November – 2012 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

November 2012

Holiday Travels

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We are big Kia fans after having the opportunity to test drive the Sorento for a week last year. And with road trips coming up, having a roomy, reliable, luxurious-feeling vehicle is definitely a priority!

We have two little boys (aged 3 & 5) and now a daughter too (almost 3 months old!) so we have a lot to travel with. A car with plenty of storage space is crucial for us to travel comfortably, for sure! We also think strategically about ways to keep the road trip going smoothly – I’ve written about some of our tips for road trip survival in the past.

What are your funniest or favorite road trip memories? Share them in the comments!

Note: Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Kia Motors.

We Have A Visitor for the Holidays!

The boys have been excited for December to arrive for a while now. We have several traditions that they love all building up to Christmas, and they couldn’t wait to get started! Little did they know we’d have a visitor this year that will bring even more fun!

One day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, a good elf friend magically arrives. From the time the Elf arrives until Christmas Eve (Santa picks up each Elf to help him deliver presents), the Elves truly become part of the family. They tag along on family excursions, go to school, help with chores, and will occasionally embark on silly adventures, known as Elfcapades™, at nighttime. When children awake in the morning, they’re often excited and mystified to see what their magical Elf has been up to! For families who want to join the Elf Magic tradition, children have only to write Santa to ask if he can send a new Elf friend to the child’s home.

The goal of a visiting Elf Magic Elf is to spread joy, love, and kindness and also to ignite the Christmas spirit and reinforce the true meaning of Christmas. Children form a strong bond with their magical friend, and look forward to their Elf’s return each year.
Our elf is named Orville, and he even has blonde hair like the boys!
Orville is in a different spot each morning – and if he’s in his bag when the boys find him, they know it means he has a special treat for them! Here are some of the spots the boys have found Orville:
In our Legos
By their toothbrushes (in his bag, with a special treat!)
Trying to take off on a Lego airplane
Going for a spin on our ceiling fan
Resting in baby sister’s car seat
Snagging some candy out of our candy bowl!
The kids love finding out what Orville’s next Elfcapade will be!
Do you want an Elf Magic elf to come visit your family too? There are all kinds of different elves available to be your kids’ new friend. To learn more about Elf Magic and this fun tradition, visit Elf Magic online. You can also connect with Elf Magic on Facebook and Twitter to hear about the fun Elfcapades that Santa’s elves have been on!
Note: I received items for review. I have not been compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Tools for IKEA Furniture Assembly

Furniture from IKEA is sleek, stylish and modern. A large portion of our house is furnished from IKEA – in fact, we just added this cabinet from there to our kitchen a couple of weeks ago – it serves as a great pantry, don’t you think?

IKEA furniture is also, more than likely, unassembled. The great thing about IKEA items are the detailed instructions and easy assembly. Here are the most common tools to have on hand prior to assembling or building IKEA furniture.

Screwdrivers are handy tools for any type of furniture assembly, particularly IKEA items. Flat-head and Philips screwdrivers should be part of the tool kit. A wide variety of sizes is not particularly necessary. Most IKEA furniture assembly only requires a screwdriver of moderate size. However, having a miniature screwdriver nearby could be useful for fixing building mistakes or making adjustments.

No furniture-building project is safe without a hammer. IKEA furniture assembly typically does not necessitate the use of a hammer. However, if a wooden peg does not fit a hole when it should, a swift, careful blow from a hammer could do the trick.

Wood Glue
Speaking of pegs, officially known as dowels, a container of wood glue should be part of your building kit. IKEA furniture frequently substitutes dowels for screws. Using wood glue is a great way to fortify the furniture’s construction.

Allen Wrench
Allen wrenches (also known as hex keys) are probably THE ubiquitous tool for building IKEA furniture. In fact, so many of IKEA’s furniture designs require the use of an Allen wrench that the tool is included with many of its purchases. Buying enough furniture items from IKEA probably racks up a surplus of these wrenches for future use. However, it never hurts to have one — just in case the item does not include an Allen wrench.

