Busy Summer

Today marks 3 weeks since the last day of school, yet it feels like we’ve already done a million things. How does summer move so quickly?

Summer 2014 Instagram
Here are a few Instagram photos of what’s happening day-to-day. In between the swimming, the swim team, the many swim meets (do you sense a pattern?), we’re still trying to squeeze in down time (lots of reading and board games), playdates, working on multiplication for next year, and some cooking. Not a lot of cooking. My meal plan this week consists of “eat at meet” and “whatever is in fridge.” We’ll get back on a normal routine next week…I hope.

Hope your summer is going well!

Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday-FL, LA & VA

Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays - Florida, Louisiana & Virginia - May 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
Beginning this weekend, save some money with Sales Tax Holidays for Hurricane Preparedness in Florida, Louisiana and Virginia. Even if you do not need emergency equipment like a generator, this is a good time to update your home with some basic safety items like fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. You can also use this opportunity to stock up on batteries or bottled water for the rest of the year.

Get sales tax savings on items like:

  • Batteries
  • Bottled Water, both single and multi-packs
  • Cell Phone Batteries and Chargers
  • Coolers and Ice Chests
  • Duct Tape
  • Empty Gasoline or Propane Tanks under $60
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • First Aid Kits
  • Flashlights, Lanterns and Candles
  • Plastic Storage Bags (like Ziploc)
  • Smoke Detectors

Louisiana’s tax holiday is this weekend, May 24-25th. Virginia’s runs all week, May 25-31st, and Florida’s is coming up May 31-June 8th.

It’s a good idea to have some emergency supplies on hand, no matter where you live, even if they’re not specifically for hurricane preparedness. FEMA’s list of basic emergency kit supplies is a great place to start. I also like this Disaster Checklist for Parents.

If you like to bulk cook like I do, it also helps to know how to prepare your freezer for a power outage.

Poolside Prep {What’s in your Pool Bag?}

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and U by Kotex but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #UbKKmart  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Poolside Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
Gone are the days of wrangling three little ones at the pool–finally! I remember chasing my kids between the baby pool and regular pool and seeing other moms relaxing poolside with their friends, feet up on a lounge chair. Now that’s me! I never thought we’d get there, so I spent a little time reminiscing with these old photos of my twin toddlers. It was such a challenge when my son wanted to swim in the big pool but I couldn’t be in two places at once. Six years later, and we’re in a very different place.

Baby Pool Nostalgia | Poolside Prep with U by Kotex #PMedia #ad #UbKKmart MoneywiseMoms
Our neighborhood pool opens this Saturday, and my son plans on jumping in no matter what the temperature (forecast so far for Saturday? Only 72 degrees!). With all three of my kids on the swim team and me moving from swim team concessions to team rep, I’ll be spending 2-3 hours a day poolside on practice days, and a lot more than that for meets. I’ve been prepping for the past few weeks. I found a great pair of supportive flip flops for all the standing I’ll be doing, and I’ve got my pool bag all packed:

Pool Bag Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
What’s in my pool bag?

1. Lots to read! I love stretching out on a chaise and flipping through a magazine while the kids practice. My family gave me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday, so I’m all set for my summer reading.

2. A great hat. I burn so easily that a hat is a necessity. This soft hat is easy to fold up and take with me, and it washes easily, too.

3. Snacks. I pack my own, so almonds & cranberries are an easy way to curb my hunger in between meals.

4. Extra sunscreen. We go through a lot of sunscreen with three kids swimming every day. I carry it in my bag, in the car, and have a bunch in a basket near the door. Got to be ready!

5. My phone. Of course! Need to stay on top of my email, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Are you following MoneywiseMoms there yet?

6. Sunglasses. I have an amazing ability to break or lose sunglasses, so I only buy cheap ones.

7. Tissues. Between my allergies and that gross thing that happens when the kids get out of the pool with runny noses (don’t you hate that?), we use quite a few.

8. The kids’ meds. All three of my kids have asthma, but only one has the exercise-induced kind. I’m ready with her inhaler just in case. And with my son’s peanut allergy, I always need his emergency med, just in case.

9. U by Kotex Pads and Tampons. Any time of the month, I like to be prepared with some U by Kotex liners. If I’m planning to swim, I like the U by Kotex tampons so I feel protected. I picked mine up at Kmart and saved $3 instantly at checkout with a coupon from Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program.

