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c pureed or canned pumpkin
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. egg substitute (or 1 egg and 2 egg whites)
1/2 c. fat-free milk
1 1/2 tsp maple extract (you could use vanilla in a pinch)
1 1/2 c cranberries, chopped (can use fresh or dried)
2/3 c. walnuts, chopped

Glaze ingredients
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp fat-free milk

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2) Sift together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt; set aside. Cream together pureed pumpkin, butter, and sugar. Stir in egg substitute, milk and maple extract. Gradually stir in flour mixture, until well-blended. (Note- this can all be done with a mixer, up to this point, from here proceed by hand.) Stir in cranberries and nuts.
3) Drop dough by tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let sit for 1-2 minutes and then remove to wire cooling rack.
4) Combine glaze ingredients. Place into a Ziploc-style bag. Snip a small corner off and drizzle glaze onto cookies.

For breakfast Christmas morning, try Cooking Light's Overnight Caramel French Toast served with sliced banana on top. It is great because you can prepare it tonight and pop it in the oven while opening gifts and it will be ready when you are done (well 50 minutes later).

Another breakfast option is:
Hot Brown Rice Breakfast Cereal(recipe created and owned by Danielle Garcia, please contact me if you want to reprint this)
serves 6

3 c. cooked brown rice ( a great way to use up leftover brown rice)
3 c. fat-free milk
1/4 c. dried blueberries (other dried fruit may be substituted)
1/4 c. toasted almonds (or other nut), chopped
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. egg substitute
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp butter

1) Combine rice, milk, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low; simmer for 20 minutes.

2) Whisk together 1 Tbsp. of the rice mixture and the egg substitute. Continue doing this, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you have added 6 Tbsp. Stir the egg mixture, the vanilla, and butter into the hot rice mixture and cook over low heat for another 1-2 minutes.

Whatever you choose to eat, enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Try It Tuesday: Fresh pomegranates

Ok, I have had fresh pomegranates before, but I have a new way of getting the seeds out that is soooooo much easier and quicker. I recently saw on Martha Stewart's show that you can quarter a pomegranate and hold it over a bowl, seed side down. Then take the back of a wooden spoon and just whack the back of the pomegranate repeatedly. It is sort of fun and a good way to relieve a bit of stress, but the best part is it removes just about every seed in a matter of moments. After seeing it done on Martha, I just had to try it. I picked up a pomegranate this week and tried it. It worked fabulously and I had a bowl full of gorgeous crimson seeds in about 5 minutes, instead of an hour. One word of caution: be sure to hold it deep in the bowl and/or do not wear a good shirt and do not do it near anything you do not want little reddish-purple stains on. You do not lose a lot of juice, but you are likely to get some spattering as you hit the back of the fruit.

Do I recommend this method for removing pomegranate seeds? Absolutley!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Money Monday: Start Planning For Christmas Now

Ok, not this Christmas, next Christmas. Do you have people on your list that you have realized you bought an extra gift, or two, for? What do you do with the extra gifts? I am sure some of you return them, some will use the gift for another person, a few will hold onto it for the recipient's birthdayor other event, but many will just go ahead and give the extra gifts to the intended recipient anyway. The best thing (at least for your pocketbook) is to simply stash it away for next year (or their birthday at least). Then, before you start your holiday shopping next year, be sure to check your stash and cross off those people whom you already have gifts for.

Another way to build up that "stash" is to shop clearance sales and the day after Christmas is the best time to start. You will also find that many stores have toys deeply (often to 75% off) discounted in mid-January. Do your birthday shopping for the year and get a head start on your holiday shopping for next year by shopping these great sales.

Now that gifts are taken care of, let's move to decorations. The day after Christmas is also a great time to pick these up for a steal on the price. You can also get lots of red and silver decor and candies and such to use for Valentine's Day. Craft stores actually start taking deep discounts before the holiday. This week's Michael's ad says their Christmas items are already 70% (maybe 75%, the ad is in the van) off. I may not have time to pwhip up any Christmas decorations for this year, but I have a heck of a head start for next year and they were a fraction of the price.

Don't forget the holiday dresses and outfits either. These will go on clearance over the next few weeks as well. The only drawback here is that you have to try and guess what size someone will be in 12 months. The benefit is, if you are wrong, you can always gift the item or sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

I do not recommend buying food a year ahead of time, but be sure to check the deals anyway. I have often found refrigerated cookie dough with holiday themes for less than $1 (combine with a coupon and they are free or close to it), soon after Christmas ends. I buy and bake them up for the kids or even for a New Year's get together. No one ever minds the holiday theme. While on the topic of food, be sure to check your grocers for deals on meat and baked goods soon before closing time on Christmas Eve (if you can). Many will mark down meat and baked goods in preparation of being closed for 24 hours. We bought a fresh turkey at Sam's Club several Christmas Eve's ago for 19 cents a pound, an hour before the store closed.

You do not need to do all these things to save money, but the more you do, the more money you can save. Plus, it lessens the amount of stuff you need to get next year, allowing you more time to spend doing other things that are more enjoyable.

Regarding Simply Sundays

I have made a decision to no longer regularly post on Sundays. I believe Sundays should be a day of rest, but I feel stressed when I have not posted for the day, so I am releasing that "weight" by saying I will still post on sundays, but only when it is convenient. All other days will remain the same. Stay tuned for Money Monday later this evening and the promised giveaway that I am late on posting. Thank you for understanding.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Save-It Saurday: Environmentally Friendly Gifts and Gift wrapping

I had the idea for this posting a while back, when there was still plenty of time to do your holiday shopping. I apologize to those of you who are already done with your shopping, but for those who are not and for those who are starting to plan ahead for next year, here are a bunch of envirnmentally-friendly gift ideas.

- Make a donation in the recipient's name to an organization they support (double bonus if it is also an organization that supports the environment)

- Give the gift of time. Give gift certificates that are redeemable for services such as snow shoveling, gardening, lawn care, house cleaning, etc

- Put together food baskets using organic fruits and veggies, chocolate made from fair-trade cocoa, and locally grown and produced jams and honey. Put it all in a re-usable shopping bag.

- Just about any item that is re-usable that would replace something that the recipient currently is using a disposable version of. Re-usable coffee filters, cloth diapers, and cloth napkins are just a few ideas.

- Solar chargers are now available for things like i-pods, laptops and cell phones. They initially are charged by plugging into the wall, but then they charge themselves from solar power and in turn charge your device.

- A potted plant

- Bamboo items. Bamboo is a quick growing plant that can be cut and re-grown over and over again.

- A membership to the local science museum, art museum, etc.

- A bus or subway pass to promote mass transit

- Make something useful from things you would have otherwise thrown away. See my earlier posts on re-using shopping bags to make plarn for knitting a throw rug or a market bag.

Now for environmentally-friendly gift wrap ideas

- Decorate paper bags with stamps and/or markers and use them as wrapping paper

- Use old newspapers (the comic section works great) and magazines to wrap gifts

- Re-use gift wrap from gifts you have received (if it is wrinkled, try sprinkling it with water and then ironing it)

- Wrap gifts in something else that can be part of the gift, such as dish towels for a college student or woman, baby blankets for a baby, pretty fabric for a crafter/sewer, re-usable shopping bags for anyone who shops, etc

- Check your local Goodwill, similar-type, store for baskets. You have a re-usable item and no gift wrap. You can plan ahead for next year by checking yard sales for baskets during the summer as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Family Friday: A wrapping party

One of my sister's was often staying up all night on Christmas Eve trying to get all her gifts wrapped in time. She was then often so tired the next day, she was unable to really enjoy the children's reactions. In an effort to alleviate her wrapping dilemma, I started organizing a "wrapping party" a few nights before Christmas. My sisters, my mother and some long-time family friends, and I, all get together at one house (with no kids, except infants) and spend the evening wrapping and laughing and just enjoying each others company. We share gift wrap, giving us all a great variety of wrapped gifts and when we finish wrapping our own gifts, we help those who have more to wrap. In the past, we have all brought snacks to share as well and we have discussed, but never actually done yet, having a cookie swap as well. Our wrapping party has become a nice way to get our gifts wrapped without worrying about spying eyes, a way to get a little adult interaction, and more importantly, a way to grow closer with our "extended"-immediate family (family that was considered immediate before we grew up). It also helps relieve a little of the holiday stress, knowing that much of our wrapping is done, allowing us to better enjoy the time with our spouses and children.

