Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ready, set, #coupon

Someone asked me how I coupon, so I decided to share it here.

I start by sorting out the coupons that are close to expiring and the coupons for things we need this week.   I try to make notes of sales so I know where I'm going to get the best deal.  I don't usually go to more than 2 stores in a day especially if I have husband and kids with me.

Next , I write a list of my coupons I am taking with me. This helps me see what I have and the value.  This week I have the list for 2 stores, walmart and Winco.  I alsp have a second pile and list for a trip to the Walmart Super Center in another town, we are heading over there Tuesday for a movie activity. Anyway, I know the polocies of each store I am going to as well, if needed I print a copy from their website and take it.

This system works for me,  I don't do crazy stock ups as I don't have the exrra money to do it, unless it is a money maker deal and the stores are getting really picky about those.

I hope this has helped someone on their money saving coupon journey.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Planning binder

I started with an old black textured binder.
The binder has a cookbook put together by a Portland area church in the mid to late 70's, while I love vintage recipes I need the binder more, so the recipes moved to a box with a binder clip securing them and the binder began the process of being re-purposed.   I love the 1/2 size binders so projects like this one. Avery has come out with a line of 1/2 sized binders in various colors and clear overlays to insert you own decorations. Fun yes, but right now I was trying to spending as little as possible on the project.

  I added 2 sample painter testers in the perfect colors.  Thanks to a recent coupon specific to Walmart I was able to pick up these paint testers for $.84 each after the coupon. These are great because they have a built in brush.  I know this is not the intended use for these but you can beat the price and the having a built in brush makes them easy to use for just about any project I want to do.

Since my mission was to spend as little as possible on this project I searched my scrapbook paper stash and pulled out 4 sheets of cardstock to fold and create pocket dividers to hold brochures, notes, etc.. I have a heavy duty old school 3 hold punch designed for the 1/2 size binders so making these was super easy. I started with a 12 x 12 piece. Folded up the bottom to create the pocket (about 3 3/4 inches) then folded the piece in half creating a piece 8 1/4 x 6. I trimmed off the edge to be sure it wasn't wider than 5 1/2  and hold punched the open edge of the paper.  Super easy and can be as plain or decorative as the paper you have... The pictured piece happens to be a piece from my Creative Memories stash. The other 2 pockets in the binder are basic Basil colors of textured cardstock.

A couple of weeks ago I scored 2 packages of monthly divider tabs at my local Staples. On clearance each pack was only $.50. They are plain white which for this project is fine..  The second package went into my son's school planner and he decorated each month with some funky hip hop stickers we scored on the same shopping trip.  Also remember to check the clearance aisle at your favorite stores. I have scored some awesome deals lately.

I printed a blog planner calendar for July (I started this project in time for the Ultimate Blogging Challenge this month) through December 2011. (I'm thinking of just a basic weekly planner pages for 2012).

I included some blank pages for sketching and doodling on as well as some ruled paper to take notes one, jot ideas, and outline articles.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Unvlmom's Top 10 Ways to get the kids to eat those Veggies

I'm blessed in that my boys love their veggies most of the time. Although, my youngest will sometimes fight with me to take that first bite. 
If your kids fight with you to eat their veggies here are some things that have worked for me;

1: ranch dip or similar (even low fat yogurt with ranch dressing mix will work if you are concerned about fat and calories.)
2: Steam the veggies just long enough to warm them , leaving them slightly crunchy.
3: Chef Salad bar for dinner. Have the kids help you assemble chef salads for dinner. Include a variety of colors in the veggies and toppings.
4: Visit the farmer's market. There is something about going to the farmer's market that inspires everyone. A lot of the stands have samples to try. 
5: Try some new exotic veggie. When you are shopping ask the kids to pick out the weirdest looking  veggie, but they have to promise to at least try it.
6: BBQ. summer and fall is an awesome time to grill veggies.
7: Mix shredded veggies into spaghetti sauce. This works awesome with squash.

8: Gardens, plant your own garden and have the kids help harvest. My boys love going out and finding their dinner.. Also works great for snacks during the summer months, they can go pick their snack right off the plant.
9: Veggie fries. Bake your carrots or sweet potatoes like french fries. I don't use oil. I put the veggies cut into french fries on a piece of parchment and bake at 375' for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and serves with ketchup or ranch dip.
10: Experiment with veggie sandwiches.. If Subway and Quiznos can do it why can't mom?

