Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saucy Smokies

In light of New Year's, I thought I would share one of the quickest and easiest "knick-knack" recipes that I have. (In some Southern circles "knick-knack" is used to describe snack food.) I have been making these for over 15 years. They are always the first to disappear from my snack table. I like to cook and serve these in a mini-crock pot. You could also prepare them on the stove and serve them in a chafing dish. (Although, they probably won't last long enough to get cold.)

Lil' Smokies
Prepared Yellow Mustard
Grape Jelly
Minced Onion

Place smokies in your crock. Whisk together jelly and mustard until relatively smooth. If you want your sauce sweeter, go a little heavier on the jelly. If you want it to be more tangy, opt for a little more mustard. Just eyeball the amounts, you really can't mess this up. Stir in the minced onions and pour mixture over the smokies. They should be well coated and with some extra sauce in the bottom. As everything heats up the sauce will loosen up. If you are cooking on the stove, use medium-low heat and give it a little time. Stir occasionally and be sure not to cook the sauce dry. When the smokies are plump, they are ready. Enjoy!

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life As Mom.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deals and Steals-Kohls-88% off plus free shipping!

Kohls is having a HUGE sale. I just purchased some great Christmas gifts for next year (Yep, I've already started!) The retail price of my purchases plus shipping would have been around $330. I spent $38, plus I will receive 4% cash back through Ebates. Follow THIS LINK to the sale and be sure to use the codes NOCHARGE and EXTRA20 to receive free shipping and an additional 20% off respectively. (Kohls allows 2 codes per purchase.) I found sweet deals in the Beauty and Kitchen/Dining sections. Things are selling out fast (for obvious reasons).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deals and

I just placed an order from and got a great deal. They have a large assortment of personalized stationary, address labels and memo pads on clearance HERE. I used code MADNESS, to receive an additional 70% off plus free shipping. I got 25 personalized note cards (retail $26) for just under $6, shipped. Think ahead for birthdays, stocking stuffers and "just because" gifts.

Thanks, For The Mommas!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My After-Christmas Bargains

Here is a photo of a few of the goodies I have picked up over the last couple of days. Everything was at least half-price.

My favorite steal of the week has been the Scotch Tape 3-Packs.
~Original price was $2.99, on sale for $1.49.
~There was a tear-off coupon on the tape for $2.00 off of the Scotch Gift Wrap Cutter.
~The Gift Wrap Cutter was originally $4.99, on sale for $2.49. Subtract the $2.00 coupon and the Cutter was $.49.
So, 9 rolls of tape and 3 Cutters cost a whopping $6, a savings of almost $18.

Also, notice the PlayDoh in a candy-cane...take it out of the candy cane and it is just PlayDoh.

I was excited to find the Scrabble to Go game for half price as well.

I forgot to include the massive roll of gold gift wrap that will be useful for many occasions in my photo.

What goodies have you scored?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After-Christmas Sales

I LOVE the after-Christmas sales. They are my favorite. And, contrary to popular belief, you can stock up on a lot more than giftwrap and lights. (Although, this is the only time that I buy these things.) Already, you will find holiday items at a 50% discount. By Monday or Tuesday it will go to 75%.

Items I look for:
~stocking stuffers for next year
~every day food items with a Christmas picture on the front
~scotch tape (no idea why they clearance this, but they do)
~sharpies (in the Christmas section)
~solid-colored gift wrap (I got a beautiful, huge roll of gold stripe...weddings, etc.)
~gift sets (I often disassemble these and repackage them so they don't look like Christmas)

Later today I will post a photo of my recent finds. I'd love to hear about the goodies that you come up with!

Deals and Steals-Bath and Body Works Semi-Annual Sale

Just a reminder that Bath and Body Works is having their Semi-Annual Sale, starting today. I'm going to try to visit one of their stores, but everything is available online as well. There are no free shipping codes right now (bummer). But, there are several for $10 off of a $40 purchase. Use either code 1537 or 1419. This is a great time to stock up on Hostess Gifts. Note: Gifts sets are at a deeper discount in-store than they are online.

Signature Body Lotion, Room Sprays, and Antibacterial Hand Soap are all $3. I always stock up on the Room Sprays this time of year. They are concentrated, one spritz will cover any smell. (You know I live in a men's dorm, right?) They are also discreet. I keep these in my bathrooms and kitchen.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas to All...

Wishing your family much fun, many warm memories, and time to focus on those things which really matter.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas With Leftovers

About 12 years ago my husband and I were serving a small church in a tiny community in rural Kentucky. We were early in our ministry there when someone mentioned that a women's auxiliary in town had recently disbanded and that there was no one who would be helping the less fortunate families in town for Christmas.

This small town is land-locked by a military base. Some of the kids living there had never been more than a few miles from its borders. Many of the families in our community were in need. I knew that the gap left by the auxiliary would be a large one.

I gathered the ladies in our church and we began raising funds to try to help. We published a cookbook, took donations from local businesses, and placed miniature Christmas trees in local service stations and restaurants with handmade ornaments on them. Anyone who made a donation was invited to take an ornament for their tree. One restaurant took it upon themselves to hold a toy drive to help us out.

