Sunday, January 31, 2010

Running Totals~There's Nothing to Fear in a Running Store

Okay, accountability time. I ran 147 minutes this week. I'm not counting miles yet, because I am so slow right now that the mileage would be pretty sad. The miles don't matter right now, anyway. If you wonder why I'm telling you this, I'm training for a Half Marathon.

Running is a great sport because it is inexpensive and portable. The only equipment that you need is a pair of good shoes, a watch that will track your time and a running bra (if you are a chick, of course). It is easy to throw your running shoes in a bag when you travel. The watch and bra can come from stuff mart, to start out. If you get serious, you can upgrade. I have upgraded in the bra department but, I am still using the $25 Timex that I bought 4 years ago when I started.

Shoes are another story. Buying $40 Nike running shoes off of a shoe store rack, and then trying to really run in them is like taking a Little Tikes bat to a big league baseball game. The result will be painful. But, expensive running shoes can also cause injuries, if they are not the right shoes for you. I ran my first half-marathon in a $90 pair of Asics. (Ask me how many times in my life I have paid that much for a pair of shoes!) Throughout my training I had knee problems. After the race I had a groin issue for months. Then I learned that we had a new running store in town with computer analysis and professional fittings.

I have to tell you that even after running a half-marathon, I was intimidated to walk into this store. I don't know what I expected to be going on in there, but I felt like I surely would not belong. I finally got up the nerve to go in, and they were so nice. They analyzed my running gait on a computerized treadmill. They also analyzed my footprint and my pronation (the degree to which your footfall leans left or right), they combined this information to determine the type of shoe that is best for me. I learned that I had been running in a stability shoe when I needed a cushioning shoe. Who knew this kind of technology went into a shoe? They showed me shoes from several companies at a range of prices, and I chose a great pair of Asics. I have been training in this new model and have had no knee or groin issues.

I highly recommend visiting a specialty running store to be professionally fitted. Running is great exercise, but it is also very demanding on the body. The right shoe can minimize the impact and make running a much more pleasant experience. Visit Road Runner Sports or Marathon Rookie to find a specialty running store in your area.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The World's Easiest Baked Tilapia

I took a notion to try something a little different with my fish once. This is the result. It isn't fancy, and I doubt it will ever win an award. But, it is quick and tasty. And, I always have the ingredients on hand.

This is my stoneware bar pan. I love it very much. We have been together for 8 years now. When we met, my bar pan was very pale and rough around the edges. Now, over time, it has become seasoned almost to perfection. If you've never cooked with stoneware, you should try it. Limiting stoneware use to making pizza is just plain silly. If I ever break this pan I will cry...real tears. You can get your own from Pampered Chef. The seasoning takes time, but it becomes so wonderful.

So, rinse your Tilapia fillets and pat them dry with a paper towel...the drying is important. Place them on a baking pan. If you don't have stoneware, metal will do but you might spritz it with cooking spray first. And watch your time, it may cook just a couple of minutes more quickly.

The next step is pretty simple. Choose a few spices and sprinkle on your fillets. I just do the top, top and bottom can make the flavor pretty intense. I use Paprika, Fresh Ground Pepper, and Cavendar's Greek Seasoning. I devoted a full post to Cavendar's HERE, it is one of my favorite things.

Then, pop it into a 350* oven for 18-20 minutes, until the fish is flaky. It should look something like this. Easy as can be!

*This recipe is included at the Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life As Mom.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Freebie Friday

It has been a good shopping week in my neck of the woods. I hope you have landed some great deals as well! As always, everything in this post was free through Xtreme Couponing, BOGO sales, Online deals, or requesting free samples. It is my goal to inspire you to actively seek free stuff, because it IS out there. I also want to give you some of the tools to find them yourself! First, there is a list of all that I receivd free this week. If the deal is still available, I will provide the link. After that you will find a list of my favorite online freebies that are available right now.

