Monday, December 10, 2012

Stay Healthy This Season If You Can

The past 2 weeks my family has been dealing with the fevers, sniffles, coughs and sore throats. Basically feeling icky! Camped out on the sofa eating lots of chicken noodle soup.

Apparently, there is some nasty bug going around because a couple friends and family members have also been sick. I guess my kids didn't want to feel left out. LOL

My oldest and youngest both have had strep throat and a really bad cold. They had a fever for days and sore throat with coughing. However, a round of powerful meds later, they are back to school and feeling a bit better.

Being the holidays, you are naturally are around more people. Stores are crowded. Holiday parties. Plus more people are home (kids are off school, visitors come to stay, etc.) So how can your family avoid the same illnesses?

Here are a couple ways to stay healthy this holiday season.

Wash Your Hands 
Common sense I know but you really do need to wash your hands frequently. If you can't wash your hands at least use hand sanitizer. Just think about how many hands touched your shopping cart handle, door handles or railings on steps or escalators.

Eat Healthy
During the holidays it's tempting to eat all those delicious baked goodies. I'm not saying you can't eat them, just make sure it's in moderation. Make sure you eat some fresh fruits and veggies too. A helpful idea is to bring a veggie platter instead of your homemade Christmas cookies this year to the holiday party.

Get Your Rest
Doing too much, eating too much and stressing over all the stuff you want to do this season can really make you feel run down. Make sure you get a good nights sleep each night and a nap here and there. It could give you more energy and also help you look more refreshed for your festivities.  Give your mind and your body a break.

Exercise
Try to add in some activities that are more physical. Even something as simple as walking the mall can help boost your spirit, reduce stress, and keep your waistline in check.

Clean
Do a thorough cleaning of your home. Every year I would get sick in late December through early January, so I started doing a thorough cleaning of my house in early December. I take a bucket of bleach water and wipe down all the walls, doors, doorknobs, counters, appliances, etc. Any place I feel germs could accumulate. I also clean all Christmas decorations as I put them up. Not just the knick knacks and ornaments. Garland and the Christmas tree both get a good blowing with the blow dryer to get any dust off.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you stay healthy this holiday season. They are common sense, but they really do work.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Plan, Prepare, and Save


It's November and according to the retail industry it means the Christmas/Holiday Season. They are betting on you spending a boat load of cash this year on gifts for friends and family. So...unless you plan on cutting out presents all together...you'll need a way to save on what you plan to buy.

Here is the strategy I've been using for a couple years and it has saved lots of money for my family.

Plan
Have a plan - obviously. Create a list of all the people you hope to buy a gift for this year. Now eliminate all the people you can. Do you really need to give a present to the neighbor down the street that you haven't spoken to since summer? How about the all your co-workers? Stick to people who are truly important to you and your family.

Once you have your list go through and assign a dollar amount to each person. Set a budget and stick to it. For example: your niece Olivia $20. You can also allocate a dollar amount to each family instead of each person individually. I assign a certain amount for each mother/father/brother/sister, and another amount for each niece/nephew. The main point is to set a budget and stick to it or stay under that amount.

Now some of you may only purchase for the kids and not buy presents for the adults. You may also draw names so everyone gets a present - sort of like a Secret Santa game.

Prepare
Now that you have your list of people to buy for and how much you can spend you can brainstorm gift ideas. Consider what the person wants and what they actually need. Your child's teacher really doesn't want or need another mug or candle. Just ask them - I'm sure they have at least 5 from last year that still haven't been used. Think about hobbies, extracurricular activities, family life, etc.


Save
Now once you've come up with at least 2 ideas per person start your search. Look through sales ads and online for deals on the gifts you want to buy. We are trying to stretch your dollars as far as they will go.

If you plan on buying online wait for a great deal like those from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Also consider using ebates.com to earn money on your purchases. I personally love using Swagbucks.com all year - trading my points in for Amazon.com gift certificates which I use for presents. Use the program that works for you, but find a way to earn from your purchases.

Basically make your list of gifts to buy, set a budget, brainstorm gift ideas, and shop the deals. Planning and preparing are the key - know who you need to buy for and what to buy then stick to a budget.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pics of the Week - November 7, 2012

Good morning everyone! Every Wednesday I share my week in pics. Just for fun.

This past weekend we made quite a bit of progress on our front porch. Our front porch posts were actually rotting away and needed to be replaced and the concrete was cracked in a couple places. So in exchange for a bunch of work one of hubby's friends paid him in vinyl decking (his business). Bonus!


The pic above is of the framing that took an entire weekend with lots of supervisors. LOL!


Here's how it looks with the vinyl deck boards finished except right near the front door. We needed to add a small step to close a gap under the door so no more critters got in the house. Don't get me started on the critters. Yuck!!!

The porch looks really long from this angle. Bowling anyone?!  I'm really thinking about changing out the wrought iron table and chairs in the pic. Maybe get a cute little bench to sit on or even just paint this set another color. Any suggestions?

We are still working on the porch, and next we are going to add a railing to the entire front and one side. Leaving the driveway side open.  I will post a pic when it's all done. Then lots of landscaping. Go figure I love gardening but hate landscaping.

Anyways, while hubby, my dad and I were working on Sunday my kids decided to ride their bikes. Here is my youngest on her brother's bike. It's a bit big for her, so not 5 minutes later I'm administering first aid. Just a scraped up hand - no biggie. Thank goodness.
 
I hope your week is going along well. Bye for now!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Still Can't Afford Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem

I did a post a while back about not being able to afford Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem. Read it here.

I just want to say that back in 2010 I broke down and actually signed up for Weight Watchers.com.  I followed their online version faithfully for almost a year. I actually did very well and lost almost 60lb by following their recommended point values. Then with only 5 lbs to go they changed their system to points plus and didn't want to learn a whole new diet plan. The old one worked so well for me. The new plan just didn't work for me so I quit. Not to mention I couldn't keep paying every month for the rest of my life.

I've since got an iPhone and found a wonderful app called "Lose It". It is a f*re-e app and has a lot of the same features as Weight Watchers Online. I love it. I can log my food each day and it even deducts calories burned through exercise. The really neat feature is if the food isn't listed in their database you can scan the bar code and all the info is automatically entered. It's great.

