Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free Toddler Toy Idea from The Children's Museum

I recently bought an annual membership for The Flint Children's Museum and have really been enjoying taking my kiddos there. They have many neat play areas, especially for Maya's age group, and she loves the freedom she has there to do as she likes. With a room full of "yes" she can play for hours without having to hear me so "no" which I think is her favorite part.

I was amazed though, that with all the cool things to do her FAVORITE part was the grocery shopping section.  Actually it seemed to be everyone's favorite part. The best part of this was that we could do it at home for FREE! She already had a cart all we needed was the food.

I have recently been saving all of our dry goods containers for her kitchen. Within a week she already has a great selection-a cookie box, a pancake box, an OJ carton, a milk carton, and egg container...I feel like such an idiot for ever paying for play food! She likes this stuff a lot more because it's "real". The best part is if it gets beat up, ripped, chewed on by a rogue puppy (this happens a lot at our house) you toss it and you are out nothing, zip, nada, zilch!

When I explained to her that these boxes were empty she wasn't even disappointed. "That's okay, I  imagine Mommy". Music to a momma's ears:)

Monday, February 27, 2012

How my printer exposed my whiny inner consumerist

So for the last 6 months my printer hasn't been working correctly. It started with a few paper jams, and evolved to a full-blown printer rebellion. I would patiently manually feed each sheet into the printer, one at a time. This would work about 50% of the time at the beginning..then 25%, more recently it hasn't been working much at all. If I could count the number of minutes, even HOURS that I have spent manually feeding this printer, coaxing it, begging it , hitting it, turning it on and off...

There is only one thing I hate more than wasting money and that's wasting time so I finally caved. It was time for a new printer. I only use laser printers because I print A LOT of coupons:) and the ink is much more affordable, and it's so much faster. The search began. For months I have been scouring the internet for a good deal, reading reviews, and planning for my new printer.

The "saver" in me wouldn't spend more than $50 and that was a pretty unreasonable price point. So I waited. Finally, today, after countless fights with my printer and fruitless searches for an affordable replacement. I decided to jump. I would buy one TODAY. After all, I was worth it. I began looking at refurbished ones on ebay and decided I would have to spend $70 to get what I wanted. Oh well. I NEEDED it. Too bad if it didn't fit in the budget. I HAD to have it. Right?

Suddenly I heard my whiny inner voice saying these things. I was struck with the hilarity of it. Did I really NEED a wireless laser printer? Or could I use a cheap inkjet one stored in my basement? Did I really have to have a great one? Did I really HAVE to have one at all? I suddenly realized that I was once again caught in the trap of consumerism.

The entire world of media is programmed to make us believe we need more, we want more, we DESERVE more. I try to avoid it, but sometimes it catches me. Did I NEED this $70 printer or did I WANT one?

I knew the answer. I reluctantly closed my ebay search window, and did something that for some reason I had never thought to do. I googled how to fix my old printer. Wouldn't you know it, tons of people had had the same problem. I read through tons of potential fixes involving taking apart all the parts and sanding pieces, replacing rubber heads, bending brackets...I tried the ones I could figure out and skipped the rest. Nope still not working. Finally, frustrated both at my lack of "handywoman" ness and my still broken printer, I stumbled across one more. "I just washed the little rubber foot, and it worked great."

I couldn't decide if i was hopeful that this would work or angry that it could be so simple. Sure enough, one drop of dawn and one paper towel later, my printer is working like a dream. If only instead of focusing on the problem and how frustrated it made me, wasting the hours struggling through it, cursing it until I was blue in the face, I had spent that time on finding a solution. Yep-there's a life lesson here methinks.

Free Freezer Cooking E-Book Download :)

One of my favorite bloggers, the money saving mom, has a free download of her ebook on freezer cooking today! Snag it here , it is towards the bottom of the page, and enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DIY- Toddler play refrigerator from a DVD cabinet

I have been wanting a fridge for Maya, sicne the kitchen I purchased doesn't have one included. I wasn't too worried about that fact until I realized that that was normally where the parents stashed all the food after the kidlets were done playing.

I set out to St. Vincent DePauls and found a beat up DVD cabinet that looked perfect. it was short enough, had two doors that functioned well, and was $9.99.