We contacted the elementary school for the names of families that might need our help. We quickly collected a list of names, ages and sizes. When shopping day came we had 18 children from five families who needed our help. Our bank account boasted $1400 (I had double-checked with the bank to make sure), and I felt confident that we could provide food and gifts for each family without difficulty. I had already visited all of the families on our list to find out about their need, except one. They were a last-minute suggestion by the principal of the school, newly arrived in town and obviously struggling.

A friend and I stopped by the home on our way out of town to go shopping. I knocked on the door and it was opened a bit apprehensively. I introduced myself and explained my mission. The mom was kind, but almost suspicious of me, keeping the door open just enough for us to talk through it. I asked if there was anything specific that she needed. Her response was one word, "beds". "I'm sorry," I replied. She said, "We need beds. We are sleeping on the floor."

As I walked away from her door, I was overwhelmed. My $1400 seemed a paltry amount to provide food and gifts for 18 along with beds for a family of seven. We started praying and headed for the store. We did all of the other shopping first, purchasing clothes and a toy for each child on the list and food items to round out what we had already collected in our food drive through the church family. We did manage to find bed frames for $20 each, so we picked those up, too. When we were finished that day, my mind was heavy with a concern that I would have to go to that family and tell them that we were not going to be able to provide the beds that they needed.

The next morning I started gathering receipts and totalling our expenditures from the day before. So that I would know exactly how much we had. We stopped by a local business on the way out of town and the manager asked us how the shopping was going. (This is a very small town.) We told him our dilemma and he immediately wrote a check for $200. We knew that would help, but I still did not believe that it was enough. We stopped by the bank to deposit the check and the teller wrote our new balance on the receipt. I turned to leave, and then turned back to her. "Are you sure," I asked. The total was more than my records indicated. I shrugged it off as a miscalculation on my part from the receipts the day before and we hurried off, thrilled to have $800 instead of $600.

We visited several furniture stores, but could find no way to buy more than two or three twin mattress sets. Finally, we were down to the final store available to us. We found that they had an incredibly poor quality mattress set that we might be able to swing, if they would give us a benevolence discount. (It was essentially foam-rubber wrapped in cotton). So I approached the salesman and told him about our mission, asking if he would be able to help. He said that he could, but admitted the poor quality of the product and pointed out that it would not last that long. I told him that I understood that, but our money was extremely limited and it would be better than sleeping on the floor. He paused at that statement and said, "You know, the next level of our product line is actually pretty good. Our regional manager happens to be in town. Let me call him and see if I can get approval for a deeper discount."

As he walked away, my friend and I discussed the need for sheets, pillows and blankets. We started praying, sitting right there on the mattress, and decided that $600 was our limit (regular price for the second-tier mattresses would have been more than double this). If it was more, we would go with the cheaper set. A few minutes later he returned. "My manager says that we can do three full and one twin set for $618, will that work for you?" In unison, we said, "Yes!"

The rest of the day was full of similar blessings. We delivered the beds, bedding, toys, and food to the family the next day, December 23. The kids were precious. They paid little attention to the wrapped gifts that we brought in that day. They all wanted to try out their new beds.

Believe it or not, we had a little left over. You know, that happened once a very long time ago as well. Jesus was teaching a huge crowd of people and meal-time was approaching. He told his disciples to feed the people and their response to him was, "How?" A little boy was there with a little bread and a little fish. Jesus took that food, blessed it, and told his friends to start passing it out. When everyone had eaten their fill, all 5,000 of them, the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftovers so that, "nothing [would] be wasted". Undoubtedly, the excess was shared with those who needed it. You can find the whole story in the Bible, in the book of John, chapter six.

I cannot explain what happened that Christmas. Those receipts that I thought I had miscalculated? I didn't, I checked and re-checked. There was simply more money left than there should have been. We had a little, Jesus presented us with needs far beyond our means. We started passing it out, and it grew to meet those needs with leftovers. Oh, and the leftovers...want to know what we did with them? On Christmas Eve, a home burned down just outside our community. They lost everything. We had enough to provide many things for that family of three as well.

The numbers for that year:

Money Collected: $1800
Families in Need: 6
Children in Those Families: 21
Clothes, toys, and food provided for all, as well as beds and bedding for 7.

You will never convince me that God no longer preforms miracles.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things~McDonald's Oatmeal *UPDATE*

About a week ago I wrote about McDonalds' new oatmeal HERE, which I am in love with. Today, I recevied a message from McDonalds' public relations department. They had run across my post, noticed that I had not been able to come up with nutrition information and kindly provided it for us.

"Since you asked about the nutritional information, I thought I would send it along to you and your readers. One complete serving of the product contains 260 calories and 4 grams of fat."

Not all.

I'm thrilled to find out that this item is as healthy as I thought it was. :)
Thanks for the info, Jaime (and, thanks for the offer for a free cup of oatmeal!)

So, when you are sick of cake, pie, cookies and fudge after the holiday out to McDonalds and get something healthy...Fruit and Maple Oatmeal.