It also works on the iPod touch and iPad. It's available on the iTunes site for download or you can access site online at www.LoseIt.com. They have a basic no charge version and a paid version that offers more features.

I still believe that Sparkpeople is a great site. They also have an app for the iPhone but it costs $3.99. They offer lots of great resources on their website at no charge or monthly fees. Their site has more interaction between other users than LoseIt's free version does.

The holidays are fast approaching and so is New Years in case you are considering weight loss as a Resolution this year.

Please feel free to share your experiences with these sites.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope everyone has stayed safe through the hurricane on the East Coast.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waiting for the Storm

Hurricane Sandy looks like it will travel right over us here in Maryland starting tonight and into tomorrow.

The hubby and I are as prepared as we can be. We've tied everything down, brought it inside and made sure all our gutters and drains are cleared. Now we wait.

We are planning on not having internet for a couple days due to power outages. We will have power via an awesome whole house generator we purchased about 5 years ago. After a couple winter storms knocked out our power we decided the generator was a necessity. No heat and no water for toilets just wasn't an option when it's 20 degrees inside.

This storm is calling for high winds, and lots of rain. Thank God it's going to stay relatively warm (50's) and no snow is likely where we live. Our relatives in West Virginia are expecting a foot or two.
I'm not envious!

So anyways...I will try to post at least pictures via email over the next couple days to keep everyone updated. I'm trying to stay consistent with my posts every Monday through Friday.  I'm hoping Mother Nature will be kind and let me keep posting. We shall see.

Stay safe everyone in the Northeast part of the US, follow the evacuation orders for your area, be careful and stay tuned to the weather.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Food For Power Outages



Like I mentioned yesterday, the weather channels are saying a big storm may be coming to my part of the United States, so I decided to come up with a list of foods that you can keep on hand for emergencies. These foods don't need to be refrigerated and do not need to be cooked.

If you are able to use a grill or a camp fire to heat food or water that would be ideal, but these are all able to be eaten as is.  So here goes:

* cans of tuna fish
* peanut butter
* granola bars
* bananas
* apples
* oranges
* dry cereal
* crackers
* cookies
* canned chili
* bottle water
* bread
* peanuts
* trail mix
* dried fruits
* pickles
* fruit cups
* instant mashed potatoes (some only require water)
* Gatorade
* gummies or fruit snacks
* pop tarts
* beef jerky

Many of these foods can be kept in your car or go bag for emergencies. Always keep a supply of water on hand. One gallon per person per day is recommended, but something is always better than nothing.

Have a wonderful weekend and please feel free to leave a comment and/or add to the list above.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preparing for a Storm


It's a beautiful 70 degree day here in the Mid Atlantic region of the US. The trees are glorious shades of red, gold, brown and green. It's perfect.

You would never suspect a storm is predicted to hit the area in the next couple days. The weather channels are saying we could get rain, strong, gusty winds and maybe snow.

If you live on the East Coast of the US don't head to the grocery store just yet. The toilet paper can wait. LOL

If you've lived through a storm in the US recently you know power outages are something you really need to prepare for.  Not too long ago a strong wind storm caused widespread power outages that lasted about a week.* Needless to say our power companies can't handle lots of widespread power problems.

The type of storm they are predicting can produce storm forced winds and very heavy inland snow. That's really bad since there are still leaves on the tree and the snow would weigh down branches causing them to break (possibly landing on power wires).

So here's how you can prepare for a storm like this.

Obviously secure all outside furniture. It's time to put the chairs, umbrellas, grills away or put them some place they won't blow away.

Make sure you have enough food and necessities for a couple days. Non-perishable foods only. Peanut butter, soups, crackers, protein bars, tuna, canned goods, etc. Buy nothing that needs to be frozen or refrigerated because without power these foods could possibly and mostly likely will go bad.

Water! Have bottle water on hand. Plus if your septic system works on electricity (many private wells do) make sure you fill your bathtub with water to flush your toilet. Dumping a small bucket of water in the toilet after you go will cause it to flush automatically. Hubby is a plumber ;-) .

Consume most of your perishable foods. If possible, when your power goes out find a friend or family member with power to who can store your stuff for the time being. Before the storm plan meals that can use the meat in the freezer. You need to eat anyways - why not use up some of the perishables now.

Go to the ATM. Keeping a small amount of cash on hand is always helpful. In case you need something from the little grocery store down the street that doesn't have any power either and they can't accept credit cards. It happens trust me.

Fill up the vehicle with gasoline. At the very least make sure you aren't on empty. When the power it out for a couple days (snow or not) you may need to go out and get supplies or food and you need to at least make it to the nearest gas station that has power.

Put any snow removal equipment where you can easily get to it. Don't leave the snow shovel in the shed behind a fence because then you have to dig out the gate to the fence and then the shed door to get to the shovel. Been there done that. When I know it could snow I bring the shovel inside.

These are just a few things that can help you stay prepared during a storm.

My deck during a snow storm a couple years ago.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2012_North_American_derecho

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Motherhood and Isolation

I've been a mom for 12 1/2 years now and a stay at home mom that entire time. During that time I've dealt with the occasional bout of depression. Normally nothing serious, I just wasn't my normal self.
Only more serious after the birth of my son which I had some wonderful meds help me though those difficult 6 months.

Let's face it being a stay at home mom is challenging with constant feedings, cleaning, laundry and anything else you have going on. However, what about when your kids get older. You have to deal with different personalities, attitudes, wants, needs, etc.

Wouldn't it be great if there was an instruction manual. Unfortunately, everyone has to learn by trial and error.  No doubt that's partially to blame for approximately 26% of stay at home moms experience sadness*.

My kids are 12 1/2, 11 and 8 and they are all in public school during the day. So I'm home most days by myself cleaning, cooking, running errands, blogging, etc. I make sure I get out at least once a week just to see other people.

So, anyways, here are some ways I fight the blues when I start feeling a bit down in the dumps.

* Get out and run errands, shop or window shop - usually in the morning because the stores are full of other moms and nice older people.

* Go for a walk - weather permitting of course

* Turn on some dance music - this almost always works for me. I love to dance!