Do any of you do something similar?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Week Thursday (My 100th Post!)

Well first, this is an exciting post because it my 100th post for this blog! In honor of the hundredth posting, I will be having a giveaway that will start sometime between now and Sunday, so be sure to check back soon. Now onto things I have found this week:

On The Web:
-Jenny at the Picky Palate shares some yummy looking cookie recipes for your cookie platters. The look as though they are very tasty and they are not the same old ones you find on everyone else's platters.

-Maria, at A Girl Anachronism, shares a quote from Vickie Swindling, that talks about poverty being a state of mind more than one of finance. It will make you think.

-Sydney, at While I Wait, shares her tips for keeping our skin healthy and moisturized throughout the harsh winter weather.

-La Mammina shows how to make cute photo tea bags which would make a wonderful holiday gift.

-ChefDruck Musings is giving away a Friends Forever Girls Doll. (ends 12/27)

-Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls always has lots of great giveaways going on. My current favorite is for Mabel Handbags. This giveaway ends 12/23 at 9:00PM EST

-Bargain Briana has a $50 gift certificate and 2 free mini Dessert certificates for Carraba's Italian Grill. She also has a yummy recipe on the giveaway posting for Carraba's Mini Cannoli Dessert. Giveaway ends 12/21 around 11PM PST.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Cranberries

One of my favorite foods this time of year is cranberries. I love cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, cranberry bread, cranberry cookies, etc, etc, etc. I often buy several bags of cranberries towards the end of the season to freeze for year-round use as well. Not only do cranberries taste yummy, they are good for you too.

Cranberries help protect our bodies in a myriad of ways. They contain flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. Ok, so what does that mean, you ask? Well, flavonoids, in general, are antioxidants which means they help keep our cells from mutating, and therefore help prevent cancer. They also help keep our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels low, helping to prevent heart disease. Proanthocyanidins, help inhibit bacteria from adhering to the body, which is why cranberry juice is often credited for preventing urinary tract infections. It has also been shown to prevent plaque formation on teeth and mouthwashes containing proanhocyanidins have been shown to reduce periodontal disease. Cranberry juice can also help prevent H.pylori bacteria from adhering in the stomach, reducing the risk and severity of peptic ulcers.

So now we know why they are good for us, here are some tips for storing and using them. As I said earlier, I buy extra bags to use throughout the year. Often you can find bags of fresh cranberries on sale for about $1, or even less as the season ends (usually the end of December). I even found some on clearnace last year for 25 cents a bag at Wal-Mart. Just be sure to buy bags with very few brown or soft berries. If you are planning to store the berries, just throw the entire bag in the freezer. They will be likely be good right up until next year's cranberry season. As for using cranberries, homemade cranberry sauce is so simple and the canned stuff just does not compare. One simple recipe is to dissolve 1 cup of white sugar in 1 cup of orange juice, over medium heat. Add 12 ounces of cranberries and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, or until the cranberries begin to burst open. It will seem a bit runny, but it will thicken as it sits. I also like to toss dried cranberries into my salad or you could even use fresh cranberries to make a cranberry salad dressing. I also use dried cranberries in trail mixes and sprinkle them on top of my cereal. Cranberries also go well with meat dishes, especially poultry, and I will sometimes throw a bunch into my casseroles, if I think they will go well with the other flavors. There are lots of drink recipes too that use cranberry juice as a main ingredient. For some ideas, go to and type in cranberry drink or cranberry punch in the search box for a whole list of them.

While many people find cranberries too tart to be eaten raw, there are so many other ways to ingest them, that to not eat them is a shame. They help our bodies from our heads to our, well, I will put it nicely and say bladder. We can drink them or eat them in dishes that range from salads to entrees to desserts. Their season is beginning to come to an end though, so I recommend getting out there and picking some up for yourselves before they are gone until next fall. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Try-It Tuesday: Pomegranate 7-Up

I absolutely LOVE pomegranates and have been thrilled to see an increase in pomegranate-flavored foods. Unfortunately, many of them do not measure up and I end up disappointed. That was so not the case with the limited time only Pomegranate 7-Up. I tried to find a link so I could share the "official" information with you, but was unable to locate one through I did find another blog though that quotes what looks like "official" information about Pomegranate 7-Up: Junk Food Blog. Here is the information from the bottle itself: caffeine-free, 100% natural flavors (note ingredient list does NOT contain pomegranate though: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors (but WHICH natural flavors?), potassium citrate, potassium benzoate, red 40 and blue 1), Contains NO juice, 100 calories per 1 cup. I also saw a diet version in the store.

As for taste, this is pretty good, not overwhelmingly pomegranate-y, but still has pomegranate flavor. It is also not too sweet nor bitter or sour. The color is a beautiful red, similar to the seeds of a real pomegranate. I am not a big 7-Up fan, but find that this is a delightful balance of flavors. I will be sad to see it go at the end of January:0(

I have heard some people cannot find this in their local stores. I have been finding this in 2L bottles at our local Wegmans stores (western NY) on sale 3/$3.

As for my recommendation, I say try it, especially if you like the pomegranate flavor.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Money Monday: Inexpensive, Quick Gifts You Can Make

Can you believe Christmas is only 10 days away (Hannukah starts in 6 days!)? Around this time, peple start scrambling to finish off their gift lists, often paying whatever the asking price is for whatever items are still on the shelves. They end up with meaningless, over priced gifts and feeling unfufilled. Today I will share a couple of ideas for gifts that can be made at home for relatively low cost (especially if you make them in batches) and fairly quickly. They are also gifts that can pretty much suit anyone on your list. You can give the gifts by themselves or pair them up with other gifts, adding until you reach your budget. You will end up with great gifts that have been made with love and that the recipient is bound to enjoy.

Chocolate-Covered Stirring Spoons: Get a bag of chocolate chips. You can use semi-sweet, dark chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry, any kid you want. Pour 1 cup of the chips into a microwaveable bowl or cup (the deeper the better). Melt the chips in the microwave for 30 seconds and then stir. Continue doing this in 30 second increments until the chips have completely melted, being sure to stir each time. Chips tend to hold their shape, even when they are completely melted, so stirring them is essential to avoid burning them. Be certain not to overcook the chips and do not let any water get into the chocolate either. Once the chips have completely melted, stir 1 teaspoon of shortening into the melted chips, just until blended. Take a heavy duty plastic spoon and dip it into the melted chocolate, coating the entire bowl and the lower portion of the handle. Sprinkle with some colored sanding sugar or add a few mini-marshmallows or crushed candy canes or anything else you may want to add, or leave it plain, and set the spoon on wax paper to set the chocolate. After about 15 minutes you can drizzle other melted chocolate or re-dip half the spoon into a contrasting chocolate color or simply leave as is and place in the freezer to finish setting. After about 1 hour, wrap the bowl of the spoon in cellophane and tie with a ribbon. You can give the spoons away as a "bouquet" or add them to a coffee mug (the dollar stores often have decent mugs). To make the gift go even further, add a small package of coffee or hot chocolate. This is a great way to use those samples you may have received throughout the year.

Fish in a Bag Soap: This is an idea I saw on the Martha Stewart show lat week and I absolutely loved it. You can watch the video directions here. The only additional thoughts I have is to maybe add a scent and/or color (probably blue would work best) to the soap (or leave it as is). Also, the fish can be found at many craft shows, but I have also seen them at the dollar stores in the toy section. You could give this soap as is or add it to a soap dish for a more adult gift or pair it with a nylon bath scrubby or fun washcloth for a child. Add more bath supplies if desired.

