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Friday, December 3, 2010

FRUGAL FRIDAY: In the kitchen

I missed Frugal Friday last week because I was busy with cakes.  Today I made sure to set some time aside for some tips.

We waste so much food here in America that it's just a sin.  There are so many ways we could cut back on our waste and save money at the same time.  Winter is a great time to make homemade soups and homemade bread.  With Thanksgiving just last week, what did you all do with your turkey carcass?  And might I just add...what a strange word carcass is!  If you're like myself and my mother-in-law, you put it in a pot, covered it with water and boiled it to make some great homemade turkey stock!  I don't use recipes for my soup, which makes my sister terribly nervous. HA!  I just don't.  So for you recipe lovers, here's a recipe for Day-After-Thanksgiving-Turkey-Carcass-Soup.    You can also use your ham bone (my favorite!) and chicken carcass.  I'm not particularly fond of using beef bones but some love it.  I just don't enjoy the flavor.  Another thing I like to do for stock just enhances your meat stock or if you're vegetarian, it's great veggie stock.  I wash my vegetables before peeling and save peelings and ends of onions (skin and all),  garlic skins, carrot peel and ends, zucchini ends, celery ends and leaves.  The list really is endless.  As I get little bits of scraps, I stuff them into a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer until I've got enough to make stock!  Brilliant!

Milk on the verge of the expiration date is not something that ever happens in my house.  Some days, we go through an entire gallon...in one day!  My boys are definitely milk drinkers.  Anyhow, don't throw it away!  Make pudding and have dessert.  Better yet, since I'm a cake baker, I save the scraps of cake from leveling and sculpting and such to make trifles.  Cube the cake and freeze for the perfect time.  My entire family loves trifles and they're so simple.  You can find tons of different combos for these desserts but our basic is layers of cake cubes, pudding in any flavor, bananas, cool whip and repeat.  How easy?! 

Banana's go bad very fast.  If you've got a banana or 2 getting a bit too freckled for your taste, they're probably perfect for bread or muffins.  No time to use it right away?  freeze the entire banana, peel and all!  Make sure that you put them in a bowl to thaw because they do give off a lot of liquid and they will be very mushy...but again, perfect for bread!

That's all for now.  Happy cooking and have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Upcoming Review From CSN Stores!

I love being a preferred blogger for CSN Stores.  It allows me to offer giveaways and host product reviews on a monthly basis.  For Christmas this year, my family has decided to fore go the presents and take a trip to Florida to visit family and go to Disney!  We are very excited!  Having 3 boys, something that would come in handy for us is children's luggage .  We usually just pack out things in one large suitcase on wheels and many different bags.  I think the kids would enjoy having luggage of their own.

Visit CSN Stores for all your holiday shopping this season.  They offer free shipping on tons of different items and they have a price guarantee.  If you see any particular item on a different site for less (including shipping), email them using the special link and get a special code for the lower price!  I love that!

Stay tuned for my review.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frugal Friday! Energy Costs

Well, as promised, I'm trying to get back into my Frugal Friday series.  I'm in the middle of 3 cake orders for tomorrow so today's tips will be short. 

Recently I had NYSERTA come in and do some energy saving things in my home.  This was a free service to us because we received HEAP last year to help pay for our heating bill.  I feel like I basically know what it takes to cut down on my energy bill but they did give me some interesting information as far as putting numbers into the equation.  It costs, on average, .17 per hour to run your electric dryer!  WOW!  With the amount of laundry I do, that adds up very quickly.  I'm guilty of being very lazy in this area.  I do have a clothes line outside but really, I can only use it in the spring and summer.  I have a retractable clothes line in my bedroom but that holds like 1/4 of a load!  I honestly don't have room for those wooden drying racks so other than the dryer, what's a family to do?  I'm thinking of hanging another indoor line and at least hang half of each load.  I also learned that you use more energy using a dryer if you aren't cleaning the lint filter after every use.  Obviously, it runs longer if the lint filter is clogged.

They also changed 16 light bulbs to the super energy efficient compact florescent bulbs.  They produce the same amount of light and use a whopping 75% less energy than a regular bulb.  Over the life of one CFL (compact florescent light bulb) you can save up to $70!  Multiply that times every light bulb in your house and that's a decent amount of money  back in your pocket!

So here are some frightening numbers for you as far as average costs to run different things around your house.  The numbers are based on NY State average electricity cost of .16/Kwh.  Appliances obviously vary so these are ballpark estimates.

42" HDTV:  6 hours per day = $7.01/month
Radio: 6 hours per day = $1.44/month (listen to the radio for that "white noise" instead of the TV!)
Computer: 6 hours per day = $7.82/month
Fish Tanks: $14.03/month
Waterbeds: $16.77/month
Swimming Pool Pump:  12 hours per day = $150.69/month!!  My brochure says we run these much longer than needed and suggests a timer.

Did you know that you can lower your heating bill by 1% for EVERY DEGREE you lower the thermostat for an 8 hour period!  Hello!!  Get some extra blankets and turn that heat down at night!  This is the example given:

Lowering your thermostat from 70 to 68 for a 24 hour period saves 6%
Lowering your thermostat from 68 to 60 when away from home or sleeping for 8 hours saves an additional 16%

These savings add up to 22%  and for every $1000 you use to heat your home, that's a savings of $220!!!  Holy Cow!  I really think I need to be better about this at night!  I freeze all winter long so I'm guilty of not turning it down.  I think I'll change my plan since we're not applying for HEAP this year. 

