Friday, January 31, 2014

January Budget Review

I did my not so middle of the month review here which was a little early because I knew that I would miss it since my son's birthday is in the middle of the month.  I had to get stuff ready for his school party and his home party so I knew that I would not be blogging.  I had a half total of $68.00 with a list of things that I still needed to get for the month.  Seems weird that it is a whole number with no change but I swear that I check twice.

My first trip after was to cash in three $0.75 coupons for the oatmeal that I bought and forgot to use the coupons since I had the help of my little one so I got $4.70 back before even starting shopping so it started on a great note :)

Here are my other shopping trips for the month:

Harris Teeter $12.03

I had a coupon for free milk and there was a sale on milk on a Saturday only deal.  There was another deal where I got money back through Ibotta for the milk.  There was a deal on Old El Paso where I put together 3 shells, 2 stand and stuff shells and 3 seasonings packets which came to $10 so I got off $4 instantly and used lots of coupons to save more and got an evic zvr coupon so they were really inexpensive and I will be getting a Saving Star too!  I also grabbed the tuna which was a free Saving Star coupon so I got $1 back for that too!! There was another deal on the applesauce pouches where they were not much and I got back more money through Ibotta.  It was a crazy complicated deal for me but I decided that it was good to try it out.  I also finally transferred some (a little over $23) of my Saving Star money to Pay Pal so that we can actually use it.

There was a sale and coupon on the Dial soap and though it felt like a splurge because we didn't need it, I decided to throw it in the cart.  We also weren't in total need of tissues but we usually go through a bunch during cold season because my son isn't the greatest at using the tissues until they are totally used and picks out a new one and of course, I had a coupon and there was a evic zvr coupon.

I used a rain check for the eggs and the Dixie Crystal sugar and used coupons to make them even better priced.  We needed eggs lots so I was glad to get them for $0.87 per dozen which is a great price.  I didn't need the sugar but I love getting them when I have the rain check and the coupons to match up so they were $0.38 for 4 pounds!!

Giant $4.76

I had my $10 credit for being part of the Giant community to use to get some deals so I headed to the store.  We really needed some pasta so I ended up with 10 boxes!!  Most of them were the white fiber one and there were two gluten free and two plus.  My son picked out two boxes of Apple Jacks.  There was also a deal on the Skippy Peanut Butter so I got the limit of two.  I still had a little more money left so I grabbed the Cottonelle toilet paper and there was a coupon right on package!! Bonus but that is why my total was so high because I should have just grabbed some more pasta!

 Wegman's $22.20

I went a little crazy at the store getting ground beef and an entire case of mac and cheese.  I added the Red Baron pizzas and Cheese Its which was a huge splurge since it wasn't a really great price but my husband really wanted the Cheese Its and my son wanted the pizza.

Aldi $19.51

I got stick margarine and tub margarine which we needed.  My son's favorite was the pepperoni so we grabbed two packages.  We also decided to grab a bag of Cheese Tortilla chips and Cheese crackers.  I went for another splurge and bought the dry milk powder that I wanted in order to make my homemade biscuit mix.

CVS $0.71

I had my $5 ECB for getting my medicine at CVS so I decided to use it on two boxes of Frosted Flakes which were on sale 2 for $5.  I used a coupon and decided to add the small box of Cheese Its which was also on sale.  I love when you got the really low totals on your transaction because you have the ECBs.

Giant $4.00

I had to get ham for my husband because we were totally out even though I was trying to be done with the shopping for the month.  I used coupons and also grabbed two powerades which were free after coupons.  One of the ham package isn't pictured because I went to my husband's work and dropped off a package for him to add to the sandwiches that I made him that morning (which were missing the ham).

Harris Teeter $19.22

I went to the store to get some chickens since they were on sale for $0.79 per pound.  I grabbed the limit which was 4 and found only one Cran-Grape left on the shelf.

Harris Teeter $22.27

I went to the store to get some more deals that were going on this week especially the buy 10 for $10 deal and get $2 off.  I grabbed 10 boxes of the Mueller pot sized spaghetti and one of the Veggie Spaghetti and used a ton of different coupons to get them super cheap.  It is always great to have that in the cupboard to make a few meals out of each month.  I got two free Power Ades which my husband has been enjoying.  I also got a free yogurt but the area was really picked over and there wasn't that much left.

We were totally out of cheese and rice which are two main staples in our house.  I grabbed the cheese deal where you buy two and get a caalina for your next purchase.  The catalina machine wasn't printing so I got cash back from customer service when I showed them my little promotion sheet.  The Mahatma rice was on sale for $2 and there was a $0.50 coupon which doubled so I got them for $1 for 2 lbs.  It seemed like a good deal even though I had stocked up before for less.

There was a deal at the bottom of my receipt for Quaker Oatmeal at $1.97 which I don't know where it came from but I grabbed two of them and used a coupon because they are one of my son's favorites.

Splurges that we really didn't need were the two boxes of Cheese Its and the three Red Baron Pizzas but they were all good prices and I had coupons.  It goes to show you that you might not need to get everything just because it is on sale and you have a coupon :)  Of course, they won't go to waste here.  I also grabbed the Texas Toast tortilla strips instead of the croutons because we ate those last time much faster but these were $0.17 instead of free after coupon.

I also decided that I would get Bugles for my son because they are not normally included in the sale and coupon but this time I had a coupon, zvr and saving star.  They were $1.19 for two bags less the $0.50 that I will get back from Saving Star so they will eventually be $0.35 per bag.  Then, I got the Hamburger Helper which was $1.45 for four boxes and I get back $0.75 from Saving Star which makes it $0.18 per box.  Another deal that I couldn't walk away from but I have a hard time adding the Saving Star money into the savings because it doesn't go back to the food budget.  It is great to have but I transfer it to my pay pal account and then it sits there waiting for an online purchase to buy something (never food). 

I might have lost sight of the budget during the last trip with everything sounding like a good deal.  I did leave one of the coupons at home for the Vidal Sasson hair color which would have given me the overage to pay for some of my other groceries.  UGH!!  Well, I guess I will be using that at the beginning of February to save on some more things.

I was happy with all of the things that we got this month but I didn't use a lot of things in the house like I should have because I didn't have a lot of time.  I am going to make a batch of baking mix and some sour cream biscuits with it.  I am also going to refill my baking jars in the cupboard so that I have some things that are easy to reach and make.  I have to make pancakes and waffles to fill the freezer again because my son finished them all off for dinner last night.

