Texting for a Cause

This is a reminder that today is the last day to help Electrolux and Kelly Ripa donate money toward Ovarian Cancer research. When you Text for a Cause you help pass the word and you are giving $5 toward research. Plus, every time you log into this site you will be entered to win a spiffy turquoise Electrolux washer and dryer. How is that for a Cool Idea!

Valued Opinions Surveys

I'm looking back at surveys that I've cashed out money from recently so that I can pass along this good information again and here's one that I've mentioned, I think, but it's worth mentioning again. Valued Opinions, gives invitations that have great information. They will always tell you how much money the survey is for and a good idea of how much time the survey will take. I've had surveys for as little as $1 and as much as $5 and sometimes the $5 don't take much longer. Really. It just depends on how much the company was willing to pay.

I also click on these invites as quickly as I see them because they can fill up quickly because this company pays in cash if you want. I usually request my reward in the form of a prepaid VISA card! There are other options which you can see on their website when you join but I like having the actual cash and since you know how much money your surveys are when you take them you'll be able to see how your rewards are accruing.

So, if you aren't signed up with Valued Opinions go ahead and get started. It is definitely a Cool Idea because cash is never a bad choice!

Say Nation!

Say Nation is another survey group and this one allows you to pick your own point goal! Personally, I love using my survey points for buying books since that's my guilty pleasure so I set my goals for book gift certificates and it lets me know how close I am to that pay out at any given time. Cool, huh?!?!

Another cool thing about Say Nation is that you get 25 points for every survey even if you don't qualify. So I always follow through on an invitation from Say Nation because I know I'll get at least some points whereas some companies are an all or nothing set up and I have to decide how much time to put into each survey.

Also, PayPal is now an option with Say Nation so you can actually get cash from this survey group, too. Sounds like an all around cool survey company, doesn't it? Yep, definitely a Cool Idea as far as I'm concerned.

Do You Read Banned Books?

Of course not, you say. Horrors, no. Well, I bet you do if you actually look at the official American Library Association list of Banned and Challenged books.

So, the week of September 26 to October 3 we celebrate these books and the freedom to read. This is a great teachable moment, too, to make a point to kids of all ages that books are a luxury in many places in the world, as is reading whatever you choose. In fact, Kids off the Couch has a great post about this, too. We could get really political with this conversation and look at those countries but let's focus on ourselves and look at the top ten from the list.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

We're talking classics that are part of the conversations that educated people have. I've only read 6 of the 10 on the list but I know enough of the stories of the other 4 to hold my own in conversations even if I couldn't win Double Jeopardy. If you look further down the list you'll see beloved children's stories as well as some books that we'd all probably forget that we had to read in school.

But the point is that we had the freedom to choose to read those books. No one should choose for us what books we can and cannot read, unless we are a child and need that kind of guidance. Teaching children what is appropriate for them is teaching them a kind of freedom to choose. This isn't about whether the books is good or not either. That's a value judgment and something that will differ from person to person. This is about whether we each have the right to go to our library or bookstore and pick up the book and take it home and read it. Let's make sure that we don't ever take that freedom for granted. Personally, I think this is very Cool Idea!

Restaurant.com Weekly Promo Offer 300 x 250

That's right - more great deals from Restaurant. com. Use discount code TREAT to get $25 certificates for $3 or use the discount for meal of the month club purchases. It's all 70% off at Restaurant.com.

Remember to check the details of the restaurant from which you are purchasing but most certificates are good for a year. We've enjoyed being able to eat at our local restaurants without having to pay full price because even with toddlers it can add up.

So, take a look and buy a certificate for your favorite place or maybe a place you've always wanted to try. For $3 it's a bargain!

Super Frugal BBQ Pizza

I LOVE BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA! Sorry if it sounded like I was shouting but other than plain cheese pizza, BBQ Chicken is my absolute favorite. There is something about the sweet, tangy sauce and the gooey cheese that just makes my day.

We have two places here in town to get BBQ chicken pizza and neither one is very cheap so I've taken to making it when I need a fix. Sometimes it's 'good enough' and other times it's not even close. This last week I was so dog-gone close to perfection that I think angels wept.

Here's what I did:

Make your favorite pizza crust. I use a knock-off PizzaHut recipe and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

You'll need to let it come to room temperature before you use it and after you've formed it onto your baking sheet spread BBQ sauce on it. I used Sweet Baby Rays which was on sale a few weeks ago and I got the bottle for free. This was the perfect flavor.

Then the cheese. We always have on hand the mexican cheese blend from Costco. We go through so much shredded cheese that it makes sense for me to keep this on hand.

Then I used red carmen peppers that I bought at the Farmer's Market. I sliced these thinkly and then cut them with scissors so they would be easier to eat.