This one hits home for me as a SAHM with a cake business...on average it costs .17 per hour to run my gas stove!!!  Puts my costs more into perspective and makes me think twice about what I'm charging for cakes!

I've got more info but no time.  I hope some of this info helps you and gives you the desire to change!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Night Terrors: YIKES!

If you've read previous posts, you know that my Max has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction).  Now that his routine is established and he's back in therapy in school, things have mostly gotten better.  Summertime is hard for Max because we're more relaxed and don't really have any kind of schedule.  It took him a few weeks to get back into the routine of school and homework and set bedtimes.  I'm thinking ahead of time and have decided that when summer rolls around again, we need to figure out how we can keep him on some sort of schedule.  

It's only been this school year that we're really understanding how this SPD works and how we can help Max deal with it.  We've tried a couple of things to make up a sensory diet for Max.  This isn't a diet that involves food, this is a diet of different techniques we do with Max to help him calm his senses.  We do brushing before and after school and that seems to be the most beneficial to Max.  I occasionally, although should do it every time, do joint compression after the brushing and we got Max a small indoor trampoline for him to jump on.  In church we use our fingers to tickle his arms and back and it's like magic to get him to calm down and behave. 


We've noticed that Max's behavior and the severity of the SPD on any particular day is almost always directly related to his sleep pattern from the previous night.  The first time Max had a night terror, needless to say, my husband and I were scared!  To see your child in that state is truly terrifying!  I remember at one point before we had the diagnosis of SPD thinking he had some sort of Schizophrenia!  For Max, and I guess is characteristic of night terrors, is that it happens early in the night, usually 1-4 hours after going to bed.  There's no set pattern for him as far as the frequency.  Last night, he got up, came to the kitchen for a drink and by the time he got back to his bedroom he was crying really loudly.  This is the first time our oldest, Zachary, had witnessed one of his episodes.  Zach went to him and asked him what was wrong and I heard Max say "I don't know."  Zach got him back into bed and layed with him until he fell back to sleep.  This was a rather short and mild episode compared to some I remember.  I can remember one time when he cried hysterically and insisted that there were spiders all over his bed.  He cries loudly (without tears), taps his fingers together nervously, looks terrified, has no idea what's going on, doesn't seem to know who we are sometimes and never remembers in the morning.  You can bank on him having a terrible day if he's had a bad night.

Max has always had trouble calming down and going to sleep at night.  I know all the experts say (and some friends and family with sometimes unwanted advice) that the bedroom is only for sleeping and I shouldn't let him read in bed or listen to music but I find that these are the things that may help him.  If the kid has trouble winding down, should I simply tell him to lay in bed for an hour until he falls asleep?  Then he's up and down twelve thousand times with different excuses every time for why he's out of bed!  There are only so many things that work with Max as far as getting him to do what he's told.  I can't simply tell him to stay in bed and have him listen, he just doesn't work that way.  In fact, there are very few things that might work.  The threat of not having computer privileges the following day seems to be the thing of the moment. 

SPD kids are so hard to deal with on a day to day basis but Max's sense of humor and his deep love for his family just amaze me.  These are kids that are definitely misunderstood and looked upon as kids who are simply "bad kids" who just don't want to listen.  As their parents, we're judged as bad parents because we can't "control" our kids.  Our SPD kids have trouble making friends in school and are sometimes looked upon as "one of those kids" by classmates parents.  You know, the kids you say "ugh, I don't want that kid coming to the party" or "that kid cannot come to my house."  It's heartbreaking to have a misunderstood child.  It's heartbreaking to think that people can't look beyond these issues to see the heart that my child has.  That's why, as an SPD parent, I'll do what I can to help him with his sensory diet and to help him figure out how he can deal with it when I'm not there to help him.  My heart goes out to all you families dealing with these issues.  We've got super special precious children.  God chose us to be their parents for a reason.  Love, learn and teach!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Missing In Action and a little ranting.

I think part of the reason I quit doing regular posts about everyday life in my surrounded-by-boys world is because I feel like they're falling on deaf ears.  Man, the blogger world is fickle!  What's the key to having loyal followers who like to comment on posts?  I think in my blogging world I feed off your reactions and comments.  If I'm getting nothing, I guess I'll give nothing. 

Maybe I'll actually take the time to sit and get some things written and see how it goes.  I'd hate to be a blog that only does reviews and giveaways....how boring!  So, I'll try to update regularly on Max and his SPD and I'd love to continue my Frugal Friday series I abandoned before it even got established.  I've been doing lots of thinking about the direction of my blog.  A sort of support group type blog for other parents dealing with SPD...recipes...tips on being more frugal...reviews & giveaways...a bit of all?  What do you, my followers, look for in an interesting blog?  I'd love to know. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CSN Stores $35 Coupon Code Giveaway!

Head on over to my cake blog and enter for a chance to win a $35.00 coupon code to use on your next purchase from CSN Stores!  Giveaway ends on 11/5 so hurry over!