Gift Certificates for Time: I did this one year when I was in college and simply could not afford to give gifts. Unfortunately, no one ever "cashed" in their certificates, so I kid felt like I gave nothing, but they all appreciated the thought. Looking back, I could have encouraged them to actually use their certificates throughout the year. Anyway, decide what you can do for the recipient and give them a homemade gift certificate good for that service. You could print the certificate from the computer (design it yourself or use a free template site like gifttango or Free Printables, buy cardstock and hand design it yourself or even buy blank certificates from an office supply store. As for what to "give", here are just a few ideas: babysitting services, car wash, dog walking/pet sitting, gardening, housework, yard work, a home-cooked meal or dessert, etc. I know one lady who gave "memberships" to her "food of the month" club. Each month she gave each person a gift of whatever was in season in her garden. During the colder months, the gifts were herbs from her kitchen herb garden. It was a great way for her to use her surplus and to give her gift all year long. You could also do a "cookie-of-the-month" club and deliver a dozen cookies each month.

I hope you will be able to use some of these ideas to cover your gift list and stay on budget. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My deepest apologies

I offer my deepest apologies for going MIA over the past month+. I was frazzled by the move and settling in and kind of mentally shut down for a bit. I missed you all terribly and hope you are still here with me. I will be getting back on track with a regular posting tomorrow and also have a few product reviews and giveaways coming up this week as well. I appreciate your patience and understanding with me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giveaway: Magazine subscription


As promised, I am hosting my first giveaway and I even have one prize for each of my 3 blogs (Homeschool Unit Studies, The Happy Wife, and Things I Love). The prize is the same for all 3 blogs: a one-year subscription to the magazine of your choice from Ladies Home Journal, Fitness, Siempre Mujer (written in Spanish) and Parents magazine. The contest will run from now until November 8th. I will use to choose a winner and the winner will be posted here. If contact information is provided or I can reach you through your blog/profile, I will also e-mail the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with their shipping information or a new winner will be chosen at that time.
How to enter:
1)Leave me a comment with a piece of constructive criticism, positive or negative (I can take it, I promise) about this blog.
After doing #1, you may also enter by doing the following:
2)Blog about the giveaway and leave a new comment, separate from #1, that includes the URL to the blog posting. If you are not a blogger, tell your friends and when they enter, have them put your name down as the person who referred them here.
3)Subscribe to my feed and leave another separate comment telling me you did so.
4)TUESDAY BONUS ENTRY-go vote and come back and post that you did so. I will only accept entries on Tuesday for this bonus entry and it is being awarded on the honor code. If you say you voted, I will trust that you did. Please do not post who/how you voted, just that you did.

Good luck to all!!!

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you all for your feedback. Over the next few weeks I will be updating my blog and continue trying to catch myself up. Now onto the winner.....Congratulations angel!! I will be contacting you within the next 24 hours and you will have 48 hours from then to get back to me. Congratulations again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Bone Health

According to the US Surgeon Genereal, by the year 2020, 1 out of 2 Americans will be at risk of bone fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Women are generally at a higher risk of osteoporosis, but it can, and does affect men as well, especially elderly men. While low bone mass and osteoporosis do not typically cause death, they do put the individual at a much greater risk of bone fracture, which can lead to a rapid deterioration of physical and emotional health, not to mention they are quite painful.

What can we do to decrease our risk of osteoporosis and/or bone fracture?

- Eating a healthy diet, high (between 1000 and 2500mg/day) in calcium-rich food and vitamin D (200-2000IU/day). This is something that should be done throughout one's life, but starting late is better than never. Both of these can be obtained from vitamins and pills, but are better absorbed by the body when obtained through the diet and by getting outside (more on that later). Calcium is an essential nutrient in the creation, growth, and repair of bones and vitamin D helps our bodies absorb the calcium. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, tofu and more. There is a list of non-dairy foods high in calcium on the Baylor College of Medicine website. Good sources of vitamin D are fortified milk, fish and fish oils, but the best source is the sun. Just getting some sun exposure every day causes our bodies to create vitamin D on its own.

- Participating in high-impact and/or weight bearing activity on a regular basis helps to build/preserve bone mass. Regular activity also helps keep muscles tone and to improve balance, therefore reducing the risk of falls.

- Maintaining a healthy body weight is also important, but in this case, it is more important to avoid being underweight. Body weight helps to provide stronger bones, larger muscle mass, and more fat pads to cushion bones. This is not to say being overweight is good, just that for bone health it is important to avoid losing too much weight.

- Take steps to avoid falls. 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls. The easiest ways to prevent falls is to eliminate hazards by ensuring there are no lose rugs or wires, areas are well lit, floors are not slippery, etc. If medications, mental health, other health issues, or anything else increases the risk of falling or dizziness, items, such as shower bars, walkers, etc, should be in place to prevent falls.

- Smoking and/or heavy alcohol use are linked to decreased bone mass and increased fracture risk. This is most likely due to the way they inhibit absorption by the body of vitamin D and calcium.

There is no way to guarantee you will never have a bone fracture or to definitely prevent bone loss, but we can reduce our risks significantly. Like many health problems, the best way to reduce our risk is to eat a healthy diet and get a moderate amount of exercise.

Try It Tuesday (on Wednesday): Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power

I admit, I never tried the original Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, even though I heard TONS of people raving about it. However, I recently had the opportunity to sample the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power and now understand the love for these things.

We are preparing to move in a few weeks and our children have recently decided that walls make for better writing/coloring surfaces than paper. I was not sure how I was going to get the ink/crayon/marker off the walls without destroying the paint, but thought I would give the Magic Eraser a try. I was thrilled when it easily wiped away pencil, crayon and pen ink and with a little bit of elbow grease removed much of the marker as well. The only places I am not having luck is painted wood, like the doors and the permanent marker on the painted wall. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I was so excited to see how easy this was working that I decided to see what else it would "erase". I went into the kitchen and easily wiped away some recent stains on the counter (not sure what caused them as they magically appeared when my husband was making breakfast), but did not have any luck with the "rust rings" on the sink or the counter. It did wipe away stubborn grease off teh paint near the stove though. It also easily cleaned away the fingerprints from the wall around the lightswitch.

I did not use it in the bathroom, except where there was writing on the wall, but according to the product's website, it will clean through soap scum even on textured showers and tubs.

If there are any of you out there hesitant to use the Magic Eraser due to things you have heard about them, such as containing formaldhyde or causing chemical burns, I have looked into that as well. debunks the formaldehyde rumor and the issue of chemical burns is addressed by urban legends.

As for me, I will be buying more of these as we continue to prepare to move. My husband was equally thrilled with the product and is actually looking forward to helping me clean up the apartment with them in those last few days. All in all, I do recommend this product, at least for those stains/marks that are more difficult to get out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Money Monday (on Tuesday): Just Ask

With the economy the way it is, many of us are looking for ways to trim our budgets. Actually, many of us are ALWAYS lookin for ways to trim our budgets, just now even more people are trying to be more frugal. One place people assume cannot be trimmed is their utility bills (phone, cable, internet, etc). Did you know that many of these companies will give you the "new" customer rate if you simply ask for it? I have found it best to simply say something like, "I am looking for ways to reduce our costs and was wondering if it was possible to get the special I saw on tv/billboard/etc?" When I did this with my cable internet, I was told I could get the new special ($29.99 per month vs. $39.99 per month for one year) or I could get their "lite" version of internet for $24.99 per month as long as we had it. For us, we do not download a whole lot so the lite version was going to work great. A year later, I got a letter from the company stating they are doing away with the lite version, but will upgrade us for free and keep our rates the same. We are moving in a few weeks and since we are transferring our service, the deal stays the same (I called to verify this). This is the same service others are paying $40 a month for (plus an additional $5 if they do not also get digital cable, which we do not, but we do not pay the extra $5 with our plan either) and it is even lower than what new customers pay.

Another place this helped us in the past was with our cell phone service. Most services will allow you to change your plan, increase or decrease, as necessary, though you may need to sign a new contract to do so. When we started our plan, we could change it every month as needed without a new contract, but they have since changed that. None the less we saved ourselves a ton of money on overages a few times by increasing our plan when we realized we were going to be over and then decreaing it again the following month.

