Sunday, April 29, 2012

¢ - Giveaway

Saving money is pretty much the flavor of the day. Is there anyone out there that doesn’t like saving money? How about when that savings is done with a couple of strokes of the computer keys? One of the great things about technology is we are constantly finding new ways to save money with fairly little effort.

As a household that buys a fair amount of products over the internet, I was quite delighted to learn about a site called ¢ ¢ collects online shopping coupons, allowing shoppers to search for a coupon for prior to making their internet purchases.

¢ contacted me and asked me to review their site. Since I’m always looking for ways to save money I was more than happy to do so, especially since they offered up a little something for my readers!

Here is what I liked about the site:
  • Anyone can submit codes to earn money. To earn money on other sites you typically need to sign up as an affiliate, meaning you need a website or blog to earn money. As long as you have the time and ability to find codes for submission, anyone can potentially earn some money at ¢
  • Wide array of coupons – I searched for several of our regular web purchase sites and found coupons for most of them. Of the ones I didn’t find, I’ve made it my mission to add the coupons myself from the e-mails I receive!
  • The site is easy to navigate and offers the opportunity (if you so desire) to receive e-mails regarding new coupons in various selected categories.
  • Users are able to offer feedback as to the success of the coupons – This allows other users to know whether the coupon works well or is a waste of time.
  • When loading coupons there is a space for expiration dates as well as specific details (i.e. maximum discounts, not valid with other offers, etc). Assuming the submitter is filling in complete information this is incredibly helpful.
 Here is what I don’t like about the site:
  • When submitting coupons you need to be careful that you are selecting the correct domain. I did run across one or two of the domains I was looking for where there was a misspelled domain as well as the real domain. I’m not sure how the wrong domains get in there but if you aren’t paying close attention it would be easy to select the incorrect one.
  • While there is a wide array of coupons, there were some stores that I couldn’t find coupons for. Keep in mind though that not every site is going to have every store/coupon. The great thing about ¢ is that it’s easy to add coupons. The more users there are submitting coupons, the more coupons that will be available for everyone.

 As I stated earlier, ¢ has graciously provided a $50 gift card for Old Navy to one of my readers. Entry is simple; you have the ability to earn up to five entries.

  • For one entry leave a comment. Though the comment can be anything, I’d appreciate it if you would check out ¢ and offer some impressions as your comment. Your feedback will help them know what is working well or not working well for their customers.
  • For one entry subscribe to receive my posts via e-mail
  • For one entry “like me” on Facebook
  • For one entry follow me on Twitter (@wonderwomanimno)
  • For one entry follow me on Pinterest
The giveaway ends at midnight on May 18th. Winners will be notified by e-mail so please make sure I know how to get in touch with you.

This is a sponsored post. I have been compensated for my time writing; all opinions are my own.

Weekly Menu

Last week mama had a little bit of a temper tantrum.  Because of that complete and utter meltdown, we ended up eating out much more last week than we should have.  I only cooked two of my four planned meals.  Not quite so good on our budget.

The week actually started out pretty good, my brats were grilled to perfection and the spaghetti was totally awesome.  Then Wednesday hit.  An incident at work made me pretty crabby.  I then walked in the door at home to a sink full of dirty dishes and my daughter instructing me that when I was done with dinner I needed to take her to the store and buy her some stuff.  Really?  Follow that up with the laundry room being a complete disaster, add in several loads of unfolded laundry and you have the recipe for a natural disaster.  My poor husband (who was still at the gym) got a complete earful as did his friend who was standing next to him.  Yikes!

Fortunately after 26 years together my husband knows that a good meal is the recipe to sooth the savage beast.  He hurried home and collected me to go out for steak at one of my favorite restaurants.  The kids were completely dumbfounded to be left on the doorstep when they thought they were having chicken casserole for dinner!  The next night we decided to repeat our ditch and run of the kids by going out to a supper club in town we hadn't been to in a while.  As the final nail in the coffin, the kids had friends over Saturday while we went out for dinner with another couple.  They asked us to leave money so they could order Chinese.  Hmmmm, let me think about that.  Nope, frozen pizza was on the menu unless they wanted to pry open their own wallets.  Maybe they won't tick off the mama next week!

Now that I've had a few nights of wining and dining I'm prepared to take up the cooking mantle again.  Unfortunately this week is going to be a little crazy.  I have a work dinner and Mike is working a couple of second shifts.  Keeping that in mind the menu will be pretty easy.

As you can see, yet again we are having spaghetti.  According to Mike, it isn't warm yet so we can leave it in the weekly rotation until summer is in full swing.  The kids aren't happy about it but, once again, oh well!  The chicken and stuffing casserole is so easy that the kids can put that together for me, making that an easy dinner for me.  This is Belle's favorite meal so she won't mind throwing it together for me.

Spaghetti and Meatballs, strawberry salad, corn, garlic bread
Chicken and Stuffing casserole, salad, glazed carrots, homemade applesauce
Hamburgers, roasted potatoes, corn, quick apple crisp
Fend for yourself x2
Dinner Out

That's it for my menu, what's cooking at your house?  Feel free to leave a link to your post or just share in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up at Good Cheap Eats, Money Saving Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, April 27, 2012

Apple Pie Baked In Apples

I love desserts, all deserts.  My limited amount of free time prevents me from browsing Pinterest non-stop, but when I do go out there dessert recipes are pretty much my destination.  For those of you who follow me on Pinterest that shouldn't be a surprise given how many more pins I have under "My Favorite Recipes" board than any other board!

