Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Goodwill Find

I love getting toys and books at Goodwill (I'm sure I mentioned that before). I went to Goodwill with my mother-in-law, and we found this Abby Cadabby doll new in the package. Price: $5 and it originally costs $15. It was a good find. It also has a 15 minute dvd.

Earlier that morning I mentioned I wanted to find an Abby Cadabby for my daughter and my mother-in-law hoped we could find one at Target. Glad we went to Goodwill first.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thrifty Thursday

I just got an e-mail from about forums for deals. Check it out Seems like it might have some good stuff on it. Happy savings!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Potato Casserole

The title of this one is a little deceiving. It's more like a cabbage, potato, ground beef casserole. I probably should think of a better name for it. My mom passed this recipe to me and I'm not sure where she got it from. Really tasty!

Potato Casserole

1 head green cabbage of 15 oz can of saurkraut (I use cabbage)
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 small onion chopped
5 cups potatoes, sliced
1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom
1 (10 oz) can cream celery
1 can of water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut cabbage and boil for 15 minutes in large pot. (if you use cabbage otherwise start with step 2)
2. Brown ground beef with. Drain.
3. While beef is browning and cabbage boiling, peel and cut potatoes.
4. Lay potatoes on bottom of greased casserole dish.
5. Place ground beef on top of potatoes.
6. Place cabbage on top of beef.
7. Mix soups and water together, then pour on top of everything.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours

** You can use an combination of cream soups. **

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I hear somebody

For whatever reason, I started singing a new song to my daughter when she wakes up. It's a take from the old "I Love Somebody" song by Doris Day, which I think we sang in grade school. I'm sure I heard this version somewhere else before, but maybe I came up with it on my own. So hard to know these days.

When I hear my daughter is awake, I walk down the hall softly sing this and open the door on the last line. She loves it.

I hear somebody, yes I do
I hear somebody, I wonder who
I hear somebody, yes I do
I hear somebody and it must be you

I think one of the tricks with kids is to keep doing new things and you just never know what might work.

Crayola Website

I bet many of you know of this website for Crayola, but wanted to pass it along as a reminder. It has some really nice activities and I like the themes it has. It's easy to navigate the website. Some of the activities are a little high on the difficulty meter. Creativity has no meter, though.

I get the Crayola newsletter e-mailed every month or so. It's not one of those they send so often you never look at it. And it very well organized. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pizza cutter -- not just for pizza

A food serving tip for those of you with young children. A pizza cutter works great for cutting meat, pancakes, bread, waffles, toast, etc. I learned this at a daycare I worked at. I just picked up an extra pizza cutter at the dollar store. I might need a couple more.

Rummage Sale

That's what they call them where I live. Also known as thrift sales, yard sales, garage sales and I'm sure other terms.

We had one this weekend. Weather cooperated, but sales were pretty low about $65 after subtracting the ad. But that was actually ok. We needed to organize our stuff and it was easy to put together because we were organizing already. We didn't have any large items. I think the $4 vacuum was the biggest seller. So considering it was $1 and 25 cents items that's not too bad. Last one we had we made over $500, but we sold a lot of furniture that time.

Also, it was actually really nice for me to sit in the garage and not do anything. I finished a book I started in December. I read two meal planning books for toddlers and read several e-books I downloaded about a month ago about saving money and meal planning. Came away with some good tips and ideas.

I talked with several neighbors who said they would be interested in doing a neighborhood sale in the spring. So my hope is to organize that. I just don't want to move so much next time. I can also go through all those Christmas decorations and at least sell a bin's worth.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Psychic (Mis) Readings

When I graduated from college in 1999, I was in search of a job. Actually a career. I wasn't so sure about going into journalism after my four years of writing and "learning." So, where do you turn? How about a psychic? They were all the rage in the 1990s.

There was a lady who did reading just outside of the town I lived in. I figured it couldn't hurt any and maybe I was just in search of a little hope. I wrote down everything she told me when I got home to see if anything would come true. Recently, I stumbled across the journal I wrote down these predictions. I thought it might be an interesting read for anyone who wonders about the validity behind psychic readings.