January Week 4 Totals:
~Spent $69.51
~Saved $110.34
~Coupons Used 39
~Savings 61%

The bottom shot is a deal that I ran at CVS this week using their Extra Care Bucks. I purchased $36.70 in merchandise for .75 cash and $13 ECB. I received $15 in ECB at checkout. This essentially means that I was paid $1.25 to take this merchandise home, because ECB are just like cash at CVS.

Free in my Mailbox
~Slimfast Bar
~International Delight (Facebook Promotion, coupon for free bottle)
~Vogue Magazine
~2 Pull-Ups
~Nestle Planner W/Coupons
~Juicy Juice Sippy Cup (Posted HERE)
~2 5ct. Airborne (Facebook Promotion)
~Skein Caron Yarn (Facebook Promotion)
~Insulated "Green" Bag (Gift from Neilsen Consumer Panel)
~Pedometer & Excercise DVD (Tylenol Promotion)
~Gold Bond Hand Sanitizer Sample

Xtreme Couponing
~Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit (CVS)
~Tombstone Pizza (not pictured-Food Lion)
~2 Boxes Annies Organic Mac & Cheese (Super Fresh)
~4 Johnson's Buddies (Target-used 1/3 Coupon $1 off any Johnsons Baby Product)
~2 Pkg. Carefree Pads (Target)
~2 Renu Trial Size (Target-Printable HERE Free with overage.)
~5 Bags Stacy's Pita Chips (CVS)
~4 Gatorade (CVS)
~1 14 Ct. Prilosec (CVS)
~1 Campbell's Soup (CVS)

Favorite Online Freebies

Okay, not quite a freebie...but still *HOT*. Receive $5 in Multigrain Cheerios Coupons in your Inbox, HERE.

Think Marriage is offering FREE love letter kits for married couples, just in time for Valentine's Day! They are giving away 400 per day, so if you miss it today be sure to try again HERE.

Splenda is offering your choice of samples HERE. I chose the Hazelnut flavor, Yummy!

Crown Publishing is offering advanced copies of three new books HERE. Books make me so happy :)

Kashi is offering your choice of samples HERE. I chose the Honey Almond Flax Cereal because almonds make me happy, too!

Join the Blizzard Fan Club HERE for 6 coupons in your Inbox over the next year for BOGO Blizzards...the Oreo Mint is calling my name...

Murad is offering a free sample of their Acne Complex HERE.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Green Star Wars Cake???

My best bud, Blond Chick, has two boys. I have had the fun privilege of making every birthday cake these kiddos have had. The oldest just turned four. As we all know, four year olds have opinions ;) This year he asked me to make him a Star Wars cake. Then, a few days later he informed me that it should be a GREEN Star Wars cake. Well, my fist thought was Yoda...he's green, right? But, as I perused the web looking for inspiration, I noticed that most Yoda cakes looked more like the angry spawn of the Incredible Hulk and a Gremlin. I knew Yoda was out of my league. Only an artist can pull that one off.

So, I started thinking about scenes instead of individual characters. The only green setting I could think of was the Forest Moon of Endor, in Episode VI. With a few vintage action figures in my arsenal, from Blond Chick's brother, I set to work. I decided to make an Ewok Hut with appropriate characters nearby. Now, I did learn through some research that some Ewoks had hut's at ground level (for the elderly Ewoks, maybe?) which was very good news.

Here's the process...

Starting with a plan. This included a pic that I found online for inspiration.

The necessary tools. Decorator bags, tips, gel icing coloring, icing spatulas, etc.

The foundation. I decided to go with a round cake, and used a measuring cup to bake the basic form for the hut.

Cooled & leveled.

Rough icing, not yet smoothed...Green of course!

Icing smoothed, hut construction beginning. I used a Little Debbie Cupcake to give more height for the roof.

The walls of an Ewok hut are woven of something that looks similar to bamboo. To get this texture, I manipulated the icing with a damp artist's brush.