While perusing Pinterest this past weekend , I happened upon these absolutely adorable apple pies.  The original recipe is over at Chronicles of a Domestic Dilettante.  The recipe itself is pretty easy, I think the putziest part will be scraping out the insides of the apples.

I can't wait to try these!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Busy Mom's Guide to Planning a Birthday Party - Part Two

This post was originally published in November of 2010.

Yesterday's post about party planning was geared toward when money wasn't overly tight. Today I'll give you some ideas as to what I did when money was tight.

First off, just a reminder that I enjoy going overboard, making the kids birthdays special. As a working mother I feel the need to build memories when we can and this is one way that I do it. I do realize it's not for everyone. The other thing to remind you of is that this is geared towards moms who don't have a lot of time. I know most moms would say that there isn't enough time in the day to get things done but sometimes we have seasons that are worse than others. My goal was to have the best party we could with the least amount of work on my end.

As I stated yesterday we have two parties for the kids. The first is for the extended family and the second is a friend party. My first suggestion is....

Try to talk the kids out of a friend party

A friend party is always so attractive to the kids but it's an awful lot of work for the mom. Since both kids were old enough to make a decision (about 5) I've given them the option of having a friend party with no presents from mom and dad (they would get something small) or a really cool present from mom and dad. There have been times when my son has chosen the present over the party which was fine with me. Unfortunately most of the time my daughter has chosen the friend party.

Don't have the party at your house

Why have the party at your house when you can have it somewhere else? Having the party somewhere else doesn't have to be expensive. Think outside of the box and ask around at area businesses. Here are some of the places I've had parties before

- The karate center. My son took karate for a number of years. For one of his parties I was able to have the party at the karate center. They provided the food, cake, entertainment and party favors for about $3 per kid (keep in mind this was a number of years ago). I was thrilled with the price and we ended up inviting his whole class. Very successful party with absolutely no work on my end

- Movie theater. When my son was still having parties we had quite a number of parties at the movie theater. I allowed my son to invite two friends and we took them out for dinner and to the premier of a movie they wanted to see. This was about the time Lord of the Rings was big so it was quite the event. We didn't have a budget theater in our area of time but that would be a good option if there's one in your area

- YMCA. Our YMCA has a party room you can reserve if you are a member. The kids had to be members to get in for free but we were able to get our hands on some free passes for those who weren't members and ended up only paying for a few of the kids. We brought in a cake and the kids had a fun day of swimming and running around.

- Pizza place. The pizza place I took my kids was a local place but I know that there are chains out there like Chuck E Cheese that run coupons all the time. In our area we have a local program similar to Groupon where you can buy parties for half price.

If you have to have the friend party at your house.......

I usually like the sleep over. You can keep the guest list small and this is probably the cheapest party of all. Frozen pizza, cake, potato chips and cereal for breakfast. When the kids were smaller I would look for an inexpensive craft for them to make, now that they're older I just rent a couple of movies. I don't bother with goody bags or anything. What mother wants more junk at her house?


I like having the extended family over for parties and I like to have a 'meal' versus pizza. Here are some options I've done for meals when I couldn't afford to have it catered

- Chili is a favorite of mine. You can make a big batch of chili for practically nothing. meat, beans, tomatoes and spices. I can make enough chili to feed at least 20 people for under $15. Throw some saltines, sour cream and cheese out on with counter with homemade bread and you have a feast.

- Ham and turkey sandwiches. This may not work for everyone but this was one of our cheapest meals. Every year I would get a turkey free from work and my husband got a free ham. I'd have the butcher slice the ham up for me and warm it up in the crock pot. The turkey I'd cook the day before and serve cold. All I ended up buying was the buns and condiments. I would typically make a salad or something to go with it. Obviously not everyone gets free meat or has birthdays at Thanksgiving or Christmas but it's an option if you can find sales. There's a grocery store by us that has ham on sale every Sunday and they also throw in free buns.

- Lasagna & Macaroni Cheese. Once again this is a super simple, cheap meal that I could make ahead of time. Throw in a salad and some bread, you have a full meal.

-Homemade cakes. When money was tight and I didn't want to pay $20 for a store bought cake I'd make a 'special' cake for the kids. My go to cake for my daughter is a triple chocolate bundt cake and for my son it's a pineapple upside cake. It may not be the traditional cake but they haven't really cared because they are getting the cake that's important to them. I've also found shaped cake pans (Barney or Barbie) when they were smaller, but that takes a lot more time.

The above may not work for everyone but it's worked pretty well for me. Both of my kids love their birthdays and always talk fondly of their parties. There have been quite a few women at work who don't have parties for their kids because it's to much work or to expensive, I just want to show that it doesn't have to be either. I'd love to hear any ideas that you may have.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Busy Mom's Guide to Planning A Birthday Party - Part 1

The post below originally was published in November of 2010.  Since I have more readers now than when I first started in 2010 I'd pull out a few old ones for re-publication.  Enjoy!