* Call a friend just to chat

* MOM Club - when my kids were little a group of moms would get together with their kids at a local playground to chat while the kids played.

Most of the time I needed to get out and be around adults. Other times I just needed a new project to work on or something to look forward to.

Any suggestions on how you beat the mommytime blues.

* Source http://www.gallup.com/poll/154685/stay-home-moms-report-depression-sadness-anger.aspx

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saving Money When You Have Pets


I'm not sure I mentioned this before but my family has 2 dogs, 1 cat and 1 fish. Needless to say, we have a lot of fur around the house.

Grooming
One way I save money on pet expenses is to do all the grooming myself. I clip nails, trim fur and brush them religiously...okay maybe not religiously but often. 

A while back I invested in a small pet grooming kit from my local Wal-Mart for about $25.  It's really pretty simple to do. Plus there are videos on YouTube showing you how to do just about anything you would need to do. Then it's just a matter of practicing.

My dogs and cat have gotten used to me brushing them and even the sound of the razor. Now they actually enjoy being brushed because they get my undivided attention for a couple minutes.

At the Vets
Another way I save is by taking them to a good vet and get routine checkups. Just like humans, if we take care of ourselves, normally the doctors can catch anything out of the ordinary pretty quickly.  It could make the difference between changing the pet's diet and exercise routine to expensive medications or even surgery.

Be sure to shop around for a vet you and your pet like and that offers reasonable rates. Don't let them talk you into anything that isn't needed such as a certain type of pet food - they usually earn a commission on the products they promote. You can get the same thing at a local pet store if you pet really needs it.

Food
I also save on their food. I serve them the recommended amount for their weight and limit the number of treats. Again, just like us animals can become overweight, so limit the amount of snacks/treats they receive.

In addition, I buy extra and stock up whenever I find a good deal. I even try to combine it with a coupon if possible.

Having pets shouldn't mean you need to spend a fortune. Give them love, food, shelter and treat them like one of the family.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Alternative Halloween Treat Ideas

While I'm a huge fan of chocolate, however I know there are some of you who prefer not to give out candy for Halloween. Whether you don't want to promote junk food, you are sensitive to food allergies, or just can't afford to buy bags and bags of it.

I've come up with a couple treats you can hand out that aren't going to give the kids (or parents) a sugar rush.

Here are some alternatives to commonly handed out candies.

* Temporary tattoos
* Stickers or sticker sheets
* Glow sticks, bracelets or necklaces
* Spider Rings or bats, skulls, etc
* Pencils - Halloween themed or another theme
* Erasers - again Halloween themed or just fun designs
* Plastic teeth - vampire teeth usually
* Self-inking mini stampers
* Bouncy balls
* Packs of mini crayons, markers or color pencils
* Slime or goop
* Mini containers of bubbles - check wedding section of craft stores
* Small craft projects

Also consider giving out the following. The kids still get a treat and sometimes it's healthier.

* McDonald's coupons - 12 coupons including 4 ice cream cones, 4 apple slices, 4 milk/juice for $1
* Wendy's Jr Frosty coupons - get 10 coupons for $1

One place to check for inexpensive items like this is Oriental Trading Company. They have tons of cute stuff. Check them out.

*By the way this isn't an affiliate link and I make no money from promoting them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Register to Vote


Don't forget to register to vote. The deadline here in Maryland is 9 p.m. tonight. Don't worry - you can now register online.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for - just to make sure you do in fact vote.

Many people don't vote because they don't know who to vote for.  Others think their votes don't count. I'm here to tell you they definitely count on the issues and on the local votes. It's not just the presidential elections. There are elections for your local delegates, senators and issues concerning your state and county.

Just to help anyone out there, here's what I do. When I get my paper ballot in the mail I sit down when I have a free afternoon. Then I go through each question on the ballot and read up as much as I can.

I also "google" each person running for an office to find out who they are and what they believe in. If nothing turns up on the "google" search  than they don't get my vote. I feel they aren't serious enough for the job if they can't take the little bit of time to start up a blog/website/Facebook/something and type up a paragraph saying what they believe and why they are running.

A little bit of research and you will have a better idea of who the people are.

Get out there and vote. Make your voice heard!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mini Scrapbook Photo Album


Last year my youngest would cry on the bus. She would miss her mom and dad, but she especially missed her big sister who went off to middle school and couldn't ride with her and walk her to class anymore.

So I found these vertical badge holders at the Dollar Tree (my FAVE store). Though the also sell them at Wal-Mart and Office Depot.

I took a couple pieces of scrapbooking paper and glued a photo of each family member along with their name on them. Creating mini scrapbooking pages. 

The pack of 10 badge holders can hold 20 different photos - so you can add grandparents, extended family, pets, even favorite toys. 

Once the mini scrapbooking pages were done and put into the badge holders I secured them together with a binder clip that I found at Wal-Mart.

Plus being covered in the hard plastic badge holders protects the photos so the album will last even when played with by little fingers everyday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Still Gardening in October


Believe it or not my garden is still flourishing. Crazy I know for the mid-Atlantic region. It's October and just starting to get cooler, but I continue to get veggies.It was a dry summer and a pretty wet fall so far.

With all the rain I've been getting a bunch of good sized and still tasty tomatoes. Though I'm a bit confused about my onions. You see I pulled out all my onions, and new ones have started to grow in the same spot. This is my first time with onions, so I'm wondering is this normal???

This summer my garden has produced lots of veggies. I canned lots of tomatoes. My hubby has canned lots of banana peppers and I even canned 2 jars of carrots. Not to mention lots of radishes early in the summer.

The canned goods come in really handy over the winter in addition to throughout the summer and fall. I use the tomatoes in spaghetti sauce and to make stewed tomatoes. One of my favorite dishes.

The radishes will be put in salads, and the carrots will be used in roasts.

The banana peppers won't make it very far into the winter because my youngest and my hubby are constantly eating them.

I love gardening and already can't wait until next year. It's so fun deciding what to plant and watching it sprout and then bloom. And you can't beat shopping from your back yard.