Another, tricker way to lower some of these "optional" bills is to simply tell the company you are considering stopping your service all together or switching to a competitor. Often, they will sweeten your current deal either by increasing your services or lowering your bill. It all comes down to simply calling them and asking.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free Starbucks coffee on Election Day!

I just wanted to let you know that Starbucks is offering a free tall cup of brewed coffee to everyone who votes tomorrow. You just have to show up with your "I voted" sticker to get your coffee. You can find the closest Starbucks here. I have an e-mail in to them asking if it is only for coffee as I know there are many non-coffee drinkers out there (myself included). I will let you know if I hear back from before it is too late tomorrow. With or without the free drink, go vote!

Simply Sunday (on Monday): Family Time

I apologize for yet another late posting. I am still fighting an antibiotic-resistant double ear infection and still trying to catch up both on my blogs and around the house. We are also preparing to move in 3 weeks so things may continue to fall behind over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

I am a SAHM to four wonderful, but very active young children. My dear husband works 2 jobs, 1 full-time and 1 part-time, in order to allow me this opportunity. His part-time job is in a retail store so as the holidays approach, he gets so many hours it is almost as though he is working 2 full-time jobs and he often works 7 days a week. This is why family time is so precious to us. Even during the non-busy times of the year, he usually has to request time off from his part-time job if we want to do something as a whole family. This past week, he took off several evenings so that we could do Halloween activities as a family. I really enjoy having my husband around and I know how much he misses spending time with the children. He will be taking the police officer exam next week for the city and we are hoping and praying that it all works out so that we can go back to being a "normal" family again. I love watching the kids interact with their daddy and I love seeing the joy he gets from it as well. I have plenty of time with the kids and I even have a decent amount of time with my husband when he gets home at night, but the kids and him only see each other for a few minutes in the morning and on the occasional night he has off. Well, this seems to have turned into a poor us post, not what I intended. It is supposed to be a gratitiude post for the family time we do have, but when I think about that time, it makes me want more of it. For those of you who do have the opportunity to have regular family time, cherish it and make the most of it. Prioritize outside activities so that family time is not sacrificed in vain.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Save It Saturday: Winterize Your Home

In order to stop energy from being wasted during the cold winter months, it is important to ensure that your home is well sealed and that there are no energy leaks to be found. This is not only good for the environment (since you are using energy efficiently), but it helps ease the pain in the wallet as well. Here are the steps to winterizing your home:

- Ensure that your gutters and downspouts are free of debris. You want to be sure that there is not anything that is clogging them so that the snow has a place to drain as it melts, preventing ice dams. You may also consider putting grating over them in the future so you do not have to worry about this again.

- Check windows and doors for caulk that is pulling away from the surface or missing. Remove any old, peeling caulk and clean the surface. Re-caulk these areas with a weather-resisitant caulk.

- Replace any cracked or broken glass.

- Switch out screens for glass and install storm doors and windows.

- Check for leaks inside the house. Use a lighted incense stick or a candle (please be careful and do not burn yourself) and move it around window and door frames, electrical outlets, and recessed lighting. If the flame moves and flickers, you have an air leak. Caulk the leaky windows. For the outlets, you can buy special outlet gaskets at any home improvement store. Leaky doors can be fitted with door sweeps. You may also consider covering your windows with plastic. This is an easy process and the kits run about $10 for 2 average-size windows.

- Be sure you have enough insulation. You should have at least 12" of insulation in your attic.

- Look into getting a hot water heater blanket. This helps the water heater conserve energy by not letting the heat escape from the surface of the heater itself, allowing the water to stay hotter and not needing to be re-heated as often.

- Contact an HVAC professional to inspect and clean your furnace and heating ducts. Be sure to check the filter monthly and throw away or wash the filter when dirty. Close off vents that are in unused or rarely used rooms.

- Switch the direction of your ceiing fan blades to that they turn clockwise, pushing the hot air back down.

- Have your chimney checked, and swept if needed. Be sure to keep the damper closed when not in use. With woodstoves, be sure to keep the doors closed when not in use.

- Make sure exposed pipes are insulated.

These are just the steps for saving energy, but there are, of course, other steps you should take to prepare for the winter cold. Checking smoke and CO2 alarms, putting together an emergency kit, cleaning up outdoor equipment, and trimming landscaping are just a few of the other things you should do at this time as well. Some of the steps will cost a little bit up front, but most, if not all, will "re-pay" you pretty quickly and there is no price on being comfortable in the cold weather.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Family Friday: Family Meetings

Many times family members are pulled in several different directions and it is difficult to get everyone together. By scheduling regular family meetings (say once a month), you will have the opportunity to get everyone together to discuss family matters and to just catch up with each other. Although these are family members, I strongly encourage you to run your meetings as such, meaning there is specific agenda and one person talks at a time. Prior to the meeting, ask each family member if they have anything that needs to be discussed at the family meeting so that it can be put on the agenda. Here is a sample agenda:

-Start by sharing any pertinent family news that others may not be aware of (sister scored a goal at a game, grandma is moving, aunt is pregnant, etc).

-Discuss any family issues that are occuring and any unresolved issues from previous months. This can be anything (a sibling annoyed by "someone" going through her stuff, an upcoming family vacation, the need for extra help with lawn care, holidays, etc)

-Decide, as a family, how to solve the issues. This may include establishing new family rules or modifying new ones (such as no going through family members belongings), deciding on a vacation destination or activities to do on vacation, how the extra chores will be handled, who will do what holiday preparations, etc. Be sure to have someone taking "minutes" (notes) of the meeting to ensure no one can claim they didn't know what their responsibilities were.

-Close the meeting and then do something fun as a family.

If you hold regular family nights, the meeting could be held just before family night or even as a part of it. The idea behind the meeting is that succssful families work together and working together means being on the same page. The meeting allows everyone to get on th same page.


This Week Thursday (a day late)

I apologize for the late posts this week. I have been ill and trying to catch up with housework as well as my blogging. I have not been online a lot this week, but here is some of what I have found.

On the Web
-Picky Palate has a recipe for White Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon and Banana Bread Biscotti. They look so good!

-Speaking of food, Thrifty and Chic Mom has some cute ideas for some Halloween-ish snacks.

-Simple Mom has a great article to get and keep your e-mail under control.

-Child Safety Kit from ADT

-Sample of Vaseline Intensive Rescue from Costco (no membership required)

-Halloween Ghost Stories (online)

-Wolverine is giving away many prizes, with the grand prize being $25,000 cash.

-$20 Challenge 4 Charity is giving away a LODIS Ballet Wallet.

-Moms By Heart have 3 Woodland Creature prints by John W. Golden.

-Be sure to check back here later today/tomorrow morning to see what I am giving away and to enter the drawing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Oral Care

As someone who has had to have more work than I like to admit done on her teeth, I can tell you how important oral care is. First, there are no second chances with your teeth, once they are gone, they are gone for good. Second, there is no second chance to make a first impression and the condition of our teeth and the scent of our breath are a major part of most first impressions. However, oral hygiene affects more than just the prettiness of our smile and the sweetness of our breath. Oral cancer, mouth pain, gum disease, bacterial endocarditis (inflammation of the heart and heart valves), and digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, can all start from poor oral health.

The health of your mouth tends to be representative of the rest of the body as well. Ninety percent of all systemic diseases, such as diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, have symptoms that affect the mouth, meaning that your dentist may be able to diagnose a disorder before your primary care physician.

So what is good oral hygiene? The first step is to have regular (every 6 months) cleanings and check-ups with your dentist. They can tell you if you are getting all the areas of your mouth when you brush and floss at home. The cleaning at a dentist's office is also a much deeper cleaning than one can achieve with just a brush, floss, and mouthwash. They can also get up under the gumline to clean out any plaque that has accumulated there. Also, I said earlier, dentists can check your mouth for symptoms of other diseases in the body. In addition to the dental cleanings/check-ups, you should be caring for your teeth every day at home. This is done by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing once a day. Colgate has an illustration that shows the proper way to brush and floss your teeth. A good antiseptic mouthwash, like Listerine, can also help to kill any remaining bacteria. There are also fluoride mouthwashes available to help strengthen tooth enamel. Eating a healthy diet also helps keep your mouth healthy. You should also avoid snacks and sugary foods and drinks. If you do consume something sugary (few of us manage to avoid sugar all together), drink or rinse your mouth with water soon after to get the sugar off your teeth.