Total Monthly Retail $583.36

Total Monthly Savings $415.36

Total Monthly OOP $168.00

Yup, ended at $100 more then my mid-month review and at another whole dollar with no change.  How does this happen??  I really was thinking about returning something to come under budget but I used the justification that I made about $45 on ebay this month, $2.85 through Saving Star, and $1.25 through Ibotta.  I was close enough and I am going to try to learn from buying so many things this month that were splurges because I didn't make enough things at home for yummy treats.  I am hoping that with my son back in school and things back to normal so that I can get some things done (he only went 10 days in January with all the snow days).  Here is hoping that I jump to it and I am making a list of all of things that I have to do to make February go a little better :)  How was your month???

Two For the Dough Book Review

Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum, No. 2) (Stephanie Plum Novels) by Janet Evanovich was on my list of books to read this year.  This was the next in the series so I reserved it at the library and was excited when it came in.  I got the second and the third one so that I could move from one to the next quickly (I already assumed that it was going to be great).

In this book, Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie, is on the hunt for Kenny Mancuso, a criminal that jumped bail.  Her life turns upside down when she links Kenny to many of his friends and tries to find a missing piece to know where he is hiding.  Each piece she uncovers puts her in greater danger.  She is working with Joe Morelli, local New Jersey cop who she went to high school with.  Joe and Stephanie work together to try to find Kenny (who also happens to be Joe's cousin).  At the same time, Stephanie is working for the local morturary owner's son, Spiro, to protect him from Kenny.  All of the mysteries resolve themselves in an amazing conclusion but you have to pick up the book and find out what happens!

I was really excited to get on to the next book in the series.  It was great to follow after the book and movie to see what happened next with the great characters.  It didn't let me down with lots of action and jokes with Stephanie Plum and all of the other characters.  I do hope that this might mean that there is a second movie coming with the additional books!!!  I can always hope.  I hope that you pick up this series at your local library or bookstore (starting at the beginning to get the characters history) and enjoy them as much as I have!!  Have you read any of the Janet Evanovich books?  They are all on my list this year so we will see if I can catch up to the series before the year is over :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: January Ebay Review

Ever wanted to make a little extra money for your family from home?  Do you have extra things around the house that you no longer use? Got any ideas on where to start?  Set up a Craiglist account and an Ebay account!!

What gets sold where?

I sell the things that are cheap to ship on Ebay and the things that are heavy and bulky on Craigslist.  It isn't always the easiest to figure out but you get a lot more exposure through Ebay so you might get a higher price but you also might get a lower price and there is a limit to how many things you can sell on Ebay where there isn't on Craiglist.  I am sure there are some people out there who are willing to spend the higher price on shipping but it is so much easier to do those through Craiglist if you are in a big enough area.

Have you sold anything on Ebay before??

I have never done it before!  I didn't start until the middle of the January.  I decided to sell all of the extra coupons that I didn't use because I figured that if there were ones that others could use that weren't thinks that our family uses, I would sell them at a low cost to others.  Ebay changed the way that they do things from years ago when my husband sold so you get 50 free listings a month.  You pay a percentage to them and some money to pay pal so with shipping, it costs me about $1 for each shipment so as long as I make more then that, I am making some money for my family.

Did you run into any problems?

Yup! Isn't there always a learning curve?  I set the price for the first few low and did free shipping.  I would say that the best advice that I have to give is to either set the price really low or provide free shipping.  There were at least 5 transactions that I just broke even and that is not exactly worth the effort if I am not going to make money.  On anything that didn't fit into a normal envelope, there was shipping charges to be calculated and ebay doesn't provide labels printed for normal mail so I went to the post office and lost a little on the shipping but at least the pricing on the rest made up for it and I didn't end up in the negative.

My second problem was specific to selling coupons because there is a limit which had wording that I didn't understand but turns out that you only get 25 listings for the month to sell no more then 25 coupons per transaction (at least I think because it is hard to understand the way that it was written).  I got to that point and  it wouldn't let me put up any other auctions or sales.  I tried to make a few things and schedule them for February so at least I could get the work done ahead of time but that didn't work either so I guess I have to wait and see if I reset on February 1st to sell a few more.

For the most part, I got really prompt payments (except one) so it was easy to get things out to the post office every day before they took the mail.  It is hard to wait patiently for someone to pay for me to send it but I did great and didn't run into too many problems.

I also had three things that didn't sell at all but since I didn't have to pay for posting, it wasn't a big loss to put up something that didn't sell even though my time could have been a little better spent picking something that would sell better but I wasn't really sure (and I didn't know there was a limit).

How did you do this month?


Isn't this what everyone wants to know?  I had no money out of pocket to start on this new and interesting business plan and I was hoping to make about $50 after I made my first few sales and realizing how much time it takes to get each post up.  I figured that if I was doing something like a garage sale, it takes preparation and something to sell but I normally make about $150 so I was thinking that I would base it on an easier online garage sale so it would be a third of the sale.  The great news is that I almost made it to my goal because my calculations have my profit at $45.57.  I still have two payments that I am waiting for to get the final guaranteed tally. After I pay ebay fees, pay pay fees, postage and envelopes, I should come out pretty good for a little work.

Will you continue to do it?

I think that I will!!  I will try another 25 transactions next month and see if I can sell some of the stuff that I wouldn't use and would otherwise be recycled.  I am not sure if I am in for this every month to add to the budget but for now, it is worth the time to add a little money.  I bought three books of stamps so that should last about three months so I will try to use up some stamps to make some money in the process.  I might try to sell a few other things too since I get 50 free listings a month and haven't really figured out what I am going to do with the other posts but might as well make an attempt to clear out more stuff in the house.

Do you want to add a little more money into your budget?  Check out ebay and remember to calculate the 10% to ebay, $0.30 plus 3% to pay pal and postage into the cost so that you make sure that you make a little bit of money for all your hard work.  Good luck and happy selling!!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kid Science: Feeding the Animals in the Winter

We have been doing a lot of things lately but I had so much stuff that I already shared that I kind of forgot to share the newest stuff with you until I ran out of scheduled posts.  We had read Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson before Thanksgiving and then read Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson before Christmas.  Then we found Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson while we were at the library one day.

We talked about hibernation and how other animals who are around in the winter need food.  I had a pipe cleaner that I took off a candy cane reindeer so he used that to add cheerios too.

