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!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deals and Steals-LL Bean $10 Gift Card

LL Bean is offering a $10 gift card with a $25 purchase while supplies last. Click HERE for the details!

Deals and Steals-New Bargains at Walmart Online

I'm out of town for a wedding, but I wanted to let everyone know that Walmart has just added new post-Thanksgiving deals to their site. We just landed a hp printer for a sweet deal for my parents. Most of these deals have free shipping site to store or to your home for 97 cents. Go HERE to check out the full list. Be sure to move fast, yesterday's deals were gone by 8:00 pm.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Tip and Blessing

Just a quick note this morning because I have to get cookin'!

A great tip I came across last year: Add 1 sleeve of saltine crackers to your cornbread dressing recipe. It will be more moist and the flavor is fantastic!

Now, a Thanksgiving Blessing that my cousin posted earlier this week.

May your stuffing be tasty May your turkey be plump, May your potatoes and gravy Have never a lump. May your yams be delicious And your pies take the prize, And may your Thanksgiving dinner Stay off your thighs!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Deals and Steals-Free Item of Your Choice @ Bath and Body Works!

There is a printable coupon available for Bath and Body Works good for a free item of up to a $13 value with any $10 purchase. Go to Coupon Cravings to print the coupon. The only exclusions are 3-wick candles, Scentbug, and gift sets. Go get something for FREE!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 14

Add a little chocolate to a friend's day! Today, while volunteering at my son's school, I dropped fancy chocolate bars on a couple of the teacher's desks. Shh...they don't know where they came from, he he. :)

Christmas Organization-Part One

I have, over the past couple of years, gotten back into a habit that I started when I first married. For years, I had my Christmas shopping finished by Halloween and wrapped by Thanksgiving.

Initially, my reason for doing this was silly. I always put up my Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend. And, I don't like to have a naked tree (no presents underneath). Over the years, I recognized how convenient this practice was. I had no holiday scramble, and truly enjoyed the season. Then I had kids and got out of practice. Last year I made up my mind to do it again, and I must say it would not be possible were it not for internet shopping. But, thanks to Amazon, Froogle, Ebay and Ebates I am able to pull it off.

Shopping this early does take some organization and planning. I have a binder that I will show you in a few days that keeps me organized. It is the only way that I can remember purchasing my father-in-law's gift in August. I mentioned in Hostess Gifts 101 that my favorite shopping day is December 26th. I have been known to buy Christmas gifts for the next year on the day after Christmas.

My decision to start this practice up again last year could not have come at a better time. My mom (who lives several states away) had a heart attack the first weekend in December. I was able to drop everything and go to be with her without worrying about Holiday preparations. My husband loaded all of the wrapped gifts in the car two weeks later and drove down to my parent's house with them. Early preparation gives a margin to my life. This margin allows me to be able to handle the unexpected with grace. I'm still working on getting the margins right, but being prepared early for Christmas helps me to sit back, enjoy the season, and remember it's true meaning.

Oh, and by the way, my mom is doing great now!

Deals and Steals-Free Address Labels

Need some festive return address labels to go with those fabulous free photo cards that you ordered this week? Vistaprint is offering 140 free return address labels for the cost of shipping/handling. There are hundreds of styles to choose from. I chose a classic Christmas design for ours. Total cost is $2.99 for delivery in 3 weeks, or $3.50 for delivery in 7days (my choice).

Monday, November 23, 2009

$3 In MP3 Downloads from Amazon for Free

This deal is free to anyone with an Amazon account. Go HERE to receive a credit that can be used any time in the future for free music. Thanks to Jennifer at Saving and Giving for posting this find!

5 Day Target Sweepstakes

Target is giving away a ton of prizes including 1,000 $25 gift cards over the next few days. Click HERE to visit the web page. You can play once per day between now and Thanksgiving. There are even consolation prizes. I received a coupon for a free soft drink from the snack bar. The page is very flash-driven, so if you are on a slow connection, you may want to skip to the sweepstakes form for the big prize.

Have fun...let me know if you win anything!

Deals and Steals-Super Cheap Magazine Subscriptions

Amazon is running a special right now on magazine subscriptions. Click the link to be taken to a group of magazines that will reduce by $5 in your shopping cart. I snagged 12 issues of Southern Living for $5 the last time they ran this deal. Right now you can get National Geographic and Food Network Magazine for $10. Family Fun and Country Living are only $5. These are great gift ideas, and at this price would make good stocking stuffers! Just wrap up the current issue with a note that says a subscription has been purchased in their name.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 13

McDonalds is holding their annual McHappy Day fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities. You can donate by purchasing a "hand" for $1 at any McDonalds, or make a donation online. An anonymous donor will match all online donations between now and December 31st, up to one million dollars.

When you run through the drive-thru again, consider adding $1 to your purchase for a worthy organization that does so much for the sake of families with sick children.

Deals and Steals-Kohl's Black Friday Deals!

Wondering about the deals at Kohls on Black Friday? There are some good ones! Click the link to check them out. These deals are available online as well as in-store.