In our household we go out of our way to make birthdays (at least the kid's) special. It started when my son was born around Christmas. I wanted him to feel special and not get lost in the Christmas celebration so we always tried to make his birthday larger than life. Of course when my daughter came along we kept it up for her.

Over the years there have been birthdays when I've had more time than money, others when I've had more money than time and even more when I didn't have a lot of either. This year I have a little bit more money than time so for this posting I'm going to talk about ways that I save time while still planning a special party.  Tomorrow I'll post ways I've done birthdays more frugally.

A typical birthday at our house consists of at least two parties - one for family and one for friends. I know some people like to put them together but I prefer not to subject my family to a bunch of screaming kids if I can help it (yes - I have done it before when that was the best option for my sanity). The family party consists of a dinner for about 20 people while the friend party size depends on what we're doing.

This year I'm keeping things simple to save my sanity. My number one go to when money isn't a huge problem - HIRE A CATERER! I know this sounds expensive but it really doesn't need to be. I found an upscale cafeteria here that has a wide menu that I have used for personal parties, Girl Scout dinners and even my department Christmas party. This year I'm doing a sandwich buffet that includes an assortment of artisan breads, quality lunch meats, cheeses, a tortellini/portabella mushroom salad, a tomato/mozzarella salad and an assortment of desserts. They also throw in all the condiments, plates, napkins and cutlery - what a deal! If I looked for sales, clipped coupons and ran to different stores I realize I could do it cheaper.  This option really isn't that much more expensive than buying everything myself so to keep the stress level at a manageable level, the extra expense is worth it.  I would encourage you to explore the options in your city, you might be pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive having someone prepare the food can be.

My second rule to keep my sanity - HAVE SOMEONE ELSE CLEAN YOUR HOUSE! I asked my mother to come clean my house instead of giving me a birthday present this year. She's coming over this Thursday to clean my house for the party that's on Saturday. The family will be under strict orders to not mess anything up under penalty of death. The guests will need to live with any dust or dirt that winds up on the floor between now and then. Ask friends or family for help, they may not clean exactly the way you want to but the point is - you don't have to do it!

My third rule - DON'T GO CRAZY DECORATING THE HOUSE! When the kids were younger I always felt the need to go for the theme birthdays. Now I don't even bother with special napkins - one less thing for me to stress about or pick up afterwards

Saturday morning all I will need to do is pick up the food, pick up the cake and relax. If I can pull this off it will be a first since I'm usually stressed to the max by the time the party starts. Who wants an exhausted, crabby hostess?

My daughter is turning 14 so we don't need to do a big wowza party for her friends party. This year I'm letting her invite 10 girls to a sleep over (I'm crossing my fingers they won't all come). We have a finished family room in the lower level so I won't really hear them once they are downstairs for the night, which they will be shortly after they get here. We'll have frozen pizza for dinner and an inexpensive bakery cake. I won't be out much money or aggravation since they won't want to be by me any more than I want to be by them :)  My husband was the one who agreed to the 10 girls, easy for him to say yes since he'll be working 3rd shift and I'll be home all alone with them :)

Do you have any tricks for keeping your sanity during birthday parties?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for The Lucky One novel - it ends tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mom - You Need to be Fearless Like Me

A couple of months ago I was chit-chatting my daughter.  We were discussing our upcoming trip and whether I was going to sign us up to go zip-lining.  Abruptly she says to me "Mom, you just need to be fearless like me."

I think she was a little taken aback by my reaction - laughter - and asked me what was so funny.  Any moms out there know the answer?  Care to guess why I am not fearless like my daughter?  Because I'm a MOTHER! We aren't suppose to be fearless.  We are suppose to be worried about everything, that's what mothers do!!

Do you remember being fifteen and fearless?  I do.  I remember it like yesterday.  I remember being upset with my mother over the things she wouldn't let me do and all the worries she had about my safety.  What could possibly happen?  Why couldn't she be fearless like me?  Oh boy - when did I turn into my mother?  Sorry mom :)

I actually remember the first time I was really, truly fearful.  Not the "I'm going to close my eyes on this roller coaster because I'm scared" but the honest to goodness, down to the very core of your being fear.  It was the moment I found out I was pregnant.  Not knowing I was pregnant, I had x-rays and medication as a result of a car accident.  Realizing that I subjected my unborn baby to all that "stuff" scared me to death.  Even though the doctor assured me everything would be OK, I spent the entire pregnancy trying to shove down the fear that I had done something terrible to my baby.  Fortunately our son was born healthy, but that moment was the end of my fearlessness.

Over the years I've tried hard not to let my fear prevent my kids from having fun.  I sent my son off to Germany for a month to live with a family I had never met.  My daughter experienced the Superman roller coaster from the front car (yeah - the one where you are suspended in mid-air).  Both kids have swam in the ocean, seen a volcano up close, spent their summers away at camp and zip-lined over a rain forest.  All in spite of my fear for their safety.