He filled the whole thing very quickly.  I actually had to take a few off of the pipe cleaner to make sure that I could bend the ends together.  I bent it into a circle and we got bundled up to go outside.

He picked the tree that he wanted to hang it on and I put it on the branch.  I told him that the birds and squirrels wouldn't come to eat it until we went inside but he wanted to play.  We checked on it for a few days and none of the cheerios were eaten and we lost track of its progress.  Here is hoping that the animals liked it but I think that either way, my son used fine motor skills to make the bird feeder and learned that some animals hibernate and others don't.

We also got another bird feeder as a gift from a friend and he put it up in the other tree in the front yard.  I saw a few bite marks out of it the next day so I guess they liked it better (or the location).  We were going to make the peanut butter pinecones with seeds but the peanut butter that my son didn't like that moved to the back of the cupboard was bad so I didn't want to poison the animals with something that might not be healthy for them so it went to the garbage.

There are tons of crafts about making birdhouses and other bird feeders out of recycled materials around the house so I hope you take this opportunity to learn about a few animals and set out something to feed them.  The birds (and squirrels) will thank you!!!

Shared at Mom's Library

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sundays at Tiffany's Book Review

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet was one of the James Patterson books that was on the list of books that I wanted to read because it was sitting on my shelf.  I got it at one of the book sales with my free coupons because it sounded good.  I am super glad that I did!!

This book was broken into parts including:

Prologue: Jane's Michael
Part One: Once Upon a Time in New York
Part Two:Twenty-three Years Older, but Not Necessarily That Much Smarter
Part Three: Candles in the Wind
Epilogue: Strawberries with Whipped Cream

It was following the life of Jane from childhood to adulthood.  The first part was about her childhood and her imaginary friend, Michael, who helped her deal with her tough childhood.  She grew up as a child of Vivienne, who spent most of her time producing and working with actors and not being a mother to Jane.  The only time that she spent with her mother was Sunday's when she got to go to the St. Regis Hotel in New York City to have an ice cream sundae while her mother sat at another table talking business.  Then, they went to Tiffany's to window shop.  In Jane's adulthood, she worked at her mother's production company and continued to get the poor treatment from her mother.  Until one day when she runs into her childhood imaginary friend, Michael.  You have to pick up the book and find out what happens with Jane and her life.

I really enjoyed the book, there were a lot of ups and downs and I wasn't sure where the book was going but I enjoyed the journey.  I was surprised all of the time but the writing was great and it moved so quickly that I didn't have time to think about it.  I also had trouble putting it down!!!  I hope that you check it out and see all of the twist and turns that you might find!! Pick it up at the local library or bookstore so that you can see what happens in this crazy story.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Month End Coupon Printing and Organization

Can you believe that it is already the end of the month?  I am not sure where the time has gone but that is what the calendar says!  Of course, don't take my word for can check your calendar too. Remember to print coupons because some go away at the end of the month....also remember to check back in a few days and see what new ones have appeared!!

Check the following sites:
This is a good time to remind you to clean out all of the expired coupons and put them in the recycle bin!!  I try to remember to clean out my coupon basket but I usually end up going to the store and realizing that so many are expired that I can't find the ones that I am looking for before I get organized.  Make sure that you get cleaned up so that you can find the coupons you need to save money!!  I love to do this a few days before the end of the month to make sure that I don't miss using any that might expire at the end of the month.

Make sure you don't miss printing a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Menu Plan Monday 1/27

Monday- Omaha Steak and baked potatoes
Tuesday- Frozen Pizza or Soup
Wednesday- Pan Fried Dumplings with fried rice and egg rolls
Thursday- Beer Can Whole Chicken with herb rice
Friday- Pasta with vodka sauce
Saturday- Leftovers/Old El Paso Chicken tacos with saffron rice (also called yellow rice in our house)
Sunday- Leftovers/Homemade Pizza

I have a dental cleaning, teaching a couponing class (and maybe subbing) on Tuesday so I am not sure when I am going to be home and with how much energy so I counting on an easy meal of either frozen pizza or soup. The rest of the meal plan is using different meals around the house that should make for a tasty week.  I might be moving the chicken tacos around because we need cheese and lettuce but all other ingredients are in the house

Another month gone and I am looking to find what the meals are for Saturday and Sunday only to find out that they aren't on the calendar because it is already February!!!  What!!!

Time to print out next months calendar and start planning.  I am working on filling in the blanks on February to spread out the meals that we already have on hand.  I got a few dates written out and then I got busy and put the calendar away.  I pulled it back out and started again.  We have one of our "Christmas" Omaha steaks left so we are going to save that for Valentine's Day and I am going to work through the freezer and pantry and see if I can't add a few new recipes to the menu.

Do you normally cook the same thing every week or try to mix it up?  I find that I am often making the same meals over and over so I am trying a new recipe or something we haven't had in awhile once a week!  What meals does your family eat every week?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekly Goals 1/26

How did your week go this week?  I am finally getting over the tooth/sinus issue and starting to feel better but the weather is horrible.  I am so over the cold and want to have good temperatures again.  I feel like I am back in New York but without all of the snow gear to deal with it.  I didn't get a lot done with having my son home most of the week but I was planning on a quiet week to get back on track after birthday madness.  I think that it helped a little and now we just have to figure out where all the new presents are going to go (which is my job to do and I have been putting it off).  I don't have a lot of room left with the toys and I can't figure out the Lego sets but I know I need to get some Rubbermaid tubs to get them organized.  Here is hoping that I can clean out a corner of the basement and move some downstairs so that the play area isn't over run!!!  Here is hoping for a new house with a great play area :)

Hope you had a great week and have another great plan for next week!!!

