Stock up on Restaurant Certificates

$25 certificates for $2!! Use the discount code: SPECIAL. This deal ends May 31, 2009 but remember certificates are good for a year. Check out the restaurants in your area and maybe treat Dad to a nice meal this month. We've enjoyed some nice nights out even with the girls using our certificates. Definitely a Cool Idea!

Books for the Beach

Or wherever you plan to do your summer reading. Personally, most of my reading gets done on the sofa while Comfort and Joy play or draw at the coffee table.

If you are looking around for some fun reading material and perhaps looking for a bit of an escape as well you can't go wrong with the categories at Harlequin. There's everything from cowboys to doctors to tycoons to preachers - and the men aren't bad either;) But seriously. No matter what your level of comfort is with the romance you can't find it at Harlequin. Some of the categories have the relationship end at the bedroom door and others invite you in. You can get a sense of which line is which by reading about them on their e-site, but don't forget to come back here and take advantage of this great deal!! It's definitely a Cool Idea!!

Get a FREE Pass for (500) Days of Summer

Get your free tickets for screenings of (500) Days of Summer.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't. Surprising in its outcome, Marc Webb's debut feature film is a charming postmodern reflection on crushing, unrequited love and relationships, dispensed in a nonlinear structure. Starting at day 488, the narration jumps back and forth to different days in the 500-day love affair. From day one Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is completely smitten by new co-worker Summer (Zooey Deschanel). He believes in the possibility of soul mates destined to meet, while she believes that true love is only a fairy tale never to be experienced, and so her interest in Tom is purely lighthearted fun. Gordon-Levitt' s and Deschanel's nuanced portrayals of roller coaster love and the mercurial, ungraspable object of one's affection almost move this story out of romantic comedy and into tragedy. The comedic tone, vigorous shots, and effervescent music keep it light in the most satisfying way.

Spirit of Giving

Sunday night we went out to eat. It had been a long week for all of us and it was an Adventure Girl Night at Restaurant House. Comfort was in rare form and occasionally broke out into song in between bites of 'rock-a-roni'. We heard verses from Mary Poppins, WALL-E, Elmo in Grouchland and perhaps a couple of others that I've blanked out. The restaurant wasn't overly crowded since it was a holiday weekend so many of our fellow guests were treated to a show with their dinner.

Several times throughout our meal the couple beside us caught our eye and smiled or nodded along with the song as Comfort sang. I will say, she wasn't singing loudly or I would have nipped this in the bud. Instead it was just loud enough that the tables just contiguous to us could 'enjoy'.

This same couple came back from their trip to get dessert with an extra banana. I didn't even know this place had real fruit but the woman explained that she always asked for one to make herself a banana split and they had given her two. She asked if we'd like the other. Comfort was busy singing but Joy enjoyed half of that banana very nicely.

As we were leaving they asked Comfort her name at which point she told them how old she was, we're still working on appropriate responsese to questions, and asked if they could give her something. I figured it would be some little token or toy so I said yes. The woman fished in her purse and pulled out a crisp dollar bill and told Comfort she could use it to buy herself something. Comfort passed it along to me and we said thank you, very much and good night.

So, have you painted yourself a picture of the couple that was sitting next to us at dinner? Can you see them? You think they are someone's grandparents and the woman was carrying a big purse and maybe had bouffant blue hair. The man was tall and lanky and walked with a cane.

Actually, they were in their mid-20's. They were talking on their cell phones part of the meal. The woman's purse was not much bigger than my hand - or her phone! Her eye shadow was bright blue - which is apparently back in style from the 70s - and her clothes were super trendy. He was dressed comfortably but definitely with care.

And my point here isn't that Comfort needed to have that dollar. It's that they needed to give it. If I'd said, "Oh, that's too generous of you," and handed it back - I'm sending a message that giving isn't worth the trouble. It was too generous of them but I can appreciate their expression and we won't just let Comfort buy anything with it but someday when she's old enough I'll have a really great story to tell her and, yes, maybe there will be a trip for an ice cream cone this week, too.

Wonderful Wednesday

Celebrate 25 Years with Burt's Bees. They are giving away 1000 lips balms every day for 25 days. It begins every day at 9am. Get them while you can!

