Friday, July 30, 2010

Look who's on twitter!

I realize for most people (especially 20 somethings) that joining twitter is really not such a big deal.  But, for an early 40 something (who is, or used to be extremely private) it's front page news!  Here is the progression of what is contributing to "the new me." 

Last fall, the family and I drove from FL to IL for my littlest brother's wedding.  It just happened to coincide with my hometown's annual festival, called the BroomCorn Festival.  It was there that some of my classmates (from the class of '88) begged, pleaded and finally convinced me to join Facebook to keep in touch.  I was vehemently opposed to any such sharing of personal information for the masses to see, but I did keep up with and find some friends with whom I had lost touch.  Which was nice.  I rarely post a status update, but often comment on friend's statuses (statusii?).  Then...  I felt the need to start a blog.  Mainly to document the transformation of my house from very messy to presentable (I'll settle with that for now).  My favorite internet guru for people like me says we are living in CHAOS which stands for Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome!  You can learn more about flylady at

It wasn't until yesterday that some friends told me that they would be very interested in learning more about saving money with coupons.  So I was trying to figure out a way to let everyone/anyone know what I knew about the "specials" of the day.  Some great finds are only available for 24 hours or less.  I realized that twitter was the only medium to get a quick message out to whoever wanted it.  I signed up just now and you can follow me at   If you'd like to hear about sales and coupons.  I've already tweeted up a storm with a coupon/sales at Osh Kosh B'gosh (which now has clothes available online) and The Children's Place.  I also included a really cool water bottle that looks just like the kind a serious biker (bicyclist) uses.  My favorite triathlete has one (Kim, I'm talking about you!)  If you're not already on twitter, you can easily sign up  HERE 

I promise to post about how I save money on groceries and clothes and some miscellaneous stuff with coupons, but it's already late and I don't want leave out any helpful information for some of you newbies to couponing. 

I got so excited there, I forgot to tell you about my day...  I was really busy with laundry all day.  Our clothes dryer is TERRIBLE at drying clothes, especially in a timely manner.  I wanted to save money on our electricity bill too.  So I've started hanging the clothes out to dry on my umbrella-shaped clothes line.  I took a picture to document it for my blog.  I was especially proud of my homemade clothespin holder (front and center.)  I used a lingerie/delicate garment bag that the zipper kept coming open during the wash.  (my bras always seemed to escape the bag.)  I stuck a kid's size hanger in the top center and voila!  A new clothespin holder/hanger.
I should mention that the zipper does stay closed when not being used in the washing machine.

But Oh No!  During the afternoon, I heard thunder!  I went outside to save my clothes from becoming soaked.  I am terrified of the thought of being struck by lightning!  I thought I was quite brave to take a photo of my laundry and the sky before my impending (possible) doom.  As you can imagine after removing all of the clothes I still had to take down the clothesline shaped like an umbrella, made completely of some type of lightweight metal.  I was thinking I was going to be struck by lightning for sure while trying to retract it quickly. 
But I made it safely inside and even had time to run to the Dollar Tree by my house to get a few things.  I'm embarrassed to say that I had 4 things on my list and walked out with about 40 things on my receipt!  I LOVE THE DOLLAR TREE!  

Then I gave hair cuts to the 3 men in my family.  (the youngest two are pictured here.)
 I have been cutting my husband's and my oldest son's hair occasionally, but today was the first time I "buzzed" my 3 year old's hair (at his request). 
 I had fully intended on letting my good friend, Joy do it next week, but because he wanted me to, I thought I'd try it.  He looks TOTALLY different!  But at least not terrible.  I was worried that a cut with clippers (the only kind of haircuts I can do) wouldn't be flattering to his face, but I was wrong.  He still looks cute.

Tonight after dinner and getting the kids tucked in I really wanted to dye my hair (my gray hair, that is) but instead got caught up in rearranging the small appliances and whatnot on the kitchen counters.  I'm not sure what got me started on that bunny trail, but kind of like when rearranging the furniture in a room, the kitchen now has a whole new feel to it.  And after that I wanted to make sure I talked to you before bed.  Whew!  I've had a busy, yet productive day.  Now, I'm off to fold some laundry!
Thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My two cents... about free movies

This morning the whole family drove to Tampa to the Citrus Park Mall's Regal Cinemas Free Family Film Festival.  Astro Boy was playing this week and my husband was just as excited to see it as our two boys.  My husband is a digital colorist in the comic book industry and Astro Boy is a very famous comic book in Japan from way back. 

