Friday, May 30, 2008

Baby Shower Cake

As I mentioned a few days ago, a friend of mine is having a baby, so of course a small group of us couldn't wait to throw a shower. I have a thing for making cakes. It's not that I'm all that good at it...I just enjoy doing it! So, my sister and I set out to make what seemed to me an impossibly difficult cake. I mean, it looked easy, but I knew working with a new medium like fondant icing wouldn't be all that easy. Especially when I went to buy some at the cake store near my house and they were out of pink. And yellow. And white. Um, excuse me, but is this really a cake decorating supply store?! The gentleman was kind enough to provide me with a suggestion for a fondant icing recipe; he said it tasted much better than what he sold anyway. I guess I'm glad he was out of the prefab stuff.

I must say I never thought the icing would ever come together. It was the stickiest goo I've ever touched and I still don't know how it turned out as well as it did. I got quite an upper body workout from the kneading and sis did a great job of encouraging me through it. "This will never work!" I lamented. "Just keep kneading, kneading, kneading....just keep kneading..." she would chant. In my mind in sounded like a sing-songy rendition of the Marlin and Dori exchanges in Finding Nemo. "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

Anyway, behold the fruits of our labors {get it?.....get it?}! We used two small Pyrex dishes for the, um, chest, and a larger round dish for the belly. A small round ball of fondant can serve as the belly button. We placed these atop a 9X13 cake. You can read all about the general steps we followed, which are listed here.

So, the next time you are in the mood for cake and want to burn the calories before you eat it, skip the gym and make a cake with fondant icing!

Flannel Board DIY

A couple of years ago I got my hands on a copy of The Flannel Board Storytelling Book. I instantly fell in love. I decided I would have to make the perfect flannel board. Two years passed. I hadn't found the perfect materials in the right combination (compared to the perfect image in my mind). So, like most of my visionary crafts, I forgot about it. If I didn't do it perfectly, I couldn't do it! (Obviously I have an obsession with making things just right--must be why I don't get a lot of crafty things done). Then, I saw Scribbit's post about her family's flannel board. I was inspired again! And then did nothing.

The other day I was reading Dora books to my 4 yr old (seen peeking over the top of the board--nice view up the nose, right?) and just couldn't take another Dora story. I just couldn't! I decided to distract her by making a flannel board. I pulled out some flannel I bought about a hundred years ago, cut one of my oldest daughter's old science boards in thirds, and then stapled away! What you see before you is my humble little flannel board. It is not the "right" color, it's sort of small, and it doesn't fold up the way I envisioned, but at least we're adding variety to our afternoon play and I don't have this project looming over me anymore! Now to add to our flannel board figure collection (which I started from a set of cookie cutters and a scrap piece of yellow felt)...I'm getting tired of Five Little Ducks. It's always something, isn't it?

Thanks, Scribbit!

Edited on May 30, 2008: Oops! That's actually some felt I had on hand. It works great in place of flannel!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gifting for Father's Day

As I am driving this evening on an errand, I am listening to the Clark Howard show. I don't listen all that often since I avoid being behind the wheel as much as possible. (Shuttling four kids around will do it to you!) Anyway, Clark happens to be talking about how everyone is tired of hearing and reading about gas prices, ways to save money on gas, etc. Of course, I immediately think of Thursday's post...I'M RUINED...RUINED I TELL YOU! And I'm still in my blog infancy!

So, I've decided to tell you about what we're considering for a Father's Day gift this year. That's a timely and welcome topic, right?! Thank goodness he doesn't read my blog. Or anyone else's for that matter. We are hoping to make Dad a special plate he can eat on each night he has dinner with us. Since he has so few opportunities to do so now that his schedule has changed, this will be a VERY special plate indeed. I'm considering a field trip to our local pottery studio, but I've also found a few online ideas here and here. Then there's the Amazon option. Our city also has an art center open to the public that provides "studio time" for the children and sometimes even a class for free.

What gift is Dad receiving from you or the kids this year?

Hypermilers and Jack-Rabbits

What do hypermilers and jack-rabbits have in common? Not much. Imagine the following test question on the SAT:

Hot is to Cold as Hypermiler is to _______.

a) Fluffy Bunnies
b) Marshmallow Peeps
c) Jack-Rabbits

If you guessed C, you are correct!

Like many of us, I am always interested in finding ways to conserve, whether it be money, time, or fuel. In researching the issue I learned about hypermilers like Wayne Gerdes who will do practically ANYTHING (regardless of safety), to double (or more) his MPG. At the other end of the spectrum are jack-rabbits, or those folks who drive extremely aggressively without any regard for fuel economy. These are the people who speed up when they see a red light, only to have to slam on brakes, or who take off from a dead stop, hitting over 3000 RPMs in a matter of seconds. I consider myself somewhere in between.

In the end, rather than give you more tips than you can shake a tire gauge at, I leave you with 7 More Fuel-Sipping Myths Debunked to help you sort through the "helpful" suggestions you've been hearing about.

Walgreens Coupon: $10 off $30 (Friday, 5/30 only!)

Click here for the coupon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Easy Pineapple Salsa Chicken

A friend of mine is scheduled to be induced tomorrow morning, so I have been trying to decide what meal I'll be delivering in the next day or so. Each time we had a special delivery, a few of the ladies from church or extended family would bring something over. I SO appreciated this gesture. I think I'll make Easy Pineapple Salsa Chicken. It goes something like this:

4 chicken breasts (or whatever you have on hand)
1 can of black beans (no need to drain)
1 can of pineapple tidbits (Drain or don't drain...I'll leave it up to you. I will add that the pineapple juice makes some healthy and tasty popsicles for the kiddies!)
1 32oz jar of salsa

Directions: Put the ingredients in your crockpot and cook all day (about 8 hours) on low (or I guess you could do several hours on high).

You can wrap this stuff up in tortillas and serve with a side of Mexican rice, or just serve over plain rice.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hunt for Bees this Summer

Have you heard of The Great Sunflower Project? It may not BEE too late to get on board with a fun summer activity! The project consists of four easy steps that even a pathetic gardener novice like myself should BEE able to follow:

  1. Sign up and plant your sunflower
  2. Describe your garden
  3. Time how long it takes 5 bees to visit your sunflower plant
  4. Enter your data online or send us your form.
We received our seed packet in the mail this week, so we are planning a little sunflower garden kick off this weekend. Hope you can BEE a part of this interesting project!


Here are some freebies for you, courtesy of my sis:

Free spice blend each month -

Free teddy grahams trail mix -

Various on-the-go drink mixes -

True Lemon -

Stubbs BBQ -

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

This is my first online menu plan. At one time I could plan out months ahead by using my Google calendar repeat feature. I started a calendar dedicated to meals only and overlayed it with my general calendar. Then for some reason I got away from it, perhaps coincidentally when hubby's new work schedule kept him from being home at the dinner hour. So, I'm trying to get back into my old good habit. Here goes:

Monday: Crockpot BBQ Riblets, roasted carrots, potato salad, garlic bread

Tuesday: My own version of Sausage and Rice

Wednesday: Potato Soup, Homemade Rolls

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Homemade Pizza, Salad, sliced oranges

Saturday: Chopped Sirloin, mashed potatoes, green beans

Sunday: Fish, roasted potatoes and carrots, sliced apples

Check out more menu plans at's Menu Plan Monday.

A Social Affair

Our family attended a unique birthday party this evening for a friend. The surprise event was held at a ballroom dance studio where several of us between snacking and socializing received some personal instruction and everyone got in on some small group lessons. The kids were also invited and, although they spent most of the evening running around sliding on their socks, it was surprisingly non-intrusive to the adults' lessons. The next time you are planning a similar event, you might give your local ballroom dance studio a call.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tip: Storing Cold Weather Sheets and Blankets

For those of us who are domestically challenged, we are just putting away our winter blankets and sheets (even though we live in Florida and it's been over 80 for at least the last month). Since we have more people than bedrooms in our house of six and I haven't yet mastered the art of efficient closet storage, I store these items under the mattresses of the beds to which they belong. If I arrange them just so, the princesses don't even notice the peas I've placed there! :)

Hot Deal at Target on Silk Soy Milk

I was in Target yesterday and saw that Silk Soy Milk was only $2.17 for a half gallon. When you sign up at you can get a coupon for $2.25 off a half gallon. And, don't forget to enter your green caps online, as they will send you a $.55 coupon via email for doing so.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Freebie Friday: FREE (sort of) Manicure/Pedicure

If you already use Herbal Essences shampoos/conditioners or hair color, then this is a real steal of a deal! Purchase two specially marked shampoos/conditioners or one hair color and receive a voucher for a free manicure or pedicure. While the participating locations are undisclosed until after you receive the voucher, it is transferable. Also, if there isn't a participating location within 30 miles, "alternative arrangements will be made with you." Now if we can just get our hands on some of the Herbal Essences coupons (BOGO and $1 off!) from the 5/4 Sunday paper inserts...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indy is back...a No Spoiler Review

View this link:

The Hat is Back

Edited on 5/25/08: Edited the link to the Indiana Jones movie review--prior link not working too well! Thanks, Anonymous!

Raider of the Lost Art

I went to a class recently about canning food. I've never canned anything. Except maybe a boyfriend. I'm not sure what this has to do with letter writing except they both seem to be lost arts. Sure, lots of folks are blogging, but how many of us have written a letter, an honest to goodness snail mail letter, in the last, oh, three months? Six months? One year? Some time back I discovered an online letter writing course. I think I'll finally add it to my summer to-do list. Just as important as the words, however, I cherish a nice set of stationary with matching envelopes. It gives me a nostalgic feeling to break open the package and marry pen to paper. But, no time for it now. I've got emails to send... :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spelling Test?

After attending Charlie's kindergarten play this morning at the school, I came across this note taped to a chair outside of my older daughter's (2nd grade) classroom. I hope it wasn't a spelling test...

Tip: Discounted Newspapers

If you are interested in maximizing your coupon savings, you might wish to subscribe to your local paper for the weekly coupon inserts. Compare the cost of your local paper subscription with the price at (note: savings for new customers only). My local paper (Fri, Sat, Sun edition) is 3.60/wk versus 2.33/wk at savings of around 35%!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yummy Avacado Salad

I visited a friend last week who served this amazingly easy side salad along with some tabbouleh over salad greens and a slice of wheat bread:

1 avacado, cut into small chunks
1 tomato, cut into small chunks
Dash of extra-virgin olive oil (more if you want)
Salt and pepper

Mix everything together and serve.

Now that you have eaten a nutritious meal, try this not-so-nutritious Easy Cobbler! (If it makes you feel better, add a tablespoon of wheat germ to the flour. Nobody will be able to tell you've healthified it...not even you!)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This One's for My Sister (and other IJ fanatics)

This post is for my sister, aka "Elora,", a one-post blogger at Steel Trap for Crap, who is fanatic about all things Indiana Jones and Star Wars. It's for you, too, if you are going crazy waiting for the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The folks at National Geographic Traveler are having an Indiana Jones DVD Giveaway Contest. Perhaps it's not too late to enter! And remember, sis...if you win and already have the DVD box set they are giving away, it's never too early to shop for Christmas!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Freebies and Discounts

A gift for you today...some freebies and discounts!

Click the below links to order a free sample:

Quaker Simple Harvest


Frizz-Ease (in case you have frizzy hair like me!)

Click this link for a great coupon to use at Lowe's (when you use your Visa debit or credit card):

$10 off $25 purchase

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hot Summer Savings

This might sound like a commercial, but I'm not being paid! For as long as I can remember, I have had a AAA membership. Before the Internet was map-friendly, our family would call our local office for driving directions and maps to our vacation destinations. We'd even sometimes have a need for the towing and lock out services. For us, the investment was minimal compared to the pay off; one tow of the car could pay for an entire year's membership and the peace of mind it provides.

All those years, however, I didn't realize the savings we were passing up by overlooking the Show & Save option of our membership. Most folks know you can order discount theme park tickets to places like Disney and Busch Gardens, but are you taking advantage of the savings available from a number of restaurants, retail stores (including clothing stores!), attractions, and automotive service centers? Many establishments will extend a % off for showing your AAA card! Check out the details by visiting (or, if you don't live in the south, visit

Easy Cobbler Recipe

Who couldn't use a quick and easy dessert recipe? If you haven't tried this Easy Cobbler, you really should:

Easy Cobbler Recipe

1 c SELF-RISING flour (make your own self-rising flour by adding 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt per cup if you only have all purpose flour)
1 c sugar
1 c milk
1 stick butter (I sometimes reduce this to half or three-quarter of a stick and it still turns out fine)
1 large can (15-22 oz or so) of fruit (any type of pie filling is also good)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Place the butter in a 9X13 pan in the preheating oven. While the butter is melting, prepare the batter by combining the flour, sugar, and milk. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and pour the batter over the melted butter. Dollop the fruit over the top of the batter. (When using fruit in a can, I usually include most of the liquid/juices unless it is packed in water. ) Return the pan to the oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the crust looks golden brown. For an even better cobbler, add some homemade whipped cream (whip 1 c heavy cream with 1/4 c powdered sugar until fluffy) to the top when it is hot out of the oven. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Almost Free Soy Milk

For those of you who prefer soy milk, visit and print out a coupon for $2.25 off any Silk quart (32 oz.) or larger! If you haven't tried soy but would like to, here's your chance to try it for next to nothing. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Paying for Expensive Health Care

Recently, we encountered some annoying yet necessary health-related expenses. Since I am practicing sticking to a budget and the expense exceeds what I have allotted in our monthly "medical/health care" fund, I was delighted when my sister told me about CareCredit. Once approved, you can use "CareCredits" like a credit card to pay for your (or even your pet's) health-related expenses with NO INTEREST for up to 18 months (if your provider participates in the no interest plan). Imagine my delight when I discovered that we could pay for the bill INTEREST FREE while waiting for the health care flexible spending account check to arrive (flexible spending accounts are another post entirely--you should take advantage of it if your employer offers one!). Everyone wins--the doctor gets his $$$, and we get the doctor's services now with NO INTEREST! Did I mention the NO INTEREST part? I just love a good deal, but I loathe carrying a balance. So, we'll get the expense paid off quickly without incurring any interest or upsetting the budget! Oh, happy day!

Have you been Googled?

Recently, my husband's employer laid off 1/3 of the staff. Thank goodness he wasn't one of them. But for those who now find themselves looking for a job, I have a suggestion. Besides having someone critique your resume, it would be wise to Google your name (or Yahoo! it, etc.) to see what information is floating around out there about you. What will your future employer discover from the Google search? You might be surprised! So, go ahead--search for your name, perhaps your email address(es), just to be safe. If you find something you wouldn't want others to see, take care of it now before you begin applying for a new job.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being Happy on Mother's Day

After a taxing relaxing jaunt out of town for a short beach getaway with the three youngest, I wanted to post something about Mother's Day. That's when I came across this post at My Ice Cream Diary. Although I am not big on expensive, store-bought gifts (do you hear that, Honey??!!), and I do not mind being Mom on this day, it is always nice to receive some TLC, no matter the circumstances! What has been your most memorable Mother's Day?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Take Couponing to the Next Level

As a newlywed, I was a coupon queen. I rarely left the store without getting a great deal. As the years went by, I began to feel like couponing was a waste of my time. My wants and the coupon deals rarely matched. So, I gave up.

Fast forward 15 years...

A few months back I received a coupon for bananas after a purchase at Target. I hadn't noticed receiving them before. Then, I saw my sister with a bunch of coupons she printed at home. I wondered if I could benefit from this couponing thing again. With a much larger family, a better handle on my cooking skills, and a wider variety of tastes in the house, I thought I would give it a try. My first trip with coupons in hand since trying it so long ago was a $5 savings. The next week it was $5.50. The week after that yielded some free toothpaste, free cereal, free cleaning products, and a respectable savings in my food budget (at least I was impressed!).

One way you can REALLY increase your counponing effectiveness (besides combining manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales) is to register at [If you're feeling generous, use my email address (kecoupondeals at gmail dot com) in the referral box and I would be very appreciative :-).] By printing your coupons through the link at MyPoints, you earn yourself an additional savings since they credit your MyPoints account for every coupon you print and redeem. The more coupons you redeem, the more points you earn toward things like free gift cards to major stores such as Target, restaurants such as Red Lobster, and free gas!

I'm still in my coupon infancy, learning how to maximize my coupon savings. What is your favorite strategy?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Put off postal rate increases...forever!

Remember - postal rates will increase on May 12th. If you haven't already done so and you use a lot of stamps, you may want to stock up on the Forever Stamps which will be honored, well, forever!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Free 8X10 Print at Walgreens on 5/7

Use this link to upload your photo and pick up a FREE 8X10 print at Walgreens on May 7th only!

Monday, May 5, 2008

DIY Resume Rewrite

So, I mentioned in my first post that I am a resume writer. Recently, I wrote an article for The Dollar Stretcher to help those graduating this Spring put together a stellar document. Check those tips out here. Though the article is geared toward recent graduates, there's some good information to take away from it, regardless of your experience level. And, in keeping with another theme of this blog, the tips are F.R.E.E.

On a side note, if you tried to email me in the last two days, I erroneously linked the incorrect email address with my Profile. (Hopefully you won't get a nasty reply from the owner of that account!) If you'd like, you can resend any messages to bloggingsquirrel at gmail dot com.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Control Impulse Buying in Children...and Adults

I've taught my children to avoid impulse buying. Unfortunately. Let me explain.

When I *must* take the 3, 5, and/or 7 year old to the store with me to pick up a few items (NEVER for full blown grocery shopping), I have them repeat the shopping list back to me. It goes something like this:

I say, "We are ONLY buying eggs, milk, and bread today. What are we buying?"

They repeat, "EGGS, MILK, and BREAD!"

I ask, "Are we buying gum?"

They shout, "No!"

I ask, "Are we buying candy?"

They gleefully shout even louder, "No!" (Kids love games, you know.)

I ask, "What are we buying?"

They repeat, "EGGS, MILK, and BREAD!"

A few days ago we went to Sam's Club. I informed the three girls about the shopping list items and went through the whole routine. Once inside, I saw that there was a roadshow for Demure make-up. I got a makeover. The kits were a great deal. I put one in my cart. That's when my 5 year old looked at me with sincere disapproval and said, "Mommy, that isn't on the list."

Now I don't have any fancy make up.

And that, my friends, is how you control your impulse buying.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

From Lurker to Launcher

I've been lurking for years, contemplating whether or not I should start a private blog to chronicle my daily life with my husband and four girls (known here as Alpha, Beta, Charlie, and Delta). I wrestled with launching a public blog (i.e., what to name it and write about), but as a freelance resume writer who enjoys non-technical writing, researching work-from-home opportunities, and talking to others who are raising larger-than-average (as compared to today's standards) families on a budget, it seemed like a good hobby to nurture.

According to blogging expert Darren Rowse and his post about How to Start a Blog (especially one that could possibly turn a profit at some point in the future), I need a niche (among other considerations)...a very specific niche. So, the purpose of this blog is to reach an audience of frugal 34 year old females who have quit their fabulous human resources jobs to pursue very part-time self employment in order to devote more time to their families. Yep...I'm speaking to YOU! Or not. BUT, I will share what I have learned over the years about parenting, frugal living, cooking from scratch, and legitimate work-from-home opportunities, just to name a few!