10. Quarters. Lots of hot days call for popsicles or ice cream sandwiches from the pool’s snack bar.


Poolside Prep with U by Kotex | #PMedia #UbKKmart #ad MoneywiseMoms
When you sign up with Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program, you’ll get $3 off at the register when you buy two U by Kotex products. Browse through the other coupons available there. You can add them to your account with just a click, then use your phone number or email at checkout to claim the coupons.

I like to be prepared–even at the pool! So what’s in your pool bag?

What are your poolside prep must-haves?

El Monterey Taquitos for Game Day {Giveaway}

Disclosure: I wrote this post as part of a paid campaign with El Monterey and Ruiz Foods. The opinions in this post are my own.

El Monterey Taquitos are perfect for Game Day | MoneywiseMoms

It’s almost here: Game Day! While my family isn’t into football, we are definitely fans of football food. We go to a friend’s potluck party every year, mostly to hang out with old friends and eat (while others watch the game). So when El Monterey sent my family their new Shell Shockers and other Taquitos to try out for Game Day, we were game (ha ha). Taste-testing is a sport we’ll support!

El Monterey Taquitos are perfect for Game Day | MoneywiseMoms

All five of us loved the Beef & Cheese and Southwest Chicken Taquitos; both have a seasoned batter on the tortilla for extra crunch. My girls especially liked these because they weren’t as spicy as the Shell Shockers. Those varieties, the Jalapeno & Ranch and the Chicken & Nacho Cheese, were a hit with my son and his friends, but pretty spicy for the rest of us. They have seasoning coating the tortillas (the boys loved having orange fingers with the nacho taquitos). We cooled down the spice by dipping our taquitos in a mixture of half sour cream, half mild salsa. It’s a simple dip but adds a little creaminess to the crunch.

El Monterey Taquitos are perfect for Game Day | MoneywiseMoms

Your family can enjoy El Monterey Taquitos, too. Print a coupon for their Taquitos & Mini Chimis so you can try them this month. In the meantime, two lucky MoneywiseMoms readers will each win 4 boxes of El Monterey Taquitos so they can party with these spicy, crunchy taquitos. Yum!

To enter: head to the El Monterey website and leave a comment saying which flavor of El Monterey Taquitos you’d most like to try.  

If you’re reading this in an email subscription, click over to the blog to enter. One entry per person, please. This giveaway ends Wednesday, February 5th at midnight EST. Good luck!

**Update: Congrats to the winners, Helga & Alice!

Do your own taste-test with El Monterey Taquitos during the Big Game. Connect with them:

     Twitter      |     Facebook     |     Pinterest     |     Coupon

Taking Care of Holiday Guests

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Kleenex but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #KleenexTarget  http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO

  Taking Care of Holiday Guests | #KleenexTarget #PMedia

It’s the most wonderful time of year! Time for families to gather from near and far, reconnecting and spending quality time together. When I think about our years of big family gatherings, I remember cuddling on the couch watching movies, playing board games, and cooking (and eating!) together. But our holiday tradition always seems to include illnesses like colds and flu. Yours, too? One Christmas vacation was most memorable: 13 of us staying at my inlaws’ house, all taken down by bad colds, one by one. Not the kind of memorable we were going for! Over the years, I’ve learned these strategies for taking care of holiday guests:

Taking Care of Holiday Guests | Provide the comforts of home #KleenexTarget #PMedia

It’s tough being sick when you’re a guest in someone’s home or visiting out of town. As the hostess, try to provide the comforts of home to your holiday guests. A cozy blanket for the chills, some magazines to flip through, and plenty of Kleenex handy will let your guests feel as comfortable as they can under the circumstances. I’m careful not to over-schedule activities over a vacation, making sure that we all get enough rest and relaxation.

Taking Care of Holiday Guests | Keep up with the germs #KleenexTarget #PMedia

One of the weekly chores for my three kids is “Bathrooms,” but it’s especially important when we have guests. To keep up with the germs, we change out the hand towels daily (more often if we have a crowd), make sure there’s soap for hand washing, and wipe down the sink, doorknobs and light switches. It’s a good idea to wash pillowcases more often when there’s illness in the house. We’re also careful not to share cups or glasses.