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 12

Forgive me for being behind in these posts, I have several ideas for you that I will post over the next couple of days. Today I want to challenge you to say Thank You to a US soldier. There are many ways to do this, including adopting a soldier to send care packages and letters of encouragment to. We are checking into this option and I will keep you posted.

A cool new way that I just learned about is Let's Say Thanks, hosted by Xerox. Click the link to choose a postcard design, a greeting, and customize it with your name and hometown. Xerox will then print the postcard and send it to a brave man or woman who is standing for freedom somewhere across the globe. It took about 30 seconds...such an easy way to give.

Thanks, Sally!

Deals and Steals-More Photo Site Savings

Just a reminder to order your free photo cards from before November 30. They are charging shipping now, but today and tomorrow there is a huge sale on their site including free shipping on photo card orders of 60 or more. So, you can get 50 free 4X8 cards for around $3.50 (for shipping), or you can do as I just did, get 60 4x8 photo cards, pay for the extra 10, and get free shipping. This worked out to $5.19. I would rather pay $5.19 for 10 more cards than $3.50 for shipping. The code you will need for this deal is available at Freebies4Mom. I am impressed with the ease of use on the photo card builder at See Here. It is very easy to manipulate backgrounds, photos, and text. I did have difficulty with the "frame" tab, so I just left that off of my cards. I just received my 100 free prints yesterday which arrived via FedEx, packaged very nicely.

Also, if you need any photo gifts for Christmas, SeeHere has their entire site (excluding prints) on sale 50% off today and tomorrow only. The free shipping applies to photo gifts as well, so you can get a great deal. One item I am eyeing is the tumbled stone photo coasters, regularly $24.99, on sale for $12.50 with promo code found below, tack on the free shipping and you have a great personalized gift for $12.50 plus tax. Use code 2day for this promotion.

Deals and Steals-Free Prints and $10 Credit from Shutterfly

Sorry to have been out of touch for a few days. I have been under the weather again. Still out of commission today, but at least sitting upright. :)

I have been using for online photo storage for about a year now. I really love this site. Their photo printing service is nice and reasonably priced, and I also have a "share site" thorough Shutterfly which is a free service, similar to a blog, but with the purpose of sharing photos with friends and family. I have gotten some fabulous deals from Shutterfly in the past year, including a $30 photo book for the cost of shipping. I am very impressed by the quality of the things I have purchased from them.

Parenting Magazine is having a model search right now. If you register for the model search (it is not necessary to give any info about a child or to upload any photos), they will give you a $10 code for Shutterfly that is good until November 15, 2010. There is also a code for free shipping on a purchase of $30 or more, SHIP30. If you are new to Shutterfly, you receive 50 free prints when you sign up. Creating a Share Site may also net you some free prints.

The Share Site is a handy tool. Not only can friends and family (you can keep your site private, with a special log in for loved ones) view photos, they can order copies as well. I hope you will check out Shutterfly and avail yourself of some of the deals available there. They are generous with discounts and freebies once you are a member.

Any time you get a code for Shutterfly, you can store it in your account until you are ready to use it. Simply sign in, go to "my account" and then "enter special offer code". Just be sure to note the expiration date on your codes so you don't forget about them.

Thanks Couponing to Disney for the heads-up about the $10 Parenting code.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deals and Steals-Super Thanksgiving Weekend Bargains at Old Navy

Just thought I would give you a heads-up on the Old Navy deals next weekend. You can check out their Gobblepalooza site for all the details. But, I took note of the $15 price for all adult jeans and sweaters on Black Friday, This price is also good for kids frost-free jackets. You can also get coupons for the weekend from this site. The prices are good in-store and online!

"Good For You" Southern Style Green Beans

A few months ago we had some friends over for dinner. While going back for seconds "Tom" said, "These green beans are fantastic, I cannot stand the ones that come out of a can." I laughed and confessed that those green beans had indeed come out of a can.

This recipe is a result of my efforts over the years to make Southern-style food that doesn't clog your arteries. I promise, you'll love them! I am pretty faithful to Hanover's Blue Lake Green Beans. Allen Green Beans are good as well. But, use whatever is in your stockpile.

Canned green beans (amount appropriate for you)
Olive Oil
Cavendar's Greek Seasoning

Empty beans, liquid and all, into appropriately sized pot on medium heat. Add olive oil, I never measure but I would say 1 Tablespoon for every pound of beans. Then add Cavendar's. Again, I don't measure, but start with 1/2 teaspoon per pound and add more if you like later in cooking. I'm sure I use more than that. Now, stir well and let them simmer for a couple of hours on the stove, but make sure to not let them cook dry. I stir often. This disturbs some folks because the beans start to cook down and fall apart instead of keeping their "cut bean shape"...but that's the way we Southerners like them!

Life As Mom is having a Thanksgiving recipe swap today...go over and check it out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 11

Have you ever been in a parking lot with a shopping cart, trying to balance something big, while getting your car unlocked and the door open...without letting the cart roll away? I have been there and done that so many times! As I was coming out of Wally World today I saw a lady attempting to put a stand-alone basketball goal in a mini-van, while keeping her toe behind the cart wheel so it wouldn't run off without her. It took about 30 seconds to hold the cart for her while she got things settled. This is bound to be going on in parking lots everywhere for the next few weeks. Find someone to help, just don't startle them, ha ha!