FREE Hawaiian Tropic Sun Care Sample

FREE cup or cone of ice cream at TCBY on Father's Day

Sign up for the Lego Jr. Club for Ages under 6 and get 2 FREE years of LEGO Magazine

Box Tops for Education Racing Mom Sweepstakes is giving away 10,000 extra Box Tops [5,000 1 st place, 3,000 2nd place, and 3,000 3rd place] Enter every day until the end of the Month for a chance to win for your school.

Parenting Magazines 31 Days of Mom Giveaways - Each day has a different giveaway and enters you into the Grand Prize Giveaway of a trip to Mexico. There are only a few days in May left but make sure you get your name in the hat.

And don't forget to put it on your calendar for Friday to sign up for your coupon from Mars. They are giving away FREE chocolate every Friday through the summer. It takes up to 6 weeks for the coupon to reach you but it's FREE chocolate and in my world that is definitely a Cool Idea!

Gift Cards are Coming In!

One of the ways I started to make a little money here and there is to do surveys and use MyPoints. Why? I needed another way to use the downtime that I have as a stay at home mom. There's time where I need to be with the kids but I can be on the computer while they color or play or entertain each other. I can get a 5, 10 or 20 minute survey done and get some points or even a few dollars credited to my account. I always make sure to do the ones with actual $$'s first and then the ones with points. Just this week I've reached the threshold with Valued Opinions to cash out for $20 Visa Debit Card and $10 from Opinion Outpost.

MyPoints is a points per click or purchase system. [check out their site because it's easier than I'll be able to explain] and I've been signed up since summer when I saw a post on Deal Seeking Mom, I think. I especially make sure to click through when I'm going to be making a purchase on eBay because there are always extra bonus points for buying on eBay. I've cashed out points for Barnes and Noble gift cards and Panera gift cards. I figure this will be a nice treat for myself or a good date night for us when the school year is over and we can get out together again.

So, if you have those odd moments in your day that are free or you don't mind 5-10 extra emails in your account every day give it a shot and let the points start adding up. Then you can use them for something great for yourself, add them to your household account or use them as a gift for someone else. Whatever you choose it's another Cool Idea out there to try!

Coupons from Kraft Foods

Click Here

Sign up for great coupons and recipes through the Kraft Community! This would be a great week to take advantage of extra coupons especially since there weren't any in the newspaper. Click on the link and get started on the Cool Ideas that are available from Kraft!

Huggies on Sale at Babies R Us

Starting May 22nd and running through May 25th, SAVE $5 INSTANTLY when you buy any
2 Mega or Jumbo Packs of HUGGIES® Diapers, PULL-UPS® Training Pants or GoodNites® Underpants at Babies"R"Us or Toys"R"Us!

Re-stock at certificates are on sale again through Memorial Day!! Don't miss 80% savings on $25 certificates. Get the $25 certificate for $2 with the code: SPECIAL. Remember that certificates are good for a year and this would be a good time to get a certificate for Father's Day next month! Definitely A Cool Idea!!


Posts have been infrequent this week because the grandparents are visiting and I've been enjoying a little bit of time to myself. Well, there's also a bit of extra work entailed with coordinating visits with the other parts of our family and getting extra amounts of meals done and making sure that Comfort and Joy are behaving appropriately throughout the day.

The girls have had some meltdowns from getting too high off the grandparents and I know they'll be disappointed when they leave tomorrow. Heck, I will, too. But it'll probably mean that once the laundry is back in line I'll be back here with more Cool Ideas.

Traveling with Kids: Get Ready, Get Set, Go!

As Memorial Day and the traditional beginning of the summer travel season nears I thought this would be a good time to begin to start thinking about summer travel survival. Come on - you know what what I mean;)

When Comfort and Joy were tiny we relied on the fact that they'd sleep all the time, but now that we have 2 toddlers we are much more careful about what time of the day we leave for a trip and where we'll stop for meals and breaks.