CSN Stores Upcoming Review: Pawleys Island Castaway Air Chair

We've been waiting for a very long time for this chair to come in so Zach could try it out in his bedroom.  It took so long that CSN Stores emailed us a code for an extra 10% off our order!  Nice right?!  CSN Stores has graciously offered us the chance to do a review again and this time Zach got to choose the product.  Weather you're looking for a new dining room table or a fancy waffle maker, CSN Stores is your place.  CSN Stores offers over 200 online shops to choose from and offers free shipping on TONS of items!  Who doesn't love free shipping?

If I were shopping for a new dining room table, I'd probably choose something like the Tradewins Cherry Expressions 7 Piece Set.  Head on over and check them out and watch for my upcoming review!

CSN Stores Review: Pure Fun Mini Trampoline

We recently had the opportunity to work with CSN Stores again decided to go with something for Max this time.   As you know from previous posts, Max is living with SPD (sensory processing disorder) and one of our issues with him is that he's forever doing somersaults and headstands on the furniture.  I'm not sure what made me think of a trampoline but what a God-send! 

The Pure Fun 40" Mini Trampoline arrived VERY quickly and I didn't pay shipping charges.  I've mentioned in previous posts that many of CSN Stores items offer free shipping, which for me, is a big hit!
It didn't take long to figure out the directions.  I normally wait for Cory to put things together but we were too anxious.  I'm not the most patient person in the world.


videoI apologize for the sideways video but I'm not savvy enough to know how to flip it around.  You get the idea and can see how much Max loves it!  You can also HEAR how loud my house is!  Right away he was trying to do tricks on it.  I love the handle on it because I think it allows him to jump harder on it and therefore increasing the input he's receiving on his legs.  Luke is a bit too small for the handle but he likes to hang from it..HA! 

The sensory diet we're trying to provide for Max is really helping and we're finally seeing results.  If you're not familiar with a sensory diet, it doesn't involve the food he eats.  A sensory diet includes different techniques we do with Max to give him the sensory input he needs such as brushing and the trampoline.  We're working on figuring out something he can do for oral stimulation as he's constantly eating and especially loves gum and chewy candy.  We're worried that this will lead to some sort of eating disorder and result in him being obese.  This is also where the trampoline is beneficial to him as it's also great for burning calories!  You mom's could play on it when the kids are away at school!

Overall we're very pleased with the trampoline and I really can't think of any criticisms other than the size of it and lack of storage.  That was something we were aware of before we ordered it though.  It's sturdy, has nice soft foam handle grips and holds up to 220 pounds.

I highly recommend this trampoline for any family and especially those who are dealing with SPD.  Imagine how great this thing will be in the dead of winter when they're bored and sick of the cold!

Head on over to one of the 200+ CSN Stores and get your Christmas shopping done!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CSN Stores

If you haven't had the chance to visit CSN Stores from my previous posts, you're surely missing out.  I'm happy to be working with them again for another review.  It's been a busy summer so those reviews will be coming up now that the kids are in school again.  CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from from coffee table to fantastic fitniss equipment to cookware.

Stay tuned for my review and in the meantime go visit one of the 200 CSN Stores and shop!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CostumeSupercenter Review!

Recently I was contacted by CostumeSupercenter to do a review of a costume of my choice.  I was super excited to have been chosen for this particular review as my 7 year old son, Max has always been a fan of dressing up.  We actually purchased extra costumes on clearance from WalMart after Halloween last year just so he could dress up throughout the year.  His costumes of choice are usually Star Wars or Ninja characters.  He followed suit with this costume and chose the Clone Trooper Leader  Rex.  CostumeSupercenter has a great selection of Star Wars Costumes!

When I told Max what the review was for, he was giddy!  He literally spent hours searching through the many, many costumes offered on Costume Supercenter.  The choices offered by this site for Halloween Costumes is wonderful!  The prices are very competitive as well.  Price is always an issue for my family and this is a site that even families like ours, on a tight budget, can afford.

Max's costume arrived in record time!  Our order was placed and before the week had ended, Max was a Clone Trooper!  My first impression of the costume was that it was very high quality, unlike many Halloween costumes that are out there.  We're so used to those cheap costumes from WalMart that this costume was a treat!
The costume came with several parts.  The 2 piece mask was the first thing Max put on.  There's something about a kid putting on that mask, that's when they truly become the character!  The mask is a heavy duty plastic and has Velcro pieces on either side to keep the mask together and on the child's head.  We've had issues with the Velcro staying together, honestly.  Max actually commented that he didn't think they were both the same size as they don't seem to fit together correctly.  I'm not sure how they could rectify this issue, maybe longer strips of Velcro or snaps would be better.
The next pieces were the costume, belt and neck piece.  I hadn't read the size guideline and ordered a large which fits an average 12-14.  I should have gotten a medium.  I'm hoping by Halloween he has a growth spurt as it's quite big on him.  He doesn't care, though, he still wears it around the house.  The costume is very detailed and true to the character.

I think I'll still have to adjust it somehow so it doesn't look ridiculous on him.  Being too big is better than too small though, now he'll be able to wear it for a long time.  I do believe it'll hold up to Max's rough-n-tumble ways as well.
Overall, we're very happy with our experience at Costume supercenter and will surly use them in the future as I don't anticipate Max growing out of his love of costumes any time soon.
If your family is in need of a great costume this Halloween or anytime for that matter, please check out Costume Supercenter.  Take advantage of limited time free shipping on all orders over $40 with the coupon code FREE40.  Now go shop!