I added some greenery for the forest floor. The path is crushed chocolate cookies. The fallen tree was constructed from a plastic cake support (used internally for tiered cakes). I simply piped stiff icing over it, and extended the pointy roots at the end.

Here it is with characters in place, which I did on-site. Han Solo is on the fallen tree, the Ewok chief (Boss, Head Honcho, Grand Poobah, what do they call their leader?) in front of the hut, R2D2 is on the path, C3PO is beside the hut, and Chewbacca is hanging out on the edge of the cake.

A view from the back.

Now, I know this is a bit of a stretch for a Forest Moon, but this little guy seemed to be happy with it, and that is all that matters!

This post is linked to Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap this week.

Did You Know? Making Sticker Sheets User-Friendly for Little Fingers

My Little Stinker loves stickers. I use them often as rewards or as a means of entertainment when we are away from home. But, he does not have a lot of patience. Sometimes stickers can be very difficult to get off of the sheet. He gets easily frustrated with them. This little tip has saved us from numerous meltdowns. Before giving your kiddo a sheet of stickers, peel off the surrounding "trash" sticky paper (As illustrated below). **Cue Inner Monologue, "There must be some trade-name for sticker sheet refuse...wonder what it is? Why do I wonder about such things? Do other people ask such odd questions? WHATever..." ** All that will be left on the sheet is the stickers, and they will be so much easier for little fingers to remove.

This monster's name is "Arrow", according to the Little Stinker. You have to LOVE these "Build a Monster" stickers from American Greetings. They have "Build a Robot" as well. I picked them up at stuff-mart.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

National Consumer Panel~Now Taking Applications

A few months ago I signed up to be considered for the National Consumer Panel. I'm sure you have heard of the Neilsen TV ratings. This is the same group. They also track what consumers are purchasing, where they shop, and how much they spend.

Every so often they accept more applications. And, they are accepting them right now. First, let me say that this is a commitment, and it is not for everyone. It does take a little bit of time. I would guess that I spend about 20 minutes per week scanning and transmitting. I have been surprised to find that it is not as complicated as I expected. I will explain the process and the rewards in a moment.

I began my application process in October (I believe). It all starts with your zip code. Some are eligible at a given time and some are not. I answered questions about shopping habits, family makeup, ethnicity, and my computer hardware and phone service. It took several surveys over a couple of weeks to get accepted. Some of the questions seemed redundant, but it wasn't too bad. Upon being accepted I was told that I was being put on a waiting list and when a spot in my area became available, they would send me the equipment necessary to participate.

My only complaint with the whole process is that they shipped my equipment (which requires a signature for delivery) a week and a half before Christmas, when we were out of town, without notifying me ahead of time. Thankfully, a friend was keeping an eye on my house and noticed the FedEx tag on the door. I was able to call FedEx and re-shcedule the delivery.

The equipment is easy to use. I simply scan the bar codes and provide purchase prices for everything that I buy. Once a week I call in and press my scanner to my phone. It transmits all of my purchases for the week. It is very simple. I have read about other bloggers' experiences with NCP and it appears that there are different methods of transmission, based on the equipment that you have at home already.

There is no time commitment for this program. They sent a prepaid return label with the equipment, which is the property of Nielsen and must be returned whenever I decide to stop participating. I don't see this happening any time soon.

Now, for the rewards. For each transmission, I receive points. If I am consistent in transmitting, I receive bonus points. There are also other ways to earn points such as online surveys. I started at the first of this month. I expect, by the end of the month, to have about 3,000 points. It is my understanding that the points add up more quickly as your time with the program lengthens. There is a catalog filled with a nice selection of items that are available for purchase with points. The cheapest item in the catalog is a Buxton leather wallet for 9,000 points, the most expensive is an XBOX 360 package for 315,000 points. I expect to get a free Christmas gift or two from this catalog at the end of the year.