Taking Care of Holiday Guests | Stock up on #KleenexTarget #PMedia

When you’re ready to stock up for the winter illness season, head to Target with this printable coupon (two prints per IP address) to save on Kleenex. I just love these holiday boxes! What a cute way to decorate your spaces while you’re taking care of holiday guests.

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor for Non-Crafty People

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | Easy ways to decorate this fall | MoneywiseMoms

Want to decorate for the Thanksgiving holiday, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money? I hear you. And while I enjoy all the great DIY and crafty ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere, this season is awfully busy. I need easy frugal Thanksgiving decor ideas–you, too? I’ve pulled some of my favorites off my Fall & Thanksgiving board with a goal of helping non-crafty people add a little atmosphere to the holiday. I often hear “but I don’t DO crafts,” from my friends and readers, so I promise that these are all really easy.

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | Hurricane Vase via @amandajnebrown

I love how Amanda Jane Brown used popcorn and dried beans in hurricane vases for a frugal but elegant look. You could add candles as well. If you don’t have hurricanes at home, look for tall cylindrical vases at Dollar Tree.

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | Kraft Paper Table Runner via @thekitchn

Table Runner
You may be surprised how sophisticated a roll of Kraft paper can look on your Thanksgiving table. This post at The Kitchn shares many ways to use it, including more graphic & fun ways, plus your guests can doodle or write what they’re thankful for while they’re waiting for their pie.

  Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | Printable Thanksgiving Banner via @sumossweetstuff

You can find lots of printable Thanksgiving banners online, but this one from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff has two sayings to choose from: Be Thankful or Be Grateful. Just print the three sheets out on cardstock, cut them out, and tape onto ribbon, yarn, twine, etc. for a simple banner.

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | Eat Drink and Be Thankful printable via @fivehearthome

Printable Word Art
Printing and framing a piece of word art is one of my favorite ways to decorate frugally for the holidays. This year, I’m using this stylish Eat Drink and Be Thankful from Five Heart Home. Just print it out on a piece of cardstock and add to any frame.

Frugal Thanksgiving Decor | 15 minute 15 dollar fall wreath via @thehowtomom

Door Wreath
Greet your guests at the door with a gorgeous fall wreath you can enjoy all month. This tutorial from The How To Mom shows you how easy it is to wrap a leafy garland around a wreath frame. She uses pins to hold it in place, but glue would work too. You could even hang this indoor for some lovely color and texture. While I suppose this technically is a “craft,” it is simple enough for anyone to do, even a non-crafter.

So what do you think? Easy, frugal Thanksgiving decor can look really nice while not costing a lot of time and money.

For more frugal Thanksgiving decor ideas, follow my
Fall &Thanksgiving Pinterest board.


Make Less Work with Cascade Platinum

Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Cascade Platinum

Dirty Dishes?
With a family of five (and all the cooking I do), there are so many dirty dishes. Washing them is one of my least favorite chores, so I appreciate anything that can make less work for me. Modern dishwashers claim that dishes do not need to be prerinsed before loading, but I haven’t found that to be true with ours. Cascade sent me their latest product–Cascade Platinum Tabs with Dawn–and I’m happy to say that they really work! We’ve even been able to wait and load the dishwasher hours after dinner and the stuck-on food still comes off.

Learn from Gail Simmons
With the popularity of social media, food photography is all the rage on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. You want your dishes to sparkle and your flatware to shine! Cascade has partnered with Top Chef judge and editor of Food+Wine magazine, Gail Simmons, to share why presentation is just as important as preparation. Watch the videos at the Cascade Facebook page and the Cascade YouTube page.

#MyPlatinum Instagram Contest
Get involved with #MyPlatinum and enter their Instagram Contest. Cascade wants to see your sparkling tablescape from a special occasion for a chance to win prizes like a Whirlpool dishwasher, Cascade products, or a kitchen makeover!  Enter by June 30th.

Cascade Platinum

Have you tried Cascade Tabs yet?

Destress for Less {Taking Care of Yourself}

Destress for less

After spending a few days with my sister in the hospital with her newborn baby this week, I’m reminded of how as moms we really need to put ourselves first–before our children–in order to function. In her case, keeping up with eating, drinking and sleeping is what will allow her to care for a newborn and preserving that is most important right now. Once your children are older, caring for yourself should still be the first priority. Without your health–mental and physical–you cannot parent, work, and run your household effectively.

