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.

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 :

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

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.

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 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

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. - lots and lots of courses - mostly college type courses from various sources. It searches the net and finds the best free courses.

Learn a language - Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Chinese, Russian and English

Livemocha - another site that helps you learn a new language - even get lessons sent to your cell.

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.
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.!/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.