Photo courtesy of

A Few of My Favorite Things-Cavendar's Greek Seasoning

Have you ever had a recipe that needed "something" but you couldn't figure out what? Chances are, this would have been just the thing. I use Cavendar's Greek Seasoning in just about everything.

A few years ago I took green beans to a potluck. One lady tasted them and said. "With the way these taste, and knowing where you are from, they have to be made with fatback." I told her that I do not cook with fatback, and she didn't believe me. One secret to those yummy, canned (yes, canned) green beans is Cavendar's. On another day I will share that recipe (so super-easy).

Cavendar's is a spice blend containing pepper, sugar, onion powder, parsley and "other spices". Besides green beans, I use it in pinto beans, on poultry (even my Thanksgiving Turkey), on just about any vegetable, on baked fish, and in homemade soup. It is flavor, not heat and goes so well with a multitude of foods without making them taste all the same.

At this point, the only place that I can find Cavendar's locally is Super Wal-mart. In the past, Food Lion has carried it as well. I did find it several places online. The best deal I have come across is at There you can purchase three containers for about $5 each with shipping. I have not used their site before, but they are Better Business Bureau approved. You can also purchase it in bulk from Amazon. As you travel South, it becomes more readily available.

Cavendar's is a staple in my house. I would rather run out of salt and pepper than this wonderful seasoning, which definitely makes it on of my favorite things!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 10

Here's my challenge for today...lend a listening ear. Today I had the opportunity to listen while two different people, each of whom I've only known for a few weeks, unloaded some burdens. I was able to hug, cry and offer prayer for their situations. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my goals for the day that I think I miss out on these little blessings. So, pay attention, and when you see an opportunity STOP and take it! You never know who around you might be hurting.

Tips for Feeding a Crowd

Did you realize that Thanksgiving is next week? I didn't until a friend mentioned it yesterday. I have long been a believer that pregnancy and childbirth cause moms to lose brain cells. (Ever found the phone in the fridge?) I am now convinced that the adoption process works the same way. I think I lost a couple of weeks somewhere back around September. Anyway, with the holiday fast approaching I thought I might share a few tips for feeding a large crowd of people. These are lessons that I've learned the hard way over many years.

My first "ya'll come" party (open to anyone with no concrete invitations or RSVP) was about two months after my wedding. I've been feeding crowds ever since. A lot of this may be common sense to many of you, but as I said, these were lessons hard learned for me.

1~Menu and Shopping List~Make out your menu and shopping list well in advance. Note items that can be purchased ahead and items that must be purchased the day before the event separately.

2~Vary Cooking Methods~Choose meal components that are cooked in different ways. If every menu item must be baked in the oven, it will take forever to prepare and something will be cold.
Example: Ham and sweet potatoes in the oven, macaroni pie in the crock pot, green beans on the stove, and jello salad chilling in the fridge.

3~Make What You Know~Choose recipes that you have experience with. I often pick one new side or dessert recipe for a big meal if I am very comfortable with the other recipes that I am using. If the new menu item is a flop, I can fall back on the others.

4~Gather Supplies~Gather all of the ingredients for each recipe before you get started. It makes the day go much more quickly.

5~See If You Are Missing Anything~Set your table the day before (if this is possible in your home), including the serving dishes and spoons for each recipe. This way, if you need to borrow an extra casserole dish from a friend, it won't catch you by surprise.

6~Make Ahead What You Can~Choose as many items as possible that can be prepared in advance. Items like jello salad, pies and cakes can be made a day or two before the big day.

7~Plan Your Timing~Make a schedule for cooking. Take each menu item and work back from meal time considering length of cooking time and prep time. Plan a time to start prepping, a time to start cooking, and a time to take it out of the oven.

8~Make a Checklist~Make a list of your menu items. Mark each item once when it is prepared, and mark it a second time when it is served. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten to the end of the meal and realized that I left something in the fridge.

9~Get Out Of The Kitchen~Try to schedule your preparations so that everything is done 10 minutes before time to eat. This way your meat has time to rest before being carved. And, you can get out of the kitchen to greet your guests.

10~RELAX!~All of these people are friends and family. If something doesn't go right, they will understand. If all else fails, take a lesson from "A Christmas Story" and roll with the punches. "That was the year we were introduced to Chinese Turkey." Remember...if something does go wrong, it will probably go into the family archives as a great story one day!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 9

Here is a fun, easy and free way to bless others. Send a special American Greetings e-card to your friends and Kraft will donate 10 meals to Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest). The e-card is attractive and contains recipes featuring Kraft Products. So far I've sent 5, that adds up to 50 meals!

~Send the American Greetings/Kraft e-card to your friends!

Find Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free!