I didn't take a before picture but it looked similar to this one, but more beat up of course:)

I tried to paint it white-as I had some white spray paint in my garage but it did not cover well, and three coats later it was still blotchy. Hmmm. Next I scoured my basement for other options. I stumbled upon this-
I had originally bought this to try to makeover my dishwasher a few years back. I gave it a shot and it worked PERFECTLY! It gave good coverage and even gave it a bit of texture like a real fridge. Of course it was black and not white but HEY it was free! We have a black fridge in our own kitchen so I think she will love it!

I took off the original handles, spray painted them silver, and reattached them. Next I sprayed the shelves and inside of the cabinet with the white spray paint and screwed in the shelves so they wouldn't fall off their brackets. I also bought some braces to attach it to the wall so that I could be certain that it wouldn't tip on either of my littles:)

TADA!!! How cute is this and I spent a total of $16.00! It offers tons of storage and is OH So cute! I think next I need to paint the inside white and I may try to put a light in it !!

Friday, February 10, 2012


Recently, while wasting time on Pinterest when I should have been cleaning (hey, I'm not perfect) I came upon a quote. I read it and it hit me like a baseball pitch to the stomach. It was a simple idea, but one I had never really verbalized or written.  There it was in black and white, simple type-face, staring into my soul.

 "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with all that they have."

I was instantly convicted.

I am a control freak. I spend much of my life trying to "fix" things, people, and my life. I am constantly trying to match it all up to an ideal in my head. I envision my life as being some cross between an Audrey Hepburn movie, Woodstock, and The Boxcar Children books.  I spend countless hours carefully pruning myself and those around me to make them fit into these scenarios. This ends in frustration because I did not marry a character from a movie-I married a MAN. Coincidentally, I am a living breathing woman-not an airbrushed, perfectly lit cover model. To top it all off, my kids are not child actors-they are REAL they have emotions, and meltdowns, and bumps and bruises.

As I examine myself, I realize that it doesn't end there. I adore my mom because she fits that ideal. She was sweet and loving, always supportive, and never judgmental. She is as close as one could get to having a perfect 1950's sitcom mother.The house always smelled of cookies, the floors were always clean, and the kisses were always abundant-even when we fought them.  My mother-IS Donna Reed. I put a lot of pressure on myself because she is such a tough act to follow. Sadly, I resign to the fact that I will never be as good of a mother to my children as my own mother was to me. Yes, my mother loved me exactly the way I needed and she still does today. But then there was my Dad.

Did my Dad love me? I am sure he did. But we spoke different languages back then.  So much was lost in translation between us. To him, loving was supporting. He worked hard at thankless jobs, hour after hour so I could live the life I wanted. I was spoiled rotten at Christmas,  had the name brand jeans that I "needed" in the 7th grade, and there was always money for our family vacation. He sacrificed his time, his energy, even his hearing,which he eventually lost much of from the loud factory machinery, in order to give me every "thing" I ever wanted. Sadly, to me, this was not love. Love was hugs, and kisses, and daddy-daughter dances-all things that were missing from our relationship. I have spent so much of my life wondering what I could have done to make him love me MORE, but this quote made me see the truth. He did.

 Maybe- "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with all that they have."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

$10 free credit to Vitacost Drug Store

Sign up here to get $10 free at Vitacost! It has tons of drug store type items and the $10 is totally free!

14 Reuses for a Phonebook

I just got two phone books in the mail that I know we won't use. Why bother when we can google?? I found this article and thought I'd share! (be sure to check for coupons before repurposing-sometimes there are some good ones in there!

14 Reuses for a Phonebook

FREE Better Homes & Gardens Magazine Subscription

       FREE Better Homes & Gardens Magazine Subscription
Thanks to Coupon pro for this deal!! -

Yay! Hurry over to score a FREE 1 year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine, courtesy of FreeBizMag! Prepare to give some info on your profession or under industry choose “Other’ then select ‘Homemaker” if your a stay at home mom. You can have the magazine mailed to your home. Make sure to say “No Thanks” to all the offers. If you receive a renewal notice, ignore it, it is not a bill.
(thanks @Adam)

Freezer Cooking Take Two

One way I plan to save both time and money this year is through freezer cooking. Freezer cooking allows you to buy things in bulk quantities when they are cheap or marked down when they are close to their date, cook them up and store them as quick go-to meal alternatives.

It not only saves money on the ingredients, but it makes it less tempting to eat out for dinner when there are lots of quick options in the freezer, which is a great money-saver.

Another bonus is that prepared freezer foods you buy in the store are much more expensive and LOADED with preservatives. The next time you buy one of those bagged premade stir fries read the sodium content- yikes!!

During week one of freezer cooking I managed to cook down and shred 8 pounds of split chicken breasts, freeze 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies all ready for baking, 6 cups chicken broth, and 4 pounds of baked beans! I did this all in roughly 2 hours and it has been great having all these meal helpers in the freezer.

My freezer is NOT this clean LOL I stole a picture-

Today I plan on making chicken enchiladas, chicken stir fry, pancakes,and more cookies. Stay tuned to see if my kids cooperate lol.

Check out these links for some great freezer cooking ideas:
Once a Month Cook
Money Saving Mom-Look specifically for the freezer-friendly section.
Once a Month Mom

Do you freeze meals ahead? I would love your recipes and ideas!

Monday, February 6, 2012

My 2012 resolution-declutter my life...

Despite the fact that I am a naturally organized person-my home does not reflect this. Unannounced guests are welcomed with stacks of old mail, a mantle full of things that I have rescued from the puppy, a sink full of dishes, and an apology for "the mess". While I try not to judge myself to harshly on these factors, I recently was reminded of something I saw on TV a few years back. I used to LOVE reality TV-I am burned out nowadays-but if nothing else it gave me this point. While watching one of the countless home makeover shows that used to fill my dvr, one of the designers said something that cut right at my core." If your house is this cluttered, so is your mind. A person's house is a direct reflection of their mind, finances, and life. " Ouch.

As much as I don't want to believe this point, I think it is true for me. My entire life has become "cluttered". Yes there are "things" that need to be purged, but also thoughts, commitments, time-squanderers, money-wasters...It is time for a full purge of my life.

In order to do this, I am turning to some guide books. One is Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. If you don't own this book, and are not currently happy with your financial life, BUY IT. It has changed our lives so much already and I can't wait to see what will happen in a few years! Oh and when you tell yourself that cash is too much work and that you can do just as good with a debit card...well you're wrong LOL We though the same thing, but cash is cash. There is no better way to get on budget than to ONLY use cash. Period. Ever. Dave's program has taught me many things but most of all it has changed my focus from What can I buy? to What can I cut?

I also have a debt calculator app on my Ipad that can show me exactly where my money is going and EXACTLY when I will be debt free-including my home. It makes me excited to cut corners and watch that date become closer and closer.

My second guidebook is The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine. I love her blog and her book is a great resource for simplifying and downsizing your life. It discusses everything from cleaning strategies, to coupon shopping, and becoming debt free. I think the most valuable part for me was her discussion on goal setting. She suggest setting a goal of where you want to be in 15 years and then to break that goal down into bite-sized pieces. So-if my goal, for example, is to eliminate ALL of our debt in 15 years, I would then divide our debt amount by 15 to see how much we need to be able to pay off per year. Next divide by twelve to find our monthly pay-off amount, then I went even farther and divided by four to get a weekly amount. While these numbers will not be totally accurate-unless you know how to figure in the interest being accrued during that time, it does show you one thing-the little things you tell yourself DON'T hurt your budget---well they do.

Let's say you spend $40 a week eating out with your family each Friday night. $40 meal x 52 weeks x 15 years= are you read for this $31, 200!!!!!!!! If you took that same amount and put it in an envelope each week you would have $31,000 in 15 years! If you put it into an interest bearing savings account-you would have even more! Little money=big spending over time. You should just see what a difference budgeting for groceries can make!

I will be talking about this more as the year progresses. While I won't be sharing any financial details, I will tell you that this year's resolution will be the biggest, toughest one EVER. But hopefully 2013 will find me healthier and happier with less debt, less stuff, more time, and more peace:)

What are your resolutions this year? Share them below!