First of all

Friday, October 28, 2011

Heading Out Of Town

Happy Halloween, almost.  Well I think we can all agree that most of the festivities for Halloween will be had this weekend, so let me say Happy Halloween! 

Above is a Jack O Lantern Tastefully Simple style.  It is a cheeseball rolled in crushed doritoes with a Blue Aztec Corn chips face and the stem of a green pepper for the pumpkin stem. 

I am getting ready to head out of town with Ms. Anna to visit my grandma.  We are leaving today, just her and I, and heading over the river and through the woods all the way to Youngstown, Ohio.  Looks like we will have good weather and I've taken a nap.  Plus the Tollway in Ohio upgraded to Starbucks so I see an evening latte in my future. 

The boys will be here this weekend and I am hoping the homework will get done any maybe when we get back Sunday night there won't be a pile of dishes.  I have so many things I feel I should be trying to do before we leave in a bit that it's very hard to put together a nice blog post.  Yet here I am!  I'm clinging to my lappy as in about an hour I will be heading out and w/o any of the technology--except a very basic cell phone for over 48 hours.  *sigh*  how will I survive. :-D

Driving Driving Driving

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tales from the Frugal Side

If I had a dollar for everytime someone I saw in my daily travels remarked upon how bad the economy is currently; I'd have a nice Christmas fund at this point. Maybe I should get a portable credit card scanner, see if I can collect on that "if I had dollar for everytime." Much to my dismay, I'd have to say the odds of collecting those dollars would be very slim. So let's get onto my patent pending Tales From the Frugal Side.

  This week in Frugalville* had it's ups and downs.

1. Once again this year, I used a few coupons and purchased Halloween candy well in advance of the holiday. Once again I planned to hide the candy. Once again this year, the candy I bought is gone before Halloween. The lesson here is that planning ahead when it involves chocolate or Twizzlers is a bad idea. Procrastination has its place.

  Score on purchasing Halloween Candy with coupons: C

2. I met The Man for a fine dining secret shop at a steakhouse downtown. The requirements for what needed to be ordered were not in line with the reimbursment. I will only be reimbursed for about 50% of the total cost of the meal, which is not the goal. The goal is to be reimbursed for the meal as a payment for a detailed report. Icing on the cake was that the steak wasn't good and the service was subpar. We could have had a fantastically yummy meal at  Coopershawk Winery AND  Chucks Southern Comforts Cafe!

Speaking of Chucks, clear your schedule and set the DVR! Chucks Southern Comforts Cafe will be on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives Monday October 24th at 9pm! If you have ever been to Chucks you know Guy Fieri is going to love everything!

Score on secret shop steakhouse: D

Score on Chucks being on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives A+!

3. Making bread from scratch. Many a frugal living blog talks about how much cheaper and awesome it is to make your own bread. I was looking in the cabinet and saw that I had 2 packets of active dry yeast that were fixing to expire. Normally I don't say fixing, but making your own bread will turn you all kinds of country. I googled 'easy homemade bread recipe' and I was off to the races. All went well until I noticed my bread wasn't rising. At this point I could have thrown in the towel and threw out the dough, however, since I had spent 10 minutes kneading the dough, I wasn't ready to quit. I returned to google 'my bread won't rise.' and found out that if your bread won't rise it can be salvaged! You have to take more yeast, one or two tablespoons and mix that with a teaspoon of sugar and 2 oz of warm water and mix that together. Next wait 10 minute to make sure the yeast gets foamy, that's how you know it is active. It was active! The next step was to mix that into the dough. This step was gooey and icky. But it worked!
Score on Baking Bread: B- (great sense of accomplishment, but time consuming!)

*Frugalville where are the women are Couponers, the men cut their own grass, and the children wear hand-me-downs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hallo-Win-A-Kindle and More Giveaway Time!