****This is an update as of May 15, 2011. I've had lots of questions about how differing variations on the oatmeal affect the nutritional value. Please understand that the original post on this was written over a year and a half ago while this product was being tested in my area for potential national coverage. I am personally glad that they decided to keep the oatmeal. But...they've tweaked it some since this post was written. I doubt that the nutritional facts here will mirror what you can find on the company website. For nutrition facts on the current product, please check out the McDonald's website. Thanks! ~Amy****

My First Wordless Wednesday :)

This post is linked to Mama Cheaps.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deals and Steals-96 Magazine Subscriptions for $3.99 or Less

I ran across a doozie of a deal this morning and I just had to share it with ya'll. Best Deal Magazines has 96 magazines on sale for $4.69 today. You can use code PSXX13 to get 15% off of most of them, too. And, if you shop through Ebates, you will receive 10% cash back. This brings the cost of the $4.69 subscription down to $3.60...not bad for a year of magazines. I just chose 4 and my total was $15.69. Also, their daily deal is Family Circle, which is $4.39 before the discount and cash back.

Here is a list of the ones that caught my eye:
*Family Fun
*Taste of Home
*Road & Track
*Car & Driver
*Cycle World
*Family Circle
*Woman's Day
*Running Times
*Garden & Gun

When you get to the Best Deals Magazine Website, look down the left side of the homepage for the "4.69 Magazines" tab.

Cheap magazine deals like this make great teacher gifts and stocking stuffers. I am giving several this year. Just print out a picture of the magazine cover and place it in a card that says "A gift subscription for _______ has been purchased for you."

Disclaimer: I have not purchased from this site before, but I know bloggers who have without problems. I also feel confident because it is an Ebates affiliate, and I have never had a bad experience through Ebates. Warning: They will offer you "free gifts" with each magazine purchased which ends up being book mp3 downloads. I do not trust a download from a site like this (only Amazon, itunes, Barnes and Noble, etc.), so I chose NOT to participate in the "free gifts". Use your own best judgement.

What is Ebates? It is a cashback site that you can click through to many major retailers. When you make a purchase through Ebates, you get a percentage of your purchase back in your Ebates account. Several times a year, Ebates will pay you the money you have earned. I have been a member of Ebates since around April, and have received $120 cash back, with $44 pending in my account right now. It really adds up! If you click through the link above, you will be taken to the sign-up page for Ebates. When you make your first purchase, you will make $5 extra (and so will I). If you prefer to go straight to their website instead of linking through mine, just go to You will still receive the $5 sign-up bonus with your fist purchase.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a Break For My Family

We travel for Christmas, and yet we love to have our little family's Christmas celebration in our home. So, Santa visits our home a little early each year. Tonight we are celebrating Christmas Eve with the Nativity Story, family time, and a few gifts. Tomorrow will be Christmas morning with all the trimmings.

The cool part is the 10-20 inches of snow that should start falling in about 3 hours. I've never seen a White Christmas, and this year our celebration is going to be very snowy!

Our day has already been eventful with a trip to the ER and surgical staples. My little guy tangled with the oak TV cabinate and lost. (He's fine, no worries.) So, now that we have that out of the way, hopefully we can look forward to a peaceful, unitnerrupted family celebration over the next 48 hours or so. We definitely won't be leaving home with the blizzard coming.

So, for a short time, I'm going to unplug. If you are in the path of the storm, I wish you a quilt, hot chocolate, and a good book. If not, enjoy the last-minute preparations for your own holiday celebration!

Photo compliments of Bing Image Search.

Passing Along the Best Blog Awards

I told you earlier in the week that Unfinished Mom had passed me the Best Blog Award. Well, it is my turn to pass it along to some of my favorite blogs. I check each of these daily, and find great value in each one. Since I am fairly new to this world, I consider all of them recent finds.

I will say that I would also be passing this to Unfinished Mom, had it not come from her. She has wonderful ideas. I am still psyched over her Cookie Sheet.

1~Mama Cheaps
Posts multiple times daily with great deals.

2~Couponing to Disney
Using bargain hunter tactics to finance a family trip to Disney. Multiple deal posts daily.

Mom of quadruplet boys shares the stories of her life. Runs a charity providing "survival kits" to NICU families.

4~For The Mommas
Great Mom Blog. Cooking, Bargains, etc.

5~Cake Wrecks
Just plain fun. Professionally decorated cakes gone awry. For a novice decorator like me, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

6~Household 6 Diva
Military wife living in Germany, I believe. Great stories of military life and some of the most beautiful baked goods I've ever seen. Check out her Apple Rosette Pie HERE.

7~Life As Mom
On a journey to joyful motherhood. Good stuff on all levels.

8~Moore Minutes
Home life ideas, decorating, making home a pleasant place to be.

9~Redemption Unlimited
Bargains, Coupon Codes and Deals. Multiple daily posts.

10~Saving and Giving
Jennifer's goal is to save money so that she can give more to others, I love her purpose!

11~Kingdom First Mom
Saving and Giving from a Christian perspective

12~The Dragon Sisterhood
Written for the adoptive families of Chinese children. Great information on adjustment, opportunities and culture.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheater Cookies~So Easy, It Feels Like You're Cheating at Cooking

This recipe was given to me years ago, when I was a young bride. I love them because they are versatile, take very few ingredients, and oh so tasty. I made dozens of these once for an after-concert and signing party for Jacqi Valesquez and Clay Crosse (they were just getting started and I managed a Christian Bookstore). When I take these to an event, they always disappear.