If you think you might be interested in being a member of the National Consumer Panel, Click HERE to get started. If you are willing to make the commitment, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Did You Know? Extending the Life of Disposable Razors

Part of frugal living is getting the most from the things that we purchase. Did you know that it is possible to increase the usefulness of the blades from your razor by at least half? I learned this trick a long time ago, and it really works. The best thing about it is that it is so simple to do. When you are done using your razor, dry off the blades. That's it! Try it, you'll be surprised at the results. I sure was!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Deals and Steals-100 FREE Prints from Snapfish

Snapfish is offering 100 free prints with any purchase right now. Sooo...if you buy 1 print for $.09, you can get 100 for FREE. Seriously! You will have to pay shipping, buy your entire order should round out to about $5. You can't beat that with a stick!

Just add 101 prints to your shopping cart (or more if you like) and use promo code PRINTSNEW. This offer is good through Wednesday, January 27. This one may just be too good to pass up!

Oh, and don't forget to go through Ebates for cash back on your purchase!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Confessions of Non-Athlete

When I was in elementary school, there was one day that I dreaded more than all the others. It wasn't standardized achievement testing day...nope, I liked that just fine. Other kids hated to see the religious art museum tour come along...I could handle art. It was that evil, unfair, surely against some child labor law...Field Day. The teachers assured me that one year I would find my niche. NOT...

50-yard dash? Last across the finish line every time.
Long jump? Ha...always the shortest.
Shot put? Yeah, right.

How could they put this face through that kind of humiliation????

Fast-Forward 22 years. When my family moved North, I started hanging out with this feisty Blond Chick who is a life-long runner. Pretty early into our friendship she started talking about running together...yeah, right. We ended up expecting babies two months apart, my second and her first. It is fun being preggo with a friend :)After having baby boy #2, my flab didn't melt away like it did with baby boy #1. So, in desperation, I started running with my friend.

I...thought...I....was...gonna...DIE! My body was not happy with me. But, that changed. The fat went away, and I started feeling great. I ran my first 5K a few months later.

Then, in 2007 we got a wild-hair to run a half-marathon...which we did...I am still amazed that I ran 13 miles. I never would have completed training if she had let up on me. She doesn't mind telling me that I am being a wimp. I can't stand being called a wimp. (Everyone needs a friend who will get in-your-face like that.)It was really a cool thing to be a part of. We are in this sea of runners, somewhere.

I haven't run another race since that one. Why? A minor injury from that race, an illness that put me out of commission completely for a couple of months, she had another baby (like her pregnancy was any excuse for me), and a bazillion other things.

So, no more excuses. There's another wild-hair growing, so-to-speak. Blond Chick and I started training this week for the Freedom's Run Half-Marathon that will take place in 282 days, on October 2nd. I am really excited about this race because the course winds through Antietam Battlefield, which is ironically beautiful. HISTORY is quite literally all around us.

Occasionally as we train, I will post an update. Mostly as an added accountability for me to stay on course. Like I need it...Blond Chick will be there to make sure of that. This week I've logged 97 minutes of road-time over four days. My last Half took 2 hours 21 I've got a loooong way to go.
This is me and Blond Chick at a small-town 5K a couple of years ago. She has a medal because she is a beast on the race course. I have a medal because there were only about 4 people in my age category, HA!

Oh, and by the way, my quads hurt...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Freebie Friday

It has been a really good freebie week at my house. I am continually amazed at how much stuff you can bring home for free. As always, the things listed here were TOTALLY FREE, either from savvy couponing, BOGO sales, or giveaways. I will provide the link to any coupons that I used, if the deal is still available. It is my goal to inspire you to look for freebies, too!

The second half of this post includes links to my favorite online freebies from the past week that are still available.

My shopping totals for this week: Spent-$40.23, Saved-$120.50, Percentage Saved-75%

The above photo is from THIS DEAL. Everything in it was free and is listed below except the bananas.

