Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thrifty Living's Advent Calendar

Now that our daughter is old enough to understand about Christmas and get excited, we wanted to have an "official" advent calendar planned for the month of December. Thanks to my Christmas board on Pinterest, I've come across a ton of different ideas for homemade advent calendars. 

My favorite is this Kaisercraft Advent Calendar. It comes plain, and there are so many awesome decorating ideas. I really like the colors and decorations in this one.

I recently found this advent calendar from Target, and I love it too! 

But, both of these are a little pricey ($25 and $40, respectively), so I'm going to check after Christmas to see if I can get one on sale.

Instead of buying something that I didn't love while I try to find a good sale, I decided to use jars that I already had on hand. I easily came up with 25 beautiful glass jars! Most of them are Ball 4 oz canning jars and 1/2 Pint canning jars that I've been using for homemade yogurt, along with a few odd baby food jars, Herlocher's jars, and a spaghetti sauce jar.

I wanted to have us read through the Christmas story as we go through our jars, so I divided it up from the Gospel of Luke. This way we only have one verse to read each day. Depending on how it goes, we may read the previous verses as well as the new day's verse all together. I printed them out and cut out each verse, gluing them to colored construction paper.

Pinterest also helped me to find a ton of Christmas activities to include in our jars, but most of them didn't seem quite right for our family, so I ended up making mostly my own list there also. This was a lot of fun because I got to really personalize our advent calendar!

Here's the complete list of our advent activities:

Decorate the tree
Make paper snowflakes
Sing carols at home
Make handmade ornaments
Bake cookies
Make a popcorn garland
Dance to Christmas music
Watch Elf
Make hot chocolate
Read ‘He’s Here!’
Read ‘The King of all Kings’
Merry Christmas! Open gifts!
Pray as a family
Build a snowman
Write a letter to Santa
Go see Christmas lights
Go get the Christmas tree
Deliver cookies to neighbors
Read ‘The light of the whole world’
Make Christmas cookies
Color a Christmas picture
Read ‘The night before Christmas’
Wrap gifts

I am so excited for how the advent calendar turned out and can't wait until tomorrow to get started opening our first jar!

Here are some close-up peeks at a few of our jars.

(This jar is full of marshmallows and toothpicks...our snowman building materials!)

The Christmas Day jar.

Do you do an advent calendar with your family? I'd love to hear what you do!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traveling Ideas & Thanksgiving Links

If your family is anything like ours, then you will probably be doing a fair amount of traveling for the upcoming holidays. And traveling with little ones in the car is always a bit of a challenge. The last few months we've been putting together some ideas for the car that don't involve watching movies or playing computer/tech games. Here are a few favorites!

Color Matching/Fine motor skills (Inspiration):

These are made from paint chip samples! I used two of each identical paint chip, one I cut up and glued to clothes pins, the second for the clothes pins to be clipped on.

To make the paint chips a little more durable and to minimize the number of clothespins I needed, I doubled the up the paint chips. Purple on the back of green, blue on the back of orange, etc. This is super fun!

Tracing pages (Inspiration):

We use plastic page protectors and a dry erase marker to make these reusable tracing pages. There are tons of tracing pages that are free to print! These are Thanksgiving themed, but we switch them up based on the seasons.

My daughter also enjoys tracing letters and numbers this way.

Another favorite for adults and children alike is audio books! We check out a lot of audio books from the library. Some recent favorites including Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (With CD),

I also wanted to include a few favorite bread recipes that are great for special occasions (or really any day!).

Homemade Beer Bread. Mmmm I just made a loaf of this yesterday. Its so simple to make and way less expensive than those pre-packaged mixes. And great toasted with butter for breakfast!

I love The Frugal Girl's recipe for Honey-Glazed rolls. These are really should try them!

And of course, a favorite all fall long for us was Pumpkin Spice Scones.

Do you have any car activities that are family favorites? Or a special recipe that you are making this Thanksgiving? Please share!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crock-pot recipes

I've tried out a few nice crock-pot recipes lately, so I thought I would share them!

First up, French Onion Soup!

This recipe is from Smashed Peas and Carrots and turned out great! Even our kids enjoyed the soup, and we had it with homemade french bread that we topped with swiss cheese. It warmed up really great too, which made for a nice lunch the next day.