Something About Silver Review & {Giveaway}!

As a proud mom to my three kids, I love having jewelry to represent them and their importance to me.  Something About Silver provides beautiful custom jewelry stamped by hand in their studios near the sunny beaches of Clearwater, Florida. I got the opportunity to review their sterling silver stacked rings – aren’t they pretty? I chose to have all three kids’ names stamped on one ring, but you could easily do one name on each ring and stack those together – I think that would look really nice too.

They have a lot of other options as well, from bracelets to necklaces to charms, to things for guys like dog tags, guitar picks or key chains. And if you use the coupon code FN10 you’ll get 10% off (coupon good until Friday, December 14). Be sure and sign up for their newsletter while you’re there – you’ll get great content including news on their products and specials! When you visit their site you’ll see the newsletter signup in the left sidebar toward the bottom.

Excited about the coupon code? Well, how about something else great? You might just win a $40 gift certificate to spend on the Something About Silver site!

One winner will receive a $40 Something About Silver gift certificate.

This contest is open to all U.S. residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Tuesday, December 11. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Note: I received rings from Something About Silver to facilitate my review, and they are providing the giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

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Personal Creations Review – Custom Holiday Gifts for Everyone

When you give someone a personalized gift, it just takes it to another level – it shows that you’ve really thought about the recipient and have made the effort to get something special. Personal Creations is filled with options that ll allow for customization, letting you easily give a gift that is completely unique and original.

We got to review an item from Personal Creations and I chose to pick something for Brian’s grandparents. They love getting photos of the kids, so I knew a frame would be perfect. The personalization will make it an extra-special gift, don’t you think?

The frame is solid and a nice large size. It’s really well-made and I love that it has three spots – perfect for our three kids! Plus, each of the three frames rotates so we can have two photos in each frame.

Personal Creations really has gifts for almost anyone on your list – gifts for her, for him, for kids; frames, kitchen items, jewelry, blankets, ornaments, stockings, pocket knives, and more! You can even get 25% off your entire order with this code – BLOGGER25.

Note: We received the frame to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Zutano Baby Clothes Will Brighten Up Your Holidays {Giveaway!}

Since having E in September, I’ve gotten back in to the whole world of shopping for baby clothes. And I have to admit I love it. Tiny clothing is just plain cute. In our city, I’m pretty limited to a few select stores, so online shopping is what really provides me with opportunities for unique clothes for her. Zutano is one of those stores that I could go broke at if I weren’t careful!

We got sent two outfits, both of which I absolutely adore. The first is a Penny Lane peasant top and baby skinny leggings to go with it. The colors on this outfit just pop, and we got a ton of compliments on it when we were out.

The second outfit we received just screams coziness. It’s the fuschia cozie elf onesie (although I think of it more as a sleeper), and it is just stinkin’ cute, there’s no doubt about it. We got the baby booties that go along with it, too.

I had E wear this outfit on a rare cold Texas day, and it was just perfect. It kept her warm from head to toe, and it makes for some pretty great photo opps, too.

There are truly an abundance of items on Zutano’s site that I would love to snatch up for E – and they have great little boys’ clothes, too! If you’re as in love with their clothes as I am, you’re going to be thrilled to find out I get to give away a $75 Zutano e-gift card to one lucky recipient!

One winner will receive a $75 Zutano e-gift card.

This contest is open to all U.S. residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Monday, December 10. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Note: I received clothing from Zutano to facilitate my review, and they are providing the giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

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Jalapeno Roll-Ups & Apple Pie Recipes with Great Value Crescent Roll Dough

I posted the other day about prepping for my Great Value baking party. Well, I had it last Thursday and it was SO MUCH FUN! It was originally supposed to be at my house, but when my husband came down with a nasty stomach bug my friend Jennifer graciously offered to let us have it at her house – whew, party saved!