Last week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family (and grandparents and sister in law)- We had a great week and all of our company was gone by Monday so we had a quiet rest of the week with the snow starting right after our three day weekend so it got extended.
  • Birthday Pizza party for son with his aunt- We had a ton of pizza and everything with it on Sunday to start the week and we ate the leftovers for a few days.  There was lots of yummy food and lots of great conversation.
  • Sledding-  We went out sledding..okay, my son did the sledding and I drank my hot tea at the top of the hill and cheered.  He had a blast after he got used to it but it took a little bit for him to get over the fear part and enjoy it.
  • Playdate with friends after school- We had a great time playing with friends after they got out of school on Friday and we even lost track of the time because the kids were playing so well.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I cut my coupons on one of the snow days while my son was entertained on Wed or Thursday and got them all put away.  I even got all of my expired coupons sorted out and coupon basket cleaned up.  Excited because the top closes again!!
  • Get coupons on Friday - Remembered in the morning and forgot by the afternoon so I got my papers on Saturday.  Super big week this week with three big inserts!!!  I have a lot of cutting ahead of me and some good coupons in there.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I had the computer shut off most of the time because I was afraid that the power was going to go out at any time with all of our storms but things actually weren't bad with the power.  The computer appreciated the rest :)
  • Dentist follow up on root canal and medicines- Went to the dentist and everything is fine so I finally got to schedule my cleaning for later this month.
  • Post more items on ebay and maintain spreadsheet - Sold some more stuff and updated the spreadsheet.  I had to cut coupons to get a few more things posted and I kept putting it off for other more fun things to do...oops!  I posted a few more and sold some and added some more.  I have so much more to do but only 24 more free listings and I want to make them count but I guess it doesn't really matter because there is only a week left so I am going to try to get a bunch up next week and see what goes.
  • Sub two days at the preschool- We had a snow day so I wasn't sure when I was going to be subbing and if school was going to ever start back up but I was ready!  I am going to do one next week and one the week after.  I also have another teacher to sub for that week and I have at least 6 more on the calendar in the next two months.
  • Teach couponing class to Moms- Got a few more people to learn about couponing and it gave me a chance to practice for the NVFS presentation that I have next week.
  • Go to Jazzercise- Snow was crazy this week so I didn't get to go but hoping to get back on track soon!!
  • Finish reading Two for the Dough- Finished, review posted and it was returned to the library
  • Start on next book in the pile from the library from Robyn Carr or Janet Evanovich- I decided to go with the next one in the Stephanie Plum series which was directly following up after the book I just finished.  Luckily, got some of my snow day to make big progress so I went to the next book in the pile after that which I finished and started on the next.  Quick run to the library to get the next few books to read!!
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I got the kitchen pretty clean this week although I am not sure if I have just lowered my standards this week because after having family in town, everything looks tons cleaner!  I felt bad about it so I crawled around on my hands and knees and cleaned the floor and did a second cleaning of the counters.  I think that things are a little better then I thought and pretty clean after a visit and a party :)
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I usually try to do my best at doing the dishes all at night but it sometimes depends on timing because if we don't have dinner early enough, I can't get all the dishes done before my son's bedtime and then all bets are off.  Well, Tuesday night we got the little man dressed in pjs and he was watching some TV on the couch snuggled under some covers.  My husband and I went in the kitchen and we loaded the dishwasher.  Then, he washed and I dried.  We got all the dishes done.  My husband looked at the huge pile and was wondering how the sink was empty when he went to work and there were piles on both sides and in the sink by the time he got back.  That is the joy of making bread, making chicken broth, and a few other things like lunch and dinner dishes.  We got all the dishes done and the little man was asleep on the couch so my husband carried him up and put him in bed.  If I could only have that good of timing all week, we would be all set.
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family) - I actually got most of the week scheduled on Monday when I was working to get ahead and schedule the rest of the month and get some of the stuff done that was a little back logged with all of the family in town and my son's birthday party.
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Done
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family 
  • Go to Music and Movement class
  • Playdate with a friend
  • Event at library 
  • Return lots of stuff at the library
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Take pictures of my son's art work and get it organized
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Dental cleaning
  • Couponing class with NVFS 
  • Subbing at preschool
  • Post more items on ebay and maintain spreadsheet 
  • Finish reading Blue Skies by Robyn Carr
  • Start on next book in the pile from the library from Janet Evanovich (I have 4, 5 and 6)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family) 
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Healthy Mixed Berry Muffins

I was on the computer (procrastinating all of the things that I had to do) and reading tons of different blogs.  I love finding new blogs that make great recipes with things that I have around the house.  This was one of those times that I was super excited to find just one of those recipes for Blueberry Yogurt Oatmeal Muffins at Cook with Sara.  I looked at the list of ingredients and I had them all in the house.  I was going to make blueberry muffins over the weekend so why not get started on Friday.

I had regular oats and not quick oats so I decided to make them a little smaller in the blender.

They were a lot smaller after that but I did get it out before it was oat flour instead of just smaller oats.  I think that it was way better in the muffins to add a little texture but not make them heavy like the last healthy oatmeal muffins that I made.  The added bonus is that I made extra so I have it the next time I need it.

I got out all of the ingredients and while examining the contents of the fridge, decided that I would change up the ingredients a little.  I wanted to use up the oldest yogurt first which was blackberry, strawberry, and vanilla.  Plus, there was an added bonus that my husband's favorite muffin was these really processed mixed berry muffins which I don't usually buy for him anymore since we try to make more homemade.  In case you haven't had those kinds before, they have berry nuggets instead of real berries.

I got out my microwave safe bowl and put the butter in the bowl and microwaved it for 30 seconds until it was melted. 

After it had cooled a little, I added the eggs and vanilla and stirred. 

I added the yogurt which ended up being about three different single serve containers and stirred until combined.

The wet ingredients were really liquid with all of the yogurts mixed in to make a very liquidy so I was a little worried that it would pull together but there were tons of dry ingredients in the recipe.

I added all of the dry ingredients to the bowl.

Then, I combined them until I had the muffin batter.  It was thick but still looked pretty good.

I have lots of blueberries in the freezer which my mom picks for me every year for me.  Last year, I was saving them because we were at the end of the bag and then my mom arrived with three other bags in the nick of time.  I need to combine some bags because there are four bags that are all about half full.  But I was excited to finally make some muffins with them!!  My son isn't a fan of fruit so I don't usually make things with berries because it means that he won't eat them but I was really glad to get a chance to make something for me to enjoy.

I added the blueberries into the batter and folded them in.  It is way easier to do this with frozen blueberries then fresh blueberries.  If you do it with the fresh fruit, they often smoosh and don't stay solid.  The frozen blueberries are way easier to mix in especially with thick batter like this recipe.

I greased my muffin cups and added the batter.

I got 21 muffins total out of the batter of which I promptly ate three for my lunch.  Great hot out of the oven with some butter.  YUM!!! But I finished most of them right out of the container for a quick breakfast on the run when I didn't have enough time to heat them up in the toaster oven.

I was going to try to freeze some to have later but they didn't make it that long.  I hope that you try out this recipe yourself soon and make sure you check out Cook with Sara and her recipe and great blog.