As I looked at my daughter while she was earnestly asking me what was so funny I had visions back to her delivery.  When the cord was wrapped around her neck, being squeezed during contractions and cutting off her oxygen.  When the nurse told me she was in distress and we only had a couple of minutes to get her out because they were calling the anesthesiologist up to do a cesarean section.  A few minutes later they laid her on my stomach and she wouldn't take her first breath.  I thought back to that moment when I was gripped with fear that she wouldn't ever take that breath and I told her I couldn't wait for her to have kids.  Only then could she truly understand why I was laughing.

You might also like:

Kids - Gotta Love Them!
Rock Star Mom Moment

Monday, April 23, 2012


Last week my goals were fairly simple.

Finish my life plan
Identify five key areas of my life that I want to focus on
Find a way to keep my goals top of mind.

I sat down to do the life plan as outlined by Michael Hyatt and decided it was way to detailed for what I need right now. Not that I disagree with the process, that much detail is not what I need at this point.

What I did do was identify what areas of my life I wanted to change. My plan was to come up with five, but after thinking about it I decided there were three areas that I wanted to focus on. Those three are career, well-being and finances.

After identifying the three areas I pondered what I wanted success to look like. For me success in my career isn't a high paying job or a title, it's about utilizing my skills to make a difference in this world. All the goals I identify going forward will be part of the roadmap to help me attain that success.

Once I wrote out what success looked like, I then identified specific high level steps I need to make my success a reality. For example, one of the items I deemed critical for well-being success was learning to relax. Under the "learning to relax" goal I'll have smaller, specific goals to help me achieve relaxtion.

After I spent some time thinking about my focus areas I moved onto how I could implement my goals. I don't know about you, but if I'm not focusing on a to-do list I find it hard to remember to do things. The problem that I'm having is I'm writing these things down in my blog but not necessarily on paper so they aren't "top of mind". Instead of them always being on my brain I think about them in bits and spurts.

I've really struggled with the best way to keep track of my goals. The obvious is to write them down on a piece of paper and carry them around with me or tape them to my monitor at work. I hate to do that 1) because I'm trying to keep them electronically and 2) I would prefer to have them with me all the time.

I've considered using the calendar on my Iphone for my goals but have decided against that. While I use my phone all the time and it would probably be the best way to keep them, the phone is a work issued phone. I do use my phone for some personal phone calls and messages but I prefer not to use it for goals.

With all that being said, I'm going to try and use my new Ipad. I bought the Ipad so that I could carry it around with me and have access to a personal computer during the day. This will allow me to use my lunch hour or other downtime in the evening while running around to get some stuff accomplished. My plan is to use the reminder APP on the Ipad, I'll let you kow how that works.

As I go forward the goals that I write down here will be specific to my focus areas. For those of you wondering, don't worry, I still have my crazy to-do lists of all the things that need to get done. I just won't be posting a laundry list here :)

-Research continuing education options

-Finish family balance sheet (I'll be writing more details later but this was one of my 12 financial goals for 2012)
-Contact lawyer about wills

-Exercise four times (once with trainer)
-Find a 20 minute yoga program that doesn't strain my knees

That's what I'm focusing on this week, what's on your list? Feel free to share or leave a link to your post in comments.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Menu

Before I get started, don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of The Lucky One.

Last week I didn't even bother to menu plan. I knew the week was going to be so crazy, plus Mike was on second shift so family dinners would be hit or miss.  I usually keep a few things lying around to throw on the table so that was my plan for last week!

This week I'm looking forward to a relatively quiet week where we can actually have some sense of normalcy. With the weather starting to get nice we're teetering on the edge of putting away our winter menu but we still have a couple of winter items this week. My husband is a little sad because he LOVES spaghetti but the kids are doing the happy dance!

Here's what I'm planning for the week.

Brats, potato salad, tomato salad, grilled asparagus
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, strawberry salad, corn
Chicken and stuffing casserole, dinner rolls, glazed carrots, salad
Hamburgers, tomato salad, homemade applesauce, corn, salad
Dinner out with friends
Fend for yourself

As I was rooting around our chest freezer I noticed that I still have a lot of stuff left over from last year. I have quite a few tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkin that I need to use up. This morning I made some zucchini bread  to take to my mother in law's house. I'll have to try my hand at some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins later this week.

That's my plan for the week, what's on your menu?  Feel free to leave a comment and/or link up to your menu.

I'll be linking this at Good Cheap Eats, Money Saving Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie

Zucchini Bread

I work with a woman who is a consummate gardener, every year she keeps me supplied with zucchinis and tomatoes.  She was also generous enough to give me her zucchini bread recipe which is one of the best that I've tasted.

Before I give you the recipe, I must warn you that this is not low-fat.  I've been playing around with making a lower calorie recipe but haven't quite perfected it.  Once I have a recipe that tastes as good (or almost as good) I'll share it with you.  For now, here's the full calorie version!

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs - beaten
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (I use heaping teaspoons)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1/2 cup nuts - optional

Combine dry ingredients together.  In a large bowl, beat eggs.  Add in oil, sugar and shredded zucchini (I cut mine up and then put in a food processor.  If you would prefer you could shred it using a cheese grater).  Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly with a spoon.

Pour into two greased & floured bread pans, bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350.

If you are planning on giving as a gift or taking somewhere right away, an idea would be to wrap the loaf in wax paper and tie with twine. 


