Frugal Novice

DIY Summer Reading Program with Free Printables

When I was a child I participated in my library’s summer reading program. I read 100 books one summer, earning a trophy (which I still have today – see below) and a $50 savings account at the local bank. I remember loving that particular summer, going to the library as often as possible and reading as late as my parents would let me each night.

Because of my fond memories – and our desire to continually instill a love of reading in our kids – we decided to go to our local library and check out their summer reading program. They have a lot of activities kids can participate in at various branches around town, and each week children can come in to pick up a reading prize. I really appreciate how great our libraries are, but the program wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Kids receive prizes just for coming in each week. So you don’t misunderstand – I think it’s great to have incentive to go to the library on a weekly basis, and our kids love going in and seeing what prize they’ll get that week. I wanted a program for the kids that was more similar to mine, where there are prizes & privileges available based upon how much they’re reading.

I considered several factors when setting up our program. Our boys are 7 & nearly 9, and are reading at different levels. J, our oldest, reads very quickly – but he also reads thicker books. C is reading thinner books that inherently take less time than those J reads.

To keep things fair, I decided to create a system in which 20 minutes of reading earns 1 book buck. The book bucks are a currency the kids can spend on the prizes Brian and I have chosen for them to pick from.

I made book bucks to print out, and labeled a baggie for each of my kids to keep their “money” in. Click here – or on the image below – to download a free PDF for printing your own book bucks!

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Genius Uses for Kids’ Pools

In the summer, pools are the name of the game – they’re a great way to beat the heat whether you’re hitting up a hotel, visiting your community dive spot, or are lucky enough to have one in your back yard.

The only pool we’ve ever owned is a kiddie pool – but guess what? They’re good for more than just a little cool fun. Check out these uses for a pool that are outside the box:

Check out Unexpected Ways to Use a Kid’s Paddling Pool This Summer

by Bird Bird’s Party at Mode

Kids Eat Free at Denny’s!

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This post is part of a compensated ambassadorship with Denny’s. All opinions are honest and are my own.

As you can tell by the name of my blog, I like to save money. I’m sure most of you do, too. And if you’re like us, eating out can be one of those things that very quickly adds up and drains a large chunk of your food budget for the month. I know for us, with three kids, the total for a dinner bill can be astounding sometimes.

Fear not, friends. You can eat out – with the whole family – and still live to tell the tale.

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Yep, you read that right. Denny’s offers free kids meals – usually on Tuesdays, but check your local Denny’s to find out when it’s available near you. Our location offers this twice a week – Tuesdays & Saturdays.

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Our Family is #FriendsWithBeneful!

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This post is part of an ambassadorship with Beneful. I receive products, information, and compensation as an ambassador. All opinions are my own.

Our dogs are complete opposites from each other. Sally is a labrador/golden retriever mix, and is about 80 pounds. Ninja is a schnauzer/yorkie mix, and is about 12 pounds. She’s HUGE and he’s little. She’s got light fur and his is pitch black.

They couldn’t be better buddies, though. These two love each other, and we love them. They’re a perfect part of our loud, busy, sometimes chaotic family and I just couldn’t imagine our house without them.

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If you’re ever looking for these two, just find us. They couldn’t be more loyal companions and they always want to be right where we are (they’re sitting beside me as I write this post!). If I’m walking around the house working on things, I often hear the jingle of both of their collars as they follow right behind.

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Give Your Office Space Style with Martha Stewart

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This is a partnered post with Martha Stewart. All opinions are honest and my own.

Y’all. Don’t judge.

This was my home office space a few weeks ago. I managed, but as you can see my desk was cluttered and not the most appealing place to get work done. It had good bones, but it was calling out for a makeover.

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The workspace is in our master bedroom, and giving it a facelift was the first step in giving our whole room an update (stay tuned for more posts to see our progress)!

Martha Stewart has a line of products available at Staples, and the moment I saw the collection I was absolutely in love.