Healthy Mixed Berry Muffins

2 cups flour
1 cup oats
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups yogurt with fruit in the bottom or vanilla (any kind you want) or three small containers
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 Tbsp. butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In a microwave safe bowl, add butter and microwave for 30 seconds or until melted.  Let cool and combine with yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. Add flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the wet ingredients. Stir to combine completely. Gently fold in blueberries.

Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 until top is golden and springs back when you gently touch it, 20-25 minutes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Never Too Late Book Review

Never Too Late (MIRA) by Robyn Carr was at the library so I reserve it and I got it in pretty quickly.  I was really excited to get back to the great writing of Robyn Carr.  With all of my tooth pain, I picked this one up and read it all night since I couldn't sleep and finished it way too quickly.

In this book, Clare Wilson is dealing with the separation from her cheating husband.  She has left him over five times and always takes him back when he begs her to but this time is going to be different.  Her fifteen year old son thinks that she should have left him long ago and doesn't want to speak to his father.  Clare is injured in a car accident and has a long road to recovery.  This near death experience makes her even more sure of her decision to get a divorce and start over.  She finds lots of love and support during her recovery from her family and friends.  Make sure you pick up this book to see what else happens.

I loved the book and enjoyed all of the characters.  My only sad part is that this was an independent book and not part of a series so there aren't any other books with the same characters.  I hope that you pick it up at your local library or bookstore to check out this story for yourself.  It will have you laughing and crying and feeling for the characters.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Ebay Selling Learned the Hard Way

We have sold a few things over the years on Craigslist.  I go through phases where I get lots of things posted and it goes my way where I get lots of people interested and then other times aren't as great.  We have sold our old television, couches and more.  I kept a spreadsheet of all of the things that we have sold over the years most were done in 2008 before we had a child but there were a bunch through 2009 and 2010.  There are a few things missing that I know we sold later like some tickets to the Kennedy Center when we couldn't go to a show that we had tickets because we all got sick.  Overall, we have made over $1,100.00 through Craiglist.

In the last few years, we have done garage sales and only made a few hundred dollars but gotten rid of a lot of other small stuff but had to do more bargain pricing to assure that things were moved.  I feel like it is a lot of work and doesn't always get to the right audience to sell the products at the best price.  Don't get me wrong, I will probably do at least one more garage sale next year to get rid of more stuff but I highly recommend trying Craigslist first to see if you can make a little more money on the items.

I just started selling on Ebay!!!  I have never done it before but my husband used to sell computer parts because we have tons of them around the house.  He made lots and it funded buying stuff for himself and Christmas gifts.  It was nice to be able to get things that he wanted without having to spend any money out of pocket.  It all fell apart when we had our little man and haven't gotten back to it yet.  This all changed the other day when I set up my own account!!!

I am learning through trial and error how to sell on Ebay and all the cost that comes with doing it.  They now allow you to have 50 free listings a month and set a buy price and not just auction pricing.  There are different options on the postage and you can set fixed pricing to pay for the postage or whatever you want.  My first few sales all went through the buy now option so I made a lot more money then through the auction process on my coupons.

I just want to share something with you that if you haven't done ebay and pay pal, you might not know. 

* You pay 10% to ebay of the sale price and the shipping so whether you set a higher price or include certain money for shipping, you will pay ebay for the priviledge to use their platform.

* You pay $0.30 and 3% to pay pal for the total of the transaction

Here is an example of one of my transactions:

The coupons sell on auction for $0.99.  The ebay user pays for the order through pay pal and they take out a $0.33 so I have $0.66 left to work with.  I check back on my ebay account and see that they have charged me $0.10 for the transaction (which they bill once monthly).  The stamp costs $0.46 so I am down to $0.10 profit (plus I still have to pay for envelope)!!

I just want to make sure that people properly calculate the costs because it is really easy that you could end up going into the negative just by trying to make a little money.  Ebay is a great way to make a little money as long as you calculate what it will cost you.  Overall with my transactions so far, I have paid about half of my profits into fees so if you think that you are going to make it rich, it does take twice as much work as you think it is going to take.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kids Science and Math: Earth Day Hooray

I found this book in the library so I decided that even though it wasn't Earth Day it was a great time to learn about the Earth.  I grabbed it with a pile of other books and didn't get to it until it was almost due back at the library.  I guess there is always something to motivate me!!  It is always easy to pull together some activities to do with the Earth but check out this book and

In this book, Maple Street School's Save the Planet Club decides to clean up Gilroy Park and plant some flowers to celebrate Earth Day. To raise the necessary funds to purchase plants, they hold an aluminum-can drive, with a goal of collecting 5,000 cans (which their teacher says is how many cans they need).  They put the cans in bags of 10 and then 100 to keep track.  They kept a tally on the wall and asked all of the school to help out and then the neighborhood.  At the end, they had collected enough to buy those flowers and put on their earth day celebration.  It was a great lesson in recycling as well as math with little notes on each page giving more facts about Earth Day and recycling.

The activity pages came from Primary Games so if you would like to download the activity sheet to do yourself, please feel free to check out the great site.  The download is quick and easy (and best of all free)! The sheet is practicing writing the letter E and writing Earth.  Great excuse to practice writing to include with a book about math and science.  There was a word search which my son sometimes loves and other times makes me do most of the work.  I also found a maze which he always loves! There was also a maze where you follow the letter E so that was fun!

 There was another activity that I printed out just in case which was drawing things that are trash and recycling.  I wasn't sure if my son was going to like to do it but it is always good to have a few things just in case.

There are also some great Earth Day coloring sheets here.  I decided to go with the recycling trash can for coloring and the Recycle symbol for a collage.  I was cutting coupons and had a bunch of papers so I ripped them up in little pieces and my son used his favorite tool, the glue stick, to glue the pieces inside the recycle symbol.  There are a tons of different things that you can do with a plain color sheet to mix it up so that your kids aren't just coloring so make sure you use everything you have to get the most out of the activities for the kids.

I decided to work this activity into recycling the number 5 items that we had at the Whole Foods.  I don't know the rules where you live in but our plastic recycling is only 1-3 and the rest are not accepted (which makes me very sad).  If you have looked around, there are a ton of 5s in different plastic items including medicine bottles and butter containers.  I was excited to learn that those are accepted at Whole Foods!  I started keeping ours in a separate bin for the number 5s and take it when it is full and when we are going to be near the Whole Foods.