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Habitat for Humanity

I've spent a lot of time over the last six months thinking about what I want to do with my future. While I have been very blessed to have so many wonderful things in my life, at 42 I've come to realize to that if I want to make changes I better start thinking about how I'm going to make those changes.

One of the areas in my life that I feel has been neglected is volunteering. By nature I'm a giver, however for the last few years I've been giving so much to my career that I don't have anything left over for volunteer work. While I have been incredibly blessed with a wonderful career, it isn't as fulfilling as knowing that you've made a difference in someone else's life.

Now that my kids are older and not around as much, I'm at a spot where I can start cutting back on my hours I've decided to make volunteering a priority. Two weeks ago I mentioned that one of my goals was to finalize a couple of volunteers dates. I thought I'd share with you what I've been up to.

This afternoon my mom and I spent the afternoon serving lunch to a crew at a Habitat for Humanity build. For those of you unfamiliar with Habitat for Humanity, it's wonderful organization that helps families get a house of their own. Families meeting the criteria go through a selection process that enables them to buy a home at a fraction of the normal cost.

Habitat for Humanity homes are either built or remodeled with the help of volunteers and donations. The families themselves must put in so many hours of sweat equity to qualify for the house. The fact that the families are so involved in the organization is one of the reasons I support Habitat for Humanity. These families aren't getting a hand-out, their getting a hand-up. They in turn help other families get a hand-up. It's a win-win situation.

My mom and I decided to serve lunch since neither one of us are incredibly handy with paint or hammers. Push comes to shove I do know how to use a hammer, it's just a lot of hard work! Serving lunch to the crew was pretty satisfying. I was a little embarrassed by how appreciative they were, especially since they were doing the hard stuff!

We ended up buying a variety of buns, lunch meats, potato salad, tomato salad and cookies to serve, My mom also brought her specialty, chocolate covered strawberries, they went over exceptionally well. All in all it was a really satisfying experience. We're tentatively scheduled to serve again in a couple of weeks, I'm thinking brats may be in order for that day. We'll see.

If you are looking for a way for you and your family to give back I would encourage you to look into volunteering at your local Habitat for Humanity. Knowing that you are helping a family to get a home and getting a chance to meet that family first hand can be pretty satisfying.

What are you up to this weekend?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goals for the Week

I was reminded last week about the "Rule of Five" when it comes to goal setting.  During an interview I was conducting, the interviewee mentioned that he uses the rule of five to get things done.  This wasn't a new concept to me but it did get me thinking about how I approach goal setting.  When it comes to setting goals I go to extremes.  Sometimes I'll create a list that is so large I know I'll never get through it.  Conversely, there are times I make the list so small that I think there's no way I can't get through it. 

The Rule of Five is credited to the writers of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Basically, the rule of five is that if every day you went out and made five chops at a tree, even the largest of tree would eventually fall.  Pretty simple concept yet so powerful when you really think about it.  Typically I'll use examples like "you never eat a steak by shoving the whole thing in your mouth" or "the longest journey is made up of a lot of small steps" but I really like the tree analogy. 

As I think about it, maybe my erratic approach to goal setting isn't always the best.  Would I have better success if I implemented my own rule of five?  What I love about concepts is that you can find a few concepts that you like and pick various pieces from each of them to implement in your life.

Here are my goals from last week and how I did against them.

Make an appointment with an attorney to prepare a will and power of attorney - didn't accomplish
Exercise three times and make an appointment with the personal trainer at the gym - I worked out twice (I'm counting two hours in the yard as a workout. Trust me, my muscles are aching and I worked up a sweat). I also made the appointment with the trainer.
Do some work on the blog (new about page, writing additional posts, etc) - Did quite a bit of work on the blog but I didn't write my new "About" page Ugh!
Finalize volunteer dates - I'll be helping out at a Habitat for Humanity build this weekend.

This week instead of writing a laundry list of goals, I'm focusing on implementing my own rule of five.  Here are my goals for the week.  In keeping with my rule of I five theme I was hoping to come up with five of them. However, as i thought about what I realistically could accomplish, I figured if I accomplished all of these I'd be doing pretty good

Fill out my "Life Plan" (I downloaded this from Michael Hyatt last summer but never completed it)
Identify five key areas of my life I want to focus on
Explore ways to keep my goals top of mind

What's on your goal list for the week? Feel free to share or post a link in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cheesy Potatoes

I'm not a huge fan of au gratin potatoes, but my mom made the best potatoes for Easter.  They are so easy to make that I think I'll throw them into my rotation periodically when I want to mix things up.

Cheesy Potatoes

1 box potatoes au gratin
1 heaping tablespoon (more or less to taste) of Lia Marie's Original Garlic Spread
1 heaping tablespoon (more or less to taste) of sour cream
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light French Onion

Prepare potatoes as directed.  Once potatoes are done cooking, add garlic spread, sour cream and cheese.  Cook over low heat until everything is melted together.

Note:  Scalloped potatoes could be substitued for the au gratin potatoes but potatoes may not be quite as cheesy.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Lucky One Giveaway

Would you like to be invited to my Nicholas Sparks House Party? I was one of the “lucky ones” (ha! Aren’t I clever?) to win the Nicholas Sparks Potluck House Party featuring the book “The Lucky One” (ok – do you get it now?) and would like to offer you the opportunity to join us. Alright, you aren’t actually going to receive an invitation to my house but I am offering you the opportunity to participate in my House Party by receiving a free copy of the book The Lucky One.