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Even just looking at the thumbnails of various setup options you can see these are colorful and striking pieces that create a graphic and bold impact no matter which way you arrange them. I love (like love) teal, and was excited to add some of the color to my workspace.

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Check out these great filesfolders, and binders. I can keep my work stuff separate from blogging and freelance materials, and thanks to the great bookplates, I can easily see at a glance where to find anything I need. I love the metal accent – it provides a great high-end look.

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And oh my word, the Discbound customizable notebook is practically made for me. Like I mentioned earlier, the teal color speaks to my organizing heart. And the dividers you can add make it easy to set the notebook up just how you want it.

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It’s so easy to change things out. And friends, there are pockets so I can have everything I need right at my fingertips. Perfect for work lists, for home lists, for grocery lists.. for anything I need to jot down. It’s a must-have.

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This organizer is another favorite. The way I have this set up actually combines three pieces in the Stack+Fit line: the desk organizer, inbox with drawer, and small item holder. There are great compartments for pents, paper, paperclips and more.

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Celebrating #Amazinghood with Dreft

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This is a compensated post in partnership with Dreft. All opinions are honest and are my own.

As a mom of three kids, I’ve gone through my fair share of Dreft – and I’m betting all of you other moms out there can say the same thing. It’s always been my go-to detergent for my babies because of how gentle it is, and I recommend it to all my friends that are moms-to-be.

Parenthood and babyhood is messy, but those messy and imperfect moments are often the most memorable – don’t you agree? Thanks to Dreft, parents can embrace the mess of #amazinghood. Dreft celebrates babies and parenting and, well, the #amazinghood of motherhood. I got the chance to host a gathering with a couple of my mom friends recently to talk about what we think the most amazing part of motherhood is – and I got to share Dreft goodies with them, too.

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My friend Aimee said she thinks the most amazing part of being a parent is watching her kids play pretend, and seeing where their imaginations take them. Sarah said she loves watching her kids grow into their personalities. I love seeing my kids do things for others without being prompted – seeing kindness and thoughtfulness in them really makes me feel like I’m doing my job as a parent!

It was great to get together and chat about parenting, and I got some fun pink snacks to enjoy, too.

Prepping for my @dreft party – so fun! #Amazinghood #motherhood #baby #party #frugalnovice #ad

A photo posted by Christi (@frugalnovice) on

Like I mentioned, I got to share Dreft goodies with my friends, too – check out all they got to take home in their goody bags:

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Give Your Baby a #SecondHug with Huggies Little Snugglers

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My good friend has an adorable baby boy, and they’ve used Huggies® from the get-go. I knew they’d be glad to get some new Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers to help keep their newborn’s perfect skin clean and healthy. Since I can remember how quickly babies go through diapers, I went to Sam’s Club to get a big box (204!) that should last them a while.

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Little Snugglers have a GentleAbsorb Liner with a tiny, soft pillows that provide a cushiony layer of protection between your baby’s skin and the mess, and a color-changing wetness indicator to let you know when your baby’s diaper is ready to be changed. There’s a softer outer cover that’s breathable, and an improved pocketed waistband that keeps all the mess where you want it and helps you avoid blowouts!

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Huggies also has Natural Care Wipes that provide a gentle clean for your baby’s naturally perfect skin. Huggies Natural Care® Wipes with TripleClean Layers are thick enough to handle any mess, with a texture that’s soft against your baby’s skin. They have triple clean layers, they’re hypoallergenic, fragrance, and alcohol free, with a touch of aloe and Vitamin E.

Check out this great deal! Buy any two Little Snugglers diapers and/or Natural Care wipes and get a $10 Sam’s Club e-gift card by following these instructions: Buy any two packages of Little Snugglers diapers and/or Natural Care wipes between 5/9/16-6/30/16, snap a photo of your receipt and email/text it to Huggies@ by 7/15/16. You will receive a code and instructions within minutes to get your $10 Sam’s Club e-gift card. You will also get $3 in instant savings off Huggies Diapers at Sam’s Club from 5/11-6/4!