So, you know how a lot of restaurants have special hours on certain nights where kids get a free meal? I have never been able to keep straight which night is free at which eatery. What do you know, there is a website out there to help! "Kids Eat For" is a database for this information. Let me explain:

Let's say it is Wednesday night and you want to go out with the family. Simply pull up their website, choose the city closest to you, and a calendar will pop up showing which restaurants have deals for kids for each night of the week. You can also click on the restaurant to see the details of the deal including their kids menu. How cool is that?

I have installed their widget on the right side of my blog that will give a quick view. You can sort the widget information by major city. If you want to go to their homepage from my blog, just click on their logo at the bottom of the widget. I hope this helps your family save a little dough. With the way my boys eat, I know it is going to be a blessing to us!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 8

I struggled today with what to do. So, while at the grocery store picking up my papers(COUPONS!), I also picked up a few canned goods and dropped them in the bin for their food drive.

I am discovering that if you intentionally look for opportunities to bless people, you will find them. A couple of hours ago a friend called and I was able to give her a hand with something as well.

I feel that there must be much around me that I am missing. It is my prayer that God will help me to shed my blinders so that I can truly see the need around me...because I know that it is there.

I would truly love to hear about ways that you are finding to bless others. If you don't want to "toot your own horn", leave a comment anonymously. This isn't about lifting ourselves up, it is about encouraging each other to recognize the need in the world around us. And remember, ultimately it is about reflecting the love of Christ.

Acorn Treats

Acorns might not be human food, but it sure is fun to make human food that looks like an acorn! I've made these for several Autumn events over the last couple of years and I'm always asked, "How'd you do that?"'s how!

1 Box of Donut Holes (Pumpkin Spice flavor is yummy for this!)
1 bag of English Toffee Bits (Near the chocolate chips)
Pretzel sticks (1 for every 2 donut holes)
1 tub of Milk Chocolate Frosting

Pour the toffee bits into a bowl. Frost the top 1/3 of a donut hole. Roll the frosted part in the toffee bits. Break a pretzel stick in half and push into the top for a stem.

One year I even got feisty enough to make leaf-shaped cookies to put with them. I put them in a basket with a Fall colored liner for a very pretty presentation.

This is one of many ideas that I have gotten from the Family Fun website.

Great Promo Code from JCPenny

I just found a great coupon code for JCPenny for $10 off of any purchase of $10 or more. You will have to pay shipping, but it is still a great deal. I purchased these Carter's pajamas as a gift. Retail $20, on Sale for $11.99. Total cost $8.52 including shipping and tax. That is 71% off! (Shipping is $5.95 on purchases of $25 or less.) Enter GR8VALUE at checkout.

Thanks Chief Family Officer, for the tip!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 7

My latest gift was time. My grandfather is diabetic, has heart issues and is on a strict diet. My grandmother works hard to prepare meals for him that are healthy and tasteful. She had been purchasing a wonderful sugar-free syrup for him at a local store, but it had disappeared from the shelves. Since I live in another state, I have looked for it in Maryland as well. It crossed my mind yesterday that I might be able to find it online. And guess what? I found it, for a lesser price than when it was available locally. It took about 15 minutes of my day to locate and order what they have been looking for. I know this is not a huge deal...but it sure will bring a smile to his face when I take it home during Christmas.

I have to share this, I received a wonderful gift myself today. My precious hubby swept me away for 24 hours to a lovely Inn, Antrim 1844. What a blessing he is! Leisurely meals and coffee by the fire with my best friend. Okay, I'll stop gushing now...

Do You Woot?

If you have not yet visited, you should. It is one of the more popular of the "one deal a day" sites that are all over the web. Usually, I check in with a list of these sites several times a week.

Here's the lowdown. Most of these sites have one or two goodies per day at a deep discount. You have to be careful, though. Sometimes there's a reason they are selling items cheap. I always do a search for reviews of a given product, usually on Amazon, before making a purchase.

I scored a very nice Sansa MP3 player for my hubby for $20, and another day found an accessory pack for it for $5. Shipping on every item at Woot is $5, no matter what size it is. These sites are heavy on electronics items, but occasionally have other fun stuff. Woot also has some sister sites, Woot Sellout (scroll down a bit) and Woot Kids. They only have one item per site per day unless they are having a Woot-Off which is a day full of "get them while they last deals". You can tell it is Woot-Off day when there are yellow flashing lights on the home page.

I am also excited to announce that just this week Walmart has started an online daily deal. I have only seen one so far, but it seemed to be a pretty good price. With items that are Site-To-Store eligible, you knock out shipping costs as well. This is certainly one to watch.

Another of my favorites is the Amazon Gold Box Deal. There is one big "Daily Deal", and "Lightning Deals" posted every few hours. Anything is likely to pop up here from movies to groceries to jewelry to software.

There is a useful Daily Deal Tracker that I sometimes peruse if I have the time to do so. I cannot speak for the reliability of all of the sites listed there, though.