We met some friends at the theaters before the movie began, but let me describe what it was like getting there 30 minutes early...  When we arrived there was a snake-like line formed almost out the doors consisting mainly of two separate groups of day-care kids or day-camp kids and a few other moms with kids.  We waited about 5 minutes in line before it started moving.  Everybody just filed in to the theater and read the signs to determine where to go to see the movie that you chose (the other movie playing was The Tale of Despereaux).  They had four theaters showing Astro Boy with one Regal Cinemas employee standing in front of them to direct traffic after the first theater became full, he would then open up the next one.  It was interesting to me that no one really acknowledged the customers (if you could call us that since we technically didn't pay to get in).  I'm not sure if the theater kept track of the people who see the movies somehow or they just don't care how many people visit their theater so early in the morning. 

We found a theater to accommodate our large group (of 11) and the grown ups noticed that the seats smelled musty and moldy and altogether not too appetizing.  What can you expect for FREE?  I tried to ignore it during the movie (I'm kind of a germ-a-phobe.)

The movie was really good for adults, but not so good for young kids.  It dealt with issues of a father losing his son, then he created a robot of his son (using some of his son's DNA & memory- I'm not sure how he transplanted the memory, but hey, it's an animated movie!)  The robot son just reminded him more of his dead son and so he abandoned him.  It was pretty heavy.  Near the end the father, under direct orders of the "president" of the town, was forced to remove the life source of his robot son.  The son willingly laid on the table and let his father remove the life source from his chest with love for his father.  I was reminded of the Biblical story of Abraham and his son, Isaac.  If you have a Bible handy, check out the story in Genesis 22:1-18.  It is so dramatic as a parent to read that passage about God testing Abraham's loyalty.  God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac on an altar as a burnt offering.  Abraham obeyed God and was about to slay his son, when God stopped him and said, "Do not lay a hand on the boy."  Suffice it to say that the movie really got to me.  I teared up a few times during the movie but during this scene I couldn't stop the tears from falling.  Thank goodness I always have a pack of tissues in my purse.  My friend sitting next to me commented on my tears (during a kids' movie), but I really can't help it, it's just who I am.

I checked out The Children's Place after the movie, but couldn't find any deals worth buying.  The Children's Place at Countryside mall usually stocks a few different things, so I might check there next Wednesday to take advantage of the 15% off discount (see yesterday's post if you don't know what I'm talking about).

I can't wait to share with you my favorite money-saving websites and more information about my compulsive hoarding.  I'll have to save that for another day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Fun

My progress on taming my messy house has been put on hold.  Temporarily.  I get easily distracted by everyday things, but my biggest weakness is being invited to do something fun.  In some cases, I'm the one doing the inviting.  I have a really hard time passing up quality time with my friends and their kids that play so well with my kids.  It's especially difficult to say no to just mommy time (with MY friends).  It's SO true how we females of the species crave time with other women.  Even just mere phone conversations are uplifting.

Today I had hoped to stay caught up with my laundry (which I had gotten under control last week!) but my arm was twisted (not really) by an early morning text from a friend with an invite to get our kids together at the local sprayground.  I was planning on going but then remembered a promise to my children the day before... (insert wavy daydream sequence here) that I would take them bowling sometime this week.

On Monday (yesterday) the kids and I went to the closest AMF bowling alley that offers the "KIDS BOWL FREE" summer program (that I had signed them up for at the beginning of the summer).  We drove 30 minutes to the alley to meet up with a group of kids/moms from a homeschooling support group that I belong to.  A friend of mine who set up the activity asked me to spearhead the outing because she couldn't make it due to a boating trip with her family.  No big deal, I thought...  but, I didn't phone first to ask about the fine print on the KIDS BOWL FREE summer promotion.  It said that shoe rental was not included.  I know, I know, I should've called first to ask how much the shoe rental would be, but I figured I had to go anyway, "How bad could it be?"