We found out last year that Chick-fil-A has a trip planner on their website that lists whether there is a playground at the facility. Plug in your start and ending destination and it'll tell you all the Chick-fil-A's on your route!! Go to restaurant locator/ plan a trip. We also like stopping at Chick-fil-A because the kid's meals offer fruit and milk at no extra charge, there are table toppers and the staff are always available to offer an extra hand! Oh, and books are in the kids meals instead of toys and that's a bonus for us.

Another great idea was one that I just heard from my mom - who arrived today! They drove straight through from Texas to Virginia and said the best rest stop they'd ever seen was in Arkansas. Not only was there fresh coffee and the regular amenities but there was chilled apple sauce, Gerber Graduates juice and Gerber Graudates meals for kids as well. There may have been other kid related items but it was nearly closing time when they got there and mom felt bad that they'd had the woman brew a fresh pot of coffee.

Here are just a couple of great, kid and family friendly ideas that make traveling a little bit easier. Sure, most of us pack our own food and snacks for our trips but we all know that at some point you have to get out of the car and stretch your legs. We also know that things happen. Snacks get left behind or eaten by a ravenous toddler in a major growth spurt. And then again, sometimes we just need a few minutes not in the confines of a moving vehicle with our darling ones. For those times we welcome these Cool Ideas! If' you've seen other Cool Kid Travel Tips I'd love to hear about them.

Coupons and Huggies Points

Commons Sense with Money and Deal Seeking Mom both have oodles of Huggies Points listed on their sites. Go on over and check it out. Seriously. Devote some time to it and get them logged in. Thanks to both for taking the time to put these online.

Also, word is that the Kraft coupons have been reloaded in the bar. Go on over and get them printed before they run out.

Dinner Solution Software Giveway from $5 Dinners

The Dinner Solution: Menu Planning and Freezer Cooking Made Simple is a unique meal planning program that allows you to plan out your meals on a calendar and print custom grocery lists. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can plan out a week of meals in minutes.


Plan your dinners and side dishes out on our calendar a week or a month at a time
Easily enter any of the recipes or menus from $5 Dinners!

  • Add your own recipes or use the family-friendly recipes we’ve already included!
  • With the click of a button, print a complete grocery list — sorted by store aisle and store name!
  • Print a “What’s For Dinner” fridge report so you and your family can easily see what’s on the menu that week!
  • Do your own at-home Freezer Meal assembly sessions in a snap!
    And more!
  • Using The Dinner Solution for just 10 minutes a week, you can easily:

  • Save hundreds of dollars a year on your grocery bill
  • Save hundreds of hours a year of your precious time
  • Feed your family healthier home-cooked meals (and lose weight if you need to!)
  • Reduce your stress level – meal planning actually becomes fun!
  • The system makes it so easy to get dinner on the table, you will wonder how you ever managed without it!!!

    Personally, I think this sounds like a Very Cool Idea and a great marriage of technology and family. I'd love to have my family recipes and new-found favorites in the same place. I'd also love to put the once-a-month cooking I do in one place with our regular cooking. One place for everything as opposed to the 2 binders that are currently running my life. [I think organization may be a resolution for next year!]

So, run over to $5 Dinners and sign up for this giveaway. I have a feeling that we'll all be wanting to learn more about this and we'll be envious of whomever actually wins. Bon Chance.

More Cool Stuff From Huggies

In case you are a Huggies consumer like we are and were a bit envious of the Pampers people with the points they were able to trade in for cool things. Huggies is now doing a similar thing. Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards can be used for sweepstakes drawings for instant win prizes. To get started sign up on the site, then you can watch videos for points or start collecting them. I found most of mine at Common Sense with Money. There's also an older post at Mercedes's site with additional points so do a search and see if it pulls up. So, here's another Cool Idea from Huggies.