 

Give Your Child a SmartStart With Schwinn

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This post is sponsored by Lunchbox but all opinions are my own.

I can still remember – vividly – the day I first learned to ride my bike without training wheels. I must have ridden up and down our driveway 20 times! And two years ago I got to encounter that magical moment in our oldest son’s life. It took some time, but once he’d figured it out he was so proud.

Now our middle son, C, is 7, and he has been wanting to learn to ride his bike without training wheels for months. He’s nervous, though, and has been putting it off. We’ve been trying to think of everything we can do to make learning to ride a bike as easy of a process as possible – and that’s where the Schwinn SmartStart bikes come in. Here’s why I love SmartStart bikes for new riders:

  • 16” wheel size – classic learn to ride size.
  • Easier to learn to ride-better balance
  • Safer because less wobble
  • Light-weight for stability
  • The seat is shaped and sized to fit a child
  • When a SmartStart seat is raised to fit a growing child, the distance from the seat to the handle bars increases. This increases the reach distance and will allow the bike to grow with them
  • The grips are smaller for smaller hands
  • The geometry matches the pedal width to a child’s hip width
  • Like all Schwinn bikes, SmartStart bikes have a limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own the bike

We went to Toys R Us to pick up the bike:

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C was super excited to try out his new bike. We got the Schwinn Burnout 16 Inch bike and he thought the colors were, and I quote, “awesome!”

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Teaching Healthy Sun Care Habits – #MimicMommy

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This post was sponsored by Neutrogena as part of an influencer activation for The Motherhood. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It may just be May, but it’s basically been summer in Texas for weeks now. With the abundant sunshine comes lots of time outside, whether it’s in our yard, on a walk around the neighborhood, at baseball practice or one of the many other places we end up.

Being outside and enjoying sunny days is great, but it also means we need to take precautions to protect our skin – and especially our kiddos’ skin! Did you know that despite all we know about sun protection, skin cancer continues to be a health epidemic in the U.S.?  On average, more than 350 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every hour – even though skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.

We talk to our kids about the importance of sunscreen, but the best way to really get them to buy in to sunscreen is by example. Studies show that kids are more likely to adopt healthy habits, like applying sunscreen, if they see their moms applying it on themselves. Sparking this simple, healthy behavior change early on may help reduce the likelihood of developing skin cancer later in life.

I am completely committed to instilling safe sun behaviors in the next generation of children, so I always make sure my kids see me applying sunscreen on myself first to set the right example. I can remember having a couple of painful sunburns as a kid, and I don’t want them to have to go through that – both because of the pain and because of the long-term damage it can inflict upon their skin.

We went to the Texas Rangers game (the craaaazy one with the punch) – and with all the antics going on, we ended up being out in the sun for almost 4 hours. We used our Neutrogena sunscreen to protect our skin and keep us from getting sunburned while we rooted for the Rangers!

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Because of how important I think skin health is, I’ve partnered up with Neutrogena, the #1 Dermatologist Recommended skincare brand, to help spread the word about teaching our children skin protection – and in particular, being an example for kids with our own sunscreen usage.

Neutrogena has a variety of sunscreen options, and it’s great for our family. I love the UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen. It has a high SPF, and it’s so lightweight – not heavy and greasy like so many sunscreens! The kids love the CoolDry Sport because it’s so easy for them to apply (note – if you let your kids do their own sunscreen, closely supervise to make sure they get good coverage!) and this summer I know we’ll adore having the Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray while we’re at the beach.

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My sister-in-law loves the Pure & Free Baby sunscreen for my nephew – so we’re all covered… literally!

Head over to Neutrogena Choose Skin Health for more information – and check out Neutrogena’s FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more skin health care tips.

Now it’s your turn to show how you #ChooseSkinHealth by getting your kids to #MimicMommy! Three lucky winners will receive a set of Neutrogena sunscreens for the whole family!

For Moms:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 100+
Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50+

For Kids:
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 70+

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Share a Coke and a Song – and a Gift – With Coca-Cola!