I received this costume free of charge from Costume Supercenters in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions in this review are my own.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh so far behind!

I've been MIA again.  I guess it's just my blogging style to post in spurts..sorry!  It's been such a busy, busy summer that I honestly haven't had time to sit and write.  We've done summer camp, short vacations, swimming lessons and I've been incredibly busy with cakes.  I'll be back for a bit as I've got some reviews to share with you!  Stay tuned....

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba tickets!

I've entered for a chance to win tickets to take Luke to see Yo Gabba Gabba at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.  Luke would love this concert!  Go over to Momma D and Da Boyz and enter for your chance to win these tickets!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wilton Giveaway

Head on over to my cake blog and enter for a chance to win 2 great Wilton products.

Surrounded By Boys Wilton Giveaway

Monday, July 12, 2010

Writers Block...I guess

I guess I just have to accept the fact that my blogging desires come in waves.  Or I just get some serious cases of writers block.  I just haven't felt like posting for a long while again.  Does this happen to you?

I haven't had lots of cake orders lately, but I do have some other exciting business related things happening.  First is that I've been asked to sell cupcakes and cookies in a local bagel bakery.  It's been a couple of months in the works, but I'm finally dropping product off on Friday for the weekend crowd.  The second, more far fetched is that I've applied to be on a new competition series in TLC as a spin off of Cake Boss.  My next step is to make a video showing my personality which terrifies me!  I'm waiting to hear from a fellow church member to see if he'd help me out with this.  I'm really not hopeful, but I suppose I've got just as good a chance as anyone, huh?  I guess we shall see!

The boys are starting swimming lessons this morning as they do every summer.  I have to say, though, that I don't look forward to them at all!  They're 5 days a week for around 8 weeks.  One boy has lessons at one town pool, the other at another, 5 miles away.  Monday and Wednesday's when Luke has his, we're out for over 3 hours and have over an hour in between lessons to kill time.  But, they love doing them so I can't say no. 

Next week Zach goes to camp for a week.  This will be his first time going to a sleep-away camp and I'm a bit anxious.  I know he'll have a great time, though.  It's a Christian camp in Pennsylvania that our church is involved in.  We were blessed to receive a scholarship so he could go.  I'm sure Max is looking forward to having a break from his brother for a week too.

I'm hoping I can get the blog-juices going again and resume my normal posts.  Have a great week, all!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upcoming Review with CSN Stores!

I've been given the opportunity to review a product from CSNStores!  I'll be honest, I had never checked out their site until now.  I had no idea what I was missing!  Goodbye Amazon....HELLO CSNSTORES!  Seriously, I could provide you with a list a mile long of things I want to purchase from their site.  At the top of the list is one of their dining room tables!  The selection is amazing and you won't believe the prices!  I'd tell you which one I'll be saving up for, but I can't decide!  Too many affordable beautiful choices!

Anyway, my review will be from csnstores.com and will be for the American Plastic Toys: My Very Own Kitchen.  Since Luke has been so interested in my cooking lately, I figured he would love this!  Kitchen sets aren't just for girls anymore!  My boy will turn chef...stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

5 minutes for me

As you know, I've been pretty much absent for a couple of weeks.  I've been crazy busy with cake orders, the end of baseball season and school and everything else in between.  I had a total of 11 orders between the last two weekends.  I'm so thankful!  But that also means less time to spend on my blog.  I have to say that I've been missing it and sort of feel guilty.  I have a feeling such will be the case the rest of the summer.  I'd like to get back to my Frugal Friday's at least because I know a few of you were looking forward to it.  So, this is what I've been up to....  I didn't take pics of all of the work since some was repeat of other cakes and plain cupcakes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time just slips away!

I've been so busy lately with my cake business that time is just slipping away.  I'm grateful for the increase, seriously grateful!  I just told my friends the other day that I used to pray for God to give me just as much business as I could handle.  Then, after listening to Joyce Meyer one day on TV, I changed the way I pray about it.  She said if you are going to pray, ask big!  Don't underestimate what God can do for you.  So, I started praying for God to just flood me with business.  No joke, I've had 11 orders between last weekend and next!  Just about every day I have inquiries about orders.  God is good!

Anyway, what's been happening besides cake and icing?  Well, Max turned 7 on the 15th.  We haven't been able to celebrate with his friends yet because of the cakes.  I made him an ice cream cake and we had his dinner of choice, chili cheese dogs and macaroni and cheese.  He got a new bigger bike this year and he was very excited.

He wants to take 2 friends to the movies to celebrate.  He also got to spend 2 nights with his aunt and went to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.  He and Zach came home baked from the brutal sun, even though they said she put sunblock on them twice. 

My niece graduated from 8th grade today and I went and watched that ceremony.  It's amazing how quickly time slips away.  Tomorrow Zach will have his moving up ceremony.  He's going into 7th grade.  I can't say that I'm really looking forward to having Zach and Max home all summer......together.  All my 2 older boys do is argue and it's sooooooo aggravating!  We'll make it work I suppose.

So 2 more days left of school, then no alarm for me!  Yay!  I'll be back early next week...in the meantime, I'll be cakin'

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Please forgive me and hang in there!