I had some leftover purple onion in the fridge that I nuked in the microwave for a few minutes and then sprinkled around.

Next came the chicken. DH had pulled off the rest of the meat off a rotisserie chicken and I cut it up with the scissors.

And because I like a lot of cheese I put some more on top before it went into the oven at 425 degrees Farenheit until it smelled yummy good. And it was absolutely yummy delicious. I have plenty of peppers, chicken and sauce left for many more pizzas, too. The peppers and chicken went into the freezer and I cannot wait until our next pizza night. This was definitely a Cool Idea!

New Coupons From Cellfire

Cellfire has released new coupons. For Kroger and Safeway customers: coupons available now for saving until Monday, 10/5/09.

See what you can save:

COTTONELLE®: Save $.25 on any ONE (1) 4-pack or Larger COTTONELLE® Toilet Paper.

Huggies® Diapers: Save $3.00 on any TWO (2) packages of Huggies® Diapers.

Pillsbury® Toaster Strudel®: Save $.55 when you buy any TWO (2) Pillsbury® Toaster Strudel® Pastries.

Green Giant® Vegetables: Save $.50 when you buy TWO (2) any variety Green Giant® Frozen Boxed Vegetables.

Hamburger Helper®: Save $.75 when you buy THREE (3) any flavor Hamburger Helper®, Tuna Helper® OR Chicken Helper® Home Cooked Skillet Meals.

Old El Paso®: Save $.60 when you buy any TWO (2) Old El Paso® products (excludes Old El Paso® Refrigerated, Frozen OR Soup products).

Progresso® Soups: Save $.50 when you buy TWO (2) any flavor Progresso® Soups.

Nature Valley® Granola Bars: Save $.40 when you buy ONE (1) BOX any flavor/variety Nature Valley® Granola Bars.

Betty Crocker® Cookie Mix: Save $.40 when you buy any flavor 17.5 OZ. OR LARGER Betty Crocker® Cookie Mix.

Betty Crocker® Potatoes: Save $.40 when you buy any flavor Box or Pouch Betty Crocker® Potatoes (Except Potato Buds®).

Chex Mix®: Save $.50 when you buy any flavor 4.5 OZ. OR LARGER Chex Mix® OR Chex® 100 Calorie Snack.

Betty Crocker® Cake and Frosting: Save $.50 when you buy BOTH Betty Crocker® Cake Mix AND Betty Crocker® Frosting (any flavors/varieties).

Yoplait® Cups: Save $.50 when you buy SIX (6) any variety Yoplait® Yogurt cups OR any flavor Yoplait® Original OR Light Smoothies.

Betty Crocker® Warm Delights: Save $.50 when you buy ONE (1)any flavor Betty Crocker® Warm Delights® Bowls OR Betty Crocker® Warm Delights® Minis Bowls.

YoPlus®: Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor YoPlus® OR YoPlus® Light Yogurt 4-pack.

Progresso® Broth: Save $.50 when you buy ONE (1)any variety Progresso® Broth.

Nature Valley® Granola Nut Clusters: Save $1.00 when you buy ONE BAG (1) any flavor Nature Valley® Granola Nut Clusters.

Pillsbury® Crescent Rolls: Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO (2) Pillsbury® Crescent Dinner Rolls.

Pillsbury® Grands!® Refrigerated Biscuits: Save $1.00 when you buy TWO (2) any size/variety Refrigerated Pillsbury® Grands!® Biscuits.

Pillsbury® Frozen Grands!®: Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO (2) Frozen Pillsbury® Grands!® Biscuits, Cinnamon Rolls, OR Mini Cinnamon Rolls.

Pillsbury® Italian Meal Breads: Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO (2) Pillsbury® Italian Meal Breads (Includes any Loaves, Breadsticks, Dinner Rolls, and Pizza Crust).

Pillsbury® Refrigerated Cookie Dough: Save $1.00 when you buy TWO PACKAGES (2) any variety Pillsbury® Refrigerated Cookie Dough.

Fiber One® Cereal: Save $.55 when you buy any flavor Fiber One® cereal.

Bisquick®: Save $.60 when you buy 40 OZ. OR LARGER Original Bisquick® OR Bisquick Heart Smart® Baking Mix.

Yoplait®: Save $.55 when you buy any flavor 32 OZ. Yoplait® Yogurt.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch®: Save $.55 when you buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch® cereal.

Wanchai Ferry®: Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor Wanchai Ferry® Dinner Kit.

Yoplait® Fiber One®: Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor Yoplait® Fiber One® Yogurt Multipacks.

*Coleman Natural Hot Dogs: Save $1.00 when purchasing a pack of nitrate-free Coleman Natural Beef Hot Dog.