Good oral hygiene allows us to eat comfortably, have a nicer smile, not offend others with bad breath, and prevent other diseases from affecting our body. Taking a few minutes each day to brush and floss properly is a small price (literally and figuratively) to pay compared to the high cost (finacially and health-wise) of not caring for our mouths.

Try It Tuesday (a day late): Taco Bell Fruitista and Cream

As any of my regular readers know, I know how to eat healthy, but I also like to regularly eat not-so-healthy food as well. Today's review then should be no surprise.

When I first tried the strawberry Fruitista Freeze at Taco Bell, I became addicted. I was still regnant and it became a daily craving that had to be sated. It was perfectly sweet with whole,rel strawberries in it and in the heat of the summer, absolutely hit the spot. Last week, I was in the drive-thru and saw a sign for new Fruitista and Cream. I had a mix of emotion. I LOVE the regular Fruitistas, but the weather is turning chilly and I am not sure I really want an icy drink right now. However, the sign got me and I ordered a Strawberry-n-Cream one and brought it home to share with the kids.

The first sip was not like the original Fruitista where I instantly fell in love, but it was good. It is similar in taste to Lifesavers Cremesavers, but tastes more like real strawberries. It had 1 whole strawberry in it, but that may have been a fluke since the picture shows a lot, like the regular one has. The Fruitista and Cream is also available in Triple Berry and Mango, both of which are topped with real strawberries. Also, only the Triple Berry has real fruit juice in it and that is only 8%. The original Fruitista Freeze is fat-free and the Fruitista and Cream has 2.5g of fat, still a low-fat treat. Both versions have about 56-57g of sugar though.

Being that I am in the northeast and it is starting to snow in nearby areas, I do not foresee myself buying this again before Spring, simply due to the cold weather. I do prefer the original Fruitista Freeze to the Fruitista and Cream, but I would definitely order this again when I want a change. So, if you like cold drinks in cold weather or you live or are visiting a warmer climate, definitely try one of these. Otherwise, wait ntil it warms up and I promise this will be the perfect hot weather drink.

Money Monday (2 days late): Employer Discounts

Many (though not all) employers offer some sort of discount to their employees (and sometimes their families) on the products or services they sell. Usually, the employees are well aware of these discounts, but not always. If you work, or your spouse works, for a business that provides any kind of service, or product, that you use, it may be worth checking into a discount or at least to see if they have any employee appreciation days coming up, if not both. My husband works for a retail store where he gets 10% off everyday items and 20% off clothes, decent deals in themselves especially when combined with clearance prices. However, they also have "friends and family" nights 4 times a year. Usually, it is an additional 10% off plus the employee discount, but they have one coming up in a few weeks that is the best I have seen. We will receive 20% off everyday items, plus the additional 10% employee discount, and 30% (that is what my hubby thinks the sign says anyway) off clothes plus the additional 20% off clothes. I redeemed my MyPoints for a $100 Sears gift card so I should be able to get quite a bit with little to no money out of my pocket.

Even if your employer does not directly offer employees a discount, sometimes other companies do. My husband's job is located in a mall and he receives a discount at many of the other mall stores simply for being a "mall" employee. Plus, we recently found out that our cell phone carrier also offers a discount to employees of the store he works at. We just cut $20 off our monthly cell phone bill. Often zoos and museums also have deals with local employers as well, allowing employees to receive a discounted membership. My step-father works for a metal company and they have a deal for the employees to buy discounted memberships to a warehouse club. It comes down to just asking everytime you are about to buy something or checking with human resources to see what additional discounts you may receive at area businesses.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simply Sunday: Blogging

My simple pleasure today is blogging. I love being able to get on every day and focusing on something other than the daily chores. On many days I learn something new from the research I do in preparing the post and I love learning new things. Blogging also gives me the opportunity to have an adult conversation, even if it is usually a one-sided conversation, at least my thoughts and words are at an adult level. I love my children and I love caring for my home and my husband, but I still need a little time to still be me and blogging gives me that. I have also "met" some wonderful people out in blogland and new friends are always a sweet blessing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Save It Saturday: Become a locavore

For most of us, we are accustomed to going to the local grocery store and buying whatever we need with little thought as to where the food originally came from. Locavores are people who are committed to only eating foods that are grown in their local community. Often they end up raising their own animals and growing their own food and supplement with products from other area farmers, but this does not have to be the case for everyone.

Why eat locally? Choosing local foods can benefit you and your family specifically by helping you to save money and allowing you to know exactly where your food comes from. It also benefits the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used on the foods (since they are not travelling as far, they need fewer preservatives and you are able to get fresher, organic food) and reducing the distance the food travels, and therefore reducing the gas and truck emissions.

Now, I know it is not easy gettting everything locally, but it is something to be aware of. When I am buying produce at the grocery store, I try to choose the products that have travelled the least. Personally, I prefer shopping at farm markets though. The farmers are often willing to haggle the price and often are willing to make bartering arrangements or other deals with you. We have a local farm here that allows us to pick up "dropped" apples for $2.50 a bushel. These are not usually apples you will display in a bowl, but are great for canning and making things like applesauce with. You could also make arrangements to pick some fruits/veggies for the farmer and some for yourself at a discount. If you need help finding local farmers, check out Local Harvest and see what you can find. Also, as I have said before, I rent, so my gardening options are limited, but I do have dreams of owning a home in the (hopefully) near future and then I plan to have as large a garden as is feasible. I also plan to have beehives and possibly a few chickens for eggs.

There are also other ways to make buying locally more feasible. Get together with some friends and go in on buying a cow together and then splitting the cuts among yourselves. Look into CSAs (community supported agriculture), which are farms or large gardens that the "share holders" help run, either financially or with manual labor, often both, and then they share the bounty. We have a local one run here that cost about $10 a week and in exchange, you get 5-10 pounds of (as organic as they can feasibly do) fresh fruits and vegetables each week. Each week, you can log onto their website to see what the products will be that week and you can choose whether or not you want them. If you choose not to receive a certain item, you will get extras of the other items. There are others who work with the farm and receive their produce for free. Also, don't be afraid to buy the less pretty produce at farms and farm markets, especially if you are planning to cut it up and use it or can it. Grocery stores do not display the hail-damaged apples that you can get from the farmer for a fraction of the price of prettier apples. Yet these apples taste just as good as their shiny, waxed counterparts and if used in a recipe, no one will ever be able to tell the damaged apples from undamaged apples.

As I said earlier, I know it is not easy for most of us to go completely "local", but in trying, we will better our lives and help the earth and as we know, every little bit counts in both regards. There are a couple of books listed below of people who have followed a local "diet". The books are interesting reads and offer ideas for implementing the local "diet" in your own life.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I have been tagged!

I have been tagged by Brandy at Savin' Some
Check out her blog for trips on living frugally and enjoying it.

And now for the rules:

1. To link the tagger and provide the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

7 facts about me

1. When I got married I could barely boil water, but I have spent the past 9 years learning how to improve my skills and cooking has become a favorite hobby of mine.

2. I went to school to study nutrition.

3. I grew up the oldest of 4 kids, but my mom had another baby when I was 20, so I am really the oldest of 5 kids.

4. I am a homeschooler and have another blog where I post my unit studies that I put together, creatively named Homeschool Unit Studies.

5. I am a recovering packrat. I am learning how to part with my belongings and to live with less "stuff"

6. I am a Peer Counselor for the WIC breastfeeding program.

7. Once upon a time, I wanted 12 kids. Honestly, I still do, but unfortunately, finances limit us to the 4 we have.

Blogs I have tagged:

Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls - Karen always has lots of giveaways and some great money-saving deals!

Hannah and Abs over at Safely Gathered In share the hows and whys of food storage and emergency preparedness.

NerdMom over at Making Money, Keeping Money posts a TON of contests every Monday from around the blogosphere and also has other coupons and deals she finds throughout the week.