It is a great lesson for kids to understand how to divide the recycling.  We have the bins in our basement including paper, plastic and others, and number 5 bin.  We also have another bin of things that I would like to recycle that I don't know where to take them to like 4, 6, and 7 plastics.  I hope to find somewhere or at least use them for crafts or other things around the house.  I hope that this book and activities have given you ideas on how to recycle things around your house and teach your kids why it is great to recycle.

If you want to do more about recycling, there is a great website with some other recycling activities and education.  Then, I found a website that had their information broken out by the age of the children so I printed some of the stuff from each of the ages which you can find here.  I decided to print out lots more sheets to make sure that I had enough to go which ever direction the excitement went.  I have a hard to to know what to expect from my son but I try to be prepared for anything!!  Hope this gives you enough to be prepared for anything.  One of his favorite activities was the adding and subtracting and putting them into the right bins.  He decided to use his counters from his box from Lakeshore Learning.

If you want to go the other way and learn more about the earth, try this download from Teachers Pay Teachers. It talks about plants and how we need them.  It is a great print out that provides information about oxygen and carbon dioxide process between people and trees and why we need everything to live.  Make sure you check out the Science for Kids Blog for lots more fun activities.

If you are looking for more books to expand your learning, other Earth Day and recycling book ideas including the following:

The EARTH Book

The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle (What Do You Know About? Books)

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas Book Review

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson was on the shelf at the library when I was looking for one of his other series to start reading.  They didn't have that but they had this one.  I read one of his other letter books and decided to pick this up and check it out (hoping it wasn't the one that I already read but at a quick glance, it didn't seem like it).

In this book, Katie Wilkinson is dealing with her boyfriend and love of her life, Matt, leaving without any explanation.  She met him when he came in to her office to publish some of his poems and they fell quickly in love.  Soon after he leaves, he mails Katie a diary which is written by Suzanne to her son, Nicholas.  The diary gives the story of how Suzanne met Matt and started their family.  It is hard for Katie to read about the love in Matt's life when it has nothing to do with her and she feels that Matt has been living this double life for months with the wife and child at home.  Katie is heart broken but reads through the whole diary.  I hope that you pick it up to read the diary so that you can find out what happens.

I really had trouble putting this book down because I needed to find out what happened next.  I stayed up a lot too late but finished this quickly.  It was more than a page turner because it was riveting.  I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.  You felt the love and the sadness with Katie and wanted to keep reading to find out more.  I hope that you check out this book at your local library or bookstore and see what I mean.  Make sure you have a few tissues close by because you will be using them!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Menu Plan Monday 1/20

Monday- Leftovers
Tuesday- Pizza Grilled Cheese 
Wednesday- French Dip on homemade rolls and homemade fries
Thursday- Leftover Chicken Fingers with leftovers or mac and cheese
Friday- Sausage Tortelloni (from the freezer)
Saturday- Leftovers/Homemade Pizza (dough and sauce)
Sunday- Leftovers/Breakfast for Dinner- Pancakes or Waffles

If warm, Southwest Spiedie Chicken with white rice but this was just removed from the schedule because we are now expecting snow!!!!  UGH!!  I knew better then to put it on the calendar but my husband said that he really wanted it so I guess we will see.

It has been a hard week for me to plan because I am really missing the things other than chicken in the freezer.  I was trying to be good about using what we had in the freezer and keeping expenses low this month so I haven't gone out to buy ground beef.  We would love to have some tacos or sloppy joes so I went crazy and went out to buy ground beef when I was out and about.

But I made two bags of salsa sloppy joes and one cooked ground beef with three or four other bags of meat to be cooked when we need them.  They are all in the freezer so we will be ready for some good meals later in the month.  I am happy that I did it while we were passing Wegman's because I really like their ground beef better then most of the other stores but a little out of the way.  We are happy to have the freezer restocked with some other options.

I was hoping to use this time to come up with something brilliant but I haven't found a lot of inspiration recently.  I dug through the cabinets, fridge and freezer to find something that would make an interesting meal that I overlooked.  I found some roast beef in the freezer that we can make French Dips with so I am going to seeing how that goes on Thursday because I have never frozen roast beef but I think that soaking it in au jus should add to the flavor and hopefully not leave it dried out.  Hoping for more inspiration because I am going to sit down with next month's menu soon!!

Last minute change to leftovers on Monday when we realized that the fridge was super full and it would save the time and energy of cooking after a long weekend :)

Do you ever have a week where you can't figure out what is for dinner and everything sounds uninteresting?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekly Goals 1/19

It was a super busy week with my little man's five year birthday and all that entails.  I thought that I was going to get other things done but it just didn't happened.  It seemed that all of the things that I did took twice as long as they should and I was super exhausted getting over this horrible sinus/tooth infection.  I was hoping to go exercise at least once this week but I decided that I would be more stressed out if I didn't get the birthday things done so I passed so that I could get the house ready.  I was exhausted by the night before the party and my back told me that I needed a break by causing me a lot of pain.  Luckily, a good nights sleep helped and we had a great time visiting with all of our friends (minus some that were sick but we hope to see soon).  Hope that you had a good week!!!

And wishing a big Happy Birthday to my Mother in law today :)