What is House Party? Let me tell you a little bit about it. House Party is a website that major companies use to promote new products. I was selected at Christmas time to host a Just Dance House Party. As part of my “party pack” I received a free copy of the Just Dance 3 game for Kinect. Since it was Belle’s birthday, we had our House Party coincide with her birthday party. Everyone had a great time and I was a ‘rock star’ mom. Parties that are currently accepting applications include Blue Bunny & Redbook. Check it out, you just may be the next House Party host or hostess.

For my Nicholas Sparks House Party I received 14 copies of the book The Lucky One, which will soon be released as a movie. Each attendee received a book to read before the party but I still have five books left over. I debated what to do with my leftover books and decided that they would make a great giveaway. Sooooo, I’d like to offer you a chance to get one of the books for free.

Here are the rules of entry. Each contestant can have up to five chances to enter. Completing each task gives you one opportunity to win

1. Leave a comment below making sure I know how to get in contact with you
2. For an additional entry, “like” me on Facebook
3. For an additional entry follow me on Pinterest
4. For an additional entry follow me on Twitter (@wonderwomanimno)
5. For an additional entry sign up to receive my posts via e-mail (right hand side of blog)
Five people will win one paperback copy of The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks and one bookmark. Winners will be notified by e-mail. The drawing will be held on April 27th.

I have to say that I flew through this book and loved it! Not all of Nicholas Sparks’ books appeal to me but this was definitely a good one. Whether you are a winner or not I would encourage you to read the book.

Good Luck!

You might also like
The Works for Me! giveaway which will end on April 20th.
Frugal Gardening
Butterfinger Cupcakes

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Frugal Gardening

Spring is in the air!

Who has spring fever? I can certainly say that I do! For me, spring fever comes with the desire to get out in the garden and start getting my hands dirty. Due to time constraints, I don’t do vegetable gardens but I do have flower beds coming out of my ears! Every year I seem to add a little bit more.

Flower gardening can be a very expensive hobby if you let it. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law actually take bus trips around the state buying different flowers for their beds. In the past my mother has spent hundreds of dollars at a time buying flowers. If I’m going to be honest, I do get a little crazy with my annuals as well.

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you are doing perennial gardening. There may be a few of you non-gardeners scratching your heads so let me back up a little bit. Annuals need to be planted every year (which is where the majority of my flower budget goes) while perennials come back year after year. Quite often, perennials will multiple in a way that in some cases leave you pulling your hair out!

That’s where flower gardening doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. I’ll share a secret with you; no gardener wants to waste flowers. When it comes time to split our flowers we’re sometimes begging people to take them. I’m jumping up and down for joy this year because I have two people that want to take my ferns. Last year I couldn’t pay anyone to take them.

How can you start/maintain a garden with minimal investment?

1. Befriend a gardener. I’m going to venture a guess that there are very few gardeners out there who aren’t delighted to share some of their flowers. Personally, I’ve rarely come across a stingy gardener. However, there are a couple of rules.
  • You can’t be overly picky. Remember, you aren’t going to a store buying what you need so don’t be offended if the gardener doesn’t want to split something. Not all plants split well, it may not be big enough to split or it may just be one of their favorite plants and they don’t want to share. If you don’t want what they are offering just say so.
  • Don’t expect the gardener to do it when it’s convenient for you. I love sharing plants but only when it’s convenient for me. If I’m splitting this weekend, that’s when I’m splitting. If it doesn’t work out for you then don’t take them. Ok – I’m not always that tough but you get the picture
  • Offer a small thank you gesture. Most of us don’t want money, but a home baked treat or a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks is always appreciated.
2.  Let everyone know you’re looking for flowers. I got a call one day from a friend who had a friend who had a friend that bought a house with beautiful flower beds that they didn’t want. They were calling people to come dig them out and take them home. I ended up with some fun flowers that I would have never bought on my own.

3. Ask for gift certificates. I have a $50 gift certificate for a local nursery that I got for Christmas. That will certainly help out when I go to plant my annuals this year. Letting the people who buy you presents know that you want money for a garden can help offset your investment.

4. Take advantage of garden club memberships. One of our local nurseries offers gift certificates when you spend X amount of dollars. Every little bit helps!

5. Get a buddy. Sometimes you just want to break down and buy some plants. My mom and I will sometimes go shopping; pick out a couple large plants that we like and split the cost as well as the plant. We each end up with the flowers we want but at half the price.

6. Buy off season. I always check out the clearance bins at the end of summer. Some of the flowers look pretty scraggly but if they are cheap enough I’ll take a chance. Most of them come back the following year.

7. Pay it forward. I’ve built most of my flower beds with help from other gardeners so I like to be generous and help others. I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I make a general offer (I’ll sometimes tack a note up on the board) for some of my plants to have other gardeners offer different plants back to me.

I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your spring plantings.  I'd love to hear your ideas for frugal gardening.  Feel free to leave a comment or link back to your gardening post. 