To actually achieve the "bowling for free" the participating AMF lanes email you a series of coupons EVERY Sunday (one for each day of the week with a date and barcode) for each registered child to guarantee them 2 games of bowling per day for the entire summer.  You have to print out your appropriate coupon, then cut it out (strip of paper) to get your free games.  For the parents they offer a "deal" so you can bowl with your children all summer.  Here is the info from their website:

The Family Pass starts from $24.95 and includes 2 GAMES PER PERSON PER DAY. The Family Pass covers up to 4 adult family members. You may have 1, 2, 3, or 4 adults on the family pass.   

This too does not include shoe rental.  My husband and I did not pay for the family pass (thank goodness).  So when the kids and I arrived at the bowling alley yesterday morning and I gave the lady our coupons for each kid to bowl 2 games for free and I stated that I too would be bowling.  Our total came to $24 and some change.  I had MAJOR sticker shock!  I was expecting the shoe rental to be nominal like maybe $2 per kid, but it was $4 per kid plus the additional $12 for me to bowl 2 games including my shoe rental.  I (tried to) politely tell the lady behind the counter that $24 was too much for KIDS BOWLING FOR FREE!  (I mean, come on, it SAYS they bowl for FREE!)

There was one other family that showed up from the group and the mother and two children each had brought their own bowling shoes that they bought for $30 per pair.  That was cool for them, but WAY out of our price range.  They planned on taking full advantage of the KIDS BOWL FREE promotion.  She even purchased the family pass for the adults.  Since I was left in charge of the outing I felt some responsibility to stay for a while and see if anyone else would show up while making this family feel welcome (they were new to the support group).

No one else showed up who had RSVP'd (at least I didn't find anyone else looking for us).  So the mother and I visited for a while (as much as we could with my kids all over the lane and playing with the bowling balls while her kids TRIED to bowl around them.)  Now I realize that it was probably torture for my kids to NOT be able to bowl after going to a bowling alley under the impression that we WOULD be bowling, but having to try and corral them while getting to know this mother was too taxing and we HAD to leave!  I had originally planned on driving to a nearby Crispers restaurant to eat our lunch (99 cent kids meals with prior Crispers Kids' Club t-shirt purchase).  But the kids were too out of control and I couldn't take it anymore, we had to go home.  I promised them "spy" lunches to make up for the fact that we wouldn't be going out to eat for lunch.  Usually my husband (who works from home) makes them, it was his original idea, but today I was going to try making them.

Okay, okay, "What's a spy lunch?" you ask....  Well,  I had to ask my husband just now for a true definition.  I wanted to make sure I got it right.  It began this summer after the kids watched Agent Cody Banks on the Disney Channel, they were playing spies around the house.  To break from our "usual" lunch routine which was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banana on the side, Rob came up with a healthier alternative.  He says he includes a meat, a cheese, some vegetables with a salad dressing to dip them in and a fruit (and sometimes nuts) all on a plate in sections.  It reminded me of the Japanese bento-style lunches, except those are made to be packed to leave the house and are usually in containers instead of laying out on a plate.  The spy lunches are a big hit with the kids and please feel free to borrow this idea as a way to mix things up a bit at your house.  

I took the idea and ran with it yesterday.  I made cut out pieces of bread (using large cookie cutters) then spread Miracle Whip and mustard on the bread.  (I was going out on a limb here, because my kids do not like to eat sandwiches (except for the PB&Js).

The kids will all agree on ham, so I used ham and some colby-jack cheese on the star and heart-shaped sandwiches.

My youngest wasn't thrilled with the idea of putting meat and cheese on bread, no matter HOW cool it looked cut into shapes, so I made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  (Don't worry I used the leftover bread pieces for dinner tonight to go in our meatloaf.  I don't like to waste ANYthing!)

Here's a photo of them completed.  I hadn't added their choice of potato chips or mini pretzels to the plates yet, I wasn't sure which kids would like which carb.

