Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Isn't a Train!

I know I haven't been posting a lot lately. So, here's a brief recap of what's been going on...

John and I decided to take back control of our lives. Some truly wonderful friends (the husband has been a part of John's life for at least 20+ years now) offered to let us live with them for 6 months. Although living in someone's basement isn't the ideal situation, I know that this is going to make such a difference in both families lives. To cut our monthly expenses in half means that we can pay off pretty much ALL our debt, minus student loans, by the end of the stay there.
The idea of living debt-free sends tingles up my spine. :) The move won't take place until September sometime, but knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time in a long time the light isn't a train, makes me happy.
I'm going to miss this house immensely. If you've been here, you know what the kitchen is like! And for someone like me who loves to cook, letting it go makes me sad. Not to mention, we have the best landlords (Love you Amanda!). But, we have to do what's best for our family.
This past year, although full of lots of highs, has had lots of lows that have hurt us financially. Continuing on in this fashion is going to hurt us. As they say, when God closes a door...
The big concern that the few people we've discussed this move with is how are we going to "handle" living with another couple for that long. Well, here's the deal. This couple is so much like us. Very laid back. Similar parenting skills (they have a son and daughter. The son is 7 months older than Chloe and the daughter is 7 months younger). Plus, we've lived with them before (for 2 weeks) when we made the move last May. I know 6 months is different than 2 weeks, but in 2 weeks, if we weren't grating on each other yet, that's a good sign in my book! Also, we pretty much have the entire basement to ourselves, which means privacy when we need to quiet time.
All in all, I'm looking forward to continuing to work like I have been recently, and the money going to pay off our credit cards and medical bills, without feeling like we're treading water...

Work wise, I've been working like made. I haven't taken a full day off in over 3 weeks. I have taken two 1/2 days where I only did rewrites, title claiming and 3 articles each. But a true day off hasn't occurred. Assuming the CEs (copy editors) stay on track this weekend and don't get too far behind. If they can keep up, then I get a day off this week! Much needed, I might add.

I've had my ups and downs with the kids the last few weeks. I've been working so much that my patience has been thin, but I'm trying not to take it out on them (especially Chloe). Chloe's been dealing with a bit of the green-eyed monster recently. Still adores her brother (wants to hug him, play with him, be near him) but she's acting out to get attention a bit more. I'm thinking I'm going to take her for a girls day sometime this week. I'm thinking I'll take Finn to grandma's, then Chloe and I will have a special day. I think maybe lunch (or a dessert) and then shopping, followed with a trip to the park.

My final update is my AMAZING shopping trip today. This is by far my best "haul" yet. I went to CVS and got over $115.00 in merchandise (after tax) and I paid $3.59 out of pocket...I saved 97%!!! To top it off, I left with $17.47 in ECBs which equates to more free stuff! Here's what I got 6 bottles of Revlon Nail Polish (it was how I "made" money), 2 bottles CVS brand kids vitamins, 1 package of Powerbar Bites, 1 Similac Simple Pac, 1 Huggies Wipe Refill and 1 tube Colgate Whitening Toothpaste.
With the exception of the nail polish (and the Powerbar bites - they're for Amanda), I actually needed all of it (well, the toothpaste is going into the stockpile, but I gave a bunch of tubes away a few weeks ago, so my toothpaste bin is low). Not too shabby for a few minutes worth of shopping...

(That's for you Amanda!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Looking at a Thing in a Bag...

I promised Chloe yesterday if she could be a good girl all day she could make ice cream last night. She was wonderful (not just for the ice cream, I think...) She played with Finn all day (so cute to see her "ride" him like a pony and he shrieked in joy!). I swear, these two love each other so much! He looks for her when he hears her voice. If the hall's open, he takes off, always to her room. Sometimes I'll find him just sitting there playing with
After a good day, I helped her make make ice cream. We put the ingredients in the bags and shook it for 8 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to actually have ice cream (or more like creamy ice milk) when it was over. Chloe thought it was great! Much cheaper than buying a gallon of ice cream and I know she got high quality ingredients. Next time, I"m going to try adding chocolate...