I have teamed up with Jennifers Savings and Angela Newsom, author of the Coupon Quick Start Guide, to provide you with this wonderful giveaway of many prizes! The Grand Prize will be a Kindle, a free eBook of the Coupon Quick Start Guide, and a $20 Gift Card!!! The blogs participating in this have provided $25 Gift Card, L'Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense, $25 Paypal Cash, $25 Gift Card, Fully-Stocked Coupon Binder, Conair Purple 1" Curling Iron (new in box), Starbucks reusable tumbler and gift card, $25 gift card, Avon watch-Mother of Pearl face and "diamond" accents, $15 Target Gift Card, Cozy Comfort from Tastefully Simple, and 4 more of Angela Newsom's eBook: Coupon Quick Start Guide!!!! As you can see, we have got some great prizes! This giveaway will run from October 19th through 12:01am on October 31st. Good Luck to everyone! Make sure to do the mandatory entries first, then do all of the optional entries too for your chance to win one of these great prizes!

It's almost time for the Hall-O-Win a Kindle and More Giveaway! My first blog hop!

Very soon the little halloween'y button  will be active and you can click and enter to win a Kindle as well as a bunch of other prizes including my contribution to the the giveaway, some yummy Tastefully Simple .  So click and enter, the odds are way better than the lottery!

Chilly outside, Chili inside!
Today was good chili weather so I threw together a veggie chili with what I had in the house:

Here is the easy peasy recipe:
In the Slow Cooker:
2 small onions chopped.
3 nice red bell peppers chopped
1 tomato chopped.
1 can chili beans
2 cans roasted diced tomatoes.
1 can light red kidney beans (rinsed)
1 capful of Wahoo! Chili
and our Seasoned Salt to taste.
Cook all day and serve over noodles if you like or add in meat if that is your thing or top with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Wahoo! Chili is a complete must have in my kitchen, it is the key to a great chili around which I build my everchanging chili meals.

We have finished Olivia!

You had a chance to see the before pumpkin pic...and I have a reprise of that picture below. 

And after some supplies picked up from WalMart during a mad dash through the store last week while Bryce was at Cub Scout Den Night....along with zealous assistance (aka nagging) from Anna... we have created our pumpkin version of the much beloved book character Oliva!

There she is hanging with her biggest fan!

Perhaps you view the pumpkin and think, really that's it, how hard was that?  Let me tell you, I'm feeling very good about this achievement.  The literary pumpkins aren't even due until next week, We finished way before the due date!  But wait there is more!   So far this month I have managed to get Bryce his Weblos uniform and even put the patches on in the right places.  Patrick finally got a haircut and we even got him a few blue highlights.  Both boys finished their book report projects and turned those in on friday. Tonight I ironed-onto Anna's brownie sash the troop numbers. And last but not least, I have everything ready for Patrick to make his Diary of a Wimpy Kid pumpkin this week as well as the carving supplies for Bryce to carve his pumpkin. 

Most of the time, I am thisclose to feeling completely overwhelmed with all that I should be doing and with that, some of the little things get over looked. Something like an optional school project would fall to the wayside and that would make Anna, Bryce or Patrick disappointed and meal feel like 'the worst mom ever'.

I have no clue how so many parent manage multiple activities for multiple kids.  I'm happy to tread water with school and one outside activity per kid.

Monday, October 17, 2011

pinked out.

It's October and we are in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I suppose one could say that it is great so many companies have jumped aboard the bandwagon and are offering so many different promotions seeking to raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness.

For me, I am finding this preponderance of  BUY PINK, makes me very cynical.  Especially now that the football players are wearing neon pink.  It doesn't ring sincere.  Let's say there is a player whose mom is a breast cancer survivor.  Him wearing pink shoes, what the point.  Him sharing in a post-game interview that he wants to give a shout out to his mom who is a 20 year cancer survivor and showed him what determination means--now that is impactful and true cancer awareness.

What's the difference between the two?  Pink paraphernalia, driven by a nameless/faceless corporation that in my opinion is more driven by free PR=more sales OR a unsolicited testimonial.  

Give me the unsolicited testimonial any day of the week and keep the pink gear. 