I hope you take the time to check out a few of these sites. You never know what you might find!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 6

I am so jazzed about today! I sent a gift to a sweet young lady in college. We have been in a friend/mentoring relationship for several years. She checks in with me once every month or so to let me know what is going on in her life.'s what I did...are you ready? It's a "Party in a Box"! I picked up party plates, napkins, cups, balloons and blowouts from the dollar store. Then I ran to the grocery and got cake mix and confetti frosting. (She lives in a sponsor home, so there is a full kitchen at her disposal.) I packed it all up in brightly colored tissue and mailed it today. I know this might not fly for all college kids, but it is right up her alley. And, I know her friends will love it too!

Find out about the Challenge, here.

Apple Syrup and Cinnamon-Pecan Pancake Mix

One of my favorite things about Fall is the wonderful local apples that are available here in Maryland. My new favorite is the Cortland. It is tart, crisp and wonderful for cooking. I spent several days recently cooking up batches to put in the freezer. I don't make applesauce, but keep the chunks intact for a wonderful winter side-dish.

It was really bothering me to throw away all of those peelings. So I did a little research and discovered that you can cook them down to make syrup. I experimented until I got the recipe just right.

Apple Peel Syrup

6 Cups Water
6 1/2 Cups Sugar
Peelings from @ 18 apples
Cinnamon to taste

Bring all four ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot. Stir until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until peels lose their bright color. (Approximately 10 minutes.) Remove apple peels with tongs or a slotted spoon. Continue simmering until mixture has reduced by half. Test consistency by dipping a spoon into the mixture and then rubbing your finger across it. You will be able to tell when it has thickened. Cooking time will vary. You may can this in sterile jars or let it cool and keep in the refrigerator. Yeild 5-6 half-pints.

Please note that I am by no means an expert canner. For directions on canning please do your research. I reccommend the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving.

This syrup is especially tasty when paired with Cinnamon-Pecan Pancake Mix.

Cinnamon-Pecan Pancake Mix

3 Cups of your favorite pancake mix
2 1/4 Cups Water
2 T Cinnamon
1/2 Cup finely chopped Pecans

This makes 18-22 pancakes. If you want to package the mix for a gift, combine the dry ingredients and add to a Quart jar (fits nicely). Make sure to add a tag that explains the number of servings and how much water to add.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deals and Steals-FREE Online Photo Cards, etc.

There are some AMAZING online photo deals right now. No's the dirt!

~Freebies4Mom has a deal worked out with Fuji online. Click HERE to read all about it. In two transactions you can get 100 Free 4x6 Prints (you will pay around $5 shipping) and 50 FREE Photo Postcards (Christmas designs included) including free shipping. This expires November 30. Make sure to read through her post so that you get optimum savings. If you do both, you will get around $60 worth of photos for $5 shipping on the one order. is giving away a free 8X10 Photo canvas HERE so that you can see the quality of their product. If you want a larger size, they will give you a $55 discount (the value of the 8X10 size). I have not yet done this because I haven't settled on the photo I want. But, I did a mock-up of one so that we would know about shipping. The free 8X10 costs $14.95 to ship. Looks like a good Christmas gift for grandparents to me!

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 5

My opportunity to give just dropped in front of me again today. Our preschool is hosting a food drive.

Looking for a place to donate? Check out Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest) to search for a food bank near you.

I'm going to need help with creative giving ideas soon. My goal is to do something different every day. Any suggestions?

Find out what this is all about in A Season of Giving.

Hostess Gifts 101

A Southern Girl would never, ever go to a someone's home empty-handed! Hostess gifts are a small way to show appreciation to a family who has opened their home and their lives to you. An invitation into someone's home is a great gift, one that is shared too infrequently in this age of hustle, bustle busyness.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I keep a gift closet from which to draw hostess gifts on-demand. I save money this way because I stock my gift closet with bargains. Some of these come from stores like TJ MAXX and HOMEGOODS. Others are deep discounts that I find througout the year. The day after Christmas is one of my favorite days to stock up. I often skip Black Friday, but never miss the sales on December 26th. For example, I always visit Bath and Body Works on that day. Many items go for $2 to $5 and gift sets are usually 75% off. I often get coupons from this chain for "$10 off of a $30 purchase". For about $20 I can usually pick up 6 to 8 hostess or "just because" gifts.

An assortment of gift bags (many recycled from gifts we've received) and different colors of tissue are also on hand. I do not like to pay retail price for wrappings. The prices are INSANE!

I know it might seem like all I do is shop. Not really, I just keep my bargain radar up when I'm out and about. It is amazing what I can find if I just pay attention! For example, yesterday I went to the mall to exchange some jeans for one of the kiddos. Lo and behold, Yankee Candle had their Fall scented candles (my favorites) on sale, buy 2 jars and get 1 free. Because I had my handy-dandy coupon binder in the car (to be explained in a later post), I had the "$10 off of a $25 purchase" coupon that came in the mail earlier this week. I purchased 3 candles that retail for $14.99. I paid $21.18, a savings of $25. They are snug in my gift closet until I need them.

To be completely honest, stocking up on bargains allows me to give nicer gifts.