* She told me I will live to be 87. Guess we don't know about that one yet.
* I'll marry in five years. I got married in 2006. So she was a little off.
* The man who will sweep me off my feet (ooh, that's good) will have light hair and hazel eyes. My husband has dark brown, almost black hair and brown eyes. Well, good guess.
* I'm going to meet him in two years. I met my husband in 2005. Two years or six years, there really isn't much difference is there?
* He will be two years older than me. My husband is 11 months and 2 days older. Maybe she was seeing those two days.
* He'll have a job in real estate. I don't really understand my husband's job in Fluid Power, maybe it's code word for "Real Estate."
* I'm going to have two kids. Well we don't know about that one just yet.
* My first born is going to be a boy. Oops, I had a girl. Well, she had a 50/50 shot.
* There's a lot of mumble jumble about becoming successful and feeling disappointed. Having the life I want (well of course I would make that happen).
* I will have a project with youth that will be spiritually rewarding. That one actually is true. When I worked at camp and all the other kids I've worked with in the last 6 years, I have found that very rewarding. I wonder though, if I didn't tip her off and say I wanted to work with children during the "reading." She asked a lot of questions.
*She sees travel in my future. Well, I did end up working at a travel company for two and a half years shortly after this. But then again doesn't everyone travel.
* She sees travel in Europe. Oh, well I haven't been that way yet.
* She sees a big move. East coast or New York. At the time I was thinking about moving to Boston. I bet I tipped her off on that. I actually lived in that city from 1995 to 2004. Nope, no big move. After that I only moved 20 miles away.
* I'll find a job in the next several weeks. I was working part-time as a reporter for the local newspaper and searching. It was October when I found that job at the travel company -- the "reading" was in June. Several weeks or 3 1/2 months. Close.
* She sees me being happy. I'm not happy where I am. Duh. That's why I was looking for a job. Good psychic intuition there.
* There will be three big changes in the next year that will affect my family, as well. There are always three big changes in our lives. Think about it right now, and I bet you can come up with three big changes in your last year.
* My lucky days are Aug. 15 to 20. Oh my, those just passed. Well let's see. Yeah, no luck this year. Maybe next year.
* My color is lavender, which means prosperity. Ok, that's cool. My favorite color is purple. And hey if it means prosperity then I picked a good color.
* Then I asked a bunch of stuff about family and friends. I remember her telling me she couldn't tell me about certain people because they weren't there. But she told me about some family and friends. Nothing specific. Although some if it was fairly accurate, but it could have just been the way I asked about the people. And how can you pick and choose on who's future you can see? Yeah, I don't know.

Well, there you have it. Nine years later and a few predictions gone wrong. Like I mentioned early, I think it really was about hope even if it was false hope. I was looking for that light-haired man for the longest time. I think I even scanned real estate listings for a while. But I'm sure glad I held out for my brown-haired, brown-eyed husband. Can't imagine life any other way!

Victoria's Secret

Those working at marketing department at Victoria's Secret know what they are doing. Every six weeks or so, I get a free coupon for a panty (no purchase) in the mail. Often I get two, for whatever reason. After having the baby I needed to restock. So this has been great. Their normal cost is $7.50 a pair or five for $25. I know I've gotten more than five in the last few months.

Why pay for something if you can get it free? Get on their mailing list so you can receive the free promos as well. Be warned if you do go in the story you may end up purchasing something. And it can be pricey. They do have surveys that print on the receipt for $10 off $50 purchase. And the semi-annual sales in January and June are a good time to shop, also.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Sloppy Joes

Call them what you want, but this recipe is the best one I've found. I know everyone has their own taste when it comes to these. If you're still searching for a good recipe, give it a try.

Sloppy Joes
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion
1 can (10 oz) tomato soup
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
6 hamburger buns

1. Brown beef and onion. Drain. Put back in pan.
2. Add soup, mustard, brown sugar and pepper to ground beef. Let heat through about 10 minutes on medium-low. It can sit longer if you would like.
3. Serve on hamburger buns.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ribbon Sticks for Toddlers

This is so simple and was very cheap to make. Not sure when I first saw this done.

What you need:
Shower curtain rings (about $1)
Ribbon (the type that flows and doesn't tear is best. I found long hair ribbons at the Dollar Store -- a 2 pack for $1)

Directions: Take ribbon and tie and shower curtain ring. Instant ribbon stick that is safe and fun for toddlers.

