Sign up with Swagbucks for a Bonus $5 Gift Card

Sign up with Swagbucks for a Bonus $5 Gift Card | MoneywiseMoms

I’ve been earning FREE gift cards from Swagbucks ever since I joined in December 2008. If you’ve been reading MoneywiseMoms a while, you’ll remember how I’ve shopped for holiday toys and even bought my twins’ car seats with Swagbucks. There are lots of ways to earn SBs–through their search engine, completing surveys, doing the daily poll, and more–and I collect them until I have enough to redeem for gift cards. After all these years, the best point-to-gift-card value has always been the $5 Amazon Gift Card, so that’s what I always get.

Want to try Swagbucks?

Sign up through my referral link by April 5th, and you’ll get a 500 Swagbucks bonus–that’s like getting a FREE $5 Gift Card just for signing up through me.

To get your bonus, you must also earn 1500 Swagbucks by April 19th. So how do you do that? I’ve shared lots of ways to earn SBs:

Try a few methods to see what works for you and how much time you want to put into it. In my heyday, I was earning 5 gift cards a month. Now, I mostly earn through searches and the occasional survey, but I still like getting FREE money to spend.

Earn some holiday shopping money!

Now is the time to sign up with Swagbucks and start collecting Amazon Gift Cards for holiday shopping! By earning a few cards a month, you can have $100 or more to spend for FREE this December.

 

Disclosure: If you sign up for Swagbucks under my referral link, I’ll earn Swagbucks along with you, up to the first 1000. Thank you for supporting MoneywiseMoms!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

Looking for a simple recipe that will look and taste outstanding on your holiday table? Whenever I make Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots, it gets rave reviews (even from the kids!), and it’s so easy to pull together. This would make a great accompaniment to your Easter ham this year.

Brussels Sprouts with bacon and shallots #recipe | MoneywiseMoms

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth (I use low sodium bouillon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Chop the bacon into small pieces, add to skillet and saute for 5 minutes or until bacon begins to brown.
  2. Remove skillet from heat. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan (discard the remaining drippings).
  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat, and stir in bacon, shallots, and Brussels sprouts. Stir frequently to saute for 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, and saute for 4 more minutes or until garlic begins to brown (stir frequently so that garlic does not burn).
  5. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the broth mostly evaporates and the sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper.

This recipe is a wonderful change from the usual broccoli or green beans side dish. I wasn’t familiar with shallots until a few years ago, when a recipe introduced me to them, and now I just love them! They have such a deep, rich flavor that makes everything taste better. In your grocery store’s produce section, look for bags of 1 1/2 – 2 lbs brussels sprouts. They’re usually near the bagged salads.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots is linked up to Healthy Eating Recipes at Blogging Mamas, Gluten-Free Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife, Recipes and Crafts Party at Close to Home, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and The SITS Girls Linky.

Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia

Please Touch Museum | MoneywiseMoms

Fairmount Park in Philadelphia has lots of great family places to visit, with one of the best being the Please Touch Museum. We’d been there once before, when my kids were 4, 2, and 2, so this visit was very different. Taking older kids to a children’s museum was an interesting experiment. My twin girls are now 7, my son 10, and we went along with two toddler cousins. My son was excited to go and spent a lot of time playing with his cousins, but his interest didn’t last nearly as long as everyone else’s. Lesson learned!

Please Touch Museum | MoneywiseMoms

My daughters absolutely love costumes and role-playing, so they really dove into every opportunity to put on a costume and act out a job. At the construction site, they wheelbarrowed blocks to a conveyor belt and worked with other kids to load the dump truck. They loved the snack cart in the park and spent a while taking orders and having picnics. Once you head downstairs, you’re immersed in a whole world of play…

The huge grocery store is the biggest and best we’ve seen at any children’s museum. Besides the usual dry goods to fill your cart, there’s a bakery (complete with aprons and ovens), a butcher and seafood section, and cashier lanes with scanners that actually beep. So fun!

Grocery Shopping | Please Touch Museum | MoneywiseMoms

From there, you can visit the shoe store, restaurant, hospital (with ambulance), and more. My girls went to every section while the little nephews mostly played with the grocery carts. Downstairs also houses an Alice in Wonderland themed area and the Centennial Exploration. All three of my kids liked learning about train travel and what Philadelphia looked like in 1876. The giant model of the Exhibition was fascinating to look at.