Are you ready for the ingredient list?

Cheater Cookies

1 box cake mix (your choice)
1 egg
2 c. Cool Whip
powdered sugar

Combine cake mix, egg and Cool Whip. Drop by teaspoonful into powdered sugar and roll until covered. Shape into balls. Place 1-inch apart on a greased cookie sheet or baking stone. Do not flatten. Bake 350* for 9-10 minutes, until set but not browned. Cool on a wire rack. Store in a loosely covered container (or they will get hard). Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

I have used chocolate, lemon, strawberry, spice, and butter pecan cake mixes. My favorites are chocolate and lemon. Strawberry is pretty for a bridal or baby shower. When using spice mix, I like to add cinnamon. These cookies are soft, chewy and wonderful. They spread as they cook, giving them a wonderful crinkled appearance. Enjoy!

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom.

Amazon Filler Item Finder~SO COOL!

I ran across a post on another blog last week about the coolest thing. Now I cannot remember which blog posted it, so up front, I'm sorry for not giving credit where it is due. I have just learned a lesson...write it down!

I have to share this with you, though. Have you ever been shopping on Amazon, found the perfect thing for $21.99 and then had to go searching for something that cost over $3.01 so that you could get the Free Super Saver Shipping? I have, so many times.

There is a "search engine" of sorts that will find the item for you. It is amazing! I played around with it to see what it would bring up. There are dozens of items for sale on Amazon for under $1. Who knew?

HERE is your link. I have it bookmarked so that I can get to it when I need it. I hope it helps you like I know it will help me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

E.L.F Review & Deal

On Cyber Monday I told you that I'd finally given a try. After months of positive reviews for quality and value, I ordered several products from their Mineral Makeup line. I have had complexion issues ever since my youngest was born and I have found that mineral makeup is much less prone to cause breakouts. But, let's face it, the top brand is EXPENSIVE. I've been getting it cheaper from ebay, but still...

I've tried different pieces from the line on different days and I want to share my opinion.
*Mineral Eyeliner $3
Pros-goes on easy, no tugging or pulling, very creamy.
Cons-raccoon eyes if used on lower lids, used only on top it is fine.

*Mineral Lipstick $5
Pros-Creamy, not sticky
Cons-needed to reapply several times during the day

*Mineral Lip Gloss $3
Pros-NOT STICKY (pet peeve of mine, sticky lip gloss), nice shimmer

Mineral Eye Shadow $3 (Incredible Price!)
Pros-very shimmery, subtle color (I find the high-priced one to be to intense.)
Cons-staying power is fair but didn't last morning through evening

Mineral Foundation $5 (!!!!)
Pros-great price, great staying power, very similar to the high-priced version

Mineral Booster Large $8 (!!!!)
This is your finishing powder.
Pros-Identical to the expensive stuff

Over all I am very impressed. And, right now they have a great deal going. You can get a free gift with ANY purchase. Did I mention that they have lip gloss and eye shadow for $1? The gift is a Mini Makeup Kit (shown at the top of this post) that sells for $15. You can purchase a $1 item, pay $6.95 for shipping, and get the $15 kit for free. Use the code LOYAL at checkout.

Deals and Steals-Free Shipping & Gift w/Purchase at Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly Jelly Beans is offering free FedEx shipping on purchases of $25 or more (usually it is $50), and promising that it will arrive by Christmas Day if you order before 3PM Eastern Time, tomorrow. Also, if you enter the code FROSTY at checkout they will throw in a 1.6 oz package of assorted beans. The gift set pictured sells for $29.99. I think it would be a fun gift for that person who has everything already. If you order through Ebates, you will receive an additional 5% cash back.

Not familiar with Ebates? It is a cashback site that you can click through to many major retailers. When you make a purchase through Ebates, you get a percentage of your purchase back in your Ebates account. Several times a year, Ebates will pay you the money you have earned. I have been a member of Ebates since around April, and have received $120 cash back, with $44 pending in my account right now. It really adds up! If you click through the link above, you will be taken to the sign-up page for Ebates. When you make your first purchase, you will make $5 extra (and so will I). If you prefer to go straight to their website instead of linking through mine, just go to You will still receive the $5 sign-up bonus with your fist purchase.

A Few of My Favorite Things~McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

I really cannot believe that I am posting a McDonald's menu item as one of my favorite things. Usually this is a place that I give-in and go to once in a while for the kiddos. It is seldom that I go there for myself.

We had a road trip to take Thanksgiving weekend, and on our rush out the door that morning, I forgot to eat breakfast. Since Mickey D's is practically at the end of my driveway, that was my breakfast option. I noticed a sign for the new Fruit and Maple Oatmeal and decided to give it a try. Wow! I received a reasonably-sized portion of freshly made oatmeal with loads of freshly chopped apples, raisins, golden raisins, and dried cranberries. It smelled and tasted wonderful. There was fruit in every bite. I have ordered this three times since Thanksgiving to see if they were going to get skimpy with the fruit. I have consistently gotten hot, fresh oatmeal with lots of fruit.