The Grocery Game
~1 Box Kraft Mac and Cheese (Superfresh)
~2 Boxes Green Giant frozen corn (Weis)
~4 Boxes Krusteze Pancake Mix (Superfresh)
~1 Gallon Milk (Superfresh)
~3 Jars Polaner All-Fruit (Superfresh)
~4 Boxes Gorton Grilled Fish (Superfresh)
~2 Pouches Starkist Tuna (Walmart) Printable $1 off 1 coupon HERE makes this item Free at Walmart. FireFox users click HERE. Hit the your browser's back button to print two times.
~1 Box Sunbelt Granola Bars (Walmart) Printable BOGO coupon HERE
~1 22ct. Carefree Liners (Walmart- Price, $1.00, used $1.00 coupon in February Good Housekeeping Mag.) (Printable available HERE, at Deal Seeking Mom. You can print it 2 times.)
~1 18ct. Always Infinity Pads (Walmart)(Coupon for free package in BEING GIRL online freebie, listed below.)

The Drugstore Game
~Did not play this week...the deals were weak

In the Mail
~Tampax BEING GIRL samples & Coupon (link below)
~Atkins Starter Kit w/3 Atkins Bars & Carb Counter (linked in earlier FF post HERE.)
~5 Puritan's Pride Vitamin E Sticks
~Jiffy Cornbread Recipe Book
~Nakano Rice Vinegar Recipe Book
~Tampax, 3 tampons sample
~Always, 3 pads sample
~February Weight Watchers Magazine
~Emergen-C Alert Sample


Being Girl sample HERE. Includes tampons, pads, and coupon for a free box of Always Infinity Pads.

Cream of Wheat is offering a free sample, including the new Spongebob line. Choose your flavor for theis freebie HERE.
Thanks, For the Mommas!

Power Bar has samples of Gel Blasts available HERE.
Thanks, Southern Savers!

If you know anyone who uses hearing aids, Energizer is offering a sample of their hearing aid batteries HERE. (Bottom right of page.)

Betty Crocker is offering $10 in coupons to folks who sign up for one of their newsletters HERE.
Thanks, Hip2Save!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A couple of months ago Unfinished Mom recommended the Pssst... program by General Mills to me. She gave me a couple of coupons, told me about a new product, and explained the program. So, I came home that night, signed up and promptly forgot about it...

Well, I was pretty surprised yesterday when I received an envelope in the mail from Pssst... It contained a letter describing a new product called Yoplait Smoothie, a coupon for a free package of this item for me, and discount coupons for me to share with friends. My only requirement is to tell folks about the product and pass out the coupons.

Now, I will admit, I doubt that I would have ever purchased Yoplait Smoothie on my own (unless I came across a sweet deal!!!), so I'm thinking that this is a completely brilliant marketing campaign that GM has come up with. I am very excited to pick up my free product and try it out. I will be sure to let you know what I think about it, too!

Head on over to the Psst... website and sign up. You never know when a fun freebie might show up in your mailbox!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet Superfresh Trip

I do not normally post about individual shopping trips. There are other bloggers who do this faithfully and that is great, it just isn't my thing. I did have to show you the deal I just scored at Superfresh, though. It is probably the best deal I will ever run....ever.

Grocery Value-$42.00
Total Spent-$1.19

Isn't that insane? Here's the lowdown...

Bananas $1.41
1 Milk $3.49
3 Polaner $3.19, on sale 2 for $3
4 Gorton $4.49, on sale $2.24
3 Krusteze $3.19, on sale $0.99

4 x .50 off Gorton Sea Food (doubled)
3 x 1.00 off Polaner
3 x .50 off Krusteze Baking Mix (doubled)
$10 off Catalina Coupon from previous Proctor and Gamble deal.

