Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adventures with Nanny & Papa

We're blessed to live close enough to my parents to be able to see them often.  The other weekend, we "met in the middle" at the Crayola Factory and National Canal Museum.

Noah was probably a little too young to appreciate the Crayola Factory. . . But I snagged a great deal online for half price admission, so I couldn't pass it up.  Plus, he was free because he hasn't turned two yet.

However, he really enjoyed the National Canal Museum with all the boats.  Best of all, they had a train display too!

A fun day was had by all.

Choo Choo!

Since Noah loves all things "Thomas," we dressed him up as a train conductor/engineer today and took him over to the retirement community where I work to visit with the staff and residents.

He and his buddy Jesse ("BamBam") were all dressed up!

I know I'm his mom, so I'm supposed to think this - but he's absolutely adorable.  I love our little guy!  Watching him learn and grow truly is an ordinary miracle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deals - October 18

I made a late-night grocery run last night and came home with some great deals.  The overall savings wasn't as good as I would've liked (spices are expensive!), but here are the numbers:

Shelf Cost:  $87.49
Store Discounts:  $19.16
Coupons:  $11.55
Total Spent:  $56.96
Savings:  35%

Here are some of the better deals I got:

Pepperidge Farm Soft-Baked Cookies (2)
$3.39, BOGO Free
-$1/1 coupon
=$1.19 each

Quaker Instant Oatmeal (3)
2/$5 or $2.50 each
-$1/1 coupon
-$1/1 coupon
-$2/1 coupon
=$1.15 each

Perdue Short Cut Chicken Strips (2)
$5.49, BOGO Free
-$0.75/1 coupon (doubled)
-$0.75/1 coupon (doubled)
=$1.24 each

CoffeeMate Creamer (1)
-$1.50/1 coupon

Shelf Cost:  $31.16
Coupons:  $6.00
Total Spent:  $25.16
Savings:  20%

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Picking

Our playgroup, Connect the Tots, went apple picking on Friday morning.  The weather was a little chilly and rather windy, but we had a blast!

While we were there, we were able to learn about how a farm works, visit a few of the farm animals and run through a haybale maze.  Then, we took a wagon ride out the orchard, where each mom and "tot" got to pick four apples each.  There was even a cup of fresh-pressed cider waiting for us when we returned.

We had planned to eat a picnic lunch at the farm, but we decided to move our picnic indoors back at the church.  This was our first official activity and I was very pleased with how well it went, though, I must say, it's a lot of work to coordinate all the details!  But the fellowship with other moms and the smiles on all the kids' faces made it worth all worth it.

If you're interested, we visited Varner Farms in Collegeville, Pa.

Hot Chocolate in a Hurry

Our church held "A Purposeful Day at the Park" on Saturday where we rented a pavilion and had free food, music, games and literature for anyone that stopped by.  A few hours before the event was to start, my husband and I realized/decided that we should probably have something hot to drink, since the weather was only supposed to be in the 50s and rather blustery.

So at 9am, I set to work whipping up a batch of hot chocolate.  I didn't have the time or the budget to run to the store, so I had to use only what was already in my pantry and refrigerator.  By 10:30am, I was at the park with more than 5 gallons of very yummy hot chocolate.  Here's what I included:

-semi-sweet chocolate chips
-unsweetened baker's chocolate
-cocoa powder
-evaporated milk
-chocolate-flavored coffee creamer
-milk (a combination of 2% and whole)
-hot water

This is by no means a "recipe" for hot chocolate, but rather a testimony of resourcefulness.  Because I've been couponing more, I had many of these items in "bulk," waiting to be used for just such an occasion.  This proves that even people as un-creative as me can "rise to the occasion" when the need arises, you do what you can with what you have - making lemonade out of lemons - or hot chocolate out of various forms of milk and chocolate. . .   :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Soup Party!

For the past five years, my husband and I have been hosting a soup party.  The concept is not original with us, but I think it's become our "signature" event and we look forward to it every year!

We hold the event outdoors in the early fall.  Each guest/family brings a pot of their favorite soup.  We provide the rest of the food - breads, cheeses, "condiments," drinks and desserts - as well as small styrofoam cups for sampling each of the soups.  Everyone brings a muffin tin to hold their soup samples.  We assign each soup a number and at the end of the night, everyone votes on their favorite soup. 

We always have a great evening of food, fun and fellowship.  In the past, we've also carved pumpkins, played games and watched a short movie.  This year, my creative husband came up with a murder mystery that we played throughout the night.  The soups were the murder weapons and several of our guests were celebrity chef suspects (i.e. "Chef Bobby Fillet" and "Chef Julia Chives").  It was a lot of fun!

The soup party is an "event" in, and of, itself, requiring months of planning, its own budget and corner of the basement to store supplies throughout the year.  But we love being able to catch up with old friends, make new ones and enjoy the beauty of the fall season together.

The Blessing of Discovery

The other day had been a "rough" one in the obedience department and both mom and toddler needed to get out of the house.  The morning had been rainy and the afternoon rather blustery.  But I decided to chance it and head to a new park that I'd passed on my errands around town.