*Coleman Natural Bacon: Save $1.00 when purchasing a pack of nitrate-free Coleman Natural Hickory Smoked Bacon.

*These are regional offers - please check cellfire.com for availability.

Also, if you live in the northeast ShopRite has been added to Cellfire. These coupons will be made available on Sunday, 9/27/09 (you won’t see them on the site currently) and can be saved until Saturday, 10/10/09.

All Coupons expire on 10/19/09. Check out the Red Hot Cellfire bar on the right to download your coupons to your store loyalty card!

Movie Review: The Duchess

I realize that people without kids or those who have a regular babysitter for date night have likely seen this movie already but I just checked it out from our library last week and we watched it last night after the girls went to sleep. All I knew before it started is that it was based on a true story and it had Keira Knightley in it.

I first saw Keira Knightley in Bend it Like Beckham and then Love Actually and if that doesn't show that she has some range then she showed that she can hold her own screen time with Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp.

After the intro I then learned that whoever the woman we were going to learn about was she was an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales because the opening shot is of Althrop. Wikipedia confirms this. Turns out she was also an ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York.

I found the movie fascinating. Maybe it's the women's studies major in me but this was one remarkable woman. Well, girl really. She was married on her 17th birthday and quickly found herself overwhelmed by her duties - both public and private. Ironically, she excels in the public realm and begins to make a name for herself helping political candidates, including a man whom she was fond of. Privately she's learning quickly that unless she produces a son she's not worth anything to her husband.

In order to help her conceive a son, after several miscarriages and the birth of 3 daughters, she and her husband go to Bath to take the treatments and there she meets Lady Elizabeth Foster and they become friends. The duke also likes Lady Foster and after Georgiana has invited Bess into their home when they move back to London the duke begins a relationship with Bess that continues until Georgiana's death, at which point the duke marries Bess. This, obviously, is not without problems in the relationship. Bess wants her children back from her husband and the duke is the most influential peer in England. G wants her husband to herself but most importantly she's mad that he stole her friend from her. When she proposes a deal that he can have Bess if she can have Charles Grey the duke forces himself on her. In the story she conceives her son from this time together and the duke rewards her handsomely.

At this point Georgiana has been married to the duke for 16 years. She's 33 years old. Bess is now part of her marriage as well, which obviously she didn't sign up for and G has no recourse. She cannot leave her husband because she has nowhere to go. She has no money of her own. We know from Bess's story that her husband had refused to let her see her children until the duke stepped in and brought them into his home. It probably helped that they were boys.

But women were chattle and their husbands could do as they wished. There is some great dialogue in the movie about freedom and whether it is absolute. G has some great comments! Georgiana continues on as she can and here is where Bess helps her out as only a woman can. She sends for Charles Grey and the two of them go to Bath together. This works wonderfully until the duke and G's mom confront her about it and remind her that if they know then it will soon become public knowledge and they will make sure she won't be able to see her kids again. She makes a valiant show of determination but in the end she returns home.

The kicker to this scene is that she's pregnant with Grey's child. The duke banishes her to the country until the child is born and makes arrangements for the child to return to Grey's family. This is interesting since there are so many kids in his house already - his child from a maid which G has been raising as her own since soon after her marriage, Bess's kids, and G's four children - but he will not allow her to keep Grey's child in their home because he knows that she loves Grey.

Some of the poignant moments are when we see her hand over the girl to Grey's family and Georgiana has named the girl Eliza, presumably after Bess. Somewhat a fitting tribute both to a friend and as a reminder of adultery perhaps. Later, G meets Charles Grey at a party and he mentions that he's engaged and that he has a new niece, Eliza, that he would very much like G to meet sometime. History shows, too, that Eliza named her daughter Georgiana. Wow, these girls have some spunk in them.

I'm sure there is more in the book than there is in the movie. There always is, but the movie is great. Visually stunning of course and with great added features. Take a look because this is a movie with so many layers that one time through won't catch them all. There's dialogue, there's attitude, and there's some great subtly and passion. Mostly though this is about a woman that made her mark on the world and for good or bad we should be aware of what she accomplished.

The Duchess

Get Ready to Read!

  • On October 8, 2009, join Jumpstart and Walmart in reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and help set a world record!

    Children’s literacy is an important issue because it lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Millions of children from low-income families have limited access to age-appropriate books at home, and Jumpstart is committed to making a difference in the lives of these children.

    I don't know about you but Comfort and Joy both love this book. In fact, I think it has been loved nearly to death. Comfort was a book chewer and many of the page edges have been nibbled on in caterpiller-like fashion.