This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family (and grandparents)- With everything going on this week, we got lots of time together and with friends.  It was a busy and happy week!
  • Birthday party at school- He had a blast at school and was crazy all day but we went to the dollar store after school and he got a craft which he painted for a little bit in the afternoon after shopping for over an hour at the store.  Then, we did some other activities which he enjoyed but it didn't calm him much.
  • Birthday party at home- We had a great time at the birthday party with lots of fun, friends and crafts.  Our neighbor set the record for the most crafts made, taking home at least 7 :)  I think that she would have stayed longer and done more crafts if her dad let her.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I got some of my coupons over the weekend and finished them on Wednesday.  I was super glad to get everything cleaned up before company came.
  • Get coupons on Friday- We went to Giant to look for papers and there weren't any so we took the chance to go to the library.  Funny thing was that there was someone delivering papers to the library right then.  My mom got ten and my dad got 6 and then my husband stopped and picked up a few more on the way home.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I shut off my computer every night and most of the times that I left the house to save the computer and power.
  • Go to Jazzercise (if not subbing at preschool)- I thought that I was going to make it once this week but between the party prep and the meds, I didn't make it.  Really hopeful for next week!
  • Finish reading Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson- I finished reading this book and it was different then I expected but stay tuned for review.
  • Start on next book in the pile from the library from Robyn Carr or Janet Evanovich- I picked up the Janet Evanovich book next and got to have some enjoyable reading to find out what happens in the second book.
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I was in the kitchen a lot this week getting ready for the party so I made a mess and cleaned it up more times then I can count.  My husband left and I made a bunch of things and spent a lot of time cleaning up dishes and he came home and looked at the destroyed kitchen and I said...hard to believe I cleaned up right?
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- We got the kitchen cleaned up twice early in the week and then it went downhill with all of the baking and cooking for the party so I got all of it cleaned out but not cleaned and put away.
  • Make lots of food and decorate the house for the party- Tons of food and tons of decorations and got everything done (mostly) before people got here on Saturday morning for my son's birthday party.  He had a blast playing with all his friends and was sad to see them go but he needed a little quiet time (as did the rest of the family) so he got to open presents and have a good time putting together legos with Grandpa.
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family) - Done
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Books read and reviews posted soon
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- I didn't get much done for the coming week but I did get a rough outline of the things that I want to do so that is the best that I can do while being deep in birthday planning :)
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family (and grandparents and sister in law)
  • Birthday Pizza party for son with his aunt
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Dentist follow up on root canal and medicines
  • Post more items on ebay and maintain spreadsheet 
  • Sub two days at the preschool
  • Go to Jazzercise
  • Finish reading Two for the Dough
  • Start on next book in the pile from the library from Robyn Carr or Janet Evanovich
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family) 
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

One for the Money Book Review

One for the Money (Movie Tie-in) (Stephanie Plum Novels) by Janet Evanovich was on my list of books to read since I saw the movie last year.  If you haven't seen the movie, make sure you read the book first.  I did it the other way around but I didn't know that it was a book until I saw the movie so I am glad that the movie opened up this great new book series for me.  Have you read the book or seen the movie?

 In the book, Stephanie Plum has lost her job and is trying to find something else to pay her bills.  She hasn't had a lot of luck in her New Jersey town and decides to try to work for her sleazy cousin Vinnie's bail bonding company.  She has no experience and sets her sights on the most difficult first case, a local vice cop Joe Morelli.  They went to school together and have an interesting history growing up but now he is a wanted fugitive after jumping bail for his murder trial.  She is learning from another bounty hunter and a cop friend with the addition of a gun and spray, she is ready to get to work.  There are some very funny attempts at learning how to do her job as well as some serious threats in the process.  She has pawned most of the items that have value in her apartment and takes on a few smaller cases in order to buy some necessities while waiting for the big score of bringing in Morelli.

I loved the book and thought it was great but it was a lot like the movie so it was a little less interesting because I knew what was going to happen from watching the movie but don't think you know it all because there are a few parts that are different.  I can't wait to check out the second book in the series to see what happens next.  I also want to go back to watch the movie when the book is fresh in my mind.  I hope that you pick this up at your local library or bookstore to see how you like it.

Do you prefer to read the book first or see a movie?  My husband and I had a great debate after the first Harry Potter movie because I thought that there was no reason to change the parts that they did to make them different then the book but he hadn't read the book yet so he didn't understand my wild arguments and thought that I was being a little critical.  It was about the time that the third movie came out that he had finally caught the bug and read the books and finished right before we went to see the movie.  When we came out of the theater, he was on a rampage about the strange changes that they made from the book.  I laughed a little because he sounded a lot like me the first time around.  Although the movies and books are supposed to stand on their own, we always compare the two.  I prefer to read the book first before seeing the movie!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Spending Sucess for 2013

How did your year go?  Did you track your spending?  Is it one of your goals to do that this year?

I started tracking my expenses when I decided that I needed to set a budget on how much we spent.  There are tons of deals out there to get and I wanted to make sure that I was making the things that we needed a priority and skipping the other deals.  Keeping all my receipts helps me to do that.  I track all of my receipts every month and keep them in a folded paper with the front side listing the spending and the back listing the savings.  During the month, I also list the spending in a notebook just in case the receipt folder goes missing because it happens.  The yearly totals are in the front so I can see how many months were under my $160 budget and how many were over.  It does happen!!

Here is how we did for 2013:

Month                   Spending            Savings

January                 $133.58              $571.93
February               $248.59              $710.49
March                   $135.06              $61.08
April                      $102.31              $435.51
May                      $124.08              $498.60
June                      $105.47              $637.09
July                       $80.87                $110.98
August                  $158.74              $452.27
September            $150.31              $440.34
October                $71.50                $515.54
November            $194.29              $701.60
December            $73.44                $323.73

Totals                   $1577.74             $5459.16

Average Monthly Spending $131.48

I am super excited to only have two months of spending over budget (one where I stocked up on chicken and ground beef at the beginning of the year and one at the end where I had to buy a certain amount to get a deal on a turkey).  I still ended up have a monthly way under budget at $131.48 so I think that I did a great job overall.

I would love to hear how you did so leave a note and let me know.  What are your goals for 2014?  We are keeping the same budget this year and hoping that we will have equally good results.  I wish you all the best in the new year.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Kid's Birthday Parties and how to make cupcake picks

We have had a few years of going to more and more birthday parties as my son gets older.  The parties are more and more extravagant including bouncy houses, puppet shows, and more.  I was feeling the pressure this year to do something big.  Then I stepped back and thought about my son's past birthdays and what were his favorite parts.

His first birthday he didn't really do anything but hang out and get attention from everyone at the party.  He wasn't interested in the cake or any food but did love showing off for all of the adults.  Is that all he needs??

On his second, third, and fourth birthday, I sent some treats into school for him to share with his school friends on his birthday.  They gave him a special crown and fawned over him all day.  He came home on cloud nine and excited that it was his birthday.  One of those years, we had a birthday party at the house over the weekend with his friends and adults and he kept saying that his "real" party was already at school .  I put thought and energy into doing the party at the house and he was super happy about the fun at school.

What did all of these parties have?  People making him feel special on his special day.  I don't know about you, but that doesn't cost any money.

We are starting to plan his fifth birthday party and I decided to go with a snow theme.  I have a snowflake tablecloth and cloth napkins which we have used for a few years so I will put that on the table.

We have some paper plates and napkins with snowflakes (I actually looked in the drawer with all our paper goods and there are four different kinds of napkins with snowflakes and one with snowman).