I'm so sorry!  I've been MIA for a few days as my cake business has suddenly taken a turn for the better!  I had 6 cake orders for this weekend and I have 2 more to go.  I missed my Frugal Friday :-(.....

I'm trying to sit down tomorrow and update you on all that's happend, including Max's 7th birthday!

Bear with me, please.

Monday, June 14, 2010

SUPER MAX




This is what happens when your six year old gets hold of the camera.  It's quite comical!


SUPER EXCITED!


SUPER SCARED!


SUPER SILLY!

SUPER......GROSS?

I have no idea what he was eating but, clearly, he's not the cleanest boy alive.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Frugal Friday 6/11

This turned out to be a busy week since I got 2 large last minute cake orders.  I hope you all enjoyed my first edition of Frugal Friday last week.  Earlier in the week before my 2 orders came in, I thought to myself that I should write my post for Friday just in case and I never did.  Big mistake!  So, I'm taking a break from caking to bring you some more tips.

This week...IN THE KITCHEN!

Homemade Stock


I have to say that nothing tastes quite as good as a homemade stock when making soup.  And I know what you're thinking..".stock?  I'm NOT making my own stock.  There are so many good ones on the shelf of the grocery store!"  Not only is this a better tasting stock but you control what goes in!  And, not only are you getting a great tasting stock, you're also cutting down on household waste!

Here's what you do:

Every time you get ready to use a vegetable, wash the outside thoroughly, even onions and garlic.  Get yourself a freezer container or baggie and every time you peel a vegetable, stick the peelings and ends that get cut off into this container in the freezer.  When it's full, add it to water and boil it.  Strain and voila! stock!
You can use anything you like in it.  Carrot peelings and ends, zucchini ends, pepper tops, onion and garlic skin, green trimmings (collards, escarole, etc), celery tops and bottoms, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower stalks, honestly the list is endless!

No more expensive extract! (Citrus)

I'm a baker so I know how expensive flavoring extracts can be and lots of them don't even really taste good.  If you do any baking with orange or lemon extract, stop buying them!  Before you peel that orange to eat the inside, use a microplane grater and get all that flavorful zest off!  EVERY time.  Keep your zest in a small ziploc baggie in the freezer and each time you eat an orange, get that zest off.  And the same with lemons.  Zest it before you cut it open and save it in a ziploc bag.  Each time you need lemon or orange flavor for a recipe, pull out some and stick it in your recipe!

That's all I have for today.  I know it's not fabulous but I'm actually in the middle of making 2 last minute cakes.  I'm making a 20" standing Dewar's bottle and a club penguin cake, both for the same family.  They've been very time consuming and not very cooperative..sigh.  Until next week....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finally!

I'm finally starting to lose weight.  I decided to do South Beach for a while just to kick start the weight loss.  Exercising alone just wasn't doing it and when I don't see results week after week, I get discouraged and quit.  So now I'm feeling better and I just started week 3 and have added in a serving of fruit each day.  Still no bread, pasta, rice, sweets.  It got hard around days 9-12 but I suppose now I've trained my brain, as they say you do.  I rarely have the cravings for carbs like I did.  I can't say it's easy to get a salad when my family gets cheeseburgers and fries at fast food joints (not that we eat out so often.)  I've been trying to avoid them and when we do stop somewhere, I try to go to Wendy's where I can have chili.  And it's not easy to snack on cheese sticks and nuts when my hubby is eating chips and salsa.  It's especially hard now because my son Max is playing baseball.  Games are twice a week and at the concession stand they sell all those fattening goodies like cheese dogs, cheese fries, nachos with chili and cheese, meatball hero's, chicken nuggets, onion rings....the list goes on!  What do I get?  A cheeseburger and throw the bun away.  And I get to watch my husband eat the greasy fries that I wanted so badly.  Breakfast?  Forget about it...I'm sick of eggs, but having a piece of fruit with them now makes it much more bearable.

I am losing weight, I just can't tell you how much because my scale is wacky.  For the first time in years, someone actually said to me "WOW! you're losing weight!"  YES!  I am! 

Maybe by the end of August, I won't be so embarrassed to sit next to my size 6 sister on the beach.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Who's leaving the plastic baggies at the store?

And the winner of the PB Green Re-usable Lunch Set chosen by random.org is.....



Keira!  Congrats Keira, I'll email you shortly with contact info so you can order your new lunch set.

Thank you to PB Green for working with me on my first giveaway!

You've gotta speak up!

For quite some time now, when I receive a product that's damaged in any way or not up to standards, I contact the company.  You've gotta speak up when you spend your hard earned money on something and end up not being able to use it.

Recently, I had purchased Wilton gum paste on 3 separate occasions at Michael's and AC Moore.  When I opened them, all three of them, I found that the top portion of the gum paste was already hardened and un-usable.  Now this stuff is expensive and there's not much in the package, so when you're having to cut a portion of it off to get to the usable stuff, that's upsetting! 

I got on the phone with Wilton customer service and guess what they did?  They replaced all three bags!  Nice, right!  It came via FedEx in less than a week.  Now that's how a company should react to such problems.  Thanks Wilton!

Last Reminder!