Kudos to McDonald's for bringing healthy food to breakfast (or any time, I just ordered the oatmeal pictured at 5:30 PM). After the McGriddle, I had almost written them off, blech! (Come on...bacon, eggs and cheese sandwiched between two syrup-infused pancakes?) I wanted to give you the nutrition information, but it appears to be MIA. I looked on their website and asked at the store, but neither had it for this item. Based on my knowledge of sweetened instant oatmeal packets and the dried fruit, I'm going to guess it to be around 220 calories which is not bad. So, the next time your kids sweet-talk you into a Happy Meal, give the oatmeal a shot! Oh...and did I mention that it costs $1.99? Cheap food makes me happy :)

****This is an update as of May 15, 2011. I've had lots of questions about how differing variations on the oatmeal affect the nutritional value. Please understand that the original post on this was written over a year and a half ago while this product was being tested in my area for potential national coverage. I am personally glad that they decided to keep the oatmeal. But...they've tweaked it some since this post was written. I doubt that the nutritional facts here will mirror what you can find on the company website. For nutrition facts on the current product, please check out the McDonald's website. Thanks! ~Amy****

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Deals and Steals-$5 off Any Purchase at Photoworks

I just received items that I purchased recently from Photoworks, and I am very impressed with their quality. I have a mug, pillowcase, and luggage tag (all for nearly nothing with earlier deals). In my shipping carton was a card promising $5 off of any purchase through Dec. 31 with code HOLIDAY5. They have several items on sale right now, and they are offering a free upgrade to 2-day shipping on all orders placed tonight. So, if you need one more item to finish off your list, you may be able to swing a deal.

Deals and Steals-Stackable Coupons for Victoria's Secret Pajamas

I just stumbled upon a good deal at Couponing to Disney. You can purchase any sleepwear item, pjs, flannel pajama pants, etc. And receive 15% off at checkout. You also will qualify for a free body lotion. It appears that PINK pjs will also net you a free tote.

I ordered these because my summer pjs are getting ratty. My total was just over $25. They have a huge selection of pjs HERE. I could have purchased cheaper from Stuffmart, but I find that Vicky's stuff lasts forever. I have a set similar to the ones pictured on the left that I have been wearing for 5 years, and they still look great.

Use the codes PINKTOTE, VSNATURAL and VSSAVE15 at checkout. (Try them all.)

If you have a Victoria's Secret card... you could use the code FA918289 for 25% off.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thank You!

A good friend of mine, Unfinished Mom, just let me know that she is passing along a blog award to me. I hardly think I have been at this long enough to have earned such an honor. But, I really appreciate it!

I started blogging as an outlet for my "mommy brain". You know, all the grown-up stuff that you would like to talk about occasionally instead of Handy Manny and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Unfinished Mom told me that it would be fun ride, and she is right. I am really surprised that anyone is reading the stuff that oozes out of my brain. :)

The requirements for accepting the Best Blog award are:

1. To accept the award, post it in your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.

2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you have recently discovered and think are great! Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So, today I complete step one. I will post some of the blogs that I feel are special later this week, and pass the award along to them.

By the way, Unfinished Mom has a great post about the unexpected today. Check it out!

ICE~A Really Cool Experience

My hubby and I went with some friends to a really fun exhibit this week. Gaylord Resorts around the country have created Winter Wonderlands sculpted from 100 tons of ice each. The exhibit is called, ICE. We visited Gaylord National Harbor which is just outside Washington DC.

We had been forewarned to dress warmly due to the 9* temperatures inside the exhibit. So, we all donned our gloves, earmuffs and hats. Just before entering the exhibit we were given big blue parkas to wear over our winter coats. These serve two purposes. One is extra warmth. The other is to cover you with a nice slippery surface so that you can really fly down the Ice Slides.

Ninety-five percent of what you see inside is made of ice. It truly is magnificent. The detail is amazing. Many of the sculptures had LED lights frozen inside them so that they glowed from within. There was a life-size one horse open sleigh; a larger than life nativity; an outdoor scene with deer, polar bears and an ice bridge; a walk-in igloo; Santa's toyshop and so much more.

It takes about 30 minutes to go through everything. Trust me, you don't want to stay in there much longer than that. They even rotate the staff inside every 30 minutes or so because of the frigid temps.

The Coca-Cola Santa was waiting at the end for pictures, which are free. We walked away with a 4X6 and a code to download the digital version online.

There weren't many children inside. We chose not to take our boys. If you do take your kids be sure to bundle them, especially those fingers and toes. My gloves are lined with Thinsulate and my fingers were hurting after about 15 minutes.