Resolution Recap

It's been a while since I've checked in with how I've been doing on my resolutions. There's just been so much else to talk about. I hope you've been able to see how it all connects though. But, in the spirit of accountability, here is a point-by-point post:

Here, again, were my resolutions:
  1. Do a better job with coupons and pantry stockpiling.
  2. Continue to find creative ways to cut expenses
  3. Meal planning/ smart planning
  4. Increase my income as a stay-at-home parent
  5. Find ways to live smarter in the balance between frugality and the environment
  6. [not sure yet but I feel like there's something still there to be explored - so I'm leaving room for one more]

So, #1: I'm still using The Grocery Game and according to the Kroger check out slip I'm averaging 45-50% off of my bill using coupons/ in-store discounts. It's not as great as seasoned, hard-core couponers but it's working for us right now. As for stockpiling we're doing great on Goldfish crax, TP, canned fruit, canned tomatoes, canned beans, and other assorted items we used less frequently.

#2: Cutting expenses has been harder since we'd already done a good job weeding through expenses in the past year but Cable gets nixed this month. The weather is nicer an we'll be spending more time together as family so no sense paying for staying in and watching TV. That'll save us $80/ month. I did notice that my newspaper subscription went up so I need to check out alternatives and see if there's a less expensive option. If not, decide if the savings at the grocery is worth the expense of the newspaper.

#3: Meal Planning/ Smart Planning: We definitely don't go out at the drop of a hat any more. I'm proud of that. I still don't have a handle on finding foods that Comfort and Joy will eat on a regular basis - other than pasta, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, quesadillas, etc - but then again they are toddlers. I've even toyed with putting the weekly menu plan here on the page so that it keeps me honest but then I'd really have to be ready each week and some weeks it's just not that well planned out;)

#4: This month I've had several good Mystery Shops!! I just finished 2 grocery store shops this week so I got some free groceries!! Two weeks ago I had a different kind of shop. It was a revealed shop, where I went in and checked out how the store had the products placed. I made under $10 for 15 mins work but it all helped. Also, I cashed in some points from My Points and Opinion Outpost. The survey points paid in cash and it was enough for the babysitter the day I got my haircut. The MyPoints paid in gift cards so I'll have enough for a good book from B&N and lunch at Panera. These are the ways that I've traded my time for money. Time I have while I sit with the kids and money I need:)

#5: It turns out that I think I'm more in tune with things in the environment than I thought I was. This isn't a bad thing. I've enjoyed the seasonal shift that meant that I had more time to do laundry and I've enjoyed that the Farmer's Market is open and the CSA is providing us with yummy good stuff. This week we opted for carrots that had gotten caught in a freeze. They aren't pretty since they split open but they'll taste just as good in a salad and they were half off. Comfort and Joy are pretty easy to please when it comes to things like this.

And now we're in the middle of May. Books are being read. Dinners are being cooked. Kids grow up. School is almost done. It's all amazing and definitely Cool. Hang on with me because we're almost half way through the year.

Bonus Box Tops for Education in May

Is your school trying really hard to make it's Box Top goal by the end of the year? I can only imagine because I know our's is. Box Tops is working hard to help us out! The Racing Mom Sweepstakes is giving away 10,000 Box Tops - 5,000 1st prize, 3,000 2nd prize and 2,000 3rd prize! You can enter every day in the month of May and no purchase is necessary. Start your engines and help get your school across the finish line!

The Avalanche of Freebies

If you've been signing up for the handful of freebies that float around each and every week I'm guessing that you're mailbox and your recycling bin are beginning to fill up, too. My under the sink bin are filling up, too, and I'm looking at pulling out some things that I know that I won't use. Why? Well, some things I'm particular about - like my choice of feminine products. I've been using the same brand of tampons since I was a teenager and I know enough about myself to know that I'm not going to switch. But I love the packs of freebies that come and they are going to make great donations to my local women's shelter. They will go into a bag with toiletry samples and the toothbrushes from the dentist that we don't use [we use an electric toothbrush].

Also, I've started to be miserly about snagging the free crayons we rarely use when leave restaurants. I'm going to bundle these up in baggies and send them to the shelter as well since many of the women come in with small children and new shiny crayons would be a nice treat in a sad situation.

And lastly, I made a bundle last week of the diaper samples that I'd received that were in sizes we couldn't use and these will also go to the shelter. Every little bit helps. If you recieve samples that you can't or won't use instead of allowing it to just take up room in your own house driving you nuts or taking space from things you might need to store, pass it on to someone who could use it now. This is particular helpful especially in these economic times. Non-profits are struggling for donations. Our neighbors are struggling, too. It's a Cool Idea to share what we can, when we can.