Don't even get me started on the guilt-inducing "Save Lids Save Lives" campaign run by Yoplait.  Look, how about instead of asking people to mail in their aluminum foil lids that they licked clean, how about if you just give 5 cents from every sale to the SGK foundation for a cure.  If I was in charge I would happily give 5 cents from every sale of my yogurt during October.  Then I'd ask everyone to recycle the aluminum little tops.  I'd even have a contest to aware a year of free Greek style yogurt for great crafty ideas on how to reuse the yogurt containers.  

Hmm how to reuse the yogurt about, put glue on them sprinkle em with glitter, add a hook and use them as ornaments.   And then let's go out an give proper homage to the women out there who have kicked cancer's ass!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Patrick gets a hair cut.

Finally got the kid a haircut!

He went with Beiber inspired layering and I said OK to a three blue foils.  So he is rock some blue hair for the Fall Season.  His fav. baseball team is the cubs, his fav football team is the Dolphins and Stagg HS's colors are Blue and Orange.  So I guess it works. Now what do you call his hand guestures.  He isn't trying to flash gang signs, he's not down with the rap and the hip hop, LOL he is doing the heavy metal rock out, but I think he is actually flashing ASL for I love you. 

Think how much he is going to love this picture when he is 15. :-D

Happy Friday Night!  Hope you are rocking out tonight too!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Officially Busiest Weekend of October!

This is Anna's pumpkin, the picture of it is here mostly just for ambiance.  It's also a before-shot.  Tonight we ran over to Wal-Mart to get crafty supplies to turn this nice pumpkin which only cost $2.49 into her much beloved fav book character "Oliva"  Glen Oaks school is having a pumpkin decorating contest for their students.  The rules only require that you can't carve the pumpkin and it has to represent a character from a book. Today I googled "Olivia Book Character Pumpkin" and found a school that had a similar contest.  You can check out all their great work when you click this link. 

Tomorrow I have a Ladies Afternoon Shopping Event over at Trio Bar & Grill . Trio has some nice appetizers and I like my fellow vendors so it's a nice afternoon once a month AND they have free Wi-Fi so I bring my trusty lappy.  In my opinion this is plenty to have going on  for a Friday night, but this is the crazy busy weekend--so we also have Cub Scout Pack Night.  Bryce loves to go. Me personally, I get overwhelmed with just my 3 kids, so pack night is a lot of boys.  Honestly, the Den Leaders are awesome, they do a great job just because they care.

Saturday I've got a home taste-testing with a great host and then I am hoping to be able to swing by and see my newest team member.  On the home front, The Man is looking to golf, natch.  But I think I've talked him into going on Sunday. 

Sunday I'm looking forward to St. Patricia's Oktoberfest Vendor Craft Fair  I'll be there at my table and my sister-in-law is coming for backup so I can work and the kids can enjoy the fair.  Psst, free games for the kids! Anytime the kids can go to an event and have fun without me having to spend a bunch is great.  I have found that over the last few years we've skipped many fun activities due to cost.  It doesn't seem like a bad deal to spend $18 for a day at a water park, but then when you times it by 3 or 5 for all of us to go there goes the budget. A family activity can easily cost $100 or more so we don't do much. 

Cost is typically why our 'date nights' are few and far between. When you add the cost of a sitter and the cost for dinner some place nice, ouch!  It's great that deal sites like Living Social, Groupon and Plum District have arrived. Another way I've found to make getting out more affordable is mystery shopping. What's that you say?  Secret Shop? 

Yes.  I go on assignment to various locations and I pose as an average shopper.  After the shop I submit and online reports.  In return, I get a bit of money for my time and if it is a restaurant shop, I get reimbursed for the meal.  Bonus part is that 9 times out of 10, the company wants you to go with a guest.  Guest= Date Night or a much needed night out to catch up with a friend. Being located in Chicagoland is a huge bonus as there are so many secret or mystery shopping opportunities to be had.  I've got a nice lunch planned with The Man coming up  I have to leave it at that, I have to keep my anonymity. 