Ideas with ribbons sticks
- Use with music
- Find matching colors
- Use for directions (shake up, down, left, right, under, etc)
- Have a parade
- Just to walk around with (my daughter always is walking around with something in her hand)

Mega Blocks - more than building

I just bought these Mega Blocks for my daughter. There was a website on the bag for ideas. We all have blocks or legos. These are some really easy ideas. I really like the color sorting and the memory game -- it's so simple. It is important to use what we have in order to stimulate brain development and find new ways to use them. At the same time, letting them discover and create on their own is equally important.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Online Organization

My family doesn't need this much organization. But for those of you with busy family schedules this might be very useful. It's an online organizer/planner. Looks like you can color code family activities, create meals, grocery shopping, etc.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Deal of the Day

I had a $10 off $10 at JCPenny and a 15% off from taking an online survey. I found two packs of onsies, three in each pack.

Original price: 2 x $11.99 each =$23.98
Sale price: 2 x $5.99 each = $11.98
1st coupon: $10 off $11.98 = $1.98
2nd coupon: 15% off $1.98 = .19 cents

Total = 19 cents

Can you believe that 19 cents? I could even get that at a garage sale. That's 6 onsies for 19 cents. That's about 3 cents a onsie.

Always ask if you can combine coupons.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Budget Goal

Ok so we have limits on our spending but we don't seem to budget too well lately. Starting next week, I pushing for only $50 in groceries and $50 at Walmart or Target. Normally I go to Walmart or Target every other week or so and spend more than that. We are trying to save, save, save for a house. I'll update on our progress. I calculated last week I spent almost $10 just on 2 gallons of milk and a 5 lb bag of pototoes. Grocery costs are just getting so high.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Medical Bills, Insurance and Expensive Formula

Last year at this time we had our daughter, decided to move and got screwed by the company my husband worked for. He had told them he would work in September so we could have insurance coverage. They changed their mind and we lost insurance for September and part of October. Our new coverage began Oct. 11. In the meantime our daughter was diagnosed with a dislocatable hip. Treatment included fitting her for a harness that needed to be checked weekly for six weeks and then every other week for the last six weeks. It was diagnosed in MN and treated in WI. But because we had no insurance when she was five-weeks old and our first four appointments were not covered by any insurance. We didn't qualify for any assistance. So I called the billing department and asked if they had a discount. At the Children's Hospital there are three bills that we would receive -- one for the doctor, the facility and radiology. The doctor and facility bill we paid at each visit.

Anyway, I was able to get 40 percent discount for the facility, 10 percent for the doctor and 20 percent for radiology. By the fifth visit we had insurance. But guess what because my 2-month-old daughter had the condition before the insurance coverage it was considered pre-existing. In her short life it was already pre-existing. We had thought about waiting in August to treat it, but the sooner the better they told us. I still gave them my insurance card starting in Octboer and waited.

Turned out some parts of the last three or four visits (I lose track we were there so often for 12 weeks) were covered by insurance. I guess it depends on how they code the service. Of course it wasn't until March did I have everything figured out. Our last appointment was in early December. For whatever was considered pre-exisitng I still got a discount and insurance paid a portion of the rest. It would have been nice to just have one bill for each visit, but we had at least two and sometimes three. It consumed a lot of my time.

Be sure to ask for cash discounts even if you do have insurance, too. I used to go to a dentist that if I paid cash at the appointment I would get 10 percent off.

In January, as luck would have it my daughter had a huge reaction to milk-based formula. I switched her to Nutramigen right away. It is $25 for a 16 oz can of powder. I waited until our March appointment and asked the doctor to write a prescription for it. I waited because I didn't know how all this stuff worked.

Once I had the prescription I called the insurance and asked how to get the formula covered. They gave me a number for a place that is affiliated with them to order the formula. I don't remember why, but it didn't work out. I called the insurance again and they sent me to a medical supplier that did cover us. After I paid our deductible of $250, I was getting eight cans of formula for $64. And I filled out a form to have a portion of the previous cans purchased to be taken out of our flex spending account -- about $85.

It took forever for that to get cleared through insurance, too. In June we finally paid the deductible. Insurance sent letter about pre-existing to the medical supplier instead of our doctor. In fact at our June appointment I took the letter in and had the doctor sign it. It was a ton of work to figure this out, too. But we ended up saving a lot of money. And our deductible got met.

We have a follow up on my daughter's hip in December. We are waiting more than the 12 months, so it doesn't count as pre-exisitng. Of course, I'm sure something else will come out of it.