I’ll be posting this at We are THAT Family and Life as Mom


That Works for Me!

Being an amateur blogger can be a little weird and unsettling. Every few days you sit down to write out what’s on your mind. Sometimes you may share a recipe, a tip that helps bring some order into the chaos you call life or you just might share what’s going on with your family.

There are no hard and fast rules to becoming a successful blogger so we come to rely on others as we find our way. We look for blogs and writers we like to follow, trying to either emulate them or learn from their successes and failures. Using tools like comments and analytics we try to determine our reach. Are we actually reaching people who care what we think? Is it possible we are standing on a stage giving a speech, only to realize we’ve been talking to ourselves for the last hour?

As a blogger who doesn’t make any money at this point (it’s a good thing I’m doing it for love isn’t it?) it can be difficult to measure my success. If I was making a lot of money I would be successful, right? Maybe, maybe not. Money is nice and certainly helps pay the bills, but as an amateur blogger recognition means more. Having a well respected blogger take a little notice of you and actually tell you that she likes some of your posts can be more thrilling than money.

A few months ago I received an e-mail from Kristen Welch at We are THAT Family. For those of you who may not know Kristen, she runs (with the help of her friend Maureen) a maternity house over in Africa. Mercy House is a safe haven for young, potentially abused, pregnant women who have nowhere to turn. All proceeds from her blog go to support Mercy House. In her e-mail to me she asked if she could use three of my posts that I had submitted to her “Works for Me Wednesday” link party in her new e-book.

Hmmmm, let me think about this. A well respected author in the blogging community wants me to be involved with her new e-book. A book, whose proceeds go to support a home for unwed mothers which is a charity that is near and dear to my heart. It took me all of about five seconds before I accepted. I did wait the full five seconds because how uncool would it be to respond immediately?

I felt a little like Sally Field accepting the Oscar “you like me, you really like me!” Ok, those weren’t the exact words that Sally used and I don’t know that I could go so far as to say everyone likes me. However, it is an honor to be included in a book with some truly gifted bloggers. I’m truly very grateful and honored to have been chosen to participate in this project.

With that being said the book That Works for Me! went on sale yesterday for $8. As a contributor Kristen has graciously supplied me with a coupon offering you a dollar off the sale price making your price $7. Outside of my small contribution, there are some great ideas and I would encourage you to check it out. You just never know what life altering tips or other interesting blogs you may find that can help simplify your life a little bit. Who knows, you may be able to maintain the illusion that you really are Wonder Woman just a little longer!

To purchase a copy of the e-book, Click here to visit wearethatfamily. and use the code SAVE1.  I purchased my copy this morning.  Over the next few days I'll be reading all the different tips and sharing some of my favorites with you.

To kick off the sale of her book, Kristen is also running a contest where she is giving away a certificate for $150 in house cleaning. To enter, all you need to do is click here  and enter a tip. I don’t know about all of you but I’ll take $150 in free house cleaning!

As if it can't get any better, Kristen has also given me a copy for me to give away.  There are several ways to enter, up to five entries per person.

1. Leave a comment below making sure I know how to get in contact with you
2. For an additional entry, “like” me on Facebook
3. For an additional entry follow me on Pinterest
4. For an additional entry follow me on Twitter (@wonderwomanimno)
5. For an additional entry sign up to receive my posts via e-mail (right hand side of blog)
The drawing will be held on April 20th, the winner will be notified by e-mail.

Good luck!

You might also like:

The Lucky One Giveaway
Master Bedroom Decorating Project
Frugal Gardening
Note:  An affiliate link is included above

12 Decorating Projects for 2012

At the beginning of the year I decided that this would be the year that I did something about those decorating projects that I always "meant to get to" and never did.  I created a list of 12 items to accomplish and have been working my way through them.

The one I recently finished was the wall in my bedroom.  This wall has stood empty since our room was re-done about 4 - 5 years ago.  I never quite knew what to put on the wall and it quickly moved to the bottom of my priority list.

When it comes to decorating, my biggest issue is what to put on the wall.  Should I hang a print?  If so, what kind of print?  Would family pictures be better?  How about a shelf?  If I hang a shelf what would I put on it?  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with that dilemma.

The decision to hang family photos came mostly from the decision I made regarding the connecting wall between the living room and the kitchen (you can read about that here.)  The frame that I took down was one of my favorites and I wanted to make sure I re-hung it where I could appreciate it.  I then decided that if one side of the window was going to have a family picture the other side should also.

I bought some wall words at Hobby Lobby (note:  they usually have coupons on their website, if you have Internet on your phone you can pull up a coupon at check out saving about 40%.  How cool is that?!)  I printed out some pictures from our recent trip and picked up a collage frame to put them in.  The whole thing took me about two hours (including shopping time) to finish.

Voila, a project to cross off my list that didn't cost me a lot of time or money. 

Have you recently completed a decorating project?  Feel free to share it in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up at Organizing Home Life

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekly Goals

One of the blogs that I read daily is Michael Hyatt.  The other day he had a guest poster who wrote a post entitled What I Learned About To-Do Lists From My Eight Year Old Son.  Nothing in the post was earth shattering or an "ah ha" moment but it was a good reminder to think about what was truly important and make sure those are what's on your to-do list.