Hostess Gift Ideas:
-Candles and/or Candleholders
-Picture Frames
-Quality Liquid Hand Soaps for Bath or Kitchen
-Nice Kitchen Linens
-Food Gifts From Your Kitchen
-Plants (if you need last-minute gift)
-Gourmet Oil, Honey or Preserves
-Specialty Coffees or Teas
-Fun Board Games

Don't forget your hosts during the holidays or any other time of year!

Best Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies-They Hold Together!

I try to avoid wheat in my diet as much as possible. One of the ways that I do this is Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix. It is hands-down the best gluten-free mix on the market. And, it is EXTREMELY versatile. This is a costly product at the supermarket. But, I've discovered that it is available through Amazon on their Subscribe and Save program which makes it much more reasonably priced.

This cookie recipe came from their website. It is the best gluten-free version that I have tried. The cookies actually hold together! Life as Mom is hosting a recipe swap today that focuses on food allergies and special diets, check it out!

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick butter
1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter
1 c. brown sugar (not packed)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. Pamela's Baking & Pancake mix

Cream together butter and peanut butter. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla, then add baking mix and combine. Spoon tablespoons of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork using a crisscross pattern. Bake in a preheated oven for 17-20 minutes. Edges should be light brown. Cool completely before removing from pan with spatula. Yield :20 cookies

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 4

Today is pretty simple. I sent a card to a friend. It is nice to get mail that isn't asking you for money:)

If you don't know what this challenge is all about, read A Season of Giving.

Deals and Steals-Toys R Us and The Children's Place

I just got home from an incredible bargain hunt and had to share my loot with you.
Toys R Us is having a sale on Hasbro Games this week. Many classic games like Candy Land, Memory, and Don't Spill the Beans are on sale for $3.99. If you purchase $25 in Hasbro games, you receive a gift card for $10. But wait, there's more! There is a tear-pad in the store for rebates on these games as well. All of the classic games that are $3.99 have a $2 rebate available. I just purchased 7 games for $29.68(including tax), received a $10 gift card, and have a rebate form for $14 back. This brings the total cost of the games to $5.68, or $.81 each!
1-You can only receive a rebate for one of each game on the form
(1 Memory, 1 Cootie, etc.)
2-Character Games are not included except for Memory.
3-The $10 gift card is not usable until 6 hours after you make the purchase. This way they make sure you have to make a second trip to use it. And, it expires Dec. 31. Thanks to Chief Family Officer for posting this deal! My gift closet is refilling quickly!

Also, I just stopped by The Children's Place to do an exchange. They gave me a great coupon book for the rest of the season. On the back it states "Buy $40 in gift cards and receive a $10 gift coupon." The gift coupon is valid through Dec. 31.

This promotion runs from Nov 17 thru Christmas Eve. Need winter clothes for the kiddos? Buy the gift cards, receive $50 in value back, it's like getting a 20% discount on your purchase. It does not state whether a percent-off coupon can be used in conjunction with the $10 gift coupon, but if so, stack the deal. And, I know the sales in-store are just going to get better as we get closer to the holidays. There is an opportunity here for an amazing deal.

A Few Of My Favorite Things-Gift Closets

About ten years ago a mentor recommended that I start a gift closet. Or more specifically, a designated space in my home where I would keep a stash of gifts. What a wonderful friend! I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me when I needed a last-minute hostess or birthday gift.

Basically, I just look for things on sale and stockpile when I find a great deal. (Also the way I buy most of my groceries.) Some of my favorite gift closet finds are bath products, scented candles, books, unique photo frames, cool mugs (tea, cocoa or coffee added at presentation time), gift cards, gender-neutral baby items, and toys in the age-range of my boys for birthday party invites.

As our family increases, I learn more and more how necessary it is to be prepared. Last-minute scrambles just make my blood pressure go up and my nerves shorten. I also tend to spend a lot more if I wait to the last minute. My gift closet gives me the time to hunt a bargain and allows me to be just a little more prepared.

I am very excited that our remodeling project is going to allow me to have an entire closet designated for this purpose...I am going to be SO organized >insert contented sigh here< once this little project is complete. I will be sure to post photos.

I also keep a gift binder that reminds me of the gifts that I have given in the past. I will blog about this on another day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 3

I spent some time at my oldest boy's school today. There are several opportunities to give through our elementary school each year via food, coat and toy drives. Right now they are collecting toys for children who are hospitalized with long-term illness. So, I dropped off a new, unwrapped toy for this worthy cause. (Found a great deal on a classic game!)

Before I go any further with these posts I want to explain that I'm not trying to "toot my own horn" by sharing the ways that we find to give each day. Rather, my purpose is two-fold: to keep me accountable to doing something every day, and to share ideas that some of you may be able to use.

So far, these have been pretty simple ideas. I hope to get a little more creative as the season moves forward.

If you aren't familiar with the challenge, read A Season of Giving.

Secret Old Navy Coupon Site!