Rather than spend money on a vacation, consider these frugal ways to destress for less. Make them habits, and you’ll see great returns:

Unplug Regularly

We’re now used to the constant barrage of digital media–phones, computer, TV, video games–that it’s hard to imagine life without it. Give it a try! Make an effort to unplug the family regularly–either each evening after dinner or one weekend day. The benefits vary from more time to get projects done (always welcome!), more bonding between the family, and increased communication all around. I find that unplugging makes us use all the things we have in our house like toys, games, and other sources of entertainment that we’ve spent money on but are often ignored for electronics.

Get Outdoors

When the weather allows, getting outdoors for a walk is an easy way to destress for less. Take your camera outside one day and challenge yourself to take 5 interesting photos. This has helped me on the especially gloomy, cloudy days to get out of the house and raise my spirits a bit. We also enjoy taking the whole family for a walk through the woods to look for animal footprints throw rocks in the creek.

Do Less

One of the biggest changes I made to my life in 2012 was to start doing less. I put empty blocks on my schedule on purpose; as an over-committed, overly stressed person, something had to change. Doing less means I have time to do things like relax, read, go for a walk, connect with family or friends on the phone, and other priorities. If you make a list each day, make your list shorter. Recognize that downtime is important and worthwhile, and make sure you get it. You give your kids downtime, why not yourself? At first I was surprised that things did not fall down around me, but they didn’t. And I am much more pleasant to be around (just ask my husband).

Learn to Say No

It surprises some people when they hear me say “No,” as I’m often counted on as the one who’ll sign up, who’ll volunteer, or who’ll run the committee. But since I started saying “No” last year, it’s made a huge difference to my stress level. For 2013, I’ve already told myself that I will not participate in any consignment sales or yard sales for the first half of the year. My volunteer time is full, and saying no is the only way to preserve the Doing Less I mention above.

Connect with Real People

As easy as Facebook is, it’s not the same as actually talking  or meeting up with a friend. When you do, you connect with real people who know you, who support you when you’re worn out, and you’re often helping them as well. It’s hard to keep up friendships and family relationships once you all have kids and are pulled in many different directions, but the effort is worth it. You need each other. Whenever I talk to friends, it makes such a difference to hear that I’m not the only one going through ___ and I appreciate getting perspective on it. One of the ways I’ve combined habits is by scheduling a walk with a friend, then we get outdoors, get a little exercise, and catch up with each other all at the same time.

What are some ways you destress for less?


Original image from Pilottage on Flickr

Mod Podge Valentine Blocks

Mod Podge Valentine Blocks
Valentine’s Day is about a month away–time to put the winter decor away and start decorating in pink and red! I love putting a few little touches up to celebrate Valentine’s Day. These Mod Podge Valentine Blocks are a quick & frugal project that you can do with your kids, or get a group of girlfriends together for a Girls’ Night In.

Valentine Block Supplies

If you haven’t used Mod Podge before, a small surface like these wood blocks is a great way to get started. Choose premade 4×4 wood blocks from the craft store, or head to your local Home Depot/Lowe’s and have a 2×4 cut down for you. It will cost a lot less (mine was $1.92), and you’ll get a ton of blocks! You will have to sand them, though.

Materials I used:

  • 4×4 wood blocks
  • Craft paint
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Mod Podge

Coat each block with your craft paint–any color, but I used pink. No need to fully coat the faces because they will be covered with scrapbook paper.

Paint Valentine Blocks

Next, cut your scrapbook paper to fit each 4×4 side. I cut mine just smaller, so that the pink border would show. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the face of the block, lay down the paper, and smooth it out with your fingers or an old credit card to push out the bubbles.

Once that layer of Mod Podge is dry, embellish your blocks with letters, hearts, or other decorations. I covered both sides with Valentine colors since I knew the backs would show. Coat each block with two thin coats of Mod Podge to seal them.


This Mod Podge Valentine Blocks craft is linked up to Valentine Categorically Crafty at Someday Crafts, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts and Handmade Tuesdays at Ladybug Blessings.