    Join Jumpstart and Walmart in this year’s Read for the Record campaign:

  • Take the pledge today to read this beloved children’s book — to your own kids or even at your library or community center — on October 8th.
  • If you don’t yet have a copy, pick up a commemorative edition at Walmart, where all proceeds from the book sales between now and October 8th will go directly to Jumpstart.
  • Sponsor books for underprivileged children.
  • Help spread the word about the Read for the Record campaign using these email and blog buttons.
  • Join the Twitter party on September 24th from 8-10pm. Every 100th Tweet using the hashtag #jumpstart will receive a free copy of the book!

Thanks to Tara @ Deal Seeking Mom for spreading the word!

Pregnancy Magazine for $5 on Amazon

$5 Off Magazines

As I get more advanced in years I'm not sure whether to order Pregnancy for my friends or More! LOL Yep, We age and yet we keep having kids.

And now Pregnancy magazine is just $5.00 after an instant $5.00 discount at Checkout! How is that for super awesome!! Parents Magazine is $4.47 after the $5 discount! More is $17! Well, you get the picture and you can do the math. So follow the link and check out your options.

Fall at the Farmer's Market

Just because the weather is getting cooler, and perhaps a tad wetter, don't forget about the bounty of produce that can be found at your local farmer's markets. Of course, this will vary depending on what part of the country you live in but here in Virginia we're seeing a resurgence of the greens - beautiful lettuce, arugula, basil, and swiss chard - as well as root vegetables like beet, turnips, and radishes. Beans, peppers and onions can still be found and since these veggies that can be 'put away' in a variety of ways buy bunches of them and freeze or can them. Potatoes, sweet and white, will keep in a cool/ dry place for quiet a while so you can stock up on these items as well.

And then there are the fall fruits that are coming in with apples being our favorite! Crisp and delicious and most markets have a bounty this time of the year. Take advantage of the great deals to buy local produce and make applesauce or apple butter. I made a crockpot full of apple butter last year and we're still eating it! It was both easy and delicious!!

This is also the time of the year to think about how to extend the summertime table into the winter months. Although we don't have to think ahead like our fore-mothers due to the advent of refrigeration and a grocery store in every town we all know that 'putting away', as our grandmothers called it, is not only cheaper but it preserves the freshness of the summer months of our local produce.

Now, I don't know how to do my own canning. My best friend does and I think she said she's put away over 40 quarts of tomoto products and 20 quarts of pepper of some sort. Then she did pints. Yep, she had a bounteous garden this year but then she decided it was enough. Personally, I'm about freezing things. I dice up and freeze onions and peppers. I've even frozen whole tomotoes which I learned you could do in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. I also carmelize onions and freeze them.
Don't forget that you can make and freeze pesto. Use a ice cube tray to get 1 oz. portions then when you have cubes pop them out into a zip top freezer bag.

Well, there you go. So many ideas to get you started and so many Cool Ideas!

$1 Meatball Meal from IKEA

The only thing better, to me, than a sale at IKEA, is a sale at the IKEA cafe! If you are headed to IKEA to do your shopping in the next couple of days you can get a meatball plate for $1. YUMMY! Now that is definitely a Cool Idea no matter what language you speak!

Wonderful Wednesday

Mercedes at Common Sense with Money has yet another giveaway. Share your favorite pantry organizing tip from mealtime.org and win a $250 grocery gift card! Definite a Cool Idea!

FREE 4x6 film developing at Walgreens today only with this coupon.

FREE sample of Total Blueberry Pomegrante Cereal

September Mystery Shopping

Now that Comfort and Joy are in school in the mornings at least I've decided to step up my mystery shopping and this month I have NINE shops already scheduled. Yesterday alone, on the first day of Comfort going to big girl preschool, I had THREE shops! Whew!

Here's the breakdown of what I have lined up:
  • one online banking shop [started and on-going]
  • one in bank shop [done]
  • two preschool shops [done]
  • three grocery stores [one tonight, 2 this weekend]
  • one 'burger place' [next week]
  • one car dealership

One thing that will be interesting for me is that many of these shops are new to me. I've not done any of the car dealer shops in my area so this'll be fun. The online banking shop is new, too, and I'm looking forward to completing it because it is substantially more money. I have done a preschool shop before and these are great. [In fact, I'll post more specifics later about signing up.] But the cool thing is that this month really expands my repertoire of mystery shops and that's not a bad thing since we all need to try new things. New things and more income coming in are both definitely a Cool Idea!

Hoo-Ray for Grandparents!

Grandparents Day is one of those holidays I desperately try not to forget even if it's only with an extra 'Thank You' during our weekly phone calls. Comfort and Joy are still at an age where they don't quite understand how the phone works or why they can't see the people they can hear so sometimes the conversations are - well, a bit odd. But one thing I can let the Grandparents know is that we definitely appreciate them.