So this is probably the longest post ever, but I'd like to continue with my "today" story...  I had remembered about my promise to my kids about bowling and offered to my two friends who were planning on meeting up at the sprayground that they could meet us afterwards at the NICE bowling alley closer to our houses where on Tuesdays they offered $1 bowling!  Yes, you heard me.  ONE DOLLAR BOWLING!  If you compared this to KIDS BOWLING FOR FREE you'd think that paying a dollar to bowl was too much, but it was only $1 per game and $1 per shoe rental which saved ME lots of money compared to my awful experience the day before at the AMF bowling alley.  It was even more enticing that they said they would offer our group $1 hot dogs, $1 kids' drinks and $1 french fries.  My friends decided that bowling indoors in the air conditioning sounded much more appealing than standing outside in the Florida heat watching the kids get wet under the fountains.  So they said they would join us at the cool, hip and MODERN bowling alley that has gutter bumpers that are automated to go up and down depending on the bowler.  I was SO impressed by that feature that I doubt I'll ever go back to an "old-fashioned" bowling alley at least until my kids are old enough that we don't need gutter bumpers!

We had a difficult time keeping all of the kids together.  It was a madhouse.  But all I can say that at least it was air conditioned!  We (or at least I) had a wonderful time.  Where our kids bowled a neverending game due to the fact that their balls hit the pins so gently that the computer (or whatever is back behind the pins that senses the ball and pins) didn't register many throws.  The kids played one game from 11:15 until 1:00. 

Tomorrow we are meeting some friends at the Regal Cinemas FREE FAMILY FILM FESTIVAL at Citrus Park Mall to see Astro Boy.  Did I mention that it's FREE...?  Take that AMC who charges a dollar for their summer movie, and only offers one movie on ONE screen where it's packed with screaming pre-schoolers and summer camp kids.  Regal Cinemas offers two movies to choose from:  one G-rated and the other PG-rated.  And as an extra bonus Citrus Park Mall has one extra day of movies each week.  The other Regal Cinemas offer movies on Tues. and Wed. (AMC's movie is only on Tues.), but Citrus Park also does Thurs.

The benefit of going on Wednesday is that after the movies are over the mall's Chick-Fil-A offers a BOGO FREE kids meal with the purchase of an combo meal (even though with three kids that's not much of a deal, but still).  AND during the month of July the Children's Place will give you 15% off your purchase when you show them your Westfield Family Club card*  (it says see store for details, so there could be some fine print that I'm not aware of).  BTW The Children's Place (TCP) has $10 jeans and $5 graphic tees and tanks right now!  I'm going to at least look!

*the Westfield's WFamily program is FREE to sign up at the concierge desk at either Citrus Park or Countryside Mall.  You get your card the same day with a list of benefits from stores and food court restaurants.  The discounts/offers are only good on Wednesdays, so if you have to go to the mall, plan to go on a Wednesday!

Oh, I forgot to mention how nice the Palm Harbor Library is (on Nebraska) since they remodeled about 2 years ago.  I stopped by there today to pick something up and the kids fell in love with the kids' play area.  I didn't plan on staying for an hour, but did.  I wanted to let you know as a reminder that a FREE and air-conditioned place to take the kids in the summer is a library.

Arghh... my friend Ellyn beat me to the posting of our bowling drama day together!  Thanks for the link though, Ellyn.  You can visit her at

Monday, July 26, 2010

I like to save money.

Besides getting my house in order I also want to share with you some of my secrets to saving money on items we all "need." Items like groceries and clothes come to mind. I don't have the ability to buy the "wants" right now, but maybe someday...

I mainly wanted to share my shopping experience yesterday at Kohl's. Let me give you the backstory: A few weeks ago Kohl's sent out a $10 gift card in the mail to I think just about anyone in a certain vicinity of the New Port Richey or Clearwater Kohl's stores. The next day (it was a Tuesday) in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper on the front page was a peel off sticker for $10 off your $20 purchase at Kohl's. Let's just say that I bought 5 additional newspapers that day! I gave away a couple of the stickers and still had plenty left over for me to use. They were good during 7/14 - 7/24. I went a couple different times during that period to use my stickers and gift card and EACH TIME at the checkout the cashier handed me a $10 Kohl's cash certificate good ONLY on kids' apparel during 7/25 - 7/31.