Tonight at 9 pm EST the PB Green giveaway ends.  Don't miss your chance to win a re-usable lunch set including 2 snack bags and a sandwich wrap!  Enter here ------->PB GREEN GIVEAWAY

Friday, June 4, 2010

FRUGAL FRIDAY! 6/4


I'd like to start a weekly post to share tips on how I try to be more frugal.  I'm hoping that you will learn something new and it will help you and your family.  What better day than "Frugal Friday"!! 

And so, here's the first weekly installment of Frugal Fridays.  I'll be asking for guest bloggers from time to time to share your ideas so if you're interested, please email me at littlemissmuffins2@gmail.com!

This week I'd like to talk about your dirty laundry.  A while back I gave you the recipe and instructions, complete with pictures, on how to make your own laundry detergent.  Don't worry, it's really easy!  You don't need to be Suzy homemaker to do it, I promise. 

So how much does a bottle of Tide cost these days?  Like a hundred bucks?  No, seriously, it's really expensive and it's one of the worst ones out there as far as polluting the environment.  Check out this article from Naturalnews.com to read all about it.  

So let's say you pay $12.00 for a 64 load bottle of Tide.  The 64 load estimate is for small loads.  Do you only fill it to the bottom line?  Let's even say you do.  That's .1875 cents per load.  I'm guessing you only get more like 50 loads and therefore pay more like .24 cents per load.

The recipe I shared with you HERE, cost .71 cents for 64 loads!  That's a whopping .01 cent per load!  If you need me to post the breakdown I will but trust me, it's accurate.

So I ask you, will you please try a batch or 2 of this?  You won't be disappointed!  I do an average of 10 loads per week so it costs me .10 cents per week to wash my clothes.  If you use Tide, you're spending $2.40 per week, $124.80 per year.  Mine costs me $5.20 PER YEAR!  I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but if you add that to 5 or 6 other things you save over $100 on, you've just freed up an extra $500 or more per year!

I hope you're inspired.  It's cheap and green!

NOTE:  From reading several other reviews on homemade laundry detergent, I've decided to use Ivory soap next time as several posts have reported color fading from using the Fels Naptha.  I have not experienced this color fade as of yet.

PB Green Giveaway Ends Monday 6/7 at 9 pm EST

A reminder to all you wonderful followers, that my PB Green Giveaway will end in just 3 days.  Be sure to visit the post and enter for your chance to win a FREE set of re-usable snack bags and a sandwich wrap in a pattern of your choice!  These are wonderful high quality items that you shouldn't be without!

BUY THEM! PB Green Bags


Please stop by the post and enter!  And please visit PB Green Bags to see her beautiful items!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A whole new level of frugalness

I haven't always been frugal.  I've always worried about money because we've never really had any but we had credit cards, right?!  Isn't that what credit cards are for?  To buy things you can't afford?  Yeah, well that got us into trouble for too many years.  We have only 1 credit card left and it's in my husbands name.  I haven't personally used a credit card in a year and a half.  It's been interesting living on cash only.  Liberating and scary all rolled into one tight little ball of nerves.  So, I've come up with more and more ways to be more frugal, out of necessity.

A whole new level of frugalness needs to be achieved in the coming months.  Things are tight now and come September they're gonna get much worse.  You see, because of the foolishness of those evil demon plastic cards, we took out a home equity loan to pay off the first round of debt.  We've been paying interst on the thing for 5 years and now the draw period is coming to an end and repayment starts.  Not only that, we now have a brace payment every month.  So, I have the daunting task of cutting back at least another $250 per month.  Now, I've got some perfect ideas, but I have a husband who has some say in those decisions, unfortunately.  If I had my way, we'd switch from our $80 per month satellite tv to $35 cable.  He won't budge.  I'd also take his Jeep off the road and have 1 car.

Instead, I've got to come up with other ways to cut back.  Things I have total control over like hanging the laundry instead of using the dryer all the time and calling around to get better insurance rates, paying the bills on time so there are no nasty late fees.  I've also started making my own laundry detergent and when all of my dishwasher tablets are gone, I'm planning on making that as well.  My mission is to cut my grocery bill by a third.  I save so much money already on groceries that I'm not sure how I'll accomplish that one, but I'm certainly gonna try!  Luke is turning 2 in July and is showing an interest in the potty so another goal is to potty train him this summer so I can cut out diapers except for night-time.  I'm having the kids do more eco-friendly crafts like making magazine bowls.  I've gotten re-usable snack bags and sandwich wraps instead of using plastic baggies.  All may seem like little things, but they all add up!

So, what money saving tips do you have for me?

Wordless Wednesday!


Mama's little apprentice?  Looks like my 22 month old's gearing up to take over my cake and cookie business one day!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PB Green re-usable snack bags and sandwich wrap giveaway reminder

Just a reminder to enter for a chance to win a re-usable snack bag and sandwich wrap set from PB Green.  Your odds are good as there are only 19 entries right now!  You get to choose which pattern you would like to have for yourself. 

Enter Here-------------------------->PB GREEN GIVEAWAY

Please do not enter any comments for contest entry below this post.  You must visit the original contest post to leave your entries.  Thanks!


Monday, May 31, 2010

Orginazational Genius, I'm NOT

I'm desperate to be more organized and I don't even know where to start.  We've got so  many things in this house that just don't have a proper place.  In every room!  We've got the junk collector in my bedroom, aka my giant desk.  In the kitchen, it's a large junk bowl.  The living room, it's the bottom shelf of the end table.  The dogs room/laundry room it's the large filing cabinet.  I could go on and on.  I need help and I need it FREE!  Who has tips for me?  I don't know where to start!