In fact it was four years ago this week that they became Grandparents for the first time. Comfort came home from the hospital after a week in the NICU and after a few more bumps and hurdles we all started to settle in with the immense help of the Grands. Here dh and I were, thinking we still had a month's more time to prepare both our physical space and ourselves for our future life and then - WHAMMO! We were parents.

I've always been fortunate that I've had the support of my family and this instance was no exception. His mom was here as were my folks and then our church family and our extended family of friends. It was great. The only thing that was better was when Joy was born and everyone did it again. Let no one tell you that the second -or third - or fourth - child gets less love and attention, at least not from these Grands.

I don't think they stepped up to the plate just because we had two exceptional birth stories. One in which one of our kids almost died and the other in which I almost did. I think they stepped up because they love us and now they have the opportunity to shower that love and affection on our kidlets. So a hearty Thanks to the Grandparents in our lives. We couldn't do it without you!

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Electrolux and Kelly Ripa are teaming up to help raise awareness and funds for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and you can help! Throughout September, you can donate $5 to the cause by texting "KELLY" to 85944 from your mobile phones (standard text messaging rates apply) - or logging on to http://www.kelly-confidential.com/. Also, every time you log on to the Web site, you'll be entered for a chance to win an amazing contribution to your home - a luxury front load washer and dryer from Electrolux in Turquoise Sky, the color inspired by the teal ribbon of ovarian cancer awareness.

But wait, there's more. Also during September, visitors to Kelly Confidential can help spread awareness for this important cause by sending a virtual T-shirt to a friend. For every virtual t-shirt sent, Electrolux will donate $1 to the OCRF. Fashion-forward Moms can also purchase a limited edition T-shirt designed by Ripa; 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts will go to OCRF.

Sure, Id be logging in anyway to send virtual shirts to help raise money for women's health but here is a cause near and dear to my heart. Twelve years ago my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The doctor was amazed at the size of the tumor and they operated the week after she went to see him. She was extremely lucky considering the tumor was the size of a grapefruit. They tested all the surrounding organs and tissues and the cancer had not spread and she did not have to have chemo or radiation. We know that this is very unusual and very lucky. Her doctor still follows her and each year they have a celebration - as much for my mom as for the staff of the office.

I hope I don't have to reiterate that it's important to do what we can to help promote awareness and fundraising for issues like Ovarian Cancer. It's important to do what we can and when companies like Electrolux want to help I think that's a Cool Idea!

Ace of Homemade Cakes

I think that the Food Network should have a new show called 'Homemade Cakes' and it could be a cautionary tale about cakes gone wrong or cakes that started out as good ideas but didn't quite make it.

Let's just say that Comfort will never confuse her birthday cake with store bought! She said she wanted 'big' and 'pink' - like Melody's. For those of you who have not had to watch the straight to video Little Mermaid story in which Melody - Ariel's daughter - has a birthday and then finds out that she is a mermaid. Well, the fairy tale cake is multi-tiered and pink.

There was no way I was going to try multi-tiered but I figured I could handle pink. I tried 'big' by cutting the cake into smaller pieces so that it could go taller. What I neglected to figure in is the structural integrity of a Betty Crocker cake is roughly that of a Twinkie. Zilch.

So, after a couple of layers it started to topple. I decided to make this a reality rather than an accident and put the cake on it's side so the layers were vertical intead of horizontal. Not a bad decision in reality.

The pink frosting as easy since I just put a bit of red food coloring into a can of white frosting. Where things went a bit wrong was the white piping that I tried. The 'cookie' icing that I bought was too runny to hold up on the edges and for writing so it moved across the cake.

Let's just say that this is a cake that a four year old enjoyed and tasted great but there are several reasons why there is not a picture accompanying this post! But no matter how it looked it tasted fine - if a bit sweet due to all the frosting - and Comfort got what she asked for a big and pink cake. But most importantly we had a lovely time together celebrating a wonderful day in the life of our family and I can't think of a cooler idea than that.

Wonderful Wednesday

Hey, guess what, today really is Wednesday? That's what I get for having a 'free' Monday. So, Here we go:

Mercedes at Common Sense with Money is running another great giveaway. This time it's a great gift card from Hallmark to help encourage our kids as they head back to school.

Erin at $5 Dinners is hosting another great giveaway. Her friend Kate from Stolen Moments Cooking and Stolen Moments Menu Planning is offering a one-year subscription to the basic (dinners only) plan, or a 6 month subscription to the complete (breakfast, lunch & dinner) plan to 1 lucky reader!

FREE Sample of Curel Itch Defense Lotion

FREE Sample of Playtex Gentle Glide Sample Pack

20 FREE 4x6 Prints plus FREE Shipping from Snapfish. Expires 9/13. Use discount code: FREELABOR. New accounts only.

Panera Bread locations are offering FREE tastings of their new menu items tomorrow, Sept 10th! Hop on over to check their locations.