Did you know that Old Navy has a "secret" site with coupons available all the time? Discounts run from 10% to 75% off. I understand that recently there was a 75% off a $100 purchase coupon available. The coupons are available for limited times, so check back often! Thanks to Kingdom First Mom for the heads-up!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Giving Thru Christmas Challenge-Day 2

Our opportunity to give today was birthed from a family tradition. I took my four year old shopping for items to fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. I have been filling shoe boxes for 13 years now. OCC is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, which was founded by Franklin Graham as a Christian relief organization. They respond in the face of natural disaster and war with practical ministry while at the same time sharing the love of Christ.

These shoe boxes are distributed to hundreds of thousands of children around the world who face disease, war, poverty and loneliness every day. Each child who receives a shoe box also receives a book printed in their own language that tells about the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus. Countless people have come to faith through this simple act of love.

For instructions on how to pack a shoe box, click here.

At four, my son doesn't completely get the concept. But, I want his earliest memories to include his family being involved in ministry (benevolence) and mission (sharing the Gospel). Both of these acts are represented in this simple ministry to children.

If you haven't been following along on the Giving Challenge, read "A Season of Giving". How have you chosen to give today?

Super Fast Ham Steak With Apples

My family gets excited when they smell this cooking. The aroma is fantastic. It is one of the quickest meals in my repertoire, from gathering ingredients to table in about 20 minutes. I found this one on my favorite recipe site, Recipezaar. I like to add a green vegetable, and occasionally a starch to round out the meal.

Brown Sugar Ham Steak with Apples
Serves 4

2 T. Butter
1/4 C. Brown Sugar, packed
2 T. Grainy Mustard
3 Tart Apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (I've used Cortland and Winesap)
1 lb. (or larger) Ham Steak

Melt butter on medium heat in large skillet. Add brown sugar and mustard, whisk to blend. Add apples and toss. Simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer apples to a bowl. Place ham steak in skillet and top with apples. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes.

There are seldom any leftovers!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Season of Giving

Have you ever seen "The Toy That Saved Christmas"? "Christmas is when you get stuff" is one toy's mantra until friends teach him differently.

I know better than that, don't I? A recent conversation with a neighbor made me start thinking about how I live what I believe. She is struggling with celebrating any part of Christmas because of all of the things that it has become. So much of the holiday is commercial and self-centered. Oh, but I do love Christmas! I love the tree,the music, the movies, the smells and picking the perfect gifts for loved ones. I just want to make sure that all of these things are God-honoring in our home.

But, we do make sure that our family keeps the right focus don't we? Sure, we read the Christmas Story (the real one) on Christmas Eve. On particularly efficient years I've even remembered to start recognizing Advent on time. The first thing you see when you walk in the door is our Nativity, not the tree. We always pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. But, is this enough? I'm not so sure. One definition of "focus" is "a center of activity, attraction or attention." It still seems to me that the center of our attention might still be in the wrong place.

I've just started following a great blog, Keeping the Kindgom First. The author is inviting individuals to join in a "30 Days of Giving Challenge". As I read her post this morning I thought about all the little ways that I could give but do not. So I am accepting the challenge. I hope you will too! Giving doesn't have to be expensive, time consuming, or difficult. I've decided to try to find one new way to give every day between now and Christmas. It is my "Giving Thru Christmas Challenge" to you and to my own family. I realize that this is longer than 30 days. I hope that it will become a habit! I will keep you posted on my progress, and I hope you will let me know how you have fleshed out the spirit of giving in your own life.

One caveat though, let's try to make the focus on Christ, shall we? Use the opportunity to point someone to Jesus. Maybe they are a believer and you just want to remind them of the real meaning of Christmas. Maybe they do not believe and you can be a witness in the name of Christ. Maybe you won't even know. But, if someone asks why you have given to them in some way, take the opportunity to tell them that it is the love of Jesus that compels you.

A fb friend posted a status this week that caught my attention. She said that she had been having a terrible day and while in line at a coffee shop another person had paid for her order as well as their own. She couldn't figure out why, but thought it was a nice gesture. I don't know if the mystery giver is following Jesus, but I do know that they got my friend's attention with their kindness.

My act for today? Well, I've been under the weather for a few days, and I had to find something to do from home. So, today I spent some time going to sites to Click for Charity. Here are a couple of links that I gleaned from Keeping the Kingdom First:

What's on tap for tomorrow? I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know how it goes though. How about you? How's your focus this year?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swagbucks Rocks

It is official, I am hooked on Swagbucks. If you have not already become a "Swaggernaut", you should. SB is a souped-up search engine that randomly awards Swagbucks for Internet searches. Just by doing my daily searching over the past 8 to 10 weeks I have racked up 97 Swagbucks. These bucks can be redeemed for everything from mp3's to game systems. Now, it would take a LONG time to earn the game system. But, I just redeemed 90 of my bucks for $10 in Amazon gift cards. This essentially gave me a "discount" on a Lego set for my son's best buddy for his birthday. Legos seldom go on sale, so I am pretty happy about the way this worked out. I really did nothing to earn them other than making the Swagbucks search page my homepage. That way, I don't forget to use it. I usually net 1 or 2 bucks per day. There is also a toolbar that I have just downloaded. This makes it easier to do the searches. There are other ways to earn bucks, like special Swag Codes that are hidden here and there. I've located a couple, but haven't really spent much time looking. Click below for all the details. Happy Swaggin'!