Back to the main floor, the toddlers enjoyed Roadside Attractions more than we did (my big kids didn’t fit in a lot of the exhibits). We spent more time in the Flight Fantasy room, building rockets to shoot and pretending to be astronauts. There’s a blue screen TV camera set up, where you can be an astronaut inside the cockpit of a rocket or floating out in space. The physical science exhibits in this area were perfect for older kids; they made connections with what they knew about energy, static electricity, and speed.

Astronaut in Flight | Please Touch Museum | MoneywiseMoms

Admission is $17/adults with kids under 1 free. Tickets to the historic carousel are $1/each. Keep an eye on Groupon, Living Social, and other daily deal sites for discounted tickets. Parking is free on the street (the parking lot is members-only).

Learn more about the Please Touch Museum:

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

 

What children’s museums have you visited with your family?

 

Read about other fun family outings in DC, Virginia, Maryland, and beyond.

Free State Tax Filing 2014

Good news! You may be eligible for FREE State Tax Filing through your state’s website. For some states, all residents are eligible. For others, you may need to meet a requirement, so read carefully when you reach your state’s tax website. This is a great way to save a little money during this stressful time of year–tax season! Even if you’re using an online program for your federal filing, you can stop at the federal filing, print out your return, then use that information to complete your FREE state tax filing through your state website below.

You may be eligible for FREE State Tax Filing through your state's website | MoneywiseMoms

States with FREE state income tax e-filing for for ALL filers:

States offering FREE state tax filing with income, age or other requirements:

And finally, states that do not require individual income tax filing (like Tennessee) do offer free e-filing of interest income and other taxable income.

 

Original image from normanbleventhalmapcenter at Flickr.

Disclosure: I am not a financial advisor or CPA and am not offering advice as such. My tax posts are informational and contain links for reference and verification.

The Geller Law Group $250 GC Giveaway {Get your Family’s Will done!}

As I mentioned in my 2014 Financial Goals, one of first tasks this year is getting our will, trust and guardianship taken care of for our family. It’s so important, and I want to encourage you to do this too–with a little help! If you haven’t yet, read about Writing a Will to see how you can take care of both your money and your children. If you have a child or other relative with special needs, learn how a special needs trust can help protect them. If you already have estate planning documents done, you may find that you need a Family Lawyer for another reason, such as incorporating your home business or drafting legal documents (for a nanny or rental).

  Get that will/trust done! Enter to win a $250 GC for legal services from The Geller Law Group (good in DC, MD, NC or VA) | MoneywiseMoms

The Geller Law Group is giving away fifty gift certificates each worth $250 toward legal services, and they can work with families in DC, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. {Please share this giveaway with your friends, family and neighbors in those states!} This is not the full amount needed to set up estate planning documents, but it should help quite a bit. Also, remember that you can work over the phone in order to make the task easier for you and your spouse.

 

If you are reading this in email, please click over to the blog to see the Rafflecopter widget. This giveaway ends Thursday, March 20th at midnight EST. This offer is only available to new clients of The Geller Law Group and residents of VA, MD, DC and NC. The gift certificates are valid for 60 days following the giveaway. Only one gift certificate per family.

 

Disclosure: The Geller Law Group is providing the prizes for this giveaway. I received a discount on my estate planning documents for the Family Lawyer Series, including this giveaway.

Protecting Family with a Special Needs Trust

Previously I shared some Myths about Writing a Will, including the reasons you might consider creating a trust to protect your children and your assets after you pass. If you have a child or relative with special needs, it’s even more important that you set up a special needs trust; it allows you to provide for the special needs individual who requires long-term medical needs or other support. Rebecca Geller, president of The Geller Law Group, shares her recommendations, shares her expertise below.

Protect your Child with a Special Needs Trust | MoneywiseMoms

How a Special Needs Trust Protects your Money

With a trust as a safe place to leave funds for a disabled or special needs child or relative, it also protects your money. If you are sued or get divorced, the funds inside a special needs trust cannot be part of those proceedings (as long as you create an irrevocable special needs trust).

 

How a Special Needs Trust Protects your Child/Relative

With a trust in place, any money your child or relative receives (such as an inheritance from a relative) that is placed in the trust will not be counted as a financial asset. This allows for government assistance and medical services to continue without disruption. Be sure to let your family members know about the trust so they do not give money directly to the child or relative with special needs.