And if you are still doing Back to School preparations, don't forget that tomorrow, Sept 10th is the last day for the discount code 'itscool' for Lovable Labels. We are loving our's more and more every day especially as I find more items that need to be labeled!

90% off at Restaurant.com - Sept 9th ONLY

Restaurant.com Weekly Promo Offer 300 x 250


Use discount code: NINETY to get $25 certificates for only $1! Remember that these certificates are good for a year so this would be a great time to stock up.

Read the fine print for each restaurant, of course, but being this early in the month you should find a good selection. This would be a great time to grab some certificates for your Holiday Shopping as well, like we talked about in the Christmas in July series.

Back to School Means a New Insurance Year

Along with new resolutions I'm reminded that it's time for our family to pick new insurance. If you are lucky enough to have great, and affordable, insurance through your employer - count yourself very fortunate. Remember, too, that no one wants to take that away from you. I've had great insurance through previous employers and I'd love to have it back.

But currently, while I'm home with the girls, dh is working for a small, private school that doesn't have very many full-time employees. The insurance that they offer for our family of 4 would cost us half of dh's take-home salary per month. This is almost as much as our mortgage! Seriously!

So, last year we went out on our own and got insurance but we hit an unexpected snag. The girls and I are covered together but dh had to get his own plan because we didn't realize, until after we'd accepted our plan, that because it was the same company as we'd had before they wouldn't bid against themself in insuring dh. So he wasn't covered for several months until we figured this out - while standing at the pharmacy trying to fill a very costly prescription.

Still, we have insurance that covers the basics and the high-end stuff but nothing in between. I don't get dental or vision or even my prescriptions covered. Luckily we've only needed to go to the doctor for 'routine maintenance' and that is all covered. I've had to make do with less frequent trips to the dentist for myself but I have excellent dental health and it hasn't made an impact yet. However, now that Comfort, and soon Joy, will need biannual check ups I'll need to budget those trips in, too.

All this to say that think what you will about things that politicians say to one another from stump speeches and the floor of Congress, but this is the second time in my life that I've had little or no health insurance and I'm not even 40 years old.

The first time was when I was just out of college and not yet employeed full-time. Dh was in grad-school and he had insurance through the school for $25/ year. To add me to his policy would have cost us more than we paid in rent each month. Why? Because I was considered fertile and an insurance risk. Women of childbearing age are expensive to insure. As women, and many of us 'Moms', I think it's important to remember that everyone deserves access to adequate health care. Don't let this issue fly over your head or ping around you like a tennis match. We've all seen the what the economy has done this past year and know 'that for the grace of God...' - so make sure that you put your two cents in when you can and help out everyone. Even those who don't have a voice.

Back to School Shopping with Amazon

I didn't get the official school supply list for Comfort or Joy's classes until Saturday so I've spent a good part of the weekend checking through my stockpile for things I knew I had: hand sanitizer, baby wipes, paper towels, etc. , and then running out to Kroger for the things I knew were on sale this week: liquid soap, composition notebooks, glue sticks, etc.

But that still left a few items on our list that I'll need to find in the next week. I could keep driving around from store to store but by the time I figure in gas and my time I decided I'd let my fingers do the shopping and go online to Amazon.

There, in a matter of minutes, I finished the shopping that I needed and even bought myself a little treat. Check out the deal on MP3 below! I so rarely buy music for myself that I can't even tell you the last album I bought. Mostly I mooch of dh's tunelist - or even Comfort and Joy's. [I do love the Philadelphia Chickens!] But I decided to get some grown up music for myself and this was a great deal.

Check it out. There are some great albums/ deals out there and for this price you can try something totally new. Give a new artist a try. Give yourself a new experience. That's definitely a Cool Idea!

Celebrate Labor Day with Chick-Fil-A

Monday, September 7 from 10:30am to close participating Chick-Fil-A restaurants will give out a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich to each person wearing the clothing of a sporting team. Check out Chick-Fil-A for store locations and details. Stop by wearing some fun clothes and get a great - and FREE - chicken sandwich!

The Grocery Game Winner!

I did it! I cracked the 60% mark! In fact, I hit 61%!! I can't tell you how excited I am. My original total was $52.08 and then I had $13.84 in coupons. My total Kroger Plus Savings was $37.99/ 61%

Well, actually I will tell you how excited I am:) So much so that I'm posting about grocery shopping twice in one week.

And this is what I did... I stuck to the list. I followed The Grocery Game, picked items that I knew we would need, checked to make sure they were over 50% mark downs, gathered all of my coupons, loaded coupons from Cellfire, Shortcuts, uPromise [grab the button below if you need an account], printed from coupons.com [from the right hand sidebar], and had several from the Kroger mailings that came last month.