Bittersweet Visits

Yesterday we were blessed with a visit from our former Pastor and his family.  You may remember me mentioning that our Pastor Dave had been at our church for 18 years and was leaving to go to another church over 300 miles away.  He and his family came to attend the wedding of the couple whose wedding cake I made below.  The delegates at our church voted and so he was our guest speaker yesterday at church.  It's been almost a year since they left and we're still without a full time pastor.  Each week, we have a different speaker and I have to say that I've seen our church grow and bond together.  It's been amazing!  I think it's time, though.

I often sit in church and in my head I can hear Pastor Dave speaking and I can see his little manorisms.  His Elmer Fudd impersonation and talking about the Yankees.  What a spirit filled man!  His sermons always, always were a perfect fit for what I was going through in my own life.  His message at our Christmas Cantata one year was what brought me to Christ.  He's prayed for my family and I for his.   He baptized two of my boys.   And Sherry, his wife, shared her faith story with a group of women that was just uplifting and wonderful.  We laughed and cried and felt closer to her when she finished.  Sherry and I have made a special connection through letters that I'm grateful for.  I was so sad to see him and his family go and I still miss them dearly.  Sometimes I romanticize about them coming back!

Pastor Dave stood in church on Sunday and told us how proud he was of us for sticking together and keeping the church moving along.  He also told us how he greets his new church on Sunday mornings and wonders if he's said L****** or G****.  He said his head's not there yet.  I read that as his heart's still in L******.  Maybe that's just what I wanted to hear and not actually what he meant.

Pastor Dave shared Communion with us this Sunday.  It was even more special for me as this was the first time my husband has taken Communion!  My heart raced as we walked up together.  I could feel the tears running down my face and as we approached Pastor Dave and Sherry, I said to them "This is Cory's first time taking Communion" and I could see the tears form in Sherry's eyes, too.  I heard Pastor Dave say "God bless you, Cory" and I walked back to my seat.  I don't know if Cory knew why I was crying but I was secretly celebrating my husband's choice.  I was filled with joy!  Praise GOD!

I was so happy to see Pastor and his wife and daughter and very sad to see them go again.  What a blessing they've been!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sweet Endings

Oh what a week!  I started out this week set to do South Beach so I can kick start this weight loss.  I've had many-a-temptation, but I've resisted and it feels good....mentally.  Physically I've been exhausted!  It can only be because of the week I've had and not the diet.  The last time I did this no carbs thing, I felt great!  I was energetic and my skin cleared up and I was losing weight too.  This time?  Well....I'm not energetic, my skin looks the same and I'm not really sure if I've lost any weight because some little boy lost the pointer thingy, and yes, that's a technical term, and my scale has been wacky.  If I lean to the left, I'm much lighter, so I suppose I'll go with that number!

I had to take Zach to the orthodontist on Wednesday to have a thicker wire put on his braces and as we were getting ready to turn into the plaza where AC Moore and Michael's are, we saw a horrible accident complete with a medical helicopter.  I always get shaken up when I see car accidents.  They terrify me.

I also got started on 75 wedding cake shaped sugar cookies I had to make for today.  Thursday, Friday and today I spent decorating and wrapping the cookies and making a 4 tier wedding cake.  That much work makes for early mornings and late nights!  But I love doing it and I was very pleased with the results.  I'm completely worn out and am welcoming the little break before my next order.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day!

By the way, what do you think of my cake?  I think it turned out beautiful!  This was the sweet ending to my stressful week!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wilton Giveaway (sadly, not here)

Please visit Two of a kind, working on a full house and enter to win a set of Wilton UltraGold Bakeware valued at $180.00.

Being a cake decorator, just the name Wilton gets me going.  So many products I couldn't live without!  Who better to win these than an avid cake decorator!?

Go ahead, visit Wilton and see all the fabulous products I dream of having.....all....at....once!  If only my pocket book said yes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

PB Green Review and Giveaway

As promised, my first review & giveaway!

Introducing:


PB Green. Reusable snack bags and sandwich wraps.


Do you go through tons of baggies? If you have a family of 4 and use 3 baggies per day, that's a total of 3000 baggies in one year! Times how many families around the U.S.! That's a ton of trash just for lunch alone. And I'll take it a step further and show you how much money you can save each year by purchasing a set of these re-usable bags and sandwich wraps. Estimate that a box of baggies cost $1.99 on sale and there are 35 bags per box. That's $170.00 per year! I know it doesn't seem like a lot of money but if you do this with several items in your household, you've saved a lot of money and have done your part in keeping our Earth clean.
Meet Paige, the very skilled owner of PB Green.

Paige Baran is a former elementary school teacher who is now a SAHM. Paige noticed the number of plastic baggies that were thrown away each day in the elementary cafeteria and decided to do something about it. She began by making the re-usable bags for her husband to take his lunch in to work. His colleagues loved them and had to have their own. When more and more people became interested in them, PB Green was born. She lovingly gives credit to her mother who gave her her sewing machine for her birthday.