Rebecca shared a case of a young man who received a surprise inheritance when his great aunt passed away; because there was no special needs trust set up to receive the funds, they became his, which pushed him over the limit of financial assets and reduced his social security benefits. The limit is usually quite low, frequently as low as $2,500. Basically, this means that if an individual with special needs inherits more than a certain amount (such as that $2,500), he/she will lose their benefits that provide services to help with their special needs.

Statutes say that as long as a special needs trust meet the U.S. Code requirement, it is not a countable resource for Social Security or Medicaid qualification purposes. State statutes vary, but special needs trusts are needed in most states to ensure that the individual’s special needs benefits are not jeopardized. Should you pass away without a will, your estate would go directly to your child and they would likely lose their eligibility for services.

 

When should I set up a Special Needs trust?

At any time that you realize your child or relative may not be capable of supporting him/herself or needs services to help with special needs, Rebecca recommends that you include a special needs trust in your estate planning. In this case, the recipient may be aged up to 65. If, in the future, the individual’s condition improves and is able to live independently, there is always the option to dissolve the trust. Because special needs trust laws vary from state-to-state, it is important to work with a qualified attorney to set up your trust.

 

How will my child use the Special Needs Trust?

Just as with any trust, the funds are designated to a trustee of your choosing (either the same person who becomes the child’s legal guardian or someone else). Even when a child or individual does not need federal or state public benefits/services, quality of life can be improved with the funds from a special needs trust.

Rebecca shares the story about her brother-in-law who has cerebral palsy. He is a quadriplegic and lives in a group home. Because he receives public benefits, Rebecca and her husband have created a special needs trust to distribute money to him so that he can have funds for some travel, entertainment, and his hobbies but ensuring that he continues to receive public benefits for his housing, health care, and aide.

To schedule your free initial phone consult to create your family’s legal documents, please contact The Geller Law Group via email at Office@TheGellerLawGroup.com.
rebeccageller The Family Lawyer Series is underwritten by The Geller Law Group, which is licensed to practice in Maryland, DC, Virginia and North Carolina. In exchange for the series, I am receiving discounted services to complete my own estate planning documents.

Macaroni & Cheese in the Deep Covered Baker

I know I’m not the only one out there who purchased a Deep Covered Baker from a Pampered Chef party with the idea of making lots of quick microwave meals. And I’m probably not the only one who then let this expensive wonder sit in the cabinet for months and months because you weren’t sure what meals to make. I’ve made Chicken Fajitas in the DCB for a few years now, but most of the recipes in the Pampered Chef cookbook are just not my thing–too many ingredients, or foods my kids won’t eat.

That’s why I set a goal for myself in 2014 to get a repertoire of 10 DCB (deep covered baker) microwave meals in my recipe book. And that’s why you’ll see the occasional DCB recipe, like last month’s Chicken Tomato Pasta, on the blog. This Macaroni & Cheese in the Deep Covered Baker has been thoroughly enjoyed by my family the five times I’ve made it, testing out the cooking time and making sure it was delish enough to share with you.

Macaroni & Cheese in the Deep Covered Baker | Great way to use your Pampered Chef DCB in the microwave | MoneywiseMoms

Macaroni & Cheese in the Deep Covered Baker
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (half of a regular box)
  • I can or 14 oz chicken broth (I use low sodium)
  • 2 cups Half & Half
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 10oz chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
Instructions
  1. Add the macaroni, broth, Half & Half, garlic powder and mustard to the deep covered baker.
  2. Stir to combine, then cover with the lid.
  3. Microwave on high for 16 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Pasta will not be completely cooked (it will complete in the next step).
  4. Add shredded cheese and stir. Place lid back on baker and let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. If adding broccoli, add at this time.

 

Since you’re cooking in a microwave, and all microwaves vary, you may need to tweak the recipe a bit by cooking a little longer to make sure your pasta is done. This also needs to be done if you use a whole wheat pasta (which needs more cooking time than traditional). Just add a few minutes at step 3 after you stir, if you feel you need the pasta to be softer.

If you don’t own a Deep Covered Baker or prefer a more traditional Macaroni & Cheese recipe with a sauce you make on the stovetop, try “Real” Macaroni and Cheese. We also love this Baked Mac & Cheese Casserole, which you can make with gluten-free pasta or regular. Clearly, we’re big fans of Mac & Cheese however we can get it.