Wonderful Wednesday

Each day a limited number of Nexcare bandages will be given away to help promote blood donation. Check their site daily for FREE samplees.

FREE sample of Dove Energy Glow Moisturizer

FREE sample of Nescafe Taster's Choice Stick Pack

Rebate for FREE wedge of Alouette Baby Brie Wedge

Also, don't forget to enter the Parenting Magazine Mom Giveaways every day this month

A Day to Remember

Today is a day to remember for us. I won't be posting about it but reminding you that if you are ever in need of a charitable donation please consider the March of Dimes. March of Dimes uses donations to help fund research to "help moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin health lives." I can't think of anything that is a more Cool Idea!

Benefits of a Cold and Wet May

As I sit with a sinus headache due to incessant rain and increased seasonal mold count waiting for the Advil to kick in I'm trying really hard to come up with good reasons for this weather. Here's what I've come up with:
  • Great for the flowers and other plants that have just been put in. Personally I'm horrible with plants so I rely on Mother Nature to take care of them. If she's doing good work they they are likely to live a better life.
  • The Water Table will rise. Central Virginia is not a drought prone area but we have had some pretty dry summers lately and the only reason that we dodged full-on water restrictions was because we had excessively wet springtimes. Seriously. Last April [or May, I can't remember] was one of the wettest months on record and it got us through one of the driest summers on record.
  • Respite from achingly high temperatures and it becomes much easier to keep to our resolution to keep the air conditioner off until June. Sure, the ceiling fans are on but they are on in the wintertime, too. So, good for our power bill and the environment.
  • As the seasonal mold count increases and sinus headaches increase it's a good time to curl up under the quilt [because it's a bit cooler] and read a good book. I treated myself to a Nora Roberts reissue today which will go on my TBR stack. 
How ever you decide to 'enjoy' the rain be sure to take some time for yourself whenever you can since we're indoors more often. Do puzzles with the kids. Practice scissor skills or draw pictures of the flowers that are outside soaking up the rain while they can. Just remember, be careful on the roads, slow down and take a look at the beauty around you. It's just part of the cycle. We'll dry out eventually and then I'll be writing about that, too!

Mother's Day help from Restaurant.Com is running a special - $25 certificates for $4 plus for a limited time get a free $15 FTD order [offer ends on May 11]. Enter the Discount Code GIFT at checkout. So if you are struggling with what to get Mom for Mother's Day - here's an opportunity to take her to dinner and get her flowers for the grand low price of $4!! That is a Cool Idea!!

Friday Chocolate!!

This has to be a Cool Idea!! I saw this over on Deal Seeking Mom and I'm posting it here, too, so that I'll remember to log in because nothing would make my week end better than some good chocolate. Heck, any chocolate would help this week but Mars makes some darned good stuff.  Be one of the first 250,000 people each Friday to their site and you could win FREE CHOCOLATE. Let's all give it a go and have ourselves a good start to the weekend. Start early and then we might be more successful than I was at getting my free photo from Walgreens;) Enjoy!!

Organic Food Doesn't have to be Expensive

While I'll be the first to tell you that I'm a very poor gardener we'll be planting at least one tomato plant this year to help us keep up with Joy's love of tomatoes. Sure, we'll buy some through our CSA but I also want the girls to see how vegetables are actually grown. I want them to know that food doesn't magically appear at the store - or more accurately - on their plate at the table. People work to make that food. Rain comes from the sky. Or doesn't. Pest and weeds happen. 

Also, organic doesn't have to mean that your food was certified by a bunch of bureaucrats. "USDA Organic" does and that does add to the expense of much of the organic food out there. This is why many small, local farms have opted for different kinds of certification. In many cases, this certification is more stringent than USDA Organic and I'm fine with that. 

Here are some additional ways to make your own gardening less expensive and organic. Keep it simple. It's about making a small difference in our lives and not being wasteful. These are the things we need to keep in mind. 

Wonderful Wednesday is Back!