Linda at Linda's Bees shares her adventures in beekeeping. I first got interested in beekeeping after reading about Martha Stewart's beehives a few years ago. When we finally buy a house and some land, I plan to venture down the beekeeping road as well. Also, Linda was recently chosen by Blogger as a Blog of Note. Congrats, Linda!

Cindy at My Recycled Bags shares her creative craft ideas that use items that often would end up in the trash. My favorite is the tutorial for Plarn, yarn made from plastic, grocery store bags. She also has a section where she chronicles her journey through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. She recently (10/13) finished her radiation treatments and I wish her nothing but the best as she continues on her road to recovery.

Amy at Let's Explore has lots of cute, seasonal, child-friendly craft ideas. The blog is designed for pre-schoolers, but many of the ideas can be adapted for older children as well.

Abby at i pick up pennies shares frugal ways to live life comfortably. She is a saver married to a spender and blogs about how they compromise and save money as they work to pay down debt.

These are some of my favorite blogs, so be sure to check them out.

Family Friday: A Book of Stories

Most families have wonderful stories and experiences that have happened to them in their lives. Unfortunately, too often, these stories and experiences are never shared with their families and once the person has passed, it has become too late. One way to ensure that these stories and lessons get passed on, is to put them into a book.

This is something we have recently started in our family and are having a lot of fun doing. At each family gathering, the kids are to ask family members for a story from their life. It can be about a person they knew, a lesson they learned, somewhere they travelled, etc. The kids take notes and later come home and write the story out. Another way it can be done is to simply ask all family members to write/type out a story from their life and send it to you. We just like the added connection of the kids talking with the person. For us, we are also including a page for each person in the family that contains basic information about them and a list of their "favorites" (color, activity, food, etc). The kids interview the family member when they call them on their birthday and then draw pictures of the "guest of honor" as well. It helps the kids get to know their extended family members better and it helps make sure the birthday person feels special on their birthday (the adults especially react well to their birthday interview). Don't forget to include your household in the book too. We keep all the stories in a binder for now, but may eventually work toward binding them.

A Family Book of Stories will be a wonderful way to remember people and experiences. It's also a great way for future generations to learn about who they come from. Don't forget the benefit of learning more about those we love now and being able to create a deeper bond while they are still here to do so.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Week Thursday

-Degree deodorant through Sam's Club (no membership required)

-Free coffee at Barnes and Noble

- Thrifty and Chic Mom is giving away a Mystic Wonders Laundry System. We have a similar set of dryer balls and love them. No more fabric softener for us.

-Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls will be giving away a $25 Home Depot gift card. To enter, just help spread the word about a new Home Depot contest or, better yet, enter the Home Depot contest. What is the contest, you ask? Make a video showing how you are saving money and helping the environment by improving the energy efficiency of your home and then upload the video to the Home Depot contest site. The winner of that contest will receive a $5,000 Home Depot gift card and up to $2,000 for installed insulation or radiant barrier products from The Home Depot.

-CoolBabyKid has a giveaway for 25 Doodlebug photo cards from Doodlebug Dezigns.

On the Web
-Safely Gathered In has a post about the hows and whys of a 72-hour kit.

-The Good Apple has a recipe for yummy pumpkin cookies. While you're there, check out some of her great cakes. So creative!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Forgiveness

When we have people in our lives, ourselves included, that we are unable to forgive, our bodies respond the same way they do to stress. Just about every body system is affected: blood flow decreases, muscles tense, digestion slows, the immune system does work optimally, etc, etc. The worst part about it is, the person you are not forgiving, is most likely continuing to live their life without these problems. I once heard an analogy that relates not forgiving to wrapping your arms around a tree. The tree will continue to grow and flourish,but until you let go of the tree, you are stuck in the same place. For those who believe in the New Testament of the Bible, we are taught that we MUST forgive others (Luke 6:37).

Of course, telling you to forgive others is much easier than doing it and some things are easier to forgive than others. Some where along the lines we were taught that forgiveness means to forget. defines "forgive" as ceasing to feel resentment towards or a pardon for an offense/debt/etc. The word forget is no where in the definition. For me, that makes forgiving, at least for more serious offenses, much easier. Of course, if you have truly forgiven someone, you would not want to constantly be throwing it in their face, but, depending on the offense, you may want to slowly let your guard down instead of just dropping it all at once. If your trust was violated, that trust will need to be regained, but first you have to forgive the peron so that you are ready to allow them to regain your trust.

Some things to keep in mind when someone has hurt or offended us:
- People are the way they are and they often do not realize they may have hurt you and usually did not intend to. I have a relative who just does not invite people over. As we were growing up she seemed to have certain relatives over much more than she had us over. My mom indirectly taught us it must have been because she liked the other relatives better. As an adult, I realized she liked us all the same, she just did not extend invitations and the other relatives would invite themselves over. Of course, it would be nice to be invited over once in a while, but that is how she is and I cannot change her. Our relationship has grown tremendously since I realized this.

- Do not wait for the person to "know" what they did to hurt you, especially if they are the opposite gender. Communication is important and if you are waiting for them to figure out why you are suddenly so moody, you may be waiting a long time. People, especially across the genders, communicate very differently from one another. Women tend to be more subtle and will "beat around the bush", while men tend to be more direct and will tell it like it is. Without understanding this, feelings can continue to be hurt as the woman gets more hurt that the man just doesn't know what he did wrong. Sometimes, you just have to tell them.

- It is not just others we have to forgive. We often have to forgive ourselves. Are you beating yourself up for choices you have made in the past? Ask yourself these questions: Do you really wish you had chosen differently? Can you do anything to change the outcome? If the answers are yes, do what you can and move on. If you cannot change the outcome or you realize that maybe you did make the right decision in the first place, look at the good that came from that decision and move on. The point is, don't dwell on the past and things you cannot change. If you can change what is making you unhappy, do it, don't dwell on it. Also, don't be so hard on yourself in everyday things. You are not perfect and it is ok. Just try better next time and forgive yourself for not being perfect.

No one on this earth is perfect. We all make mistakes at some point and often those mistakes affect others. To hold it against someone, especially someone who is truly sorry for having hurt you, is not only unfair, it hurts you too. I encourage you to look at all the people in your life and find at least one, even if it is yourself, that you are holding some sort of grudge against, no matter how small, and forgive them. I promise you will feel a burden lifted off your shoulders and you will experience a deeper relationship with that person.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Try-It Tuesday: Boudreaux's Butt Paste

Ok, I admit, I didn't try anything new this week, so I am reviewing an old favorite of ours, but something that is still not quite mainstream. We discovered Boudreaux's Butt Paste with our 2nd child. It is exactly what it says it is, a paste for baby's bottom.

Boudreaux's Butt Paste was created by a pharmacist with the help of a pediatrician in order to provide "effective diaper rash care" (from the jar). It is easy to apply, wipes off easily (without that funny white residue) and does not have a medicinal scent. The active ingredient is 16% zinc oxide to protect the skin. Inactive ingredients are: boric acid, castor oil, mineral oil, paraffin, Peruvian balsam, and petrolatum. It helps treat diaper rash, prevent it from occuring, and protects sore skin by sealing out wetness. Blairex produces Boudreaux's Butt Paste, but according to the jar I have, it is distributed by Boudreaux's Family Pharmacy in Covington, LA. Other products in the Boudreaux's line include: Butt Bath (body wash and shampoo), Baby Butt Smooth (dry skin ointment), and Baby Kisses (lip and cheek moisturizer). Boudreaux's Butt Paste is available in 1oz, 2oz, 3oz, and 4oz tubes,a 16oz jar, single foil packs, and a new On-the-Go 3-pack. You can request a free sample (a SASE with $1.34 for postage is required) can be requested. The address is on their website: Personally, I would use the money you will spend on postage and just buy yourself some, but that's me.

Now that I have given you all the basics on the Butt Paste, I will tell you how much we love it. With our first child, we used several different diaper rash creams, usually whatever was on sale and that I had a coupon for. They helped protect the skin while it healed, but still would take a few days to work. Boudreaux's Butt Paste helps heal the skin the first time it is used, often not requiring more than one application. It can also be used on heat rash in older kids and adults. I have even heard of people using it on bug bites.