That's a 97% savings!! They hate to see me coming ;)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti's Orphans

I have not yet spoken to the crisis in Haiti. Partly, this has been because I haven't known what to say that hasn't already been said. Maybe it is all just too big to comprehend. It is certainly overwhelming. I have spent my time praying for the suffering and loss among the Haitian people. I have also been praying for the physical and mental safety of those first responders among the various international relief organizations. I cannot fathom the tragedy that they are witnessing.

Before the earthquake Haiti had an orphan crisis on their hands. There were literally thousands of little ones, just like my boys, living on the street or as slaves. One doctor interviewed on CNN has said that the orphan population has tripled this week. There are hundreds of thousands of children who are alone...there is no one to make sure they even have the basic necessities. There were a handful of orphanages. Now I understand that there are none. What can be our response to this? How can we help?

Together for Adoption is working on a plan, and preparing to mobilize churches to act. I don't know what the plan will be. I don't know how we can help, yet. But, I do know this, we are responsible to help. James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." If ever orphans have been in affliction, it is happening now in Haiti.

How am I preparing to respond? In whatever way the Lord allows. If it is money... fine. If it is time spent in Haiti... I can do that. If it is to bring one of these little ones into my home as a part of my family... I am ready do that too. One thing is for sure, my heart will not let me sit idly by and do nothing.

Please pray for these precious children. And, pray that a means can be established between our State Department and the Haitian government through which these children can be adopted quickly.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Deals and Steals-$4.99 Soft-Sided Lunch Box from The Company Store

The Company Store has a deal today on their $19.99 lunch boxes. They are on sale for $4.99. Get free shipping with the code SAVEBIG. You can have it monogrammed for an additional $6. (I think I can figure out how to label it myself.) This is perfect timing for me, as my son's current lunchbox is literally falling apart. Enjoy the savings!

Don't forget to shop through ebates or Upromise for additional savings!

Thanks, For The Mommas!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Freebie Friday

It is time for this week's freebie roundup. First up is a roll of the things that I have gotten for free in the past seven days. I had a great week playing the Drugstore Game this week. (Click the link for a good synopsis of how this works from Chief Family Officer.)After that, find links to my favorite current freebie deals from the web.

Oh, I thought I would add my shopping totals for the week. This is for grocery and personal care items. Spent- $121.15 Saved- $246.46 Savings- 67%

Rebates Received-

Scholastic Book "It's Snowing!"
Oriental Trading Calendar w/coupons
Pillsbury Calendar w/coupons
Enfamil Formula Sample (No idea why I got this!)

Grocery Game-
2 boxes General Mills Cereal
1 pack Tilapia
5 bottles Naked Juice
1 bag Splenda
1 can Del Monte Pears
1 Jumbo Pack Diapers
1 bottle Aunt Jemimah Syrup
1 box Quaker Oats

Drugstore Game-
5 Travel First Aid Kits
1 20-roll Pack Cottonelle
3 cans Oust
1 300-count Q-tips
1 CVS Green Bag Tag

My Favorite Freebies available on the WEB...

Juicy Juice-Free Sippy Cup!

Vancouver Olympics-Free 160 page Olympic Journal. Leave your contact information and the will email you the link to receive this freebie in early February.
Thanks A Thrifty Mom!

Style Art & Frame-Free 4-color Pen. My oldest son will love this!

Purex-Free sample 3-in-1 sheets. These are great for doing laundry when you travel...also great for college students.
Thanks Freebies 4 Mom!

Wearever-Free Recipe Box w/index cards for joining their recipe forum.
Thanks Hip2Save!

Simon & Schuster-Free advance copy of Keeper . I am a little confused on this one. I am not sure if everyone who registers will receive a copy. The wording is unusual. Regardless, it is worth a try.

Mimi's Cafe-Free Breakfast Entree' for joining their club.

Mercury Magazines-Free Subscription to Spa Magazine. Mercury is a trade magazine distributor. Fill out a quick survey about what you do to qualify for this freebie.
Thanks For The Mommas!
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