We also tried Apple Pie Oatmeal from Healthy Slow Cooking. This recipe is great to make the night before...then breakfast is ready first thing in the morning! Since you are cooking the oatmeal overnight, it calls for steel cut oats since they hold up better. I'll probably add a bit more water next time since the oatmeal stuck in a few places. Other than that, this recipe is a keeper too!

Have you tried out any new crock-pot recipes lately? Feel free to post them in the comments. I'm always looking for something new to try!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giveaway winner

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the Star Wars cereal and Walmart gift card...I loved reading about all of your favorite Star Wars characters!

The winner was commenter #4, Katie, who said Princess Leia was her favorite! Congrats, Katie!

I've got another giveaway in the works for December that is really exciting, so stay tuned!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Homemade Pedialyte

My kids had a stomach bug the last few days, but thankfully both Martin and I stayed healthy! I thought about running to the store for some Pedialyte, and then I found a recipe for a homemade version in Baby 411 (love that book!). It's so simple, just three ingredients - water, salt, and sugar.

Homemade Pedialyte (source: Baby 411)

4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Jello gelitin powder (for flavor) you can omit or I used a bit of powdered Gatorade to flavor

My one-year-old drank it without any flavoring, but my nearly three-year-old had a hard time choking even the flavored version down. She was feeling a good bit better and wanted something more "tasty".

Remember that today is the last day to enter the Walmart gift card and General Mills cereal giveaway. Just click through to this post and leave a comment!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tiny Prints Christmas Card Review

I love making our Christmas card each year! Sure, its a bit of pressure to get a good family photo, especially to make sure the kids are looking normal (ha!). There are TONS of options for Christmas cards out there, and I usually go with the most inexpensive (free) option. So, when Tiny Prints offered to give me free photo cards in exchange for a review, I said sure!

I often use Shutterfly for our photo cards throughout the year. They run nice promotions and I have always been pleased with the final result. I've done a bunch of looking at the selection of Christmas cards offered by Tiny Prints and I am impressed! There are tons of options to personalize the front, inside, and back of your card.

Tiny Prints beautiful cards in a number of different styles. I really like their color pallet; many of the cards have rich, dark reds and greens instead of neon shades. I also appreciate the variety of pre-written wishes on the cards. I'm not going to pick "Holly Jolly" or "Jingle Bells" for our Christmas card (though there isn't anything wrong with that if you like it!). I much prefer a classic and simple "Merry Christmas".

I really like the flat stationary picture cards. They have the same design options as many of the folded cards, but instead of being white on the back they have a pattern that matches the front of the card. Little things like this are a great touch! And I checked out the Shutterfly folded cards...nothing on the backs of their flat cards!

Square cards look so interesting, and I especially love the rounded corners. They are tempting for sure, but remember that they usually require additional postage! 

(Wreathed Charm)

If you are looking for a really different type of Christmas card, check out their selection of circle card and flip cards. They are sure to wow!

Thanks for the chance to do a review, Tiny Prints! I'm excited to see this year's Christmas cards. I know they will be beautiful!

Would you like a chance to review Tiny Prints and get free cards also? Apply here.

Disclosure: In exchange for my honest review, Tiny Prints is giving me free photo cards. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Photo Freebies

There are a few photo freebies that I am loving right now!

My Publisher will send you a code for 5 free photo cards with FREE shipping when you enter your email address on their website. Free shipping is awesome!

Do you live near a Rite Aid? You can get 15 free 4x8 photo cards and 25 free 4x6 prints shipped to your local Rite Aid for free. Get all the details from Money Saving Mom. Once the 25 free prints are in your cart, get a free 8x10 also when you use the code FREE8x10!

I recently got an email from Shutterfly for 75 free prints for you and 5 friends. If you are on Shutterfly's email list you probably got one too. The deadline to share with your friends is today, but the free prints are good through November 18. Shipping costs will apply, however.

Have you gotten any other great photo deals lately? I know there have been a bunch!

Commenting options

If you would like to enter the cereal and gift card giveaway but have not commented because of not having a Google ID....good news! I turned on the anonymous comment feature, so feel free to comment that way, just make sure that you still leave an email address in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you are the winner!

I have not allowed anonymous comments simply because I think it is important to have some accountability on what you say on the internet. The impersonality of online comments seems to empower some people to say whatever they are thinking without concern for the person on the receiving end. This is a bigger problem on site larger than this one, and for that I am grateful.

If you are interested in commenting on blogs powered by Blogger that do not allow 'anonymous' comments, consider making a Google ID just for the purpose of commenting.