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone.  #SongsToShare  #CollectiveBias

With Father’s Day coming up soon, I’m already thinking about gift ideas. My husband is an amazing gift giver, and gifts are my love language, so I’m all about finding the perfect gift.

In that spirit, I thought it’d be fun to create a great gift basket that any music lover would love. Coca-Cola™ was my inspiration with their Share a Song bottles and cans, so I headed to Brookshire’s to pick up some bottles. Shopping at Brookshire’s is great because of their Thank You Card reward program. You can save on fuel or groceries just by shopping with a registered card – every dollar earns one yourpoint. You can save 10¢ per gallon on fuel for every 100 yourpoints or get 5% off on groceries for every 500 yourpoints. Gotta love that!

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There were a lot of different types to pick from, but I decided to go with the glass bottles with the lyric “A moment like this.” I think it’s a great snippet to remind us to celebrate the moment!  To continue the music theme I got some fun red headphones and some rock star-worthy shades.

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To complete the package I made some fun coasters with packaging from the Diet Coke®! I got some plain white tiles at the craft store, cut out shapes from the packaging (making sure to highlight the fun song quote!) and decoupaged the pieces on to the tiles. Didn’t they turn out great? I love the lyric “Celebrate the good times, come on!” and think it’s perfect for any celebration – be it Father’s Day, a birthday, or even just to celebrate someone for being the amazing person they are.

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Download the Shazam App, available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and other devices to get your Coca-Cola Share a Song. What song lyric would you want on your bottle of Coca-Cola or Diet Coke?

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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Y’all. I love thumbprint cookies. Love them. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe here until now! This is another recipe that was originally on my food blog and I’m excited to finally be sharing it on Frugal Novice, too.

When I was pregnant with E, I craved three things: bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños, beef (steak, brisket, burgers, you name it and I craved it), and thumbprint cookies.

Since I had gestational diabetes, though, I had to really watch my sugar intake, so that meant virtually no cookies throughout my pregnancy. Insert frowny face.

I apparently talked a lot about thumbprint cookie withdrawal, because after E was born I had several friends and family members that brought me boxes of them from a favorite local bakery. If that’s not a sign I am surrounded by amazing people, I don’t know what is.

I decided that since thumbprint cookies rank up so high on my favorite cookie list I really ought to work on figuring out how to make them at home.

To me, chocolate is the perfect balance to the mild flavor of thumbprints, so I paired an extra-chocolaty buttercream with the cookies. C, our five-year-old, declared that they definitely needed sprinkles. Of course they did! Genius.

What you end up with is a light, crunchy cookie and a sweet, center. A perfect, colorful cookie combo that can’t help but make you smile.

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Mean Green Cleaners & Degreasers Get the Job Done

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Note: I am a Mean Green Ambassador and this post is part of my compensated partnership with the brand. All opinions are honest and are my own.

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With three kids and two dogs in our house, we are pretty much pros at making messes. It makes pretty perfect sense, then, for me to be a Mean Green brand ambassador. E’s excited – check out her “Mean Green” mean face!

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Mean Green is known as a national – and international – superior all-purpose cleaner for the toughest jobs around your house, garage or even work. The iconic “Super Strength” formula is made with a unique blend of detergents and solvents that form a powerful heavy duty cleaner and degreaser. Lab tests prove it beats nearly every other cleaner on nearly every stain. And because it’s biodegradable, non-toxic and contains no acid, ammonia, or bleach, you can feel safe using it just about anywhere, inside and out.

Mean Green’s line-up of specialized cleaning products also include Mean Green Mildew DestroyerMean Green Orange Champ, and Mean Green Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner, among others. Mean Green also has a line of products made especially for professional use.

Throughout the year I’ll be trying out Mean Green products around my house and letting you know how they work. I have to confess I kind of hate cleaning the house, so I’m excited to have Mean Green products to make it easier!

Until my next post, visit their site to learn more about the Mean Green products – you can even find coupons! You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.