Coming up in the next week or two I will need to clean up and turn over my garden. I enjoy seeing my yard neat and full of beautifully colored plants. On to the fall and the pretty multi-colored leaves.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How I Scored a New iPhone


Okay so it's not the latest one - it's an iPhone 4. Not the new iPhone 5 that just came out.

I'm not the type to rush right out or wait in line to get the latest and greatest technological breakthrough. I usually wait a while and see if the hype is true or if it's just a passing fad.

I've actually had a Blackberry Curve for well over 2 years now and it was barely working thanks to some unfortunate drops. Oops! Let's just say it would text but you couldn't really use it as a phone anymore.

Since I kept it so long my provider said I qualified for an upgrade and one of my choices was this iPhone 4. Did I mention there it was fre*e? Well the phone was free - there was a $30 activation fee, but still not bad. I also had to extend my contract for 2 more years.  This wasn't an issue for me because I actually liked their service and was going to keep them anyways. (No dropped calls, great reception, etc.)

So how will this help you - you ask? Check with your cell service provider and see if you qualify for an upgrade. If you company does offer upgrades hold off getting that new phone until you qualify to save some moola and get a new phone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pics of the Week - October 10, 2012

This past weekend I let my kids throw knives, shoot arrows, and play with swords.

Yep, my family went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival and we had a blast. It was the first time in about 10 years that we went.

I loved this sign! Stupidhatarea - it can be used in so many places.


We watched a jousting match and saw lots of people in really cool costumes.



But our favorite part was this one show with a comedian and his high wire act. Don't look at his Spongebob boxers. LOL!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Easy Ways to Organize Your Photos

If you love taking photos half as much as me than you probably have a ton of photos. The problem is how to store all those photos and how to access them when you want them.


Folders
On your computer it is really easy to create a new folder for each month. I recommend naming them "201X-XX". Put the year first followed by the two digit month. For example October 2012 would be 2012-10. This will make all your months show up in order as opposed to alphabetically where August will always come before February. This also keeps entire years together.

This system works best for those people taking basic everyday family photos. If you need a outside summertime photo for a scrapbook page simply look in June, July or August's folder.

Flash Drives
Flash drives or thumb drives work great for people who take a lot of photos at one time. For example if you are taking photos of a special event such as a wedding just load all those photos onto one flash drive.

Another way to use these devices is to put all the photos for a month, quarter or year on one flash drive - depending on how many photos you take and how much the device will hold.

Photo Box
 If you are the type of person to get every photo developed than a photo box is the system for you. Separate the photos by month, quarter, year or even by subject or project. An example would be all Christmas photos in one box or all photos of little Susie in another box.

On a side note if you use a digital camera I highly recommend only printing out the photos you will actually use. Making sure you will be using them in a scrapbook, picture frame or other craft project in the near future. Wasting less ink and paper.

Online
There are three really great sites online that will host all your photos for you. There are lots of sites out there, but these are the ones I've tried and would recommend.

Flickr.com
This is easy to use. There is a 300MB bandwidth limit each month with the fre*e account. You can upgrade to PRO for $1.87 a month. It's pretty inexpensive. My only issue is you need to set each photo to copyrighted otherwise it can be used by anyone under the Creative Commons License. I also recommend setting each photo's privacy settings so it can only be seen by certain people such as Friends or Family.

http://photobucket.com/
This is another easy to use site. There is a unlimited photo uploads and 500 video limit for the free account. There appears to be a 10GB monthly bandwidth limit. The copyright settings appear to be about the same as Flickr.com's. One feature I really enjoy is you can mark all photos so they cannot be copied or shared - you don't have to mark each individual one.

http://www.shuttercal.com/
I love this site. Perfect for your 365 Photo Project. Simply upload a photo onto each day on the calendar. They even give you the option to order a printed daily calendar (month at a time or whole year). Lots of fun!

The main thing is to find one organization system that works for you and your photo storage needs.

Monday, October 08, 2012

11 Weeks till Christmas

That's right only 11 weeks till Christmas.

It may or may not seem like a long time to you, but in reality you have plenty of time to raise some cash, craft up some presents, and even schedule in some relaxation time.

If you hope to have an enjoyable holiday season than you need to start planning now.

First, make a list of all the things most important to you. Do you enjoy spending time with family and extended family? Take in the sights - light displays, decorations, etc.? Caroling? Shopping? Baking? Helping others less fortunate?

Second, using pencil, block out some time on your calendar for those things you deem important. Pencil in a Saturday afternoon to do some baking or a Friday night to get together with family.

Don't worry if the dates and times change just switch dates around, but make sure you keep the most important stuff on the calendar.

There is still time to get a second/side job to raise a little extra cash so you don't run up the credit cards for the holidays. Lots of stores are hiring temporary help for the season. Even if you can't earn the entire amount needed to cover your holiday bills - you can put a good chunk towards it.

If a job outside the home isn't an option for you - you can always make some of the gifts you will give this year. A warm blanket, a meaningful photo framed, some delicious cookies, pie or cake, etc. Use your unique talents to show others you care.

There is still plenty of time to get creative and make this a wonderful holiday season. In the coming weeks I will share some easy and affordable gifts you can make and give the special people in your life.


Friday, October 05, 2012

Yummy Enchiladas

These are super easy to make and my family LOVES these.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 can refried beans
1 can enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese (Mexican/taco mix)
8 tortillas



Brown ground beef in large skillet. Drain.

Stir in taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil and let cook until some water has evaporated.

Stir in refried beans and 1/2 cup shredded cheese until thoroughly mixed and cheese is melted.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly grease 9 x 12 baking dish.

Take one tortilla and spoon in approximately 1/2 cup* of meat/refried bean mixture into tortilla. Wrap up and place in baking dish. Continue until all the meat/refried bean mixture is used.

* Use more or less of the mixture to suit your tastes.

Once all the meat/refried bean mixture is used and tortillas are lined up in baking dish. Cover with remaining shredded cheese and top with enchilada sauce.

Bake until cheese is melted - approximately 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Earn Money for Christmas with Swagbucks

Search & WinToday I'm going to mention one of my favorite sites.  Swagbucks!

I really do love this site. This is one of the many ways I pay for Christmas presents each year.