I also took advantage of the Kellogg's/ Keebler Free Milk Deal. I never end up doing these because usually they are for products I don't need but cereal and cookies are always things I can stockup on around here. But I had enough coupons for 2 FREE Gallons of Milk!

I did get one thing that wasn't on sale at all - Barkeeper's Friend - but truly I've never seen it on sale and I was afraid I'd forget that I heard it would help clean my porcelain sink if I didn't but it now. Of course it was $1.89. The next thing that had the worst mark down actually was the apple juice since it was only 29% off even though it was 10/$10 but it was off set by the fact that I was able to double up the natural sale price of Kroger Peanut Butter [at .99] with a .75 coupon from the Kroger mailing and got an 18 oz. jar of Kroger PB for .22!

And there we go. I even came home with some food. Comfort was asking to try the Tiger Cereal when we got home so we snacked on Frosted Flakes - part of the Kellogg's/ Keebler deal and there was a $1 off coupon in the Kroger mailing. Now that everything is put away I'm hoping that we don't need anything next week.

Except that Comfort asked for cheese with lunch and I noticed that we're out! Hopefully that'll be on The Grocery Game next week. Fingers Crossed because I have lots of coupons.

The Perfect Stroller

Sadly, this is not a review. It's more of a vision exercise.

It's been a long time since we've used a stroller. Comfort and Joy are toddlers after all and strollers aren't really made for those that are mobile. Have I also mentioned that our girls are very tall. Comfort is in the 75% for her age and Joy is literally off the chart. I know a lot of parents say this but I'm not joking. People ask us if Comfort is 7 and if Joy is starting Kindergarten when in reality they are 3 [going on 4 next week] and 2, respectively.

But we were doing a lot of sightseeing in DC last week and I knew that there was no way we could cover that much ground without a stroller because I couldn't carry them that far either. Carrying them short trips through a store - Yes. From the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial - No.

So we pulled out the Sit and Stand stroller that a friend loaned us last year after I mentioned that Comfort was 'done' with our wonderful jogging stroller. She'd had enough of it and wanted more freedom. My friend's kids had just outgrown it and this was perfect timing. It was a rude awakening for me as I transitioned from the wonderful, and lightweight, double jogging stroller to the tandem, rear stearing Sit and Stand style stroller.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who finds these strollers to be almost more difficult than they are worth. Yes, they did offer us a way to keep the kids moving while not having to actually carrying them myself but at what cost. Steering one of these strollers - or any tandem stroller - is like steering an 18-wheeler from the rear. I'm not kidding. And for some reason these things weigh so much even though they appear to be hollow. Whereas, my jogging stroller appeared to me made of metal tubes and was so light I could get it in and out of the back of the car with little effort.

So this is what I propose - I want a Sit and Stand stroller that drives as well as a jogging stroller. I'm sure this technology exists and I can't be the first person to think of it. Here are some specific things that would be helpful:
  • Ways to keep feet of older kids in the front seat off the ground
  • Good wheels. Just going across a broken pavement nearly pitched Comfort off the sitting platformm
  • Additional width. Doors most places are ADA compliant so take advantage of this..
  • Here's a novel idea - kick off the front seat and have two benches for people like me who have two toddlers in this 'I can't walk that far' age range

So there it is. Sadly, until the girls get more stamina we probably won't be going on any mega sightseeing adventures again because the I can't take using the stroller again. Even yesterday's trip up the street to the bank and the drugstore was painful. Literally. A better idea, in fact, a Cool Idea, would be a stroller that was lightweight, steered liked a dream and had wheels that could handle broken pavement instead of being made only for the smooth surface of a shopping mall.

Thank you.

Survey Payouts!

I'm not sure I've mentioned Gongos before but they are a wonderful survey company to sign up with. Don't let the funny name get in the way because this will be a great opportunity for you. They won't send you a ton of surveys probably but you'll see a greater amount of payout vs. your time input than you will for other sites.

I've also had the opportunity to do 2 full product tests for them and both of these came with additional payouts. Gongos pays in Amazon gift cards and they pay often. They also have a forums area for their members to chat about most anything you'd want to and you get points for your chatting, too. Yep, it's a win win.

So hop on over and sign up because I figure in a couple of months you'll already have at least $5-$10 in Amazon gift cards from Gongos and by then you'll be in prime Holiday thinking mode - right?

LightSpeed Research

And before I close for the day, I thought I'd check to make sure everyone had a chance to sign up with Lightspeed Panel Surveys. They have some fun panels, some quick match surveys, and always tell you how long the surveys will take. I just cashed out my points for another $20 into my PayPal account. Hop on over and sign up for these great panels. Making money while giving companies your opinion is definitely a Cool Idea!