Here is what was on my list from last week:

1. Finish decorating project for our bedroom - Not only did I finish this project but I also knocked out another project off of my 12 projects of 2012 list

2. Re-straighten the girls' bathroom cupboard (you can read about the original organization here)
3. Re-write the "About Me" section of my blog and finally add a family picture
4. Finish and order a photo album on Mix Book that I created as a gift but never finished
5. Start a vacation album on Mix Book
6. Make an appointment with an attorney to prepare a will and power of attorney  - I did some research and have narrowed down which attorney we're going to use but I haven't made the appointment yet.
7. Make an appointment with the personal trainer at the gym and exercise three times
8. Finalize one of the serial posts that I've been working on for the blog. 

I was a little disappointed in myself that I didn't get more done but without making a lot of excuses, there were some extenuating circumstances.  There were quite a few things accomplished that weren't on the list, plus I had some unexpected time suckers that didn't help.  I spent an hour and a half last Saturday trying to get some pictures printed at Wal-mart before going home empty handed.  Mike was sick so I had a bunch of stuff to take care of that was on his list.  Plus it's been pretty crazy at work and I've come home exhausted every night. 

Here is my list for this week.  While it may not seem like a lot to get done, these are all things I need to accomplish and I'm trying to be realistic.  Knowing what is on my plate this week, I'll be feeling pretty good if I get this all done.

1.  Make an appointment with an attorney to prepare a will and power of attorney
2.  Exercise three times and make an appointment with the personal trainer at the gym.
3.  Do some work on the blog (new about page, writing additional posts, etc)
4.  Finalize volunteer dates (I've offered to prepare some lunches for a couple of Habitat for Humanity builds)

I'll let you know how it goes.  What are you hoping to accomplish this week?  Feel free to either share or link to your post in the comment section.

I'll be linking this to Money Saving Mom

Weekly Menu

I hope everyone had a nice Easter.  Mike was sick so I ended up going to two family dinners by myself.  I got home a little late so I didn't have a chance to post my menu until this evening.  Since my menu is a little skimpy, I thought I'd share a recipe with you my mom threw together.  I'll be posting it separately later this week so I can add it to my menu tab.

I ended up taking strawberry shortcake to my mother in law's.  As I was rooting around the freezer for the last of my strawberries I came across some more applesauce and cranberries.  The family was quite excited since I thought I had already used them all.  Of course I also found a lot of apples that hadn't been used so I felt guilted into making some apple crisp.  I may use my frozen apples to make another batch or two of applesauce as well.

Here's our plan for the week
 As you can tell, grilling is the theme of the week.  I like the grilling theme since it means that I do very little cooking! 

Here's the recipe I promised you.

Cheesy Potatoes

1 box potatoes Au gratin
1 heaping tablespoon (more or less to taste) of Lia Marie's Original Garlic Spread
1 heaping tablespoon (more or less to taste) of sour cream
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light French Onion

Prepare potatoes as directed. Once potatoes are done cooking, add garlic spread, sour cream and cheese. Cook over low heat until everything is melted together.

I'll be linking this up at Money Saving Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie and Good Cheap Eats

If you would like, feel free to leave a link to you post or share what you're eating this week in comments.

Hope you have a nice week!




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekly Menu

Last week we didn't do such a great job following our menu.  We had the spaghetti but that was the only meal that we were actually able to eat as a family.  I had an unplanned business dinner pop up, plus my husband's new (to us) motorcycle was finally ready to be picked up.  Between those two events, two of our free nights became unavailable.  I'm not sure what happened to the other night.  I've had a headache for the last week and I probably just didn't feel like cooking.  The chickens that I had planned on serving had been thawed so I did go ahead and cook them, the family just ate them as left overs.

While the kids were at their grandparent's on Friday night, Mike and I went to Outback for dinner.  Outback is one of our favorite favorite restaurants, we go there about twice a month.  I especially like going there on Friday nights during happy hour.  What's better than a White Zin Sangria from Outback?  Two for the price of one!!  Unfortunately they lost our food ticket and it took them almost an hour before they came out and told us why we hadn't received our food.  Luckily for them I had a massage Friday afternoon and had plenty of time to drink my sangria's :) Unfortunately for them my husband gets crabby when he's hungry :(  The owner was nice enough to comp our meal for us which was a nice surprise.  I can also say that my New York Strip was the best that I've ever had, well worth the wait!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I've barely thought at planning dinner.  My son did my grocery shopping for me today with a half-baked shopping list.  As we were putting away the groceries I realized I didn't have anything for a full meal, he's at the store right now picking up some of the items that we missed.

Here is what I'm planning on whipping together.  I know it's not overly impressive but with this migraine I've been fighting it's about the best I'm going to muster this week.  The kids are not going to be happy with another night of spaghetti - oh well!

Taco Buffet
Spaghetti and Meatballs, glazed carrots, garlic bread, strawberry salad
Brats, roasted potatoes, corn, Homemade applesauce, Quick Apple Crisp
Fend for yourself/take out

That's it for me.  What's on your menu?  Feel free to post a link to your menu in the comments.

I'll be linking this up at Money Saving Mom, Life as Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie.