And She Lived…











{November 25, 2008}   Tips For Black Friday Shopping

I don’t know about you, but I love to hit the Black Friday sales. I am not normally a¬†morning person so it’s not easy to get myself out of bed in what is essentially still the middle of the night. Once I am up though, the excitement kicks in and I am ready to go.

Normally I go with my sister. I sleep at her house. We live on opposite ends of town and if I had to drive to her house, then I would have to get up even earlier. That’s not happening. So, the kids and I just crash over there Thanksgiving night. We get up around 3:30 and bundle up in warm clothes, coats, hats, gloves and scarves. We load up her SUV with thermoses of hot chocolate and some snacks and hit the road.

We always spend part of Thanksgiving planning out our route. The first store we go to depends on different factors. First, there is the fact that different stores open at different times. Most often the earliest time is 5am, which means being in line by 4am. Another factor is the special offers. Some stores will offer a free gift or gift card for the first shoppers through the door. If there is a special offer we can’t pass up on, then we will make that our first story, but ONLY if they have items that we want to buy. We won’t risk missing out on getting something we really want at a great price by not getting to it fast enough. Generally, we end up going to the same stores, in the same order each year.

Most often our first store is Walmart. There is a good reason for this, and I’ll share it with you. First of all, Walmart is open 24hours (at least it is around here). So, we can actually get in the store and wait where it is warm instead of outside in the cold. Walmart starts it’s BF sale at 5am, so it is one of the earliest. They rope off the items that are part of the BF sale, but you can wander the store and look around to see where they items you want are located. They do not keep things in their normal place, they set up huge displays in the aisles. It’s simply a matter of finding the right aisle. Or if you want electronics, getting in line to get to the electronics department, which they do close off until 5am. Another reason we start at Walmart, and this is the BIG reason, is that they price match. So, if you have an ad from one of the other stores and Walmart has that exact same item, you can get it at the competitor’s sale price by showing the ad. We do this a lot for some things that Best Buy has on sale, especially cd’s. We don’t go anywhere near Best Buy on Black Friday. That place is a warzone, and we want no part of that mess! Also, it is good for things at Toys R Us as well. Walmart does not have everything that TRU has, but you can find many of them there. Let’s face it, TRU is one more place that is going to be a warzone!

Kohl’s is right across the street from Walmart so we usually go there next, and because they don’t open until 6, we wait in line and get in early on that sale as well. It continues on like that. We go to the stores in order as we come to them while driving down the street. It sets a good pace and flows well this way. Be aware of where stores are located in relation to each other in order to be more efficient!

Another thing that helps us is that my brother in law always comes with us. He’s our driver. ūüėČ He will drop us off at the door so we don’t have to worry about parking. Once he finds a spot, he will join us in line.

We always make sure we have¬†all the adds with us in case we forget something or¬†have time or money left and decide to hit a store not on our original plan. Also, we need the ads for price matching at the stores that will do that.¬†¬†Of course it’s a good idea to make a list of all items you want, which store they are at, and how much they cost. Have a back up plan though. If you miss something at one store, you can try to get it at the next best price that another store is offering.

This year, I had a chance to get sneak peek at the Black Friday ads. (more on that in a moment) I am actually considering going to Toys R Us this year. Scary… I know! That was the number one reason for my trip there on Sunday. I looked around and found where they put the things I want. So many stores will build huge displays of their BF sales items rather then keep them in their original place in an aisle. You can do this at TRU, walmart, Kohl’s… practically any store. If you walk through you will find big displays, and you can pretty much bet that those items will be in their BF sale!

So, how did I get a sneek peek? There are websites that list them, that’s how. My fave is Black Friday Info. They list by store or by category. They have a search option, so you can try to find a certain item and see all the stores offering that item on sale. Also, you can view a store’s sales by product listing (just the names of the items), product images (photos of the sale items), or by ad scan (a scanned copy of the actual ad). My favorite feature is that you can add things to your list by the simple click of a button. Now, I can simply print my list and be ready for Friday.

I did notice while wandering through TRU that there were items set up for the sale that are not listed on the Black Friday Info site, so I don’t think they have a complete list. Still, it helps me get a plan in place.

If you’re planning to go shopping on Black Friday, I wish you good luck in getting in on all the deals and happy napping that afternoon!

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{November 24, 2008}   Just Let Me Do It!

See that title up there? That is what I wanted to shout at my husband today. He went out for coffee and came home with Christmas presents. Doesn’t sound like a problem does it? Ya, well it was.

You see, I went shopping for coats for¬†the kids the other day and while we were at Gordman’s the kids saw some thigns they wanted. Shy has been wanting a keyboard and they had a pretty nice one for a decent price. As she was looking at it, Bucky saw a drum pad thing and he wanted it. Since I was struggling with finding stuff for him it was perfect that he pointed something out. Of course Shy and Bucky didn’t want Meechi left out of their little band and they saw a toy guiter that would be perfect for him. Naturally, I told the hubby about all this later and we planned to go back and get all this for the kids.

Well…. today while going for coffee, he decided to go to Gordman’s himself. He came home with Shy’s keyboard, no drum pad and an Elmo guitar. Elmo? Really? Yuck! I did not want to get Meechi a baby guitar. I wanted something that looked real so he would feel like he was actually doing what the big kids were doing. (sigh) When I asked about the drum pad he said he didn’t find it. I asked him where he looked. In the toy section was his answer. That is another reason why I wanted to go get this stuff. It wasn’t in the toy section. It was on a display table near little girl’s clothes.

This isn’t the first time he’s taken it upon himself to shop for something I wanted to buy myself. Last year I wanted to get Meechi the Fisher Price farm. Hank said he would pick it up for me since I had to work and he was on 2nd shift at the time. I said ok and trusted him to get what I wanted. He came home with the Fisher Price zoo. No, he didn’t get confused at the difference between a farm and a zoo. Once he got to the store he decided he liked the zoo better, so that’s what he bought. Never mind the fact that I had already picked out the farm. He had already picked most of Meechi’s gifts, and that one was supposed to be one that I got to pick out. grrrr!

So did I shout at him? No. I simply said “oh, that’s cute” to the stupid guitar. Then I drug him across town to Toys R Us and got Bucky a drum pad there. I wanted to look at the store and find out where they were putting all the stuff that’s going to be on sale on Black Friday anyway. I need to know exactly where to find what I need at 5am Friday. The drum pad we got Buck was $15 cheaper than the one I was going to get him. It only has 5 pads instead of 8, but I think it’s fine and he’ll like it. We also got him a skateboard. It’s pretty cool. I was going to get him one that going to be on sale on Friday (ya, i got sneak peek at the ad, more on that in my next post). I looked at them and they were ok, but then I found this one and it was too cool to resist. It comes with 2 different decks and 2 sets of wheels so he actually will build it himself and can change out the deck or wheels whenever he wants.

I think from now on, when I find something I want to get the kids I will keep it to myself and just go get it on my own.



As you all know, I have been on a quest for a great gift for Bucky for Christmas. It is just so hard finding anything that a 12yo boy would enjoy other than video games. Well, I have found the perfect gift. Cool, new custom models known as Ridez. These things are fantastic for the indcredibly hard to buy for tween boy! Bucky got the chance to build his own Ridez, and he loved it. He had a great time building it and couldn’t wait to take it outside for a spin, despite the fact it was cold and dark. The dark didn’t matter, because his Ridez came complete with headlights! How cool is that?!?

ridemakerz-cd-004

 Ridemakerz is an incredibly cool new business geared especially towards boys ages 6-13, although any car enthusiast would love these. Everyone knows little girls love Build A Bear, but it lacks appeal for boys. This is a problem we moms of boys have had to deal with for years. Well, Ridemakerz is like Build A Bear with wheels, so now we have something just as cool for our boys.

If you are live on the East coast, look for a Ridemakerz near you. Or¬†if you’re like me, and¬†don’t live near a store, then check out Ridemakerz.com and order a custom¬†Ridez.¬†

So how does it all work? Boys get the experience of choosing all the elements of their Ridez and making their own custom car themselves.

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CHOOZE: First, they can select which model of car they want. Viper, Mustang, Mini Cooper, Super Chief and more. Each includes a Freewheel Street chassiz, stock treadz & wheelz, working headlights & taillights, and the RZ Mix RIDESOUNDZ‚ĄĘ.

 SONICIZE: Next he gets to select the sound he wants his Ridez to have. Beatz, Sirenz, Rockz or one of several others.

MOTORIZE: He can keep it freestyle or choose to upgrade and make his Ridez remote control. Personally, I recommend going RC!

MOBILIZE: Another fun feature is that he actually gets to choose from several cool looking styles of Wheelz and Treadz to add another awesome custom element.

CUSTOMIZE: What custom car would be complet without Side Pipez, Running Boardz, or Hood Scoopz?!?

PERSONALIZE: Don’t forget to get him some cool Decalz to decorate his new Ridez and truly make it one of a kind.

CRUIZE: Now he’s ready to take his new Ridez out for a spin.

This is truly something almost any boy would love to find under the Christmas tree. So, head on over to Ridemakerz.com now and order yours. Ridemakerz is offering a special deal for you. By entering the code 93458 you will be entitled to $10 off a $30 RIDEMAKERZ purchase. This offer expires on January 4th, 2009.



{October 31, 2008}   Super quick and easy chili

Since my brother and I have each had children we have formed our own Halloween tradition. On Halloween night me and my kids head over to my brother’s house where we eat big bowls of chili before heading out for trick or treating. Chili was always one of our family’s favorite meals and each¬†of us five kids continues to make it for our individual families. We use our mom’s basic recipe that we all remember from childhood but I think we’ve each added our own little twist on mom’s original.

This recipe is quick and easy and makes a bit ol’ pot o’ chilli. I think that is why mom made it so much for us when we were little. Quick and easy is certainly the way to go when you’re feeding a family of seven. This may not be an award winning chili but it’s tasty and to me that’s all that counts.

ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can red beans
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes and 2 cans regular diced tomatoes
1 large bottle tomato juice
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
chili powder (to taste)

directions:

Brown the ground beef. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper as it browns. Into a large pot pour tomato juice, tomatoes, and beans. This will begin to warm as you finish browning the ground beef. Once beef is cooked add to the pot. Season the chili with more chili powder, salt and pepper (to taste). Continue heating until the chili is nice and hot. Scoop into large bowls and serve with cheese and crackers if desired.

 

See? Really, really easy and quick. It is a very simple recipe that takes almost no time at all to cook. It makes a really hardy meal that is not too spicy so it’s perfect for the kids. Because this is a family recipe that has been handed down I don’t have measurements for the amount of salt, pepper and chili powder. Each of us five kids likes our food at different spice levels, so there is no one right answer on this. Just do what you think your family will enjoy.

This recipe raps up Attack of the Killer Tomatoes week. Hope you enjoyed the recipes!



What better way to save money on Christmas gifts than to get them for free. I recommend trying your luck at winning one of the hundreds thousands of giveaways going on right now. You can win everything from giftcards to books, toys to vacuums, purses to chocolate and a whole lot more. So, go check out the fall session of Bloggy Giveaways. You just might win a little something to give to someone on your list, or maybe even keep for yourself.

Sometimes it really does pay to take a chance and try to win. I know this for sure. Afterall last year I won a local writing contest with a wonderful prize of $100.



{October 24, 2008}   Out of Time For Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching. And yes, I realize that I never got around to posting craft idea, recipes or stories. My plan to do so sort of fizzled out as life through enough at me to keep me busy. Unfortunately my plan to make Meechi’s costume fizzled out too.

This makes me a little bit¬†sad. I make the kids costumes every year. I hate the store bought things. I think they’re ugly and unoriginal. I think they’re overpriced and cheaply made. (sigh) I am using one this year though. I have only ever done this once before and that was the Halloween right after 9/11 when no one really felt like celebrating and everyone wondered if it was even safe to do so.

I have to admit that I am not really that¬†sad about using a store bought costume this year though. No really, I’m not. Why? Because this costume is coming to me through an act of kindness and friendship. Kindness and friendship from someone I barely know. Cool when that happens isn’t it?

You see, I made a little comment on my Facebook page about how I was afraid I was out of time and would have to buy my son a costume this year. Someone I had just added to my friends list¬†two days before commented asking what he was going to be. I answered that he was supposed to be going as Nemo, but since I was out of time and I didn’t think I could find a¬†Nemo costume that he would probably be something else.

¬†Now, this is someone I met once. I know her just a bit through adoption groups online. She lives in the same town as me. She had a garage sale this past summer to raise money for her families adoption. They are adopting from Kyrgyzstan, which is just south of Kazakhstan which is of course where Meechi was born. Anyway, long story longer…. I went to her garage sale to buy some stuff and help her cause. I talked to her for a bit while I was there. That is my one and only real life contact with her. Soooo….

When she offered to let me borrow a Nemo Costume from the Disney store¬†that she just happened to have, I was floored by the offer. It was such a sweet and generous offer to loan a costume to someone you’ve met only once. She has an amazingly kind and generous soul. It shows in her blog. Truly! So you see, there is no way I could really be sad about him getting to use this costume.

So now Meechi gets to be Nemo despite the fact that his mother is a terrible slacker and put off making a costume until it was too late.

And since I am not making the costume and you won’t get to see my wonderfully mad costume making skills this year……….¬† I will tell you what I was going to do.

The plan was to make a very unique Nemo costume. You see, just the head was going to be the fish. I was going to use a hat, either the kind with earflaps or a ski mask, orange of course. Something that would cover¬†all of his head but leave his face showing.¬†Then I was going to sew a tail and stuff it to give it a good size and shape. I would then sew it onto the back of the hat. I was also going to sew some fins for the side and the top. Then of course I was going to get a shimmery white material to make the stripes and sew them onto the hat. I would then draw some fishy scales onto the hat. Once the hat was on his head, I would have painted his sweet fact orange. So, his face would be Nemo’s little fishy face and the rest of his head would be the little fishy body. Cute, eh?

Ah, but that’s not all! I was also going to get some blue sweats and draw water lines on them to make it look like the ocean. I was also going to draw Marlin and Dory and a couple of other characters on the sweats to look like they were in the ocean. So the overall effect would be that Nemo (meechi’s head and face) would be swimming atop the ocean (the sweats he would be wearing).

Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? And you can see why there is no way I could pull that off in a week.

 

Oh! and if you want to find some great Halloween posts, go visit Three Peas In A Pod.



{October 10, 2008}   Christmas Swap

It’s time for another budget Christmas tip. Chel made a wonderful suggestion in the comments of my last post. I absolutely loved the idea so I though I would share it here.

“One thing some friends and I have already agreed to do is a Swap Christmas. This year, instead of buying gifts, we‚Äôre shopping our houses for books we‚Äôve already read or CDs already downloaded onto iTunes or cool bags we don‚Äôt carry any longer. We‚Äôre swapping stuff we already loved for stuff our friends already loved. We‚Äôre sure to get great stuff without spending more than postage, and we‚Äôre recycling, too. ”

Isn’t that a terrific idea? I love it so much that I thought of a few other ways you could put this idea to use. How about shopping at your friends houses? Okay, that sounds a bit weird but hear me out on this one. Not only can you and your friends exchange previously used and loved items as gifts for each other, but also for your family members. How about a toy swap? Maybe some of your friends have kids that are a bit younger than your own. You could offer up some toys that your children have outgrown. I know my kids have had plenty of toys that they just lost interest in. No sense in keeping them sitting around the house taking up room. Put them in a toy swap with your friends. The same idea can be used with children’s clothing.

I can picture this as a totally fun mom’s night out event. Talk to your friends about the idea of doing a Christmas shopping swap. Offer up your home for one evening as a meeting place. Get your husband to take the kids out for the evening. Have all your friends come over and enjoy the company. Each person could even bring a snack. How about having a bottle of wine? Make it a fun evening for you and your friends to get together, chat, have some fun AND get some Christmas shopping done for NO MONEY.

Maybe the next week someone else could offer to host a swap at their house. If you got together each week from now until Christmas you could get a lot of presents off your list and have a lot of fun and companionship (is that a real word?) in the process. I SO LOVE this idea!

Each swap could feature different items. Here are some suggestions:

Toys

Children’s clothing

Books

Jewelry

Crafts

Men’s items (sports equipment or collectibles, guy flicks, whatever you husband’s might be into)

Shoes

Purses/Bags

 

Thanks Chel for the great idea!!!



{October 3, 2008}   Time for Halloween Fun

Halloween is fast approaching. That means it is time to get busy making the Halloween costumes, creating fun decorations and trying out some creepy recipes. I will be posting some of the cool ideas I find again this year. So keep an eye out for them.

Also, I am working on a couple of ghost stories to share. I love a good scary story! Check out my favorite from last year here. The best part of that story is that it is all true.



Last year at the Bitter Ball I did a series of posts about doing Christmas on a budget. Well, with Christmas now just 3 months away, it is time to start thinking about all this again. Afterall, the best way to budget for those gifts is to start purchasing them as soon as possible. Spread the spending out over time rather than doing it all at once.

Again this year I will be posting ideas for making a wonderful Christmas on a tight budget. My plan is to post a frugal Christmas gift idea once a week until Christmas. (as my loyal reader know, my plans don’t always end up happening, but I will try) You won’t find they typical ideas like baking home made goodies or puting cocoa mix in a jar here. You can find those ideas anywhere, and besides… we all know those things already. I want to offer some ideas that might be unique and special.

Be sure to check back here each week for a new frugal Christmas idea. I will start off this week with a little shopping tip for you.

Shop Second-Hand

 

There’s no rule that says gifts have to be brand new. Scour thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets and other second-hand stores for some great finds. You may be able to find some wonderful antiques, collectibles or vintage jewelry for a steal of a price.¬†A few other possibilities are¬†unburned candles, books, paintings¬†or vintage clothing. Also be sure to check for vases and baskets that you can use with other items to make a great gift.



et cetera