I also had some extra silver ones that I got half off after Christmas a few years ago.  I can't tell you how many holidays here have been silver and we still have a pile of them left.

so we will use those to go with the blue and silver snowflake theme.  I only have one set of the big ones and one of the small ones but it brings together the idea of the snow and winter so I am going with it.

We cut paper snowflakes to hang around for decorations.  My son and I had fun making the decorations (and my husband joined in a for a few).  I am sure my son will show everyone who comes all the ones that were his.  I folded a few extra scrap papers so that all of the friends (kids and parents alike) can make their own snowflakes.  I also have out tissue paper in case it is easier for the kids to cut but I am not sure if we are going to use those.

I dug into my winter decoration box in the basement to see what else I already have.  I found some lanterns that we didn't use for Christmas.  There were a few other things in there like candles and candle holders but I don't think that I am going to pull them out.  I did put them on top, just in case.

This year I also bought winter window clings after Christmas because we had so much fun decorating the door for Halloween and it turns out that I had nothing for Christmas.  Good thing that most of them were snowman (or maybe I planned it that way).

I went searching for where I stashed them and it took a little bit to find them in my 6 Christmas bins!!  I think that we have gone over the top crazy with the amount of Christmas stuff that we have already so I don't think that adding any more was necessary but I pulled them out when he was getting ready to go to school and we decorated the door.  Sorry it is a little deary and rainy here but no snow.

 My son decided that he needed to put one thing a little different so now our door is find what is wrong.  In case you can't see it up above, here is the close up.  He put the ice skating polar bear on his back so he wasn't skating on the ground anymore.  He found this entirely entertaining and laughed and laughed....what a five year old finds amusing but I am sure he is going to show everyone that comes through the door.

It is hard to have a winter birthday because everyone is stuck inside if the weather is bad so I need to come up with a lot of different things to entertain the kids. I bought foam snowflakes and penguins at Target when they were 70% off so they were $0.30 for a package of 10.  I decided to buy two packs of each!  That way if we don't use them all, we will have some to decorate for next year.

They can decorate them with puffy foam stickers (also purchased at Target for $2.50).  I bought two buckets of these because we had no other winter stickers so why not!

I also have some eye stickers and bought glitter glue (with my Kmart credit).  They will have two fun things to bring home with them to decorate their house for the winter and I can put them right into the gift bags when they are dry.

My son has also requested to make a paper plate craft so I think that we are going to make the snowman head like we have already made.  If I get a lot of energy, we might also make the melted snowman that I saw with the bowl but I still have to prep a few more things to get this done.

I don't know how to settle on anything with a preschooler but I have trouble every year because my son declares what he wants and changes his mind with in a few days (whether it be his birthday cupcakes, Christmas presents, or Halloween costumes).  I try to be flexible but there are limits to my creativity and time.  My son decided this year that he wanted Thomas cupcakes for school because that was what he wanted last year. We went with McQueen last year because I refused his day before pleading.

I was so ready this year to go with Thomas but he asked for Lego at the last minute so I told him that would be next years theme (at least I get a head start).  I made confetti cupcakes with blue cotton candy icing with Thomas cupcake picks in silver muffin papers (I got all of the cake stuff at Harris Teeter free after coupons instead of making them from scratch).

It is easy to make the cupcakes decorated just like your kids want them by adding a pick on top.  I got the circles cut at the office at school instead of buying a punch at the store which I was just about to do so they saved me some money there.  It never hurts to ask because they have the tools and it cost them no money to let me make a few circles.  After doing one, I quickly figured out that I should decorate the one side and flip them over.

The key is to put down the glue, stick in the toothpick and put the sticker over it so that it all stays together without having to hold them until they dry.  I put the toothpick where I wanted it and then picked it up and did the line of glue. If you don't have toothpicks, you can also cut up wooden skewers or use lollipop sticks. 

I added the sticker over top which held everything.  After I did all ten, I went back and pushed the sticker down a little to make sure that it was touching the glue while it was drying.  Then, I added the little stickers around the edge to dress it up.

Here were my final picks which are going to be great stuck on top of the cupcakes with blue cotton candy icing.

The final cupcakes looked like this so I was pretty happy and my son was super excited to share them with his friends at school on Wacky Wednesday which also happens to be his birthday so we made the cupcakes with all different toppings.  I used five marshmallows since he turned five.  I thought they were pretty cute, what do you think?

We are going to do snowflake cake and snowman cupcakes at home.  I got a snowflake pan at Target 50% off  after Christmas this year which I am going to use for a yummy pound cake.

I am going to make chocolate cupcakes with white icing (unless the birthday boy has a last minute change but I have food coloring and flavor packets in case he does).  I tried to make snowflake muffin picks but the first batch folded up with the glue drying and I am almost out of toothpicks. I gave up because I have to get some more and try another glue but then I came up with another plan.  I am going to use snowman muffin papers and then make a snowman face with either mini chocolate chips or chocolate covered pomegranate seeds with a candy corn nose just like our Cracker Snowman Sweet Snack.

I made a three tier cupcake holder last year so I guess I better get searching to wrap one in snowflake paper soon!!  I have the paper and need to work on making that while he is in school. 

I decided that it would be a good idea to make a game that would also double as decoration so I am trying to figure out the best thing to do but I think that I am going with pin the nose on the snowman.  I was thinking about a snow ball game but I don't know how much throwing to encourage with a group of 5 year old boys.  Since the movie Frozen just came out, I looked all over online to find something that I could print out and use and Pinterest to the rescue but it just linked to picture here.  I am not sure if it came from a blog or straight from Disney but that is where I found it if you want it.  My husband printed on a plotter at work and then laminated it (which is not necessary but that is what he did with the one last year too so it will probably go into my son's room).

I also went searching for other games to have for backups.  I found a snowman dice rolling game.  Even if we don't do it for the party, it is super fun for us to play. I am going to print out a bunch of them and I will either send them in the gift bags if we don't play.  I hope that you print it out and do it for yourselves to have a little winter party!!

I made gift bags with bouncy balls (on sale half off after Halloween), angry bird tattoos (on sale half off after Halloween), playdough (on sale half off after Christmas) and lots of other things that I have collected through the year (also clearanced) to make sure that I would have interesting gift bags to send home with the kids including their crafts and other stuff too!!  I pulled out winter bags from the pile of bags that I have and I will use those to put everything in for the friends to take home.

I am still looking for a little winter inspiration for decoration and games but here is hoping that I can keep the kids happy and entertained for the length of the party. Any ideas you can share that would make this winter wonderland into a great and thrifty party??