All that to say...anonymous comments will be available for giveaways, but not permanently, unless I hear a lot of feedback that they would be super helpful!

Have you entered the giveaway yet? All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this review post. Oh, and you don't have to be a Star Wars fan to enter. The Walmart gift card will be nice to put toward Christmas gifts, I'm sure!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Walmart Star Wars Review & Giveaway!

We are big Star Wars fans in my house, so I was super excited to get the opportunity to check out the Star Wars edition cereals from General Mills!

We received three boxes of cereal...

along with a $25 gift card to Walmart. These special edition cereal boxes are available at Walmart to celebrate the release of all six Star Wars movies on Blu-ray.

Check out the mural when you put all the boxes together!

I'm a huge fan of Honey Nut Cheerios, and they are a nice change from the plain cereal that we usually buy, but without being too crazy sweet.

My daughter call Cinnamon Toast Crunch "the tasty cereal". Too cute! Like Yoda? Not quite!

 And both Martin and I love Lucky Charms...once in a while that is. I can't do too much sweet stuff for breakfast, and so we usually opt for a sugary cereal for a snack instead of as part of a meal.

Win it!

I have a prize pack to give away to one of you! The prize pack includes 1 box of each of these three cereals (with the limited edition Star Wars mural!), as well as a $25 gift card to Walmart. For your chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post. If you are feeling creative, let me know your favorite Star Wars character. Of course, you don't have to be a fan of Star Wars to enter! 

Please include your email address with your comment, or make sure that your email is visible in your blogger profile. I will contact the winner via email to get your mailing information. The giveaway will close Monday, November 14 at 9pm. Winner will be chosen at random.

Disclosure: The cereal, gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stocking Up: Peanut Butter

Have you heard that the price of peanut butter is expected to rise as much as 40% because of a poor peanut harvest this year? This article from CNN indicates that prices began to rise starting November 1. 

We love peanut butter, and our kids especially eat it nearly every day, so I decided to get a few extra jars at Costco recently:

While that might look like overkill to some, we go through a large jar about every month. So, I really only bought a 6-month supply, and this peanut butter is good until 2013! I got two 40 ounce jars for $7.99 (9 cents per ounce), which is the best price I've seen, even compared to som.e of the good deals on Amazon lately (the best being 14 cents per ounce).

Do you use peanut butter like us? It might be worth buying an extra jar (or more!) in the near future. And even if prices do not go up as expected, I know this stockpile will not go to waste!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thrifty Clothing Thoughts

Are you working on a Christmas list yet? I'm working on a few ideas right now, and at the top of my list the last few years almost always seems to be clothes. I'm always on the lookout for a great clearance deal on clothes for myself, but other than that, I rarely buy clothes.

Since price (oh look, its marked down to $1.50!) has often been the deciding factor in whether or not I buy something, I've found that I've complied a large wardrobe of things that I wear, but few things that I actually love. In many ways clothes are clothes and functionality is more important than the perfect outfit. But the pieces that started out just ok quickly become dust catchers on a hanger...taking up space and being a waste of money, even if it was only a few dollars.

The last few years we've been trying to stay on top of donating things that are not being worn and buying smarter when we do go shopping.  Earlier this year Real Simple ran a story entitled Never Buy the Wrong Thing Again that really helped me to think critically about clothes buying. I love the 4 easy steps to help you buy clothes that you love, in order to make the most out of fewer items.

Today I'm just going to share a few thoughts about the article, and later in the week I plan to focus on how this has made me more careful and purposeful with my clothing habits!
(Image via Real Simple)
Step 1: Identify what's working
There are some great questions to ask yourself about your favorite outfits! Why do I like this? Is it comfortable? A great color? Practical?

Step 2: Analyze your mistakes
What things do I avoid pulling out of my closet to wear? Why don't I like them? Why did I buy them in the frist place? Was it a great price that I couldn't pass up?

Step 3: ID the missing pieces in your wardrobe
Real Simple has a "wardrobe checklist" that is a good starting point, but what you need is more important than what they say you need! Make a list of a few things that you want to add to your wardrobe...instant Christmas list ideas!

Step 4: Shop smarter
If its on sale but not on the list, leave it in the store! Or, once you find something that looks good, put it through a couple tests...when you try it on at the store sit down, move around, and bend over to check the fit. If you ened up buying it, do the same thing at home. Make sure it works and if it doesn't, taking it back to the store might be the best bet!

Do you have any great tips for purposefully adding to your wardrobe?
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