KraftMaid is Back!

I have a friend getting ready to redo her kitchen and you can bet that I'm going to make sure she gets a copy of this. Of course, this isn't the first time she's redone a kitchen. Of course, new tips and ideas are always helpful especially when they come from the experts at KraftMaid. These booklets go quickly so grab it while it's around. It's definitely a Cool Idea!

Wonderful Wednesday

Mercedes at Common Sense with Money is hosting a fantastic giveaway. She is giving away a six month supply of Ragu sauce to three readers. Hop on over and check out the ways to enter. This giveaway is open until 9/6/09.

Kids Eat Free at IKEA Sept 5-7, 2009 - not to mention that they have some wonderful things on sale this Labor Day weekend. So, if you need anything for the house this fall and you want to feed the kids a healthy meal head on out to your local IKEA.

Don't forget you can enter The Big Clip sweepstakes daily for a huge chance to win Box Tops for Education for your school.

Don't forget that you can still get a 10% discount on Lovable Labels until Sept 10th using the code itscool.

And in case you haven't noticed yet SWAGBUCKS released a new toolbar yesterday and it is super cool! Not only can you still search from the toolbar if you are an IE user but now Firefox and Safari users can, too! Very Nice! SwagCodes can also be found on the toolbar and you can trade your swagbucks in much easier. Well there are even more things you can do but you'll need to download it to believe it. It's beautiful. Truly.

Search & Win

Another bonus is that they are releasing a free SwagCode every day for the Month of September to celebrate the new toolbar. It will be much easier to catch the codes if you have the new toolbar so grab the button here and hop on over. Swagbucks are definitely a Cool Idea!

And here we go with our weekly freebie list:

FREE greeting card from The Card Store until 9/7

FREE Sample of Bear Naked Cereal or Granola Bars

FREE Sample of Aveeno Nourish+Shampoo and Conditioner

FREE Sample of Kashi Cereal

FREE Sample of Playtex Sport Tampons

Coupon Bar is Recharged

It's the beginning of the month and the blue Coupons.com bar is fully charged. I just took a quick look through there and I think if you printed now you would have all the cereal you'd need for a long time! Lots of good cereal coupons. Also, great Yoplait coupons and I'm pretty sure I printed the Keebler cookies for myself, too.

There are so many on there today I can't even decide what to point out first so just hop on over and check it out. Print what you need and leave the rest for someone else. Don't forget that the cellfire coupons are good for another week or so, too, so grab those if you need them because we all know there are going to be some good sales at the store this week. Right!

Grocery Game Success!

It's a small success in something that really isn't a game after all but this was my first shopping trip that wasn't 'oh, I need to pick up a couple of things to take on vacation' related. For the first time since July I was going to stick to the list and thankfully Kroger had helped by scheduling a Mega Event to help me out.

Unfortunately, this Mega Event was school/ convenience food related. I know this helps a lot of people but my brain isn't quite there yet. I was still think about my meal planning issues and seeing that Fruit by the Foot was on sale didn't really help me. In fact, I can not even imagine what Comfort's behavior would be like if she ate a foot of that stuff! *shudders*

But I made my list and grabbed my coupons and made sure I could eak out 10 items to qualify for the Mega Event and wadded into Saturday Afternoon at Kroger. Once again I was reminded why I shop during the weekday mornings. I like having the store to myself.

I did get 2 items that weren't on The Grocery Game list but I had a coupon for them. Surprisingly, these were also convenience food/ school related. Everything else was either on The Grocery Game list or I had a coupon or a free item. [The free item was a box of Rice Krispies and this coupon came from being registered at Vocalpoint. Membership is free and they send out coupons and trial products throughout the year.] I even got a bonus discount on the rotisserie chicken because it was marked down another $2 from $4.99 to $2.99. Not sure why but my guess would be becuase it was a pretty scrawny bird.

All this to say that my plateau of 41% off, which isn't bad, got a bit better yesterday because I got it up to 45% off. Still not as good as what I hear a lot of other people consistently get but it may be the nature of the items I purchase. That's okay. I'd rather be buying things that I'll actually use then getting a good deal on stuff that I won't use.

The nice part about this trip to the grocery, too, is that I could see some meals taking shape as I walked through the store. The Grocery Game is about stockpiling when prices are low so that you have things on hand and sometimes, or many times, I'll come home and realize that I didn't actually buy anything to eat. That's okay if you remember the point. But yesterday crescent rolls were on sale and I thought about the many uses they could provide. I've used them to make little pizzas. I'm also thinking of using them for the top of a pot pie. Perhaps we'll have some kind of tartlet, too. That part will come next but at least I have the items on hand and I paid a good price for them. And that is the best and Coolest Idea I can think of