 

Find more microwave DCB recipes on my Deep Covered Baker Recipes Pinterest Board.

 

Macaroni & Cheese in the Deep Covered Baker is linked up to Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and Talk of the Parent Blogosphere at Type A Parent.

5 Beginner Crockpot Meals {that anyone can make}

You have heard it before–one way to get dinner on the table with no fuss is to use a crockpot. If you’re not sure where to start, or your crockpot still sitting in the cabinet unused, now is your chance! Learn these five beginner crockpot meals and gain the confidence to feed your family easily and frugally. All of the recipes below can be cooked in either a 4-quart or 6-quart slow cooker.

5 Beginner Crockpot Meals | Easy #recipes to get dinner on the table, most with only two ingredients! | MoneywiseMoms

Shredded Tacos

It doesn’t get any easier than this! Combine 2 lbs of boneless chicken or pork with a jar of salsa (or a jar of enchilada sauce or a can of tomatoes w/green chiles), and cook on low all day for 8-10 hours. Turn off the heat and use two forks to shred the tender meat. Serve with tortillas or over rice along with your favorite taco toppings: tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, and black beans.

 

BBQ Sandwiches

Again, choose from 2 lbs of boneless chicken or pork, and combine with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. If you prefer to avoid processed foods, you can make your own (rather than simmer as in that recipe, just mix in the crockpot before adding your meat). Cook on low for 8-10 hours, then use two forks to shred the meat. Add extra sauce if desired, then serve on hamburger buns alongside a salad or your family’s favorite veggie.

 

Baked Potato Bar

Not just for parties, my family loves this meal, too. Wash as many baking potatoes (we like Russets) as you need, and prick each with a fork. Wrap individually in foil, then place in crockpot and cook for 8-10 hours on low. Serve with an assortment of baked potato toppings: cooked broccoli, shredded cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, chives, or even chili.

 

Chicken or Pork Teriyaki

This time, combine chicken or pork with a bottle of teriyaki sauce or teriyaki marinade (if you prefer homemade or need gluten-free, make your own). Cook on low 8-10 hours, and use two forks to shred. Serve over rice with a side veggie. Another option is to toss a bag of broccoli slaw in for the last 30 minutes of cook time.

 

Pepperoncini Beef

Just two ingredients again–a 3 lb beef roast (such as chuck or bottom round) and a 16oz jar of pepperoncini peppers. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, then shred. Serve over mashed potatoes, in a sub roll, or even on top of a salad. Delish!

 

Whether you’re a beginner crockpot cook or a veteran like me, easy time-saving recipes are key to getting a healthy meal on the table on busy nights. For more simple recipes, follow my Slow Cooker & Crockpot board on Pinterest.

 

5 Beginner Crockpot Meals is linked up to Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and Inspire Me Wednesday at MamaBuzz.

Original image from e.t. on Flickr

Free Busch Gardens Preschool Pass 2014

Busch Gardens Preschool Pass 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

New this year–all kids nationwide can get a FREE Busch Gardens Preschool Pass for children ages 3-5* when you register via email. Your child will get unlimited FREE admission to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA through September 1, 2014. A regular children’s one-day pass is $62, so this is a significant savings. You will need to print out your preschool pass and redeem it at the park with proof of your child’s age by May 31st to activate it.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens for the season on Sunday, March 17th. For parents accompanying your little ones to the park, you can purchase a Fun Card for $72 (for just Busch Gardens) or $97 (for both parks) that gives the named passholder unlimited admission through September 1, 2014. You’ll see that option after you register for the Preschool Passes, or you can buy one here.

And for my California readers…

Busch Gardens Preschool Pass 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

Unfortunately, the SeaWorld Preschool Pass offer has become more exclusive. You can only get a SeaWorld San Diego Preschool Pass if you are a resident of San Diego County. Register via email before March 16th with the same age requirements as listed above, and it must be redeemed at the park by April 14th. Sounds like they’ve had a huge response in the past and are now cutting down on the number of free tickets. This Preschool Pass will give your child(ren) free admission through December 31st with a handful of blackout dates.

 

Attention Teachers!

Get a FREE SeaWorld Fun Card that provides admission through the park’s operating season when you register via email and redeem your offer at the park by the date designated (be sure and read the fine print!):

 

Remember that military families also get FREE admission to Busch parks (including Sesame Place) through the Waves of Honor program.