I simply use the Swagbucks search engine just like Google and earn bucks.  Trade your Swagbucks in for gift cards or other prizes. I always trade mine in for Amazon.com gift cards because they never expire and can be used to buy almost anything. You can even use them for Kindle downloads.

There are other ways to earn bucks such as filling out surveys, completing offers, completing the daily poll, and finding special codes on their blog. The best part is there is no fee to join.

Every time I earn enough Swagbucks to purchase an Amazon gift card I do so. Then I apply it to my Amazon account where I save them up for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pics of the Week - October 3, 2012


This past weekend my family went over my parents' home to help install some hard wood floors. My handsome hubby, my sister and brother and his family were all there helping out.

Unfortunately, like almost all home improvement projects we start it was difficult. There's always an element we don't plan for.  In this case, we had to level all the floors because over the past 30 years they have settled and became quite un-level. After 1 hour of using a belt sander we decided it was time to rent a machine to get it done much quicker.

In this case, we had to level all the floors because over the past 30 years they have settled and became quite un-level. After 1 hour of using a belt sander we decided it was time to rent a machine to get it done much quicker. Hence the pic above.

My Dad went to the local Home Depot and rented the big sander. If you are doing a home improvement project that requires a tool you don't currently have and probably won't use again consider renting it. Search your local phone book or google the nearest "tool rentals" in your area.

While the adults were busy helping sand, lay out boards and nail them into place. The kids were playing. The youngest three decided they wanted to go outside and catch crickets. Yep you read that right. Crickets. GROSS!

Normally my kids are completely scared of bugs. They even think there is a bug in their rooms and they refuse to sleep there until it's killed or put outside. Not sure where they get their fear of bugs. LOL

So this is a photo of the girls with their box full of crickets. They even added leaves and water, so they could keep them. NOT!

That's this week's little glimpse into our lives.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Socks and Sensory Issues - Solved

As I mentioned yesterday my youngest has a problem with wearing socks. She really can't stand the seams. Even when we turn them inside out or use the seamless kind. Nothing was working.

So yesterday I tried something new. I really didn't think it would work, but go figure - it did!

Toe Socks!!!

I was looking at the pic I used yesterday of my older daughter wearing her fave toe socks and figured what the heck! Let's give them a try.

Well it worked and today she even wore a pair of her sister's socks to school - no complaining whatsoever.

The only reason I can see that this works is because there is no seam across the toe. It's a bit lower and not nearly as thick across the base of the toes.

Just something to try if you child has sensory issues like my youngest does.


I found these are a local FiveBelow which I'm hoping will fit her. They were the only store that sold them in our area at the moment.


Monday, October 01, 2012

Cold Weather and Socks

It's getting colder here and that means no more shorts, tank tops,  and flip flops. I personally love the fall. The leaves changing colors. Cooler weather. Cuddling up under quilts on cool nights.

Unfortunately it also means time to wear warmer clothing and my youngest daughter (8 yrs) absolutely cannot stand wearing socks. We know it's a sensory problem.

Last year she tried on at least 5 pairs of underwear each morning trying to find one that feels right. Next she put on a couple pairs of pants. Then she would have a crying fit because none of her socks fit right. The lines (seams) hurt her. My mother-in-law even went so far as to cut the toe area off the socks which my daughter also did herself with 6 pairs when she got home. Did I mention they were brand new socks?!

This year, thank God, she has gotten over her underwear issues, and has greatly improved in her pants problem. She even wore jeans that weren't skin tight this morning. However, she still has a major problem with her socks.


I would let her go without socks, but it makes her feet smell bad when she wears sneakers which she must wear for Phys. Ed. in school.

Just in case any of you are in a similar situation here are a couple things I do to keep the peace and reduce the smell.

* Put lots of baby powder in her shoes and on her feet. It absorbs the sweat, cuts the smell, and keeps her feet from getting blisters.

* Switch shoes often. She usually only wears sneakers on Phys. Ed days at school. Otherwise she can wear sandals, slip on shoes, or boots. This gives the shoes time to air out between uses.

* Only wear shoes outside. It is cleaner for your home to leave your shoes at the door anyways. That way you don't track dirt and germs throughout your house from your travels that day.

One thing I have learned over the years is to pick your battles. My daughter hates wearing socks. It's not like she's failing in school or doing drugs. I keep things in perspective. Plus I had the same issues when I was younger and I grew out of it. I'm sure she will too.

As a parent, how would you handle this issue?

Friday, September 28, 2012

No More Boring Sandwiches for School Lunches

School has been in session here for just about a month and my kids are already getting tired of seeing sandwiches in their lunch boxes each day.

So I started searching online for some ideas and I found lots of cool stuff, but first here's a list of a couple non-sandwich lunches I came up with.

* pizza
* chicken nuggets
* salad - regular or Ceasar
* tuna salad
* quesadilla - chicken or cheese
* tacos
* bagel with cream cheese
* macaroni and cheese
* fish sticks
* soup with crackers or gold fish
* pita with lettuce and chicken salad
* veggies and dip
* apples slices and cheese sticks
* celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins
* English muffin with butter or cheese and mustard  (it's delicious trust me)
* chicken with broccoli or any leftovers for that matter

In my search I found this amazing website. They offer 365 Lunch Ideas - all with pictures of the food. Lots of wonderful ideas for your kids lunches or even for yourself. Plus they are all in cute little bento boxes. Now obviously - no bento boxes required. You can easily use sandwich/snack baggies for almost all of these.
www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/

If you are especially creative here is a really cute site showing amazing lunches. Some of the ideas on the site are a bit too labor intensive for me, but for those who have some time it's a neat site. Check it out here : http://www.squidoo.com/build-a-better-lunchbox

Hope this helps you as much as it's helped me. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wet n' Wild Nail Polish

My all time favorite thing to do is get free stuff. Every once in a while I will use coupons to get free stuff. Not often, but occasionally.

Last week I went to my local Wal-Mart and found this Wet n' Wild Wild Shine nail color. It's a silver sparkly color and my daughter loves it.  The awesome part was it cost $.97 and my coupon was for $1 which made it free to me.