This little park turned out to be much better than I was expecting!  I had seen the playground area from the road, but tucked behind the playground was a pond with very friendly ducks, and walking trail.  We had such a fun time feeding the ducks and "exploring" around the pond.  Of course, the playground was fun too!  And the weather was absolutely perfect entire time we were there - warm sunshine with only a gentle breeze.

On an otherwise "dreary" day, our trip to the park was a welcome blessing! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Heart

We've been trying to teach Noah the importance of having a "happy heart" (i.e. a good attitude).  He's hasn't been doing terribly well with the concept lately and I was beginning to wonder if he was even "getting it."

This morning, as I was having my quiet time downstairs, I overheard him on the monitor as he woke up.  One of the first words out of his mouth (after saying "good morning" to his puppy) was "happy" (the "h" is silent, though).  Then "wo -why" (his pronunciation of his name) then the sentence "wo-why happy."

I had to smile and thank God for the encouragement He'd sent my way first thing in the morning.  I certainly needed it throughout the day as we continued to struggle with the fits and tantrums of the oncoming "terrible twos," but he's getting it.  Slowly but surely, God is creating in both of us a happy heart.

Coupon Blogs

I must admit that I'm new to the world of coupons and I'm still learning with each transaction.  In my efforts to learn as much as I can, I've found several other sites and blogs helpful in keeping up with deals.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Centsable Momma
Coupon Cravings
For the Mommas
The Krazy Coupon Lady

Mama Cheaps
Moms Need to Know
Money Saving Mom

Spend Freely
Stretching a Buck

Surviving the Stores

I also subscribe to Free Coupon Alerts.  I'm sure there are many more out there.  I'd be interested in hearing your favorites.

Always Have a Back Up!

I work part-time from home, so I keep all of my files on an external hard drive that I carry back and forth between my home and the office.  Well, I should say that I had kept my files on an external hard drive. . . that was, until I dropped it.  :(

After many attempts by well-meaning friends and co-workers, we've determined the data to be "irretrievable" - since we can't really afford to pay an expert to look at it.  I had good reasons for using the hard drive as my primary storage location (i.e. there wasn't enough disk space on either my home or work desktop to hold all the files), and I honestly never gave much thought to having a back-up.  Now, three and a half years of articles, logos, newsletters, advertisements, pictures and design work are gone.

It's been about a month since I dropped the drive and still, as I type this, I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I'll admit that I did cry over my "spilled milk," but I've had to move on - going back through my e-mail attachments to retrieve files and humbly recreating designs I'd originally spent hours working on.

I've learned a valuable lesson that, I'm sure, everyone else already knows and adheres to, but it bears repeating - always have a back-up! 

Connect the Tots

In addition to my many new roles as wife of the assistant pastor at our little church, I've endeavored to start up a playgroup.  We're calling ourselves "Connect the Tots."  Cute, huh?

We had our first playdate/lunch last month at my house.  It was another rainy day, so our play room filled up quickly with kids and toys, but it was a lot of fun!

In a few weeks, we'll be heading out to a local orchard for a tour and some apple picking.  I can't wait!  I haven't told Noah yet, because I know he'll be too excited to wait patiently (we're still working on the concept of "later").

I'm really looking forward to getting to the other moms in our group better.  It's an encouragement to know that you're not the only one struggling through the day-to-day life of a new parent.  If you're like to keep up with our little playgroup, you can find us on Facebook.

Tiny Trackers

I've recently begun teaching the 3,4 & 5 year-olds at our church on Wednesday night.  We use the Truth Tracker curriculum, so our little ones are called Tiny Trackers.  We're having fun "tracking down the truth in God's Word."  Every week we put on our detective hats and look for clues about the night's special word.  We play games, sing songs, do crafts & activities, memorize a verse and learn a Bible story - all to reinforce a truth from God's Word.  Every week I'm exhausted by the kids' energy and encouraged by their enthusiasm to learn about God.


We're a little obsessed with Thomas the Train in our house right now.  Noah would watch "choo-choo" all day, if we let him.  One grandma recently bought him a train table at a consignment sale and the other grandma just sent a pair of Thomas the Train PJs in the mail.  We know the songs (and have our own "dance moves") and the names and are even learning our colors, thanks to Thomas.  He really is a "really useful engine"!

Deals - October 5

Noah and I ran our errands today, despite the rain, and were able to get a few good deals.  Here's a recap:

Shelf Cost:          $22.87
Store Discounts:   $ 1.90
Coupons:             $ 5.00
ECB:                   $10.49
Total Spent:         $ 5.48
Savings:                  76%  (and I still have $2 ECB for next time!)

Shelf Cost:         $62.36
Store Discounts:  $23.36
Coupons:            $11.83 (I love $1 coupon doublers!)
Total Spent:        $27.62
Savings:                 56%  
Thanks to a dear friend who gave me her store coupons since she was going to be out of town when they expire!