On Saturday (7/24) I was at Kohl's in NPR (New Port Richey) and two ladies in the store gave me their $10 certificates saying that they didn't have any children to shop for anymore (their children were grown). So I ended up with 8 of those $10 certificates. The awesome part about these certificates was that the minimum purchase was $10, not $20 (like the stickers on the newspapers).

Yesterday I found some great long sleeve shirts for my boys and some summer stuff for my daughter and organized it carefully so that each transaction would be slightly over $10 (as close as I could get it.) I didn't try to hard to get it close to $10 because I had all three kids with me and that made shopping/thinking clearly very difficult. I took the time to tally my receipts today and compare my savings.

Just so you know, I am not trying to brag about my purchases/savings, I just want to share my excitement. I realize you may be TOTALLY bored with this post, but that's okay (just let me know, please) I just NEED to share this awesome score at Kohl's with someone other than my husband (who doesn't really care that much).

And as a disclaimer, I don't pay much attention to the "total savings" amounts. Mainly because I would never buy something for full price (okay, maybe SOMEthing) and the prices are SO inflated that it doesn't really reflect the actual value of the clothing.

So with that said, here are my tallies: TOTAL SAVED: $177.47
TOTAL SPENT: $30.53. Here is one of seven receipts from yesterday's visit to Kohl's

I used 7 certificates and 7 different transactions (in a row) and bought 9 long sleeved shirts for the boys...

and 3 complete outfits for my daughter.

I want to help EVERYONE I know (and don't even know yet) learn how to save money while shopping. I plan on using this blog to alert my friends to the time-sensitive deals so that you too can save money on the everyday things we all need.

I will also be sharing some of my favorite "money-saving websites" in another post. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am WAY overthinking this blog thing...

I really wanted my first post to be perfect, but more and more time has passed and I am still unhappy with the way my site looks. But I decided enough with the procrastination and perfectionism and just post already!

The reason I wanted to start my own blog was to share my experience with getting my house under control. I've always had a difficult time keeping my house clean (enough for company), but just recently I've had an excuse for getting it cleaned up.

In one week's time I had a friend move into an adjoining part of my neighborhood who has a daughter the same age as my daughter. We used to be closer friends a few years ago, but had lost touch. And in that same week I met my new neighbor (who lives 4 doors down from me) and her family. Her oldest daughter will be going to the same school that my daughter went to last year (I realize that last sentence was a bit confusing).

Before this summer, I've never had a deep incentive to A.) clean my house (from top to bottom) and B.) keep it clean. Let me explain... Almost every single one of my close friends lives about 25 minutes away. I'm located north of them (in general) and most of them feel it's a burden to drive "up here." We are a bit isolated in that respect. And in addition, my parents and brothers live in IL and rarely come to visit. I usually "cram" clean before a visit. It's been years since I've hosted a birthday party at our house and due to my "messy" house, haven't had anyone over for dinner in a long time.

Nevertheless it's embarrassing to admit my problem to the general public, but recently God has been speaking to me and has really gotten my attention. His timing is perfect, in so many ways. It was just in the past month that my husband got me a book from the library about hoarding. I started reading it and wouldn't you know, I am a compulsive hoarder. Now, I'm not as bad as the TV show Hoarding (or whatever it's called), but a little bit more like "Clean House" (with Niecy Nash). I will tell you more about the details in another post. I had wanted to take pictures "before" and "after" my house's transformation, but chickened out at the last minute. Too embarrassing. Sorry to disappoint you, but I guess I am too afraid about what you might think.

I gave myself a deadline of last Sunday to get my house in order enough to invite our new neighbors (4 doors down) over for some of my Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I didn't hit that deadline. I did make some great progress though and am so thankful that I have my new neighbors as an incentive to get stuff done around here. So at the last minute I asked them if they wouldn't mind hosting us instead and I just brought the pizza and stuff over to their house. They were oh, so gracious and agreed to my plan. We enjoyed some wonderful fellowship and our children got to play together too.

I still have a long way to go to get my house in order, but I am excited and invigorated to do something about my "clutter issues."

I look forward to doing it with you.