Use $1/1 Fergie or Wet n’ Wild Nail Polish, exp 9/22/12 (RP 9/9/12)

Now I know this one has expired, but I want to encourage you to search the web for "coupon matchup" sites. They will show you what coupons are still out there and match them up with items on sale at your local stores. Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and lots of grocery stores are routinely covered. All you need to do is break out your coupons and search away.

I will try to let you know of any free-with-coupon items I find as soon as I find them - so you can benefit also.

What was the best thing you ever got free after using coupons?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Icky Bugs


So I'm really a girly girl. I don't like bugs or creepy crawly things.

This is a little critter I found on my door frame this afternoon.  So how do you keep all these intruders out of your home?

Here are a couple tips I've learned.

Check your windows
Make sure all your windows are sealed well with caulk. Gaps let in air but also bugs.  Also make sure there aren't rips in screens.

Close your door
It's pretty obvious to make sure your doors are completely closed. If you have kids - you know this can be a problem.

Keep plants away from your house
This may not be so obvious but keep plants, mulch and other vegetation away from the outside of your home. The reason is bugs live in plants, dirt, mulch, etc and you don't want them living right next to your house.  Living close to the house could send them inside looking for a warm or cool place to hide.

More importantly how do you get rid of the bugs if they should manage to get in.

* Swiffer floor duster - I replace the dusting pad with a paper towel or piece of paper. It's a wonderful way to squish a critter on your ceiling.  I call this my "bug squisher".  It works the best on spiders.

* Vacuum - use the long extension handle to suck up the bugs. This works really well for cave crickets that like to hop away. It's gross, but doesn't kill them.

* Phone book  - I've also heard of people dropping a phone book on top of bugs especially crickets who like to hop away.

* Glue traps - these work if you don't have other pets. My mother has used these quite successfully for years to catch small bugs. I just worry about my cat or dog getting stuck to them, so we don't use them.

 Or you can do what I do a lot and ask someone to get it for you. LOL :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

When to Help Your Kid's Friends

I've run into a little dilemma. One of my children's friends has 2 working parents. There is nothing wrong with that - they are doing the best they can. However, he comes over to our house to play a couple times a week and hasn't eaten anything since lunch. His parents work early afternoon until late into the night and so he is watched by his 13 year old brother.

I've invited him to eat with us many times and we love having him over.  My problem is I'm not very close to his mother or father and don't want to offend them.  I feel bad for the little guy (who's only 7) and his older brother.

I know this is not uncommon, but I have always had a mom at home. Plus I've always been home with my kids and I would appreciate it if someone would keep an eye out for my kids if I couldn't be there for them all the time. I simply couldn't send the kid home hungry and say your brother has to take care of you when he is just a kid himself.

Do you think I'm overstepping my bounds as a neighbor? Any advice?

Friday, September 21, 2012

One Bowl Chocolate Cake


This is a really great cake that my family loves. I found in a cookbook from my local library a long time ago. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the book, however I did find the same recipe listed here on recipes.com:  http://www.recipe.com/one-bowl-chocolate-cake/

This recipe only makes a small 8x8" square or one 9"x 1 1/2" round cake. Plus it's pretty quick and easy to make.

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and light flour one 9 x 1 1/2" round pan or one 8 x 8" square pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add milk, oil and vanilla.  Mix on low speed until combined. Mix on medium for 2 minutes.

Add egg and mix on medium for 2 more minutes.

Pour into pan and cook at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and top with chocolate icing or powdered sugar.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Amazing Christmas Budget Helper

Christmas is only 13 weeks away. Oh my gosh, that can't be right! Can it?

If your family is like most of the county (USA) including mine you're probably living on a tight budget. We actually save up for all Christmas purchases.

However, saving can be really hard for some families. Luckily there is an easy answer. Consider using Kmart's Layaway Program.  I've done this for years and it saves me so much time and hassles.  No fighting the crowds, no trying to save up large amounts of money, and best of all I get all the things my family wants.

It's simple. You shop around the store getting everything on your list than head over to the Layaway Dept. They ring everything up and you pay $15 or 10% whichever is greater as a down payment. Then you make smaller payments every 2 weeks. 8 or 12 weeks later, you pick up your stuff, wrap and your done.

I like the fact that I don't have to hide the present for long because they are still at the store. Save and sound on hold for me. It works great when you have limited storage space or kids who like to snoop.

 I also love the fact that you can make payments online or at any Kmart cash register throughout the store.

Okay now here's the really cool part. They are holding a giveaway. There is 1 winner every week at EVERY store. That person will get the balance of their layaway paid in full. Which means possibly a free Christmas for you or me. Really cool!
Get all the details here.

* I am not affiliated with Kmart and am not compensated in any way if you choose to shop there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pics of the Week - September 19, 2012


This week I decided to start a new series "Pics of the Week".  I will give you all a sneak peak into my life just because I love taking photos and it's fun :-)

This was a really great week for my family. We had my son's 11th birthday party on Saturday. He had 3 friends from school over to hang out.


After his party we went out to eat for dinner (something we rarely do). Followed by the local old car show. The cars have to be 25 years old or older.

My parents' brought their red  '57 Chevy Bel Air. It's my Dad's dream car. There were approximately 200 cars there. It was really neat seeing such a variety of cars.

By the way, the cars in the background were just part of the mall parking lot - not part of the car show.


On Tuesday we had terrible storms. The wind was strong, gusty and there were even tornado and flood watches. I don't mind the rain too much - the wind is another story as we have a fair number of trees near our house.

My oldest decided she wanted to get the other two kids off the bus. She was soaked even with an umbrella and she was only outside for 2 minutes.

In addition to all these adventures this week; I also had my email hacked. Nice! {sarcasm} So...if any of you get a lovely email from me with no subject - delete it. Don't open it. I have already changed my password and have deleted all my contacts. Just in case.  UGH!

Overall it's been a positive week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Organize Your Kid's School Papers



If you have kids in school than you know all about the mountains of papers they can bring home each week.

I happen to have 3 in school and they bring home lots of papers each week. Some are important like field trip permission slips, fundraisers, graded tests, but some are just classwork, already checked homework assignments and flyers.

First: Sort
Each weekday as soon as my kids come home I sort through their take home folders while they are working on their homework.