Are you interested in secret/mystery shopping?  Comment if you have any questions!  I'm happy to share what I've found and the best place to start is Mystery Shop Providers of North America you can look here for shops in your area.  You sign up with the companies doing the shops individually and there isn't a fee to become a shopper.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running the Chicago Marathon, 9 months pregnant? Hey!

Last year I ran the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10. I'm a former Tinley Park High School Cross Country Runner and even though I was lousy in HS, running stuck and doing the Chicago Marathon was on my bucket list, and the date last year was sublime.

I *had* to run and I had to finish the damn thing once I started it. It was a crummy run, I was working full time in the 2 months leading up to the race and didn't get in quality training as a result. But I finished, I walked most of the 2nd half of the race. I had ginormous blisters, but I had my bragging rights for life. Right?

And then here comes the big story this year, Women gives birth after running Chicago Marathon 39 weeks Pregnant. Well great. Just what marathoners and woman who have ever been pregnant need. A totally overacheiver. So not cool! I want my bragging rights. I ran a marathon, that's 26.2 miles of body taxing, mental fortitude toughness. I could hardly walk the next day. I've been pregnant, growing a human for 9 months, it's hard work. I don't appreciate someone coming along doing both with aplomb. It's bad for pregnant women, it's bad for long distance running. Makes this stuff look easy, common place.

I don't know about you, but life can be hard, full of stress. I need my props! So for the record, how do I feel about women running marathons while growing humans? Not cool. Don't give 110%, give like 75%. Stick with 1/2 marathons (13.1 miles) and make someone rub your feet and give you chocolate when you finish. Let's keep that curve intacted, we dont' want people saying :

"Hey nice shirt, did you run the marathon?"
"Why yes I did..."
"Did ya finish?"
"Yep, yes I did!"
"So were you, like pregnant? That would be really hard, to do it while pregnant."
"Well, no, I wasn't pregnant, but it was still really difficult, I hit a wall."
"Oh sure, it's not easy, but I figure if a someone who was 9 months pregnant can do it, it must not be that big a deal."
"Grr. Arg...Ack"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Heaven on 163rd & Lagrange Road

Last month I severed my ties with my iPhone.  Well, I should rephrase.  Last month I severed my ties with my cell phone service.  I still have my iPhone, and it still does wondrous things such as, play music, act as my kindle and allows me to play games--I just can't text or play Words With Friends on it anymore.  After many contentious years together,  My provider and I came to an impasse and we agreed to disagree on how expensive the service cost.  I am now without a cell phone. Couple nice bonuses with that are that I don't have to worry about getting a TWD  (Texting While Driving) ticket and we have $130 per month more in the budget.

Which leads me to Heaven or more specifically what Heaven must be if Heaven was a Fitness Facility.  In the words of Ned Stark (and Tom Skilling) "Winter is coming." I hate winter and am actively seeking out winter survival techniques now.  That lead me to begin a search for a Fitness Center.  Currently I have a one-month membership at a small, local bare-bones gym that I won at a craft show.  Before deciding to move forward with that gym, I decided to tour a couple other locations.  I toured one nearby Fitness Center which is affiliated with a hospital.  It was very nice, posh really, and filled with lots of ah...septuagenarians.  Which is awesome! Rock on to them for working out.  However, the whole retirement home atmosphere was too much for my already fragile ego and I forged onward.

Yesterday I had to spend the entire day in the car doing errands and acting as an unregulated taxicab.  After spending the morning driving around a dodging cars with texting drivers,   I went to Lifetime Fitness in Orland Park to tour the facility and see if I could get a free guest pass to test drive the equipment.   It was amazing.  Spacious, open 24/7, nice staff, peaceful and not full of people around lunchtime.  Indoor pool, outdoor pool, free towels everywhere and wait for it, a kids' club. 

Heck there is even a climbing wall.  Not that I have any desire to climb a wall.  Wait, I may take that back.  I've climbed enough walls figuratively, might be fun to do it, literally!  Especially with the kids, which you can do there! Did I mention that the women's locker room is sparkly clean.  Yes, yes, it is.  Nothing like a really clean locker room.