It costs a bit more than "traditional" diaper rash creams/pastes/lotions and there are seldom coupons for it, but because of how well it works, you use much less and therefore buy much less. In fact, we bought a 16oz tub of it with baby #3 and are only half way through it and baby #4 is 4 1/2 months old now. This is definitely a product I give high ratings too and highly recommend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Money Monday: Food Storage

One of the best ways to save money on your grocery bill is to stock up when things are on sale. However, if you buy things that you do not use or let things go bad, you are losing money. Here are some suggestions for successful food storage.

-First, decide how long of a time you want your food storage to last. Our family is shooting for a 1 year supply, but others may choose shorter or longer time periods. Then, make a list of several meals including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks, that your family enjoys and have ingredients that would be easy to store. Some ideas are: pasta and sauce, soups, scrambled eggs (from powdered eggs or stored eggs), pudding, gelatin, cereal and milk (powdered or evaporated that you can reconstitute), tuna casserole, etc.

- Invest in some quality storage containers. I have had my share of food packages "infiltrated" by mice, ants, and grain moths. My personal preference is Modular Mates containers by Tupperware. I used to think Rubbermaid was just as good, but when we had an infestatin of grain moths, only the Tupperware successfully kept the grain moths out. Emergency Essentials also has a good selection of food grade buckets and water barrels.

- Keep the food off the ground to decrease the chance of attracting pests. Storage shelves or metal cabinets are great for keeping stored food out of the way.

- As you purchase food items, freeze grain products for 24-48 hours to kill any bugs or eggs that may be in them. Yes, they often come from the store with these critters in them. My grain moth infestation started when I brought them home from the store in a bag of unshelled peanuts. Then, put the food into appropriate storage containers and date the containers or cans (no need to repackage canned goods) with the date of purchase.

- Use the food you buy for storage and replace it on a regular basis. This is why it is important to store foods your family will eat. You would not want to store things that you will never use or if you HAD to rely on your food storage have a bunch of food that no one likes. Of course, you will eat it if you are really hungry, but if times are that bad you will feel better if you can at least eat something you enjoy.

- You do not need to be a home canner to store fruits and vegetables, but they taste better and are better for you. Canning is fairly easy, though time consuming. You can learn how to do it here. It is also possible to can meat. Here are instructions for that.

-Do not forget to include alternative cooking sources (fuel for a grill, sterno cans, etc) and non-food items such as cleaning products and medications.

Hopefully, none of us will ever need to rely on food storage long-term, but in case you do. This should help ensure that your family eats well and that you have food that is edible and enjoyable. We can not assume that others, including government programs and churches, will be able to provide for us in a time of need. It may be that our time of need comes as a national disaster and that there just won't be enough for everyone.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Simply Sunday: Receiving Mail

Even though today is a no-mail day, I cannot help but bask in the enjoyment of all the mail I received earlier this week. I had won several giveaways over the past few weeks and many of them arrived throughout the week. I also received several freebies and coupons throughout the week and 3 magazines that I enjoy all on Saturday. The best piece of mail anyone in the house received was a letter my husband received from his dad. There is nothing, no prize nor freebie, that compares to a handwritten letter from a loved one. Unfortunately, in our electronic age, many of us seem to have lost the art of letter writing. I encourage each of you to spend some time this week and send a letter, through the US Postal service, to a loved one. If you cannot think of someone to send a letter to, children always love mail, even if it is just a short postcard. I promise you, whoever you send it to will love recieving it and just may return the favor to you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Save It Saturday: old magazines

The average household gets 11 magazines each month. That adds up to a lot of space, both in your home and in the landfill. Here are some ways we can reduce and re-use our magazines and then recycle what is left over.


- Consider checking magazines out of the library instead of buying or subscribing to them. If you in the middle of a subscription, it may be possible to get a refund for unread issues. Contact the magazine's customer service department if interested.

- You can also consider sharing a subscription with a friend or relative. Simply pass the magazine on to them after you finish reading it.

- Look into digital magazine subscriptions. Many magazines have editions available online, some are exactly the same as the print version and some have even more material than the print versions. Some magazines are only available in digital format.


- Shred or crumple the pages and use for packing material when shipping fragile items.

- Cut out pictures and use them to decoupage items for gifts or decorations. WikiHow has directions for decoupaging. You can decoupage a wide variety of items from jewelry boxes, to light switch covers, to table tops; pretty much anything that has a flat surface.

- Use the pages to make paper beads and then string them onto thread to make necklaces. KinderInfo has directions for making paper beads.

- Let your kids or grandkids, use them to make collages. If you do not have children or grandchildren or simply have more magazines than you need, daycares, schools, and church nursery/children's programs are often more than willing to take extras off your hands for this exact purpose.

- Use the pages as a table protector when working on crafts. Be sure to overlap the edges so nothing gets underneath.

- Open up an envelope and trace it onto an interesting magazine page. Then glue the page into a custom envelope.

- You can use the subscription cards and probably the pages themselves (I have never tried this with glossy paper) to make homemade paper. Unique Projects has directions for making homemade paper.


- Nursing homes and hospitals are often willing to take recent, unwanted magazines for patients to read. Libraries may also accept them either to put into circulation or to sell at their used book sales.

- Check with your local used book store and see if they will buy or take your unwanted magazines.

- If you have a complete year or just older editions, you could try listing them on eBay. eBay does not allow the sale of current issues though.

- Post the magazines on Freecycle or a similar type group.

- Bring them to your local recycling center or put out with your other paper recyclables.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Family Friday: Story Time

Ever since I was a young child, I have loved to read. I cannot tell you where that love came from, but they say that reading to young children and allowing them to see you regularly reading will help them to become good readers. In my case, I do not remember my mom reading to me or reading on her own, but none the less, here I am, an avid reader. Since I do enjoy books so much, I also love to read to my children.

With 4 little ones, I have begun to grow tired of the picture books though so I have begun reading chapter books to them. The older kids are at an age where they can read most of the books I am reading them anyway, but they still love being read to. Now, I tuck them into bed and then move out into the hallway, just outside their bedroom door, and read to them out loud from whichever book we are currently reading. The girls love using their imaginations to visualize what is happening in the books and it promotes creativity and exposes them to classic stories so I love it too. Some books require less imagination, such as Harry Potter or Disney stories which they have seen movies about, but we try to avoid books that they have already seen the movie to. Currently, we are reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When we finish the series, I will show them some of the old tv episodes so they can see how someone else imagined the stories.

Of course, we all still like cuddling up together, or one-on-one, to read too. For the younger ones, this is when I read the picture books. With the older ones, this is the time I have them read to me. It is a wonderful bonding experience and I love seeing how much their reading has improved.

There are all sorts of ways to incorporate story time. Find a way that works for your family and try to implement it on a regular basis. Personally, we read every day, but for some families, it may work best to read once a week. For others, especially those who do not enjoy reading (my husband falls in this category), there are books on tape that you can all listen too and imagine the story together. The important part is the time together and the exposure to good books.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ads on my site

I just finished posting my Thursday post and saw a political ad at the bottom of it. I will be looking into this and probably changing what ads appear because of this. Please know that any politcal ads that appear on my site do not necessarily represent my beliefs. Politics is a personal subject matter to me and I will never post my political standings on this blog.

***Edit*** I have removed the advertising tool that was posting the political ads so they should not appear again.

This Week Thursday: just a little

As I stated earlier this week, I have not hadmuch time to be online this week, so today wil be a "light" edition.


Join Harper Collins First Look for the chance to read and review books before they are released to the public. They also have a First Look for Kids.


Ford and House Party are giving away a special edition Ford Mustang as part of their Warriors in Pink campaign.

Indie Fixx is hosting an Autumn Cornucopia Giveaway. The only way to enter is through a blog or other posting about the giveaway. The prize is a great variety of items.

MomDot is giving away a Bissell ProDry Cleaner.

Chefdruck Musings is giving away a 3,2,1 Penguins DVD.