Here's what I got:

Max picked out the lunch set in Army Green that came with a small checkered green bag, a medium guitar camo bag and a green sandwich wrap. I was immediately impressed because the packaging was so professional, clean and modern looking. It came wrapped nicely in a piece of tissue paper with a logo label. It took me all of 2 seconds to tear into it, I love getting new things! The lunch set was tied together with a nice soft string and had a label tied on. On the back of the label were instructions for using the sandwich wrap. Paige also included a business card that's now on my fridge.

I originally anticipated not being able to use it until tomorrow for Max's lunch but as soon as he saw the set, he got out the bread and PB&J and made himself a sandwich.





This is my boy who inspired me to find new ways to be green. He loves the idea of being able to re-use. The sandwich wraps are 15 inches in diameter so there's plenty of room to wrap even your biggest sandwiches. It's made of high quality designer cotton fabric and lined with waterproof food safe ripstop nylon. It wraps up like a burrito and holds shut with a strip of Velcro. I especially love the logo tab on this one. Even with the messiest sandwiches (and Max chose one of the messiest), the wrap wipes clean with a damp cloth and is top rack dishwasher and washing machine safe. My only criticism of this piece is that the oil in the peanut butter stained the nylon. This isn't a quality issue though, it's still usable and perfectly fine.

Don't those look like happy eyes!? He loves his new set and can't wait to show his friends.

See how dirty he got it? And the crust thing? Every kid does that, right?

Here's Max's sandwich wrap after a washing.
Next are the re-usable snack bags. These are so sturdy and well made. The bags are also made of high quality cotton but are lined with a water resistant fabric that does not contain DEHP, phalates or BPA plasticizers. The length of the bags are lined with Velcro to keep snacks inside. The smaller bag measures 6 3/4 x 4 and medium bag measures 6 3/4 x 5 1/2. These bags are plenty big to hold whatever snack you might like. Because they're waterproof, you can carry anything you would normally have in a plastic baggie.They turn inside out and sit right on the top rack of your dishwasher along with your other dishes. They dry within a couple of hours and are ready to use again and again.


Just one more little step in becoming more green. Max and I love his lunch set and I'm sure he'll get many years of use out of it!
Now the fun part...
You can buy your own set at PB Green for $20-22 or you can follow the instructions below to win a set!
Mandatory First Entry: Visit PB Green and tell me which pattern you like the best.
Extra Entries:
1 Entry: Become a follower of Surrounded By Boys! (leave a comment if you're already a follower as well!)
1 Entry: Become a Fan of PB Green on Facebook
1 Entry: Become a follower of my cake blog Little Miss Muffins Cakes!
1 Entry: Blog about my giveaway and comment leaving the link below.
Be sure to comment for each entry and good luck! If your email address isn't listed on your profile, please leave it along with your comments below.  If you aren't a registered user, please make sure to leave your first name and your email address or your entry will be deleted (because I won't know how to contact you!)

Contest ends on Monday June 7, 2010 at 9:00pm EST. Winner will be chosen via Random.org and will be notified via email. Contest is open to US residents only. Winner must contact PB Green within 3 days of contest end to arrange shipment and order the pattern you like.
I received the re-usable lunch set from PB Green free of charge in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Family Reunion


This weekend my family gathered together for our annual BBQ. We don't all make it each year but we try. We have such a good time, I wish we could do it more often. We joke and laugh. We eat and drink. We chase kids and take walks to the river. We enjoy the sassiness of our beloved eldest member and cherish each moment with her. We talk about chocolate and the restaurant we'd love to open together. We make precious priceless memories that I'm thankful for. God has blessed me with a wonderful family.


So to each of my family members: I couldn't have hand picked a better family! I love you all very much and feel incredibly blessed to have each and every one of you bunch of smart alecks! Until next year........

Friday, May 21, 2010

Poop! Poop!

Don't worry...I don't have any pictures to share with you this time. You're welcome.

Luke is now 22 months old and he's recently decided he doesn't like to wear his diaper. He does this thing where he pushes the back of it down so the crack of his butt hangs out. All the time. It's really kinda cute.

Now I know this is my clue to start potty training, I'm just really not looking forward to it. They have such little bladders and have to stop and pee every 10 minutes. Makes for looong outings with many-a-interruption. Anyway, that's not really where I was going with this.

Yesterday Luke woke up from his nap and had wet through his diaper and his pants were wet. I took them off and let him go bare butt for a while to air out his little bits. He had pooped earlier in the day so I wasn't worried about letting him go diaperless for a little while. BIG mistake!

I was in the middle of cleaning the boys' bathroom when Luke came running in and very excitedly yelled "Poop! Poop!" Naturally, with 2 dogs running around the house, I expected it to be from one of them. He ran out of the bathroom and into his bedroom all the while yelling "Poop! Poop!" When I came into his bedroom, he pointed to the floor and there it was. It wasn't from the dogs.....it was his.

Never assume they'll only poop once a day. I'm just thankful he didn't play with it. You're welcome for that mental picture.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stay tuned for my 1st giveaway!


I'm very excited to announce my first review and giveaway! This is something I've wanted to do for a while and it's finally becoming a reality. I'm joining the mommy-bloggers-giveaway club!


Head on over to PBGreen for a sneak peak at what's on it's way!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I love little boy hands!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Precious Moments

I just love these moments with my babies!




I'm feeling awfully lonely over her at my blog. Where are all my commenter's? I miss you!

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