I need to join, for my mental health this winter.  Also I like to think it will help me focus on growing my business.  Anyone know if health club membership is a business write-off?

Yes, right now, as the primary member of this household AKA Girl Who Juggles Bills; I'm running the numbers and trying to see how I can get myself a membership ASAP and what I've come up with is that a membership would be less than half the cost of our recently canceled cell phone service.

Trying to soak in nature from the car.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Need Help! What is this? Cooking Conundrum

Is it a fruit?  Is it a vegetable?  I thought it might be some sort of squash?  Is anyone familiar with this?  I want to see how to prepare it, but am not sure what I am working with here.  Thanks for the help!!

You've Been Ghosted!

After  a wonderfully motivating and inspiring* Success Event last night, I came home to find this note at our front door accompanied with a treat bag of candy and a print out of a Ghost saying Boo.

You've Been Ghosted!
(abridged version because I don't feel like retyping the whole thing) 
Keep Ghosting It Forward!

"The Phantom ghost has come around
To leave you goodies I see you have found.
If you do not wish a curse to fall
Continue this greeting, this ghostly call.

First, post this ghost where it can be seen
On a door or window until Halloween.
This will keep ghosts from visiting again.

Make 3 treats, 3 ghost, 3 notes --just like this.
Take them to 3 neighbors who may have been missed.
Don't let them see you, be sneaky, no doubt.

Happy Halloween!  Keep Ghosting it Forward to 3 people within 1 day!" 

Click here to get the details to start ghosting in your haunted hood!

Now when it comes to anything of a chain-letter nature, for example, those emails that promise money to show up magically if you forward said email to 10 people in 10 minutes; I can't delete or throw those away fast enough.  In this case, however, I'm going to go ahead and participate.  Why? Cause my little half-demon kids were so tickled to get ghosted and are excited about the mystery of it all.  Most of my time these days is spent, cleaning up, dropping off, and politely asking children to take showers*and I am parched for a dose of fun.  So I am grabbing on to this chance to have some good old-fashioned family fun, call me the Clark Griswold of Halloween.

*The Internet needs a shorthand for when someone is being tongue in cheek.  should we start putting TIC after wording such as we all tend to do with LOL?  IMO (in my opinion) I think we should.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Once in a while, it's good to be selfish.

Selling Tastefully Simple is like farming.  Our busiest times of year are spring and fall. Now that  October has arrived with a glorious not-a-cloud-in-the-sky Sunday, a quick review of my schedule shows that I am booked up every Sunday into December. Therefore, today I am being selfish and calling this day:  All about Me Day. 

I'm wearing my favorite PJ bottoms.  I've got a pile of coupon inserts from today's Chicago Tribune and my scissors handy, the most current Women's Day magazine, and I rented the first DVD in the Dexter TV series from Blockbuster. (only 49 cents to rent on Sundays).  Later I am going to take some time and read. 

Right now I am reading The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.  It's a bit of a departure from my typical to be read (TBR) pile of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy reading, but I was wandering a used book store and it put me in a nostalgic mood.

 As part of my Christmas Challenge, I visited Bookies Paperbacks over in Beverly to check out their kids books selections.  Did I buy any kids books?   No, I bought two books for myself.  In any case, let me share with you what I liked about Bookies. First, Bookies is filled with the alluring scent of old books. Secondly, they have a public bathroom. Thirdly, they have a really nice variety of gently used and some new kids books which are shelved by reading level.  Often when shopping secondhand, you begin to feel that the amount of time needed to sort through disorganized piles of goods is not worth the savings. This is not the case at Bookies, which is good, because there are only 84 more days until Christmas. 

Last night I was at Jewel where they had on clearance blanket throws for $1.24 each.  Yes, I know, a crazy good deal and a great gift for almost anyone. I reached over to grab five, and then I stopped and remembered my challenge.  This, I thought to myself, is going to be harder that I suspected.