Here are a couple recipes I like to use with veggies:

Yogurt Ranch Dip
2 cups low fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp dry chopped onions
1 tsp oregano (fresh if you have it use about 2 tsps)
1 tsp parsley chopped (fresh if you have it use about 2 tsps)
a pinch of sea salt (I really prefer sea salt for the brighter flavor)
fresh thyme, cilantro, basil, or chives (about 1 - 2 tsps )
1 tsp lemon juice
pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients and chill for about an hour.

Olive Oil dipping sauce
This is really for the adults

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp fresh chopped basil
1 tsp fresh chopped garlic (usually 1 clove works)
pinch of sea salt 

mix in a shallow bowl and serve for dipping BBQ veggies.

BBQ veggies

Thick slice you veggies (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick seems to work best)
drizzle with olive oil
sprinkle with sea salt 

grill on medium heat flipping once. serve with either of the above sauces.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Peas and Thank You blogging program for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

FuNkY Monkey T-Shirt Review

I was recently asked to review a T-shirt from and told the sizes tend to run large and order accordingly. That always makes me nervous as I'm not by any means small and always order a 2XL. Since the largest size was XL I ordered it hoping it would at least fit.
Well the package arrived today, international shipping date of the 22nd. The shipping from was fast especially since they are based in the UK.

I am happy to report the shirt fits and the label 90% cotton 10% poly preshrunk gives me hope that it won't shrink.  I had my husband snap a quick picture so everyone could see the shirt and me in it...  Their logo is a fun colorful monkey, although I think it could be larger on the shirt the image seems to be a thick quality print. I will definitely post an update after I wash and wear the shirt a few more times. But for now this is one Mom excited that the XL fit without any stretching.
They offer customer print jobs that would be great for group events, schools, job sites, etc... I can even see getting a set of shirts for my boys and our homeschool to wear as uniforms.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Prefense Foaming Hand Sanitizer Review

Are your hands clean?
I thought we did a pretty good job of washing hands around here until we had a family take down cold about a month ago. I decided to try Pre-fense and share my thoughts here with you.

With 2 little boys who love to play outside clean hands are nearly an impossibility. I loved the quick easy foaming action of the little bottle I received.  Being alcohol free means a lot as well. My boys tend to have lots of scratches and such on the hands (from so many outside adventures) and alcohol based hand santizers burn and the boys know it so it is a fight to get them to use it.  Even the boys liked this one.
Mom liked the softeners and the fact that it lasts up to 10 hand washings with just 1 application.
Prefense is available online  on the company's website or on Amazon. It is a little more expensive than the dollar store variety but lasts longer and doesn't have the alcohol or the order that goes along with the alcolhol in many brands.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mid Summer Moolah Giveaway!

Welcome to Mid-Summer Moolah!

hosted by Formula Mom

Mid-Summer Moolah! Win $420!

We are half way through summer. Is there something you really wanted to do and didn't, or maybe a special treat you really wanted.  Well, here is your chance.
Formula Mom, Unvlmom, and 39 other awesome bloggers have come together to celebrate the summer.

41 blogs have come together to offer one winner $410 cash paid via Paypal or $410 in an Amazon gift code (the winner gets the choice)!

Each entry is a chance to win, so check out the Rafflecopter form below and get clicking to visit all of the amazing blogs participating in this event!

You will be able to enter until 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 30th. Following the conclusion of the event, a winner will be drawn and notified via email.

The winner will have 48 hours to confirm their win or another winner will be drawn.
Thank you for  entering!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Smart Shield Kids Oil free sun screen

Do your kids hate sunscreen because it is oily and sticky? Mine do, and it isn’t just the boys. I’m not a fan of the greasy residue most sunscreen products leave on me when I’m done applying it to them.  All that changed when I received a tube of Smart Shield to review. It arrived just in time for the 4th of July festivities and I put it to use as soon as it came.   We attended a local Civil War reenactment and our late summer arrived in full force over the holiday weekend.  The boys squirmed a bit as I started to apply the sunscreen but then they noticed it didn’t smell and it wasn’t super slimy (their words).  They were right on both accounts.  
This product really surprised me; I’m not usually a big fan on sunscreen. I know the benefits as far as UV protection and such, but sometimes i hate putting it on because of the smell. When I was young I liked the tropical scents but not so much now. I’ve become more sensitive to fragrances recently and even the unscented lotions usually have a chemical smell that bothers me. Smart Shield didn’t have that chemical scent; it really didn’t have a scent at all which was nice.