On the Web

Mummy Deals shares 7 Ways to Save Money on Gifts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Apples

One of my favorite things about fall is all the wonderful, ripe apples. I love going apple picking and I love eating them afterwards. There are so many varieties that there is bound to be at least one variety that everyone likes. There are soft apples, crisp apples, sweet apples, sour apples, red, green or gold apples, the list goes on and on. You can also eat them in so many ways. My personal favorite, and the healthiest way, is to just eat the apple raw, but you can also use them for apple pie, apple sauce, apple crisp, apple salads, in savory dishes, in sweet dishes, apple muffins, apple bread, etc, etc, etc.

I am always amazed that something so tasty can be so good for you too. A medium apple contains about 80 calories, zero fat, zero sodium, zero cholesterol, 5g of dietary fiber (about as much as a bowl of bran cereal), and about 8% of the RDA of vitamin C. The sugars (about 16g for a medium apple) are complex carbohydrates so they take longer to digest, giving you an energy boost that is more even, lasts longer and does not spike, like sugary snacks do. Studies indicate that eating apples regularly (generally, once a day) help reduce your risk of digestive cancers, breast cancer, lung cancer, and alzheimer's disease. They are a great source of antioxidants (helps repair damaged cells, therefore reducing risk of cancer), phytonutrients (help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, slow certain cancers) and flavonoids (help reduce cancer risk). Apples also contain potassium which helps stabilize blood pressure. Other vitamins and nutrients found in apples are vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. The fiber in apples is mostly soluble and helps to lower cholesterol levels. It also helps you to feel full for a longer period of time.

If you are not one who cares for raw apples, try using apples in a recipe. You can use them as they are such as in baked apples or waldorf salad, or you can use applesauce as a fat-free substitute for oil and butter in baked goods (personally, I do NOT substitute all the fat in baked goods, but have had good results subbing applesauce for about 75% of the fat). If you have a recipe that you use for a baked good that is a little on the dry side, add a little applesauce to the ingredients and you will find it more moist.

However you choose to eat your apple, just be sure to eat them. There is truth behind the old adage, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away." While they may not have realized just how much truth or why it worked that way, even the earliest people understood the goodness of apples.

Admin: my absence and subscribing

First, I would like to explain my absence. It is actually something really stupid, and because it is so stupid, I need to vent about it. Someone, apparently a neighbor, has decided that it is bad parenting to allow my older two children (ages 6 and 7 years) to play outside. They decided to call Child Protective Services and tell them, "Mom and dad allow (daughter #1) and (daughter #2), ages 6 and 7, to play outside, unsupervised, every day for 1-2 hours a day." While, the "charge" is grossly exaggerated, even if it wasn't, I fail to see what is wrong with doing that. They play in the front yard, where I have 3 large windows that I can see out of. We are in a quiet, safe, suburban neighborhood and the yard is fenced on 3 sides. The girls are always appropriately dressed and do not play outside in inclement weather. They are no where near the road and have sustained no injuries, nor gotten into any mischief while playing outside "unsupervised". I am right inside the apartment and can hear everything that is going on. Further more, they have only played outside without an adult, maybe 10 times since we moved in and usually for 30-45 minutes. Fortunately, the case workers who were assigned to us (3 total) saw nothing wrong with the charge and it appears the case is going to be closed as unfounded. However, it threw off my entire weekend. It started Saturday morning when the first case worker showed up. The call was apparently made on Friday, and by NY law, they have to investigate within 24 hours. Well, the 2 girls were at Girl Scout camp and so another worker had to come out because all the kids need to be seen within 24 hours of the first visit. Then yesterday, a "regular" case worker was finally assigned and she had to come out to the apartment as well. It made for quite a stressful weekend that kept us busy cleaning everything (I admit I am no Martha Stewart, plus there are currently 6 of us in a 2 bedroom, and we are getting ready to move next month). Now that it appears to be over, we are getting back to our "normal" life. The irritating part is that even the case workers do not understand why it even had to be investigated. It is not like they said I was leaving the babies outside unsupervised. My children have proven to be responsible and I allow them to play outside during times I cannot because of it. I was told by all three case workers, I could continue to do so. So, to my nosy neighbor: I appreciate that you are concerned for the welfare of my children so let me say some things to you: 1) Fresh air is GOOD for children. 2) Would you rather I let them play inside on video games all day? 3) While my older, responsible children are outside playing, I am inside tending to the needs of the children who NEED me at that moment. 4) If you feel my children are really in danger, let me know your concerns. 5) I hope you never have to go through what you put us through.

Now, on to better things.

On Friday, I realized I had a button for people to subscribe to my blog, but did not realize that I actually had to do something to set it up (I am still fairly new to blogging). I finally fixed the problem and you should be able to subscribe now. So if you tried in the past and it did not work, I apologize. Please try now.

I will be posting the articles I had planned for Saturday-Tuesday over the next few days, but in an effort to not fall further behind, I am going to start with today's post and then go from there. Also, keep an eye out for a giveaway I will be doing within the next few days.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Temporary Leave

As you have noticed, I have not been on since Friday. We are dealing with a personal situation which I will explain later. I will get back on here as soon as possible and post "catch up" posts, an fuller explanation, and a contest/giveaway of my own. I am hoping to be back by tomorrow, possibly sooner, possibly later. Thanks for understanding.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Family Friday: Fire Safety

October is Fire Prevention Month and a time of year when you will often find area fire houses holding open houses and/or making appearances to teach the public about fire safety. Take advantage of these opportunities and use them to educate not just your children, but yourselves as well, about fire safety and fire prevention.

This is a good time to hold a family meeting and discuss "what if". Press the smoke alarm button so your children know what the sound means. Discuss several ways to get out of the house from every room in the house. Decide upon a meeting place outside and away from the house. Find pictures of firemen in full fire-fighting gear to show to your children so they know what they will look like. Children have been known to hide from firefighters out of fear that they were some sort of monster. Familiarizing them with firefighters, lets them know what to expect. Make sure they know NOT to come get you or to return to the inside of the home once they are out. We have told our kids they can yell to us, but only as they are leaving or they are safely outside. Teach them to test for hot doors and to crawl low to the ground. Show them how to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothes do catch fire. Then to enforce what you have all learned and discussed, hold several "fire drills" at various times of the day, including one after they are in bed and asleep (not a great idea on a school night). It may not be fun to wake all the kids for a fire drill, but fires do not care about the time of day and this way you will know if your children can hear the alarm when they are sound asleep.

Also, discuss what may seem improbable. You do not have to dwell on it, but at least mention a few "worst case" scenarios. We had a sad story in our area couple of years ago where a mother lost her two young sons because they were afraid to leave their burning house. They made their way to a window (2nd story) and opened it, but were afraid to jump out, even though their mother, and other adults, were begging them and there to catch them. I had never thought to tell my kids that they might someday have to jump out a window, but after that day I did. Of course, I made it very clear that it is only ok IF the house is on fire and mom, dad, or another adult were telling them too. We also plan to purchase fire ladders for our second story windows so that jumping is not necessary. Also, be sure to teach them how to call 911, but make sure they know NOT to do it from inside a burning house. Make sure they know their home address to give to a 911 dispatcher, should they be the one who needs to make the call.

Another family activity regarding fire safety is to discuss fire hazards in and around the home and then fix those hazards. Talk about what sorts of things could be dangerour (overloaded sockets, cluttered exit paths, flammable materials improperly stored, etc). Then go on a "scavenger" hunt to find any dangers in your own home. Discuss what can be done to correct those problems and then set about to do so as a family. Sparky the Fire Dog has a great website with lots of family activities and games to teach fire safety as well. Shameless plug: Next week I will be doing a unit study on fire safety on my Homeschool Unit Studies blog, so feel free to check it out. It is appropriate for homeschooled and public/private schooled children as well.

Fires are not something that everyone will experience in their life, so it is easy to "forget" to prepare our families for them. However, in 2007, there were 414,000 residential fires, 2895 deaths and 14,000 injuries related to those fires,(US Fire Administration). I would hate to not be prepared in the case that it did happen to us. (For a complete listing of US Fire Administration reports regarding number of residential fires, deaths, injuries, monetary loss and causes, click here).