Giveaways took a short Hiatus while I had other things on my mind but here is enough to keep us busy for a while:

 Free Walgreens 8x10 Wednesday May 6, 2009 Only! Order a FREE 8x10 inch enlargement for Mother's Day from Walgreens. Enter promotional code "MOTHER" for online checkout. Valid only on Wednesday, May 6

The Mother's Day Month of Giveaways at Parenting Magazine. Go back and enter every day for extra chances. There are prizes every day and a grand prize for the Month.

FREE sample of Huggies Pull UPs

Book an appointment for a FREE mini Facial at an ORIGINS Salon and get a FREE Sample

Coupon for a FREE 2 Piece Grilled Chicken Dinner from KFC. YummY!!

FREE Sample of Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaning Gel

FREE Subscription to Working Mother through Rewards Gold

FREE Sample from the Degree Women Fine Fragrance Collection

And there you go! Enjoy the fun!!

Do you Book Club?

I've been in a book club for a little over a year now and to my surprise I'm enjoying it. It's not a surprise to me - or to you probably - that I enjoy reading. It's a surprise that I enjoy talking about books with other people. Especially books that I would not normally pick up and read. If you have noticed the books that I've posted or been over to the page where I list the books I've been reading you'll see a strange mix of fun/ romance reads and literary fiction. It's my book club that keeps me reading the heavy stuff;) 

And that's not such a bad thing. One thing that a book club can be good for is to stretch us in directions that we're not usually going in on our own. This is how I found People of the Book and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which were both books that I'll be talking about for years to come. 

It's also a good way to get reacquainted with reading for content and not just for pleasure. If the last time you had to read a book and describe any of the characters and their needs, or pick a theme, or figure how why the author was attracted to the color purple was your sophomore year in college then a book club might be a fun way to reawaken brain cells.

Some things to take into consideration when you are joining a book club though is what kinds of books they read. I did ask this question because I like to read genre fiction and they hadn't read a lot recently. We have found a nice compromise. Find out how often the group meets and what the commitment to the group is. Also, if the group has been going on for any length of time they will have established norms already. These are good to figure out so that you don't do something unfortunate.

Above all, let it be fun. Books are a way to spread words and expand our minds. Along the way we should enjoy ourselves. That said, not everyone will like each book but that doesn't mean that each discussion is a bust. Sometimes the best discussions come out of books that no one liked. 

Learning is Local

We were on our way downtown Thursday to the Farmer's Market. All morning Comfort had been talking about going to get our salad and carrots - apparently they are not the same thing!! We had a series of errands to run and I took the interstate downtown, which is unusual for me since I prefer to travel through the city. We came out at the intersection by the Slavery Reconciliation Statue. While stopped at the traffic light Comfort piped up from the backseat, "People hug to say they are sorry." I saw her looking at the statue and was amazed at the profundity of her remark.

I asked DH about it today. It turns out she'd asked about it a couple of weeks ago when they were stopped at the same light and that was the phrase he'd used to explain it to her. It's a perfect understanding for her at the age of 3 and in future years there will be plenty of time for us to teach her about the history of slavery, our city's participation in it and the issues that our city, country and world still grapple with daily.

It's also a good reminder that when our children ask us questions we need to remember to meet them on their terms and on their level. If they ask how the car works you don't need to describe how the engine works unless they are actual able to understand this. I speak from experience here. Opportunities for learning are all around us even in those innocent [and sometimes annoying] questions that pipe up from the backseat.

one small vote, one mighty impact

Savings of May

First of all, The bar has recharged! Check it out over on the right hand bar. If you are needing to stock up on cereal this is the month for you - I think I just counted 7 cereal coupons!! Get them while you can.

Also, here are some great recipes to sign up for from Pillsbury. Always some wonderful coupons hidden in these recipe booklets

There's another one from Bisquick. What better way to make sure you have something on hand for when your kids want to make you breakfast in bed for Mother's Day!! This has the latest recipes ideas and coupons straight from Bisquick.

In case you are already thinking about your summer vacation and noticed that your body is still wearing it's winter padding Bally's Total Fitness is offering a FREE 7 DAY PASS!! You can't beat that.


Need some ideas for your kitchen? Here you go!! Get it while you can. These go fast.