Plastic Bag Ice Cream (This recipe was a modification of a recipe I found online):
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar (I think I"m going to use a little less next time, maybe 3/4 tbsp. It wasn't overly sweet, but still...)
1 cap full of Vanilla Extract (I think it's 1/2 tsp, but not positive. Just pour it in the cap and then pour it in)
3-4 cups ice
2 small Ziploc bags
1 large Ziploc freezer bag

Place 1 small bag inside a cup and fold the edges of the bag over the rim of the cup to make it easier to fill. Add the milk, sugar and vanilla to the bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it.
Place the sealed bag into a second zip bag, the same size as the first. Squeeze the air out of the second bag and seals it. The double bagging protects the ice cream in case one of the bags were to rip during mixing.
Fill a large freezer bag with ice. Pour in salt. (I used about 1/4 cup table salt. Don't use the Kosher or sea salt. It's a waste and the larger crystals will likely cut the bags).
Place the smaller bags into the larger bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it.
Place the sealed bag in side a dish towel. Shake, roll, twist and squeeze the bag for 7 to 8 minutes. When the times done, pull the small bag out of the larger bag. And serve. If you want more than one 1/2 cup serving, I recommend putting multiple baggies inside the larger one instead of making a larger batch. My thought is if you put more in you'll have to mix longer. So separate bags should freeze at the same time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shopping and Sickies

On Thursday, I had to take Finn back to the doctor for his ears again. He still has a double ear infection. The doctor moved us to a stronger antibiotic and is sending us to an ENT on Wednesday. Hopefully we can get this taken care of and no more ear infections!

On Saturday, Chloe and I both began feeling sick. She ran a fever part of the day. She took her first nap in months, on John. They were watching TV. I looked over and she was out. Later that day, she just laid on the couch staring off in space most of the evening. I started running a fever, too. Ears and throat hurt. No fun over all. 

Despite the flu and feeling miserable, I decided to get my shopping done Sunday. Thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law, I only had Chloe (and that was only for half the trip. She decided she wanted to stay home after the first half of the shopping.) (Laid out below for anyone who wants a breakdown. I'm not sure what the savings are for Aldi's so there's no GRAND TOTAL). 

Chloe helping me carry in the groceries - Check out the shoes.

When I got home from getting Finn from Grandma's, Chloe and John curled up in bed while Finn and I watched Bubble Guppies. Minutes into the show I noticed he was asleep.

Then, after putting Finn in his crib to finish his nap, I went to talk to John and Chloe. This is what I found.

I must admit everyone got to take a nap, but I still had to run out to the gas station to pick up some papers for a friend. So by the time I got home, everyone was awake again...

We started at Meijer. I wanted to use my Good Start coupon and gift checks. I also picked up a good price on printer paper (which I was out of, thanks to my daughter and her coloring!) and a notebook I wanted for my coupon binder. I also got 2 bottles of KC Masterpiece for $0.28 each!!!

1 Notebook - $0.99
1 Printer Paper - $3.49 (originally $3.99)
2 Good Start Formula - $24.48 ($12.24 each)
2 KC Master Piece BBQ - $4.58 (originally $2.99 each)
2 Wheat Bread $2.00 (originally $1.25 each)
1 Large Fountain Soda $0.99
Total:  $36.53

$2.00 off KC Master Piece - instant savings
2 - $1.00/1 KC Master Piece 
$10.00/2 Good Start Powders - Meijer Catalina
$0.25/2 Meijer Bread
$11.50 Good Start Check 
$4.50 Good Start Check

OOP: $6.66 
Savings: $29.87 - 82%

Next Stop Aldi's (Trip #1)
2 - 1 gallon Milk - $3.98
1 - bunch bananas - $1.05
1 - can diced tomatoes - $0.55
1 - bag vegetable chips (no pictured) - $1.69
2 - Rising Crust Pizzas (DELICIOUS!!!) - $7.98
1 - Crunchy Granola Cereal - $1.99
1 - Graham Crackers - $1.19
1 - Trash Bags - $4.99
1 - Chocolate chip cookies - $1.79
1 - Zip Top Bags - $1.89
1 - Multigrain Cereal - $2.69
1 - Honey Crunch/Oats - $ 1.89
1 - Apple-Cinnamon Crispy Oats - $1.59
2 - 85% Lean Beef - $5.38
2 - American Cheese - $1.98
1 - Fig Cookies - $0.99

OOP: $42.10 (Not sure how much of a savings this is over grocery store, but it was a huge cart for cheap!)

After Aldi's we dropped everything at home and off to Kroger.

8 pack Brawny Paper Towels - $13.99 (Ok, I just realized the price on these and I'm mad at myself now...I 
                                                               thought they were under $7.00, which is why I got them. Arggg....)
2 - Shower Poufs - $3.18
1 - Bertolli's -  $6.42
2 - Tyson's Chicken Ready to Serve - $6.98
10 - Yoplait Yogurt - $6.00
4 - Oscar Meyer Cracker Combos - $9.96
2 - Knorr Sides - $1.00
1 - Ronzoni Pasta - $1.99
1 - Totinos Pizza - $1.29
1 - Tomato Paste Tube - $2.99
1 - Private Selection Ice Cream - $5.49
1 - Tidy Cat Litter - $2.49
2 - Ragu Sauce - $3.48
1 - Single Roll Bounty Paper Towels $1.49
1 - 4-pk "Puppy Juice" $0.99 (that's what Chloe called it b/c it had Clifford on it)
Total: $67.16
AFTER the return to store to correct the Kroger Plus and E-Coupons that didn't come off:
OOP: $50.34

But I have now discovered, they owe me an additional $4.35, so OOP: $45.99 (and the Brawny may have been on sale, I'll have to check).
Savings: (After I get everything fixed) 32% (not great) (I did use coupons, but it was so convoluted when it was all said and done, I have no idea what!)

Back to Aldi's to get generic Gatorade, left with more than that:
20 - Bottles Generic Gatorade $13.40
1 - 8-pk Elmo Juice $1.98
2 - Self Rising Pizzas - $6.98 (Yes I got more)

OOP - $24.03

2 - Jumbo packs Huggies Diapers - $17.98
2 - 8-ct Excedrin - $1.98
1 - $1.00 donation to ALS (to put me over $20.00)
Total: $22.53

$4.00/$20.00 from CVS
$3.00/2 Huggies
$3.00/$15.00 in Baby Supplies

OOP: $11.90
Savings: $10.63 - 48%
PLUS: I earned $1.98 ECB from the Excedrins, $3.00 from the Huggies and $1.00 from my Green Bag Tag! Yea!!!

Not a bad day..

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Winnings...

This past week and a half has been FULL of winnings from my giveaways, so I wanted to update. I know some people have asked how I do it. I just take an hour or two a night and enter all the giveaways ending in the next 24 hours. I don't take time away from the kids or family time to do it. It's my me time. After you get the "swing" of it, it takes little time. I use to think "I never win anything", but I'm here to tell you, you can and do!

Newest Winnings: (5/22 to 6/2)

  • $26.00 Credit to Sugar Cake Designs (Edible Cake/Cupcake art)
  • Coupon for a free package of Yoplait kids
  • An Avery Durable Binder and 1 package of NoteTabs
  • Coupon for a free carton of Silk Milk
  • Pair of Wolverine Hiking Boots
  • T-shirt from the Costume Squad (up to $19.99)
  • A Tag-a-Long (a strap you attach to your stroller or purse. I can have Chloe hold it to make sure she doesn't get lost when we're out and about. Neat product).
  • $100.00 Credit (I can use the credit at any of their retailers, including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.)
  • One free product from the Nickelodeon Kid's Bath Supply Line

Previous Winnings: (Since 11/2010)

  • An envelop of about 50 coupons
  • $50.00 GC to Dayspring (a motivational/spiritual online catalogue)
  • $100.00 in Hasbaro Toys - A playdough fun factory, an infant ball toy w/ gears - Finn LOVES it, and a small monster truck
  • $10.00 GC to Subway
  • $25.00 Visa GC
  • Dominoes Megablock Game (for Chloe)
  • The Hungry Caterpillar Hardback Book and Hungry Caterpillar Zoobie (like a pillow pet, but inside there's a blanket that zips in and out of the Zoobie - Finn ADORES the Zoobie and the blanket!)
  • A one year free membership to an online Cake "school". (A blog that trains you to make and decorate cakes - SUPER excited about this one. I love making cakes and this makes it seem like I can do the "hard" stuff
  • A $75.00 Gift Pack from HappyBaby (oraganic baby food products): includes a tote, bib, baby shirt, Dr. Sears book on nutrion, Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar author) growth chart (really neat), 3 canisters of baby cereal, 3 canisters of Baby Snacks (puffs). 2 Canisters Baby Snacks (yogurt drops), 10 Pouches baby food -  6 coupons for Happy Baby products (FREE), I shouldn't have to buy baby food or baby snacks again. Now, just to get through the next 2-3/4 months and I'll be done with formula!
  • A one year free membership to AboutOne (an online family document organizations program).
  • A 23-cup Zero Water container and 8 refill cartridges (My BIGGEST win to date. Over $145.00 worth of products). Zero Water is awesome. The container comes with a tester to ensure that you are drinking 100 percent, unadulterated pure water. 
  • A CD and DVD of Veggie Tales.
  • A one year member ship to This service is GREAT. I had to tell them the type of meal plan (I chose the standard for 4) and the store I shop at (I chose Kroger). The program gives me a meal plan for the week, including the recipes. It also makes my grocery list for me, including the prices for the ingredients! It uses the sale adds from the store for the week to find the best meals to match the deals! Very neat surface. Makes meal planning super simple!
  • A 4-pack of Mexican seasoning packages.
  • A pair of "socks" for dogs (I thought I'd enter and hold onto it until I found the right person to give them to. Or, maybe I'll just put them on the kids!)
  • A $25.00 credit to Moolala (a site similar to Groupon. I'm holding out to find a maid service!!!)
  • A $50.00 GC to the Fedora Store. John's going to get himself a cool hat!
  • A $20.00 GC to an online t-shirt company.