Like I mentioned in my other post, we made an appetizer and pies. For the appetizer we used Great Value crescent roll dough & cream cheese, and then cooked, crumbled bacon and diced, roasted jalapenos.

Jennifer and I worked together on the appetizers, making quick work of them. She cut the crescent dough triangles in half, then I spread the cream cheese while she topped with the bacon and jalapenos. We made a great team!

Here’s Jennifer with the tray all ready to go in the oven:

And then check out the finished product – don’t they look delicious?

If you like bacon-wrapped jalapenos you’ll love these. I think they’d be a show-stopper at any party! With the crescent roll dough they’re not quite as spicy, so they are good for a broader audience. You could add toothpicks to these and make a really pretty and user-friendly platter! (Recipe is here)

By using Great Value crescent dough and cream cheese, it’s really affordable, too – I spent about $7 in ingredients to make these – not bad at all. And I promise, they tasted just as good as if we’d used more expensive “brand name” products (better, really, with knowing I was saving money)!

Since the appetizers were so quick we spent most of our time on the pies – well, that or holding baby E, who came along with me since Brian wasn’t really in a state to care for our 2-month-old. We decided to just make apple pies to keep things simple.

Kristi started prepping the apples – we went through 2 bags (about 16 apples) to make 8 pies. This peeler/corer/slicer made quick work of it, and it was easy enough that she could rock E with her foot while she worked (plus she’s an amazing multitasker like that)! And Amanda worked on getting the recipe multiplied out to make 8 pies.

As a reminder, we used this apple pie recipe from It’s really simple and only includes seven ingredients:

  • Great Value Pie Crust (2)
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Flour
  • Water
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Granny Smith Apples

We also decided to add a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon for some added depth of flavor – plus, I think those flavors are perfect for fall holidays, don’t you? They also helped to cut some of the sweetness – perfect!

Amanda and Jennifer worked on the filling for the pies while I held E for a little bit (For the record, I’m not a fan of this photo but it’s the only one of me so here it is!):

Kristi and I filled the pie shells with apples. We got deep dish crusts, which I’d always recommend – they leave more room for filling! :)

Amanda and Kristi cut some extra crusts into lattice pieces for the top of the pies. I told them they looked like they were having fun, and Amanda cheesed it up for the camera. :)

Once the lattices were placed across the pies, we just poured the filling over the top of everything. We just did two pies right then, since the rest of us were taking them home with us.



So pretty, right? And sooo delicious! Since the rest of us were taking our pies home to bake, Jennifer put filling in containers for us and covered up the pie shells with apples. This made it easy to travel with!

So, as you can see we had a really great time – in fact, we can’t wait for our next baking party (which is coming up soon)! What baking do you have planned for Thanksgiving? Have you ever done baking parties with your friends?

Note: I am participating in the Great Value program with The Motherhood. I have been compensated for my time.  All thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own.


Free Cards from!

Shutterfly makes it easy for people to create and send one-of-a-kind greeting cards. Their cards are perfect for holidays, birthdays, congrats, thank yous and every occasion in between. It’s fun, easy, and totally personal.

With the holiday fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to let that special someone know that you’re thinking of them with a totally unique, personalized greeting card from Shutterfly. Whether saying thanks for Thanksgiving, wishing a best friend a holiday birthday, or simply sharing the holiday cheer with a just because card, Treat lets you create a one-of-a-kind card that is sure to impress.

So, be sure and pop on over to and create a special card for a special someone in your life!

Note: I am receiving free Treat cards for writing this post. I am not being compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Get One Step Ahead on your Holiday Gift Shopping!

Ever since having our first son a little over five years ago, One Step Ahead has been on my radar as a high-quality site for parents. Their company was founded by two parents, Karen and Ian Scott, who wanted the best products for their own kids—and a smarter, easier way to find them.