**** I received 1 bottle of Smart Shild Kids sunscreen in exchange for my honest review of the product. no other monetary compensation was received and all opinions within this review are mine and mine alone****

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eye Glasses don't have to cost a fortune

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Zenni Optical for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you checked out the cost of eye glasses lately?  One of the reasons I am still wearing my same pair of glasses after 9 years is the cost of a new pair.  I couldn't see spending $100 or more for a pair of glasses, that  is until I checked out Zenni Optical

For $19.00 plus shipping and handling I can get the glasses I want with my prescription.  You can even upload a photo and try on various frames if you are wanting to try a new look or reaffirm the old style is really what you want. .  

A recent Time magazine article  and response from a reader put the whole thing in perspective. No one needs to spend $1000 to get the glasses they need and look good too.   When money is tight and insurance restrictions in place companies like Zenni Optical are a great source for fashionable eye wear at a fraction of the cost. I don't think I could get a pair of great looking simple glasses even at our local warehouse club for that price.  Everyone should  at least check into all their options before purchasing their next pair of glasses to make sure you aren't over spending, you never know you may find a new style that fits you.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Banana Pops: #Summer Recipe Fun

What do you do with 15 lbs. of over ripe bananas that your Mom gives you? Make ice cream and popsicles of course…  I made a batch of banana ice cream i.e. frozen banana puree and a batch of banana pops.

This is one of those summer recipes that couldn’t be easier.  I peel and put the bananas in the blender and puree until smooth. I then fill the popsicle molds and insert sticks. I found a new mold at our local Grocery Outlet for less than $1.00 so I picked up an extra.  Since I only had 2 molds and 15 lbs. of bananas I filled 2 Gladd plastic containers with the remaining puree and froze it as well. Now we have banana ice cream as well.  When the boys want a treat I can scoop out a little of frozen bananas and top with fresh berries or if we are feeling like an extra treat top it with a little chocolate sauce.   

This is one of those blessing treats as most people just throw ripe bananas out. Of course you can always make banana bread or muffins but during the summer the boys really look forward to frozen treats and this is a healthy fun and inexpensive treat.  I’m still using a jumbo box of craft sticks from our classroom supplies so there is really no cost involved other than the new mold I bought for $0.99, if I was feeling really green I would make the boys save the sticks and reuse, but lately I have been letting them use the sticks as fire starter for backyard campfires (I guess that is kind of green….)

Options to add to the banana pops:  add 1 cup of yougurt to the blender before you fill it with bananas for extra protein and calcium.  Add strawberries to the mix for a sweet treat.
You can also freeze the puree in ice cube trays and then store in a large freezer bag for smoothies.  The options are endless.  I would recommend watching your local Dollar Store or other discount store and picking up a couple extra ice cube trays and popsicle molds just to have one hand for making fun summer treats all year round.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coupons and Customer Service

Since my husband was on a business trip I decided to try Winco for my grocery shopping for the week.  I had my coupon binder and my list. I had a plan to spend less than $50. I also had my coupons for an upcoming review of Gorton's Fish products. We had a couple bags of cans and bottles to return for deposits as well.
Cameron and I started off my doing our cans and bottles in the machines, netting us $8.65, thanks to my Mom and a couple of her wonderful customers that save their cans and bottles for me (they don't return them they usually just throw them out.)
We had our list and our coupons and were a little disappointed in the fact that many of the items on our list and in our coupon binder were not available. We did find the Gorton's products so that review will be forthcoming this week.  We also found that the sizes listed on the coupons weren't always available. It wasn't that the shelves were empty it was simply they didn't carry the product or size.   We gathered our groceries and headed to check out... The lines were crazy long and it wasn't until someone complained rather loudly that additional checkers were called. 2 additional lanes were opened to help with the longer lines and many customers.
The checker we had seemed nice enough , but as soon as I handed her my coupons ( about 20 by the way) her attitude changed dramatically. She began to question every coupon I was using. I had to repeatedly remove items Cameron had bagged for us. (we used our 4 recycled grocery bags).  I had to show her the product and then read her the matching information on the coupon.  When we got to the Gorton's coupons I received to purchase the review product she went into lock up.. She had to call a manager to approve the coupon; it was pretty plain to everyone the coupon said Free (not with a purchase)..
I am reminded you get what you pay for and sometimes a little higher shelf price for something and the ability to use your coupons without being questioned is really worth it. It is also hard to bag your own groceries , sort your coupons, and watch the checker to make sure they don't screw something up.
I use to shop at Winco all the time and always had positive experiences until recently.  I'm really not sure if I will go back anytime soon as this was a real pain and even with the savings, wasted alot of my time this weekend.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Harvest to help Food Banks as well as your own Family