Prices vary based upon the resort that is near you. Our cost was about $25 per person. It was well worth the price for a one-time splurge.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cool Kitchen Tips~Cooling Off Mac & Cheese

When I was growing up Macaroni and Cheese was a solid, it was called Macaroni Pie. (It's a Southern thing...I'll post my recipe one day.) I was a teenager before I actually tasted the stuff out of the box. I'm not a huge fan. But, my youngest likes it a lot. So I do occasionally make it for him. My biggest problem has always been cooling it off. I have fixed my little guy a bowl of mac & cheese many times and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. The other day I had an epiphany. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration. But, I did have a good idea. I dropped an ice cube in and let my son stir until it melted. It did not hurt the consistency at all. I suppose it could if it was a very small serving. But, it was a much quicker fix than my freezer method.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 31

One of my favorite blogs is Cake Wrecks. It is a site dedicated to finding really poorly executed, professional cakes. I go there any time I need a good laugh. As a novice decorator, I can truly understand how these cakes go wrong. But, I have the good sense to keep it under wraps if it does. Wanna see my favorite? HERE it is. At the top is what the bride requested, scroll down to see what she got. Isn't it horrid?

The couple that runs Cake Wrecks has decided to choose one charity per day for the next two weeks. They will personally contribute $200 to each charity. They are encouraging us to contribute $1. If we participate in all of them, it is a total of $20 out-of-pocket for you and me. But, combined with all the other Cake Wreck readers out there, there is a potential for raising more than $20,000 per charity! That is the power of working together. I don't know what all of the charities will be, and that will certainly determine which I participate in. The first is certainly worthy, a clean water project for developing countries. HERE is the fundraising page for the first charity. As I see worthy causes come up, I will let you know. Or, check back with Cake Wrecks yourself. It is always good for a chuckle. (Disclaimer: Occasionally a wreck is posted with a reference to poo, and occasionally a cake comes across that looks racy, even though the baker produced it innocently.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hidden Gems~Two Of My Favorite Local Businesses

I love finding local goodies to give as gifts. This is especially fun for friends and family down South. When you think of Maryland, I'm sure the first local specialty that comes to mind is crab. I don't think I had ever even tried crab until we moved here. Now, I've become a crab cake snob. One day I'll share my favorite places to find this yummy delicacy. Today though, I want to highlight a couple of local businesses that I visit regularly.

The Bee Folks
The Titus Family have been beekeepers for over 10 years. What began as an avenue to increase vegetable production in their garden has turned into a thriving business. They carry a large assortment of local and exotic honeys, beeswax candles and beauty products. My favorite honeys right now are Southern Belle and Buckwheat. Southern Belle has a peachy flavor. Buckwheat is one of those things that you love or hate, I am told. It has a dark, raisin-like flavor. I love it with Ezekiel Bread for breakfast! Several people on my Christmas list are receiving items from their product line. My boys love honey sticks, so they will find bundles in their stockings on Christmas morning. If you are looking for a unique gift, or a treat for yourself, check out The Bee Folks website. You know you want to try the Killer Bee Honey!

I discovered McCutcheons preserves at our County Fair a few years ago. When I bought my first jar, I had no idea that it was locally produced. Then I read the label! The factory is about 20 miles from my home. I have tried many of their offerings over the past few years and, I must say that I have not been disappointed with a single item I have purchased. A few of my favorites are the Pumpkin Butter, Apple Butter, Seedless Blackberry Jam, Apple Pie Preserves, and the absolute best...Whole Blueberry Preserves. Oh my! There is a line of juice-sweetened products that are wonderful for diabetic diets (my grandfather loves these). They also carry salsas and dressings, dips and marinades, so many lovely things. If you are a cider aficionado, their apple cider is fabulous! I can't resist a bottle from the cooler while I am there. All of their products are available for purchase online. Although, I must admit that their website leaves much to be desired. I would recommend calling 1-800-875-3451 to request a catalog instead, then place an order online or by phone. Oh, and did I mention the unbelievably reasonable prices? 18 oz. Apple Butter ~ $2.25, 18 oz. Pumpkin Butter ~ $2.95, 18 oz. Whole Blueberry ~ $ get the picture!

Deals and Steals-Free Calendar from Oriental Trading

Anyone who has ever worked in a school, Sunday school, or VBS has probably heard of Oriental Trading. Right now they are offering a free calendar, just for the asking. It looks very nice and includes monthly discounts. It also promises "Tons of unique dates to celebrate like National Ice Cream Day". There are lots of free calendars available right now, but I personally only need one or two. This is my choice among them.

Thanks Freebies 4 Mom!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deals and Steals-Free Leap Frog ABC Board Book

Leap Frog is offering a FREE ABC Board Book. All you need to do is create a "learning path" for your child. Essentially, this means that you are telling them which Leap Frog toys you own. This took me about 3 minutes. Freebies4Mom is raving about this little book, so I am excited to get it. I'm saving it for our little Grace, but it would make a nice FREE stocking stuffer.

Deals and Steals-$5 Photo Mug &Free Shipping

I just ordered a mug from Photo Works for a stocking stuffer. My total cost was $5 flat. This mug, ordered normally, would have been over $23. This deal is good today only! Click on the $5 mug on the left. You have the choice of a black or white background. You will need to use the code 5DOLLARMUG at checkout.

Thanks For The Mommas!

Deals and Steals-50% Off Photo Gifts & Free Shipping

I have already ordered fabulous photo Christmas cards from this season. I like their site tools, they are very user friendly. Through midnight tonight SeeHere is having a sale on all photo gifts (prints are not included). Everything is 50% off plus free shipping. Use the code 2day at checkout.