When I first learned about the site I thought of it as a place to find necessities, but they’ve also got a wide variety of great toys, too. We got to experience some of their selection recently when we reviewed the Bosch Junior Toy Workbench, Toolbox & Tool Set.

The workbench allows kids to hammer the nails into the pounding bench, use the screwdriver to turn the gears, or tighten and loosen the vice. Kids can even screw nuts and bolts into plastic 2 x 4s. The 17-piece construction set includes toy tools, fasteners, and even a kids’ hardhat, which the boys both love wearing.

The bench was really easy to put together – no tools needed, ironically. :) It’s a great size for little ones, but our five-year-old kneeled to play at it and really had fun with it too. They especially enjoyed putting the gears in different holes and making them work together.

The toolbox comes with six toy tools that look like grown ups’. It includes toy hammer, saw, screwdriver, wrench…even a whirring toy power drill!


It isn’t in my photo, but the toolbox has a yellow tray in it, which made it perfect for two little boys who both wanted to cart tools around. One would carry the tray while the other had the box, making it a good solution for sharing. Everything held up really well to the typical rough play of two little boys, so we were impressed with how durable it is, too.

So, when you’re thinking about holiday gifts for the little ones in your life, be sure and check out One Step Ahead and have quality options at your fingertips!

Note: We received the workbench and tool box to facilitate this review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Make a Big Impact this Holiday Season with Custom Gifts from CafePress!

Do you have those people on your Holiday shopping list that are just plain difficult to shop for? They either already have everything they need, or they like things that are so unique they’re hard to find.

Well, CafePress is the perfect solution for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family members – you can create custom items – they have clothing, home goods, accessories and more that can all be custom designed for the recipient.

If you’re not wanting to make something custom, there are a lot of unique, pre-designed items available as well. I just got an iPhone 5, so I was particularly interested in cases. CafePress is a great place to shop for cute and funny designs for iPhone 5 cases, which is great because many of the cases out right now are pretty plain. But, I could always go the route of  custom iPhone cases and upload a photo of my kids.

Another great gift idea is a blanket. It’s perfect as a stand-alone gift or as part of a gift basket. You could include it with a DVD, popcorn and some boxed candy for a great “night in” set. Custom stadium blankets are great for home use or for out at football games, so they’re a good option for several different people on your list!

I’m going to be ordering some custom items so be sure and check back for an upcoming post showing what I designed, and in the meantime be sure and check out all CafePress has to offer.

Note: I am receiving CafePress items to facilitate a review. All opinions are honest and are my own.


Your Kids Can Be Active And Learn, Too With the iBounce!

iBounceWe live in Texas, and although we’re known for our hot (HOT) summers, we get our fair share of cold weather too. When we have extreme weather, it can be hard for us to get out and let the kids get some much-needed activity. So we were thrilled to discover the iBounce trampoline, a great way for kids to burn off energy right inside your home!

JumpSport, makers of the award-winning iBounce children’s trampoline with tablet mount (fits, iPad, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Samsung and most other tablets), rolls out two new animated adventures for RompyRoo in Let The Games Begin and The Grand Finale! Both videos keep kids hopping as they develop balance and coordination while learning to listen carefully and follow directions. The JumpSport iBounce makes a great holiday gift for kids 2 to 5 years old.

The kid’s trampoline, packed with entertainment, has gotten gushing reviews from mom bloggers, consumers and (so far) eight industry honors this year, though it was only introduced at Toy Fair in February. Everyone agrees that the iBounce benefits preschool-aged kids by getting them off the couch/floor/bed and motivates them to exercise along with adorable animated character, RompyRoo. Learning numbers, colors and letters are all part of a brief, bouncy attention-grabbing session.

We love the stability that the handlebars on the trampoline offer, and we love that it is small enough to fit well in our house. The iPad stand is a nice feature, but we really like letting the kids watch the videos on our TV best of all. It’s great that they combine learning and activity all in one package. We’ve had the boys each bounce 100 times before bed, which helps them work on counting and burns off a little energy before they go to sleep. :) The trampoline is great quality and very sturdy, and the design is nice and bright and cheery. We love it!