Last year the boys and I participated in several harvests with the local non-profit organization Salem Harvest. Salem Harvest is a wonderful organization that supports the local community in 2 major ways. First by donating farm fresh produce to the Marion-Polk Food Share and other local food banks and secondly by allowing the harvesters to keep half the produce they bring in from the fields/ orchards.  During the 2010 harvest season we were blessed to harvest blueberries and red onions. We also helped sort harvested cauliflower that went to the Oregon Food Bank.  From those 3 harvests filled the freezer and pantry with wonderful farm fresh produce that helped us through the winter. We actually have 3 gallons of frozen cauliflower and 1 container for cauliflower puree to add to mashed potatoes.  I also have a small container for dehydrated red onions in the spice cabinet.

I’m not sure if every community has a program like this one, I know many communities have programs like gleaners where you are able to glean from a field the remaining produce.  I have thought about looking into the local gleaners program here in Yamhill County but I really like the principal idea of Salem Harvest.  I like that I am not only helping to feed my own family but other families in the area that are struggling to make ends meet every month.  The couponing and deal watching helps but there are some days the money just isn’t there and families need help. This is one way I can teach my boys to give back to the community and that we have to work together to put food on our table.
I highly recommend working with a program like Salem Harvest if your community has one, and if it doesn’t and you are truly inspired look into starting one. It can be as simple as talking with local farmers or gardeners and asking them if you can pick the extra to donate to the local food bank. The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: The Seraph Seal

The Seraph Seal by Lenard Sweet and Lori Wagner  

Book Description

An epic tale of good and evil based on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse found in Revelation.
Using the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to symbolize the four Gospels, four transcendentals, and four forces of the universe (air, water, earth, and fire), Sweet and Wagner weave a fast-paced, end-times tale of good vs. evil and the promise of a new dawn for humanity.
Set in 2048, when planet Earth is suffering from the damaging effects of years of misuse and abuse, cultural history professor Paul Binder receives a mysterious letter that leads him to examine a lost 2nd-century Diatessaron manuscript. Ancient prophecies, cryptic letters, and strange events set him on a course to uncover the missing clues that could lead humanity into a new age. Layered with forgotten symbolism from the ancient, Jewish, and Christian traditions, the novel is a type of engaged fiction in which the main character's lost journal serves as a guide to the reader in interpreting clues and understanding the novel's conclusion.

My opinion of the Book

I love a good mystery and having it tied to what people see of the end times makes it inspiring. This book is no exception to that inspiration.  The overall foundations are tied to the Biblical book of Revelation and interpretation of that book along with futuristic settings. I was surprise in that story how much technology advancement there really wasn't. I appreciated the metaphorical use of the number four and the connections to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The characters were believable and well thought out. The symbolism through out the characters added an extra depth to the story. The hero of the story Paul translated so well , it was as if I was watching him on the movie screen rather than reading him on my Nook, yes this was an e-book read for me... I enjoy them nearly as much as paper books.  Anyway, one of the characters that caught my attention in her supporting role is Doron. She is one of those characters that you don't really connect with at the beginning of the story but as the story evolves you start to feel there really is more to her than meets the eye.  There is a lot of grief in this story but that goes with the setting and over all theme of the book .  If you can separate fact from fiction in Theology then this a fun read. I would recommend it to anyone that has a strong foundation in their faith.

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
The Amazon link in this article is an affiliate link and any sales from that link results in a small affiliate commission to me.