This means that a $90 photo throw will be $45 with free shipping. Wonderful gifts for Grandparents!

Cool Kitchen Tips~Peel A Potato In 10 Seconds!

I just found the niftiest tip for peeling potatoes. Watch the video below, I am amazed! What a wonderful idea!

Thanks, Jennifer!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things-Books That Give A New Perspective to Christmas

There are a couple of small books that I pull from my bookshelf every year at this time. Each one is a very fast read, but so packed full of meaning! I thought I would share them with you.

The first is Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado. Written with Lucado's characteristic flair, it is the fictionalized rendition of the spiritual warfare that must have surrounded the first Christmas. This would be a fun book to read with boys, at your discretion of course. (Minor parental editing may be needed as you read to them based on the age and maturity level of your kiddos.) Angels are portrayed as the warriors and protectors that they are. I plan to read this with my 9 year old this year, with the explanation that it is fictional. This is the nativity story like you have never heard it before. Find it in THIS compilation at Amazon.

The second book is The Innkeeper by John Piper. Although this is also a fictionalized account of events surrounding the first Christmas, as with all that comes from Piper's pen, it is rich with meaning. I have great respect for this man of God. This one brings me to tears every single year. I think any mom would understand this upon reading it. Have you ever thought about the true ramifications of the slaughter of all baby boys under the age of 2 that Herod commanded? Joseph was warned and Jesus was spared...many were not. This book is not a Christmas downer, on the contrary, it brings a depth to Christmas that is often forgotten. Find it HERE at Amazon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 27

I had a fabulous giving idea today...too late to pull it off. But, I'm gonna be looking for a likely candidate over the next couple of weeks. Does that make me a stalker?...Nah.

Here it is. You know those nice people who stand outside stores ringing bells for the Salvation Army every year? On a cold day, go buy a cup of coffee or cocoa and bring it back to them. While you are at it, thank them for their sacrifice of time for a great organization. In our busy society, time is one of the greatest gifts you can give!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 25

I have been slack for a while about posting ideas for giving, but the spirit is still there and I have still been at it on a personal level. I hope you are looking for opportunites in the world around you to reach out. I have been struck today by the vast number of people who are hurting, particularly the families of ministers. I know of four specific tragedies that have taken place since Thanksgiving Day in the lives of pastors.

There are certainly many who are hurting. So many are sick, so many are mourning losses, so many have dire financial situations, and so many are without hope. I struggle daily with not being absorbed with my own busyness. It is an effort to look beyond the four walls of my own home. Yet, I do not want to skate through life and miss the whole point. I pray to be focused on the eternal rather than the temporal.

I learned of another easy way to be an encourager to US Soldiers today. When you are addressing your Christmas Cards, address one to:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington DC 20307-5001

Thank a brave American for their sacrifice this season! I encourage you to pray for the soldier who will receive your card as well, and tell them that you did. You may not know who will receive it, but God does!

Saving and Giving is hosting A Time to Give today that is sure to have lots of awesome giving ideas, check it out!

Deals and Steals-1,344 FREE Music Downloads from Amazon!

I've been hearing a lot of cyber-buzz about Amazon offering free music downloads. But, what I have seen has been a couple of songs here or there. This morning I came across a comprehensive list of every free download they have available, all 1,344 of them!

They have any genre you can imagine from
Phineas and Ferb, Curious George, The London Philharmonic, Pillar and Frank Sinatra! Talk about a great stocking stuffer! Pick out 10 or 12 that fit the taste of the recipient and burn them to CD. Personalize a CD cover, and you are set! Or, just fill up your own MP3 player. I think I'll burn some CD's for our road trip south this Christmas.

Have fun finding new tunes HERE!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great Cold-Weather Use for Leftovers!

I have been on the lookout lately for recipes that are flexible enough to use up leftovers. I came across this one on a couple of months ago, and I love it! In fact, since it only uses 1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce, I chopped up enough meat for a second fixing and added it and the sauce to a freezer bag for a 2nd quick meal. I am starting a container in the freezer for assorted leftover meat, chopped up, just for this recipe. (You know, a single chicken breast or pork chop.)

I like this mixture over brown rice. Add something green and dinner is served! By the way, I tried this in the crock pot...I like it better heated up on the stove.

Dirty Ranch-Style Beans
serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. cooked chopped, shredded or ground meat(chicken, pork, turkey, beef)
1/2 bottle barbecue sauce
2 cans Bush's chili beans (You can use others, but Bush's sauce is yummy!)
1/8 c. brown sugar

Add meat, sauce, beans and brown sugar to a saucepan. Heat over medium/high heat until bubbly. Viola...yummy leftovers!

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Cyber Monday Wrap-Up

I am so excited! I have gotten some AMAZING deals today. And, it is time for me to stop before I save more money than I can afford to save :) I thought I would give you a rundown of my deals for the day.