Second: Trash
I immediately throw away any papers that we don't need to save. This includes: already checked homework, classwork, doodles, etc. I also throw away graded tests that don't need to be saved. The only exception is the middle school asks the kids keep all paperwork in their binder until the semester exams.

Third: Add to Calendar
Next I add any important information to my calendar and file the paper in my planner. I make a note of any special dress days (school spirit days, etc.), days when the kids are supposed to send in special items (cereal boxes for art, completed reports, and projects) and field trip days.

Fourth: File
The other type of paperwork we routinely get is papers asking for money. Either field trip permission slips, school photo order forms, donations or money for project supplies. Unfortunately we get a fair amount of these forms. We make a note of them on our monthly budget worksheet and then file them with our bills to be paid. On one income we've learned to budget everything!

We also receive items we want to file away for future reference. These items include: school directories, parent/student handbooks, course syllabus and other similar items.

These simple steps save us time dealing with their paperwork and we can find what we need quickly. Please feel free to share how your family organizes school paperwork.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Free Ways for Moms To Learn From Home


The kids are all in school. The house is cleaned, laundry is started...now what do you do???

It's nice to have some down time to relax so you can be energized for your family when they get home. However, now is the time to start getting ready for your future also.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to stay home after your kids start school - congratulations! Consider taking some enrichment classes for fun during your free time.  Some examples would be piano or guitar lessons, a foreign language, or perhaps learn a craft.

Some parents choose or will need to got back to work once their kids go to school. There are lots of courses you can take to help you transition back into the workforce. Here are just a few topics available: resume writing, cover pages, computer course such as Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint or HTML. You also may consider taking college type courses on writing, science, education or social sciences. There are lots to choose from when you know where to looks.

Here are some great sites to get you started:

200 Free Online Class - lots of courses offered by top quality colleges like MIT and Yale
http://oedb.org/library/beginning-online-learning/200-free-online-classes-to-learn-anything

Lots of Classes or Tutorials covering a variety of subjects such as Windows, Office, Google, email and interviewing skills, writing cover letters, math basics, money and everyday life topics also.
http://www.gcflearnfree.org/

Free-Ed.net - lots and lots of courses - mostly college type courses from various sources. It searches the net and finds the best free courses.
http://www.free-ed.net/free-ed/

Learn a language - Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Chinese, Russian and English
http://www.learnalanguage.com/

Livemocha - another site that helps you learn a new language - even get lessons sent to your cell.
http://livemocha.com/

YouTube - just type in "learn" into the search box and find ALL kinds of fun things to learn. Crafts, languages, speed reading, guitar lessons, almost any software program you can think of,  and lots, lots more.
http://youtube.com
 
Code Academy - Teaches you HTML. It's fun and easy. Even great for older kids. This site shows you how to program websites for fun or profit.
http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0

Whether you take courses for fun or to advance your career the goal is to improve your life and the lives of those around you.



I'm not affiliated or a representative for any of these sites. I don't make a dime from any of them. They are just sites I've found during my own personal search looking for fun things to learn on the web.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Birthday Party Prep on a Tight Budget

Okay my little one has a birthday party this weekend, so I'm in full on cleaning mode.

I'm obsessive about it. I clean everything! Walls, floors, door knobs, and everything in between. I just use bleach water twice a year to wipe down almost everything. It really helps cut down on colds and stomach bugs in our household.

Yeah I know it's a waste of time to clean so meticulously. The house only stays clean for the first 1/2 hour of the party normally, but hey, at least it's clean when the guests arrive.

We're expecting about 6 eight year old girls. There will be lots of little girl giggling I'm sure. Not to mention Polly Pockets and dress-up outfits all over the floor.

My youngest daughter's party is the hardest for our family each year because it's right around the start of school. Things are  pretty crazy around here at the beginning of school - lots of added expenses. School supplies (extras that are not on the list from school), mandatory magazine subscriptions, dance uniforms, chorus uniforms, and a crazy $100 mandatory graphing calculator. UGH!

So this year her birthday is going to be on a very tight budget. Like a $50 budget. That's food, gifts, goody bags, invitations and all. Everything for $50.  Here's how it breaks down:

$40 for presents
$5 for goody bag from the dollar store and Party City
$1 invitations from the dollar store
$4 food - cake mix, icing, popcorn, pretzels from Aldi's and dollar store

Given time and a few resources I normally create some really neat party invitations, party favors, food or decorations. Anyways, that's on tomorrow and Thursday's agenda.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Finding Age Appropriate Clothes for Pre-Teens

Greetings all!

Well summer is almost 1/2 way over and I'm getting excited because it's almost back to school shopping time. My absolute favorite time of the year!

One thing I dread is clothes shopping because I seem to have a hard time finding clothes for my 12 year old daughter. The latest trends make her look like she belongs on a Victoria Secrets runway or in some hip hop video. Not the look we're going for!

Most of the shorts are super short and the tops are barely there.

I'm trying to raise my daughters to dress a bit conservative. They can be as expressive as they want, so long as they don't show too much skin. Not to mention the dress code at their school requires no shorts above mid-thigh and no bare midriffs. Believe it or not it is quite hard to find mid-thigh length shorts in the stores in my area.

It's just not "in" to wear capri length or knee length shorts. I guess.

So anyways, if you are in the same boat I am - looking for age appropriate clothes for your daughter or granddaughter here are a few links. These stores give you some selection to choose from.

Best of luck and enjoy!

P.S. These are not affiliate links and I don't make any money if you choose to buy from them or not. I've bought from most of these stores and have had good experiences and heard good reviews about the rest. Just trying to help out fellow moms.


JCPenny.com
http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/kids/girls/shop-all-girls/sizes/girls-7-16/cat.jump?id=cat100260037&subcatId=cat100260021&deptId=dept20000016

Belk
http://www.belk.com/products/girls-clothing-7-16.jsp

Children's Place
http://www.childrensplace.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/category_10001_10001_-1_27151_girl_27151

Kohl's
http://www.kohls.com/kohlsStore/girls_716.jsp

Dillards
http://www.dillards.com/shop/Children-Girls-7-16/_/N-ngdk?catalogId=301&langId=-1&storeId=301

Justice
http://www.shopjustice.com/girls-clothing/clothes

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Feeding Your Family on a Budget

It's safe to say that almost everyone is starting to feel the pinch in their wallets these days. Prices are going up and pay rates stay the same.

So how are you supposed to feed your family on an ever shrinking budget?

First of all, you need to start planning out your meals. List at least seven breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, and drinks. It's not necessary to list chicken on Monday, ground beef on Tuesday.  Simply having seven meals for the week will allow to you choose a meal you have time to fix and feel like eating that day.  By planning out your meals you will be know exactly what is needed for the week.

Another important strategy for sticking to a budget is by shopping from a list and sticking to that list. Be sure to include everything you need  that week like paper products, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, etc. Then list the cost of each item. If you aren't sure of the price - estimate or set a limit to spend. This will allow you to add extras to the list or take away if you've gone over.

It may seem counter productive but go for quality when possible not always what is cheapest. Fresh veggies, lean protein, whole wheat foods are better for you and actually help you feel fuller than more processed foods. Helping you to actually eat less.

Start using generic or off-brand products. The name brand products have started reducing the quantity/size of products but still charge the same or more money. Canned goods, cereals even juices and sodas are doing this more and more. Things that used to contain 15oz now contain 13.5oz.  Pay attention to the packaging. Seek out products that will give you more for your money.

If you're budget is already stretched thin consider starting a vegetable garden. With a few seeds and a small plot of land you can start your own garden.  Even a small harvest will help a stretched budget. If you don't have a suitable plot of land available find a sturdy flower pot, bucket or container or some sort.

Consider exchanging beans for meat in at least one meal a week. Beans and lentils are good for you and fill you up without the high price tag.

Finally, be aware of what you eat and where. Start fixing more meals at home.  Eating out at restaurants can destroy a budget in a hurry. 

These are just a few ways to help you stick to a budget so you can feed your family.


Friday, May 04, 2012

Food Loving Friday - Homemade Pizzas


Okay so this week I decided to try my hand at making homemade pizzas. Let me just say I've never made bread or dough before.

It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It was messier than I thought. Flour everywhere ;-)

 I found the recipe on the back of the Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast package. It's listed below for your info.

Ingredients: 
1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 envelope of Fleischmann's Pizza Yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm tap water (120F to 130F)
3 tablespoon oil
pizza sauce, toppings and cheese

Preheat oven to 425F

Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, salt in a large bowl. Add water and oil. Mix together until well blended, about 1 minute.

Add gradually 1/2 cup flour until soft dough ball is formed, will be slightly sticky. Add additional flour if needed to form dough ball.

Knead on a floured surface adding  additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. With floured hands, press dough out to fill greased pizza pan.

Top as desired with pizza sauce, toppings and cheese.

Bake on bottom oven rack for 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is brown.

By the way, it costs us about $13.04 dollars to make 3 pizzas.  Saying you have no ingredients on hand and you will have extra sugar, flour and salt left over. That's less than $5 a pizza and you make them with any way you wish.

$1.06 yeast - Walmart
$3.08 sugar - Aldi
$1.98 flour - Aldi
$0.35 salt - Aldi
$1.79 oil - Aldi
$2.99 mozzarella cheese - Aldi
$1.79 pepperoni  - Weis Markets

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Light Sensitivity and the Dentist

Okay, I don't think I've mentioned this before, but my son has a sensitivity to light.* He had said since the age of 4 or so that bright lights really hurts his eyes. Not just uncomfortable - it physically hurts.

He's 10 yrs old now and he's been going to the dentist since he was 5. Usually only for 15 minutes at a time for a cleaning. After a while we started to bring sunglasses so he could recline back in the dentist chair a little more relaxed. This has worked for him for a while.

In December we found out he needs some orthodontic work done that will stretch out his bite to make room for more teeth. He has had 4 appointments in January and February to get fitted for the appliance. Each visit he cries, sits up and complains it hurts his eyes. We've tried sun glasses, sleeping masks, and a combination of the two. Nothing helped.

Now let me just mention that we LOVE our dentist and orthodontist and their staff. I've always gone back to the office with him and stayed with him the whole time. Plus my daughter has been seeing this orthodontist since May - having braces and now a retainer. We have no problems at all with the dentist/orthodontist or their facilities.

Finally last Thursday we found a solution that worked for him even if only temporarily. He put on his winter hat with swim goggles underneath that were blacked out with paper. He still claimed to see light (amazingly), but was able to sit reclined in the chair off and on for 30 minutes. His longest time ever. We are so proud of him!

Just thought I would share this with everyone in case there were other parents out there trying to figure a way to help your child with light sensitivity. In my research I couldn't find much of anything on the web that helped us deal with this issue.  Hope it helps even one family out there! Please feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below. I'd love to hear them!

* My son has been tested and does not have any form of autism or ADHD. He also has been tested by a licensed eye doctor (optometrist). 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Celebrate Valentine's Day on a Budget

Copyright 2009 Kimberly A Shavatt
If money is tight this year and you can't afford to spend a lot on gifts, there are ways to still have a romantic Valentine's Day. Here are a couple low cost or no cost ideas.

One of the best gifts to give your loved one this Valentine's Day is a massage. A relaxing 15-20 minute back, neck or foot massage can be the perfect ending to their day. Simply rub their back, neck, shoulders or feet - no special training is required. A little time and love is all that's needed.

If your loved one likes more tangible presents, a great place to find inexpensive gifts is your local dollar store. They have an assortment of balloons, flowers, vases, candles, and cards to choose from.  All for $1 or less each.

A popular way to show your love on Valentine's Day is by fixing your special person their favorite meal. It is potentially inexpensive. Plus you show them you care by spending time with them. Prepare them a nice breakfast in bed or delicious home cooked dinner.

Another option is to create a coupon book filled with handmade promissory notes. For example: breakfast in bed, mowing the lawn, washing to car, cooking dinner. Here is a great link to some printable coupons (no cost) http://familycrafts.about.com/od/coupons/a/couponbw.htm.  Just print them out and give them to someone special.

Let's face it money is tight for most people right now, but that doesn't mean you have to stop living and celebrating the ones you love. Hopefully these ideas help you have a relaxing, romantic Valentine's Day without busting your budget.