My advice with insurance is don't accept "no" or "I don't think so" as an answer. The more questions I asked the more infomation I got. Even if I was just re-stating what they said they went on to explain further. Actually, I find this true with most situations. As far as medical discounts, they won't give them unless you ask. They sure don't advertise "40 percent discount if you don't have insurance and pay cash."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Pork Chop Casserole

I found this one on It's really easy and keeps the pork chops moist and tender.

Pork Chop Casserole
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 pork chops (3/4-1" thick)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1 cup sour cream, divided
1 can (2.8 ox) french fried onions, divided

1. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt, & pepper; dredge pork chops.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet; cook pork chops for 4-5 mins. per side or until browned.
3. Place in a single layer in an ungreased 13x9x2" baking dish.
4. Combine soup, broth, ginger, rosemary and 1/2 cup sour cream; pour over chops. Sprinkle with half of the onions.
5. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 mins.
6. Stir remaining sour cream into sauce. (I usually forget this step and it's still ok) Top chops with remaining onions.
7. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 mins.

Monday, August 11, 2008

You don't need these games

I'm not going to tell you not to buy games like these that promote sharing, listening or manners. Games are fun. They teach lots of things -- rules, cooperation, patience, sharing, listening, manners, enjoyment, imagination, sportsmanship. But you don't really need a game to enhance learning.

First all these skills can be learned through any type of dramatic play. Simply come up with an idea (bakery, restaurant, pet shop, store, doctor, etc. the list is endless). Fill a box with the theme and put items from around the house inside. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, kids don't care. Try to include a writing element in each one.

For more dramatic play ideas search this site.

Sharing Ideas
- Allow a child to share a toy or dvd with a friend to take home for a day or two.
- When playing with playdough put out one less tool, so the kids need to learn how to share.
- Have children work together on a computer game.

Listening Ideas
- I learned this at camp. Pair up the children. They are to tell the other person a problem they are having and the partner is not suppose to listen. Ask the kids ways that show not listening. I let the kids do anything but get up and walk away. Examples include, interrupting, looking away, not responding, putting fingers in ears, etc. They do this for one minute. Then we talk about what it felt like to not have the person listen. Then they reverse the roles. We talk again. Then we do the whole thing again but the partners listen. It has amazing results. At camp where there were so few boundaries and so many rules, getting kids to listen was the biggest challenge. I usually did when I wasn't getting the respect they should be giving. Normally, I would talk about emotions and when they were talking over me I would ask them how they thought I felt at that moment.
- Put on a play or skit. Give kids a topic or have them come up with an idea and preform for family or other kids.
- Have children tell stories.
- Let each child say one word and create sentences or stories.
- Play "Two Truths and a Lie." I learned this one at camp, too. A person tells two truths about themselves and one lie. The group has to figure out which one is a lie. Great Icebreaker.

Manner Ideas
Honestly I think that all activities should include manners. That really is the only way to enforce them. But please do not feed a child if they don't say "please." I saw this happen with 1-year-olds.

Organizing ... long sigh... photos

If you have a good method, please share. I don't think mine is working too well. The problem -- digital camera, ordering online, backing up, home delivery and then what do do with them all.

1. Digital cameras allow me to take way too many photos. It's hard not to order all of the them. My hope was to do scrapbooking but we have no room in this house and time is always a factor. I try delete as many as I can. Still every month it's more than 100 photos. I sift through them on average once a month.
2. Ordering online. I like ordering my prints online. Saves a trip. I'm not the happiest with Walmart or Walgreens, but I have been daring enough to try one of the others.
3. I backup the photos on CD (my dvd burner doesn't appear to be working). Then I also backup on my husband's computer. He puts all the photos on random on his screensaver. My daughter loves watching that.
4. I normally have the photos delivered. Seems a little cheaper -- about $3. I never know when I'm going to make it out. And that buys me a little more time to figure out what to do with them.
5. Photos galore. Right now I just keep buying albums and putting them in there. I'm a couple months behind right now. I just ordered more photos and have the last order still waiting for a home. I can't seem to find photo albums anymore. What's up with that?

I still hope to scrapbook some day -- maybe with my daughter when she gets a little older. But for now that's what I do.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Brain Age

See how old your brain is by clicking here. The directions are in Japanese, so read here first.

1. Touch 'start
'2. Wait for 3, 2, 1.
3. Memorize the number's position on the screen, then click the circle from the smallest number to the biggest number
4. At the end of game, computer will tell you how old your brain.Good luck !! Let me know your brain's age.