Here you can see it in action a little – J is trying out the trampoline while watching the video on our TV:

This trampoline has won a LOT of awards already:

  • Spring 2012 National Parenting Center  Seal of Approval
  • Spring 2012 Parents’ Choice Foundation Award
  • 2012 Mom’s Choice Awards • Gold
  • 2012 Creative Child • Kids Product Of The Year
  • 2012 Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Children’s Product
  • 2012 Tillywig Toy Awards • Top Fun Award Winner
  • 2012 Parent Tested Parent Approved
  • 2012 Family Review Center Seal of Approval

For information about the iBounce and its newest RompyRoo DVDs/downloadable videos, go to

If you’d like to purchase an iBounce for a special little one in your life this holiday season, you can find it on Amazon and other online retailers.

Note: We received this trampoline to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Prepping for My Great Value Baking Party!

What’s on your list to bake this Thanksgiving? I love to bake and Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for all kinds of baking fun.

Luckily I have several friends who like to bake too, so I decided to hold a baking party Thursday – it’s one week before Thanksgiving and a perfect time to share some recipes and get some practice in for the big day. We’re going to be using Great Value pie crust to make a couple of different pies, and the Great Value crescent roll dough to try out a new appetizer recipe!

When picking an appetizer recipe for us to try, I was very tempted to go with an all-time favorite – Crunchy Chicken Crescents. But instead I decided to try a recipe my friend Jennifer found that combines some of my favorite flavors – jalapeno, bacon and cream cheese. Sounds like a perfect Texas appetizer, don’t you think?

Jalapeno Cream Bites

  • 2 tubes Great Value crescent rolls
  • 1 8 oz. block of cream cheese
  • 4  medium jalapeno peppers, with seeds & ribs removed, chopped and broiled in oven
  • 1 package of bacon, cooked, drained & crumbled
  1. Unroll tube of crescent roll dough. While still in a single sheet, sprinkle half of the crumbled bacon over the dough, pressing the pieces into the dough. Then separate triangles and cut each one in half. 
  2. Place a small spoonful of cream cheese and several pieces of jalapeno in the middle of each triangle, then fold up the sides so the cream cheese and jalapeno are sealed inside the dough.
  3. Bake in the oven according to package directions for the crescent roll dough, or until golden brown.
  4. Enjoy! 

For pies, I think we’re going to make an American classic – the apple pie – and one of my friend Chemese’s favorite, a sweet potato pie (which I don’t think I’ve ever tried before). Each of us will get to pick which type of pie we’d like to make so we can have one to enjoy after the party. One tip – beyond extra pie crusts needed for double-crust pies, I’m going to purchase an extra Great Value pie crust to use for cutting shapes (leaves would be great for fall) to embellish our pies with. It’s an easy way to add a little something special!

I’m looking at trying this apple pie recipe, and this sweet potato pie recipe. I hope you’ll check back  to see how our baking party turned out. If only there were a way to share food through the internet so you could sample some, too!

I went shopping  this morning to pick up ingredients for the baking party. I love shopping for Great Value products, I must say – I was able to buy so much for the party and keep it affordable! My first stop was getting the crescent roll dough:

And I decided to go ahead and pick up some biscuit dough, too. We love to have biscuits on hand for breakfast or dinner – they’re so versatile.

I bought pie crusts, too – 10 of them, in fact! I wanted to make sure everyone has a pie to take home from the party, and to have extra dough for embellishments like I mentioned earlier.

Check out all that I got for the baking party (I had a few ingredients, like sugar, cinnamon, etc. on hand already):

I’ll do some prep work prior to the party like pre-cooking the sweet potatoes and cooking the bacon, but we’ll do most of the work once everyone arrives. Can’t wait to show your our finished products!

Note: I am participating in the Great Value program with The Motherhood. I have been compensated for my time.  All thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own.