Search & Win

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Black Bean Chicken Chili

One of the blogs that I follow on a daily basis is Life As Mom. This week she has been focusing on food that can been made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. This inspired me to share one of my favorite cold-weather meals. I use the crock pot for this recipe but it can be thrown together quickly on the stove too. It also freezes perfectly. I usually make this the day after I have roasted a whole chicken. The seasoning in the leftover meat really adds to the flavor, and I prefer shredded chicken to cubed. It's just a texture thing. This is very hearty and stew-like. I usually add a salad and some bread for a wonderful meal.

Black Bean Chicken Chili

1 T. oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chicken broth
2 15 oz cans black beans (rinsed)
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes (I like chili-style)
1 lb shredded chicken
2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. red pepper (or more to taste)
Chili powder (I never measure this, but I use a lot. Adjust to your taste.)
1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Saute onion, garlic and bell pepper in oil until onion is translucent. Place in crock pot. Add tomatoes, beans, chicken, broth and seasonings. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Add fresh cilantro just before serving. Shredded cheese may be added when serving as well.

All this really needs is to get hot, thus the crock pot is not necessary. I love the way the flavors meld after cooking slowly through the day. The meat just gets more tender this way. If you like your chili, soups and stews thicker, just take the lid off of the crock for the last hour or two. It will thicken nicely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Get Free Shipping On Gifts That Give Back

I enjoy finding ways to make my money work overtime. When I spend, I want there to be true value. I believe this goes beyond the mantra, "never pay full price". If I can find a way for someone else to benefit from my purchase, I will. There is an organization that I have been following for several years now called WorldCrafts. What started as a small outlet for helping a few folks get on their feet has turned into a full-blown Fair Trade market.

Their current catalog states, "Operating under Fair Trade Federation standards, WorldCrafts embodies values that move local artisans from poverty to self-sufficiency. WorldCrafts pays its artisans a fair price up front and is committed to working with them on a long-term, sustainable basis."

There are items available from around the world, all handmade. I have purchased from WorldCrafts several times over the years and the quality has always been excellent.

This year there is a new facet to this ministry. SET 1 FREE is a campaign that highlights artisan groups that include women who are at high risk for human trafficking. I did some research this year on the subject of human trafficking and was astounded at the number of victims that fall prey to traffickers every year. Certain items in the WorldCrafts product line are marked with this symbol.
The sale of one of these items directly affects the life of the at-risk woman who made it.

To see the full line of WorldCrafts products, visit their website. Because of the charitable nature of this organization, there are seldom discount codes available. Right now if you make a purchase of $30, you can receive free shipping by using this code, W01564 (Expires November 15). There are some great stocking stuffers, and some really pretty jewelry this season. So, as you begin making your Christmas lists, think about making your purchase count for something more.

If you would like to learn more about the plight of women around the world, True Grit is a good resource. I am sorry to report that the editing in this book is shoddy, but the information included is eye-opening to say the least.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I seldom make a splurge purchase without considering it for a while. By splurge I do not mean ultra expensive, just something that I feel I could live easily without. Last year I splurged on a "butter bell". I prefer using real butter for cooking and as a spread. A friend once told me, "If you leave margarine sitting outside, the bugs won't even eat it because it's not real food." That stuck with me. So, we use butter in our house. I had heard of butter bells years ago, but had never gone looking for one. I had a little birthday money and thought, why not?

Have you ever tried to spread cold butter on bread? Of course, we all have, it just doesn't work well. What is a butter lover to do? Enter the butter bell. It allows you to keep butter at room temperature without spoiling.

Room temperature butter spreads easily, and is so nice to have around. Yes, I know that you can soften it in the microwave, but I always overdo it. And, I'm not a fan of waiting for an hour or more for it to come to room temperature on it's own.

The Butter Bell comes in two pieces. The bottom is simply a jar that holds a couple of inches of cool water. The lid, when lifted, reveals an upside-down container that you pack the softened butter into. When the lid is placed on the jar, the water creates an airtight seal around the lip of the butter container, which keeps it from spoiling. I'm sure Alton Brown of "Good Eats" fame (I love that show!) could give you the scientific reasons for this. I can't, but I can tell you that butter kept this way will stay fresh on the counter for several weeks, as long as you change the water every few days. Here is information from the experts. This site also happens to have a special going right now, if you buy 2 they will send you a Christmas themed bell for free. Just a thought for any butter lovers on you Christmas list.

The Butter Bell can be elusive, although a Google search just revealed more sources than I found last year. Mine is hand-made, purchased from ebay. There are a lot of antique versions available, because these were common in kitchens before refrigeration became readily available. I guess that adds to the appeal for me. I love history, and this keeps a little piece of it alive in my every day life.

So, it was a splurge, yes. I had kept a relatively normal household for over 14 years sans butter bell. But, it is a purchase that I do not regret. In fact, it is one of my favorite things.
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