Eyes Lips Face Cosmetics
Unfortunately this site is still down. I hope they will get it together before the day is over. But, just before it crashed, I checked out! I purchased:
1-Mineral Foundation
1-Mineral Finisher
1-Eye Liner
1-Lip Gloss
6-Eye Shadows
Retail plus shipping would have been $50, I paid $19.95 plus I am receiving a free gift for referring 3 friends. I should have gotten cashback from ebates but I forgot to start there...DRAT!

123 Inkjets
I purchased 3 HP 21 black inkjet cartridges. Free shipping on any size order. Order total $39 with $13 cashback from ebates. Net cost $26. Purchased in-store from Stuffmart, I would have paid $47.54. That is a savings of over $20.

Old Navy
Best online deals that I have ever seen for Old Navy. I purchased 11 assorted articles of clothing for various members of the family. Retail on these would have been $157.64 including tax and shipping. Shipping is free today, everything is an additional 20% off, and I am getting 10% cashback from ebates. My net cost is $85.86. That averages $7.80 per item. I am very excited to find that there are petite sizes on as well! Yippee! You can't find them in the stores.

The Body Shop
I have never ordered online here before, but I could not pass this deal up. I purchased a bottle of Tea Tree Oil which retails for $9 and I am receiving a free Vitamin E eye cream that retails for $17. Had I purchased everything at regular price I would have paid $32.56. With tax and shipping I paid $12.93, and am receiving 12% cashback from ebates for a grand total of $11.38. I saved over $21! One day soon I will post about the wonders of Tea Tree Oil.

So, Borders has the B1G1 60% off today. I chose a couple of our favorite Christmas movies that we have yet to upgrade to DVD, Christmas Vacation and The Preacher's Wife. Retail plus tax on these would have been $31.78. I found an additional code for 20% off one item that they allowed me to stack (this has been added to my Cyber Monday Big List post). So, my total was $19.93. With 7% cashback from ebates, I will be paying $18.53, a savings of 46%. I have searched all over for a better deal on these movies and could not find one!

If you would like coupon codes or details on how to get these deals, see my Cyber Monday Big List post.

So, this is my first year of intensive Cyber Monday Shopping. My conclusion? Why bother with Black Friday when you can get amazing deals in your bathrobe?

Cyber Monday Steals...BIG LIST!

Here are all of the interesting deals that I have come across so far...I have not used them all, so let me know if you have any problems. Make sure to start your shopping at! I have received $125 cashback through ebates since June!

123Inkjets ~Free shipping on any size order. Great prices on Ink. Shop through ebates for 32% cashback! I just ordered 3 cartridges for a net of about $8 each! ~Buy one item, get one 60% off. Good for up to 2 60% off items. Free shipping over $10. Code BCM1219B Shop through ebates for 7% cashback. Found a coupon code that WILL STACK with the B1G1 60% off...this one will get you an additional 20% off of one item. Code BEG93010X ~50% off all photo books. Code RRBOOK Shop through ebates for 18% cashback!

Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap ~20% off of ANY order plus free shipping. Code MONDAY Shop through ebates for 10% cashback on Old Navy and Gap purchases.

Ann Taylor ~40% off of Everything. Code MONDAY Shop through ebates for 6% cashback.

Body Shop ~20% off of entire order plus a free gift of your choice. Free shipping on $60 or more. Shop through ebates for 12% cashback (normally 5%).

Barnes and Noble ~Huge DVD sale. Shop through ebates for 8% cashback. I also found a coupon for 15% off one item. code B3U9U7U

Reebok ~40% off any purchase. Code CYBER40

The Children's Place ~Free shipping on any purchase. Use Code FSCM9. Take an additional 30% off of clearance. Shop through ebates for 5% cashback.

Endless ~$30 off of a $100 purchase plus free overnight shipping.

Shutterfly ~Many items 20%-50% off. Free shipping on $25 order with code SHIP25. Shop through ebates for 20% cashback.

Cyber Monday Steals from E.L.F. Cosmetics

I have been hearing about Eyes, Lips, Face cosmetics for months now. There have been reviews of ELF products in many top magazines lately. Well, if you have ever had an inkling of a thought to try them is the day! Use code CM70MIN to receive 70% off of their entire mineral makeup line. Use code EH75CE to receive 75% off of any metallic makeup bag. I just purchase 11 different full-sized mineral products including foundation, eye shadows, lipstick, lip gloss and eyeliner for $19.95 including shipping! The original cost would have been around $50. Also, if you purchase $25 today, you will receive a one year subscription to Vogue for free. And, if you refer three friends at the end of your transaction, they will throw a free gift (unidentified) into your order. I am very excited about my first Cyber Monday Steal!

***For some reason I cannot get back onto their site right now (9:20 ET). They may be overwhelmed. This deal is good all day, so you may want to wait a couple of hours before you try it out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deals and Steals-Cash in at Coinstar

Coinstar has a special deal until December 6th. If you cash in $40 in change and choose an Amazon gift certificate as your form of payment, Coinstar will send you a $10 Amazon gift card by mail. It will not cost anything to cash in your coins, and you get $10 back! Go HERE for all of the details. You can also locate a Coinstar machine via this link. It is important that you cash in at a Coinstar that processes Amazon gift certificates. The services available at each location are shown on their site as well. Happy Coin Changing!
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