My brain is 29 and I'm 31. Guess that's good.

Friday, August 8, 2008


A dear friend of mine sent a gift card for for my daughter's birthday. I couldn't believe the selection of different and educational toys. They are a bit pricey, but I had the gift card so I didn't look at price too much. We purchased this yesterday around noon and I got it today UPS at 3:30 p.m. Wow, great turn-around time. I ordered some books from almost three weeks ago and still haven't got them. I think they shipped yesterday, too. I vote "hooray" for Oompa and "come on" for Amazon.

Chicken Pasta Salad

I've been working on this one for a while.  I still think it could use something.  But overall it has a pretty good taste.  

Chicken Pasta Salad
1 cup cooked noodles
Celery chopped
Onion chopped
Carrot chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup cooked chicken
1 cup mayo
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp. ranch dressing (depending on what you like)

1.  Boil noodles for 8 minutes.
2.  Cut veggies.  Amount varies based on your taste.  I usually have more chicken and noodles than veggies.  (Probably 1/4 cup carrots, 1-2 celery stalks, 2 Tbsp onion)
3. Mix mayo and ranch dressing together.
4.  Mix all ingredients together. Put in fridge for at least an hour.

** I normally cook chicken in the crockpot with a cream soup or two along with chicken broth.  I put it on low for 6 hours and then I use the cooked chicken for a variety of dishes.**

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

75% off at Target right now

I walked down the toy aisle on Monday at Target and saw lots of toys for 75%. I found TMX Ernie for under $8 (normally $30). We gave it to my daughter for her birthday. I also saw the big pack of Pampers on sale for $19 (normally $27), but they didn't have our size.

Must be cleaning out for the fall.

JCPenny 15% off

Not sure if this will work, but if you click here you should be given a survey from JCPenny. Finish it and you get 15% off for the next 30 days. I know JCPenny has lots of coupons and deals all the time, but it never hurts to have another one.

Also, JCPenny sometimes has a survey code on the back of the receipt that you can go online and receive 15% off that way.

Gotta save where you can!

What's Cookin' -- Baked Potato

Baked Potatoes
These take forever in the oven -- an hour and half if I remember right. This is an easy trick to get them done faster without loosing quality. Plus I've gotten compliments on how good and crispy the skins taste.

4 Russet potatoes or baking potatoes

1. Turn oven to 425 degrees.

2. Poke holes in potatoes with a fork to allow steam to escape.
3. Place 4 potatoes in the microwave for 8 minutes. Now this varies depending on your microwave and size of potato. You may need to play around with this a little. Try to use the largest and same sized potatoes as you can.
4. Take potatoes out of oven and put on cooking sheet -- no aluminum foil wrapped around them. They should be partly baked, but not all the way.
5. Put in oven for 20 minutes. Again this time might vary depending on size of potato and how long it was in the microwave.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Children's Museum

I live in a city that doesn't have a lot for young kids to do. So, I am always searching for something for my daughter and I to do. Today is her 1-year-old birthday and I took her the Children's Museum. It was only $4 each and they had a toddler room area for her to play. We went early and had the place to ourselves until right before we left. There was a little 15-month-old girl she got to play with. We were there for over an hour, which surprised me. Normally she gets bored pretty quickly.

As far as the museum, it wasn't like one you find in a big city. But it was a great treat to take her somewhere else she could play. Goofy kid let go on top of the slide and slid right down. My little dare devil.

It's so important that kids have somewhere else to play other than at home with family.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Birthday Planning

It's been really busy around here. Today is our anniversary (I'm waiting for my husband to wrap up somethings at work) and tomorrow is our daughter's first birthday. We had a small gathering on Sunday. I kept it really simple for her.

Theme: Sesame Street. This allowed me to pick up any Sesame Street items on sale. I found Abby Cadabby plates and napkins at Target for $1.11 each. I also found a tablecloth for $1.99 unopened at Goodwill that had several characters on it. Then I blew up balloons I already had and printed signs from our computers. I put my daughter's picture on some and a picture of the Sesame Street gang on another. Simple.

Cake: We made a cake and put a plastic Elmo on top. Perfect for her to understand and she grabbed it licked off the frosting.

We opened presents in the living room so she could walk around and move a little after being in the high chair for cake.

She really enjoyed it and it was the perfect little party for her.


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