May – 2013 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

May 2013

Watch the Final Trailer for Monsters University!

Can’t. Wait.

Coming June 21 – less than a month away!

Saving Money on Cable, Internet & More With ConnectYourHome.com

Note: This is a compensated post. All opinions within this post are honest and are my own. 

We’re in the process of selling our home (which, by the way, is an exhausting process – but I’ll save that for another post) and have been looking at homes to move to. It’s fun thinking about where we’re going to live, but then of course there are a lot of other things to plan for – we’ll have to get utilities set up and figure out our TV and internet choices.

Thankfully, there’s a service that can help us find out the cheapest options – ConnectYourHome.com. Since we’re planning to move to a bigger house, we’re wanting to save money where we can.

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First I looked for deals on cable TV service providers. All I had to do was type in the address and zip code of the home we’re interested in buying, and then I was provided with a list of  deals available in my area – some as low as just $29.99/month, which is WAY lower than we’re paying at our current house! And when you add up the savings each month to consider how much you’re saving over a year, that’s a huge savings.

Next I looked at bundling TV and DISH high-speed internet. Brian and I both do freelance at home, and of course, I blog, so having a great internet connection is really important to us too. Bundling can often save money, so I definitely wanted to look into that.

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Again, it was really easy – I just entered a few details and was able to get an instant quote on what the cost would be for us to bundle TV with high-speed internet from dishNET. Someone calls within minutes to let you know what your offers are.

So, whether you’re just looking to save some money from your current costs, or you’re like us and will need to start up service at a new home, be sure and check out what the cheapest choice is for your family – your pocketbook will thank you!

Guest Post: Save Money on Summer Travel by Driving!

How can driving on vacation save us money?

The summer holidays are fast approaching, but if the budget’s tight it can be hard to plan the perfect family vacation. Airfares are high, accommodation isn’t cheap and there’s usually activities to splash out on once you get there. Driving to your destination may not sound like your idea of a relaxing break, but it could leave you with more money in the bank and, if you play your cards right, some very happy kids! Here, PassSmart’s blogger, Isabelle, shares some top tips for saving money on your driving holiday.

Stock up and save

One of the main advantages of driving on holiday is that you can take more with you. If you opt for a self-catering holiday, you might want to consider taking food supplies with you in a cooler box to make sure the things in your refrigerator don’t go to waste while you’re away. You can also save money by making sure you take everything the kids need to keep them entertained whilst you’re away. After all, If they’ve got their favourite toys and activities with them, they’re not going to be asking you for new toys from the local shop… hopefully!

Fuel savers

Whilst driving may be a cheaper option compared with the cost of flights, we all know fuel isn’t free. There are, however, ways to conserve fuel and money, even on long road trips. Try to find the most economical route for your journey. Even if highways are the quickest option, they may not be the most fuel-friendly. If you have a GPS navigation system, it may have an option to help you choose the most economical route, so check yours out before setting off.

Another positive of avoiding the highways is that you’ll get a chance to actually enjoy the journey. The drive doesn’t have to be a chore, and, if you plan your route carefully, you might even have a chance to stop off and enjoy your surroundings on the way!

Explore

When you’ve got your own car to get you from A to B, you’re not restricted to staying in one place. Unlike when you fly abroad, you’ll be able to travel to different places, taking in new experiences. This may sound like an expensive way to travel, but, because you’ll be so busy exploring during the day, you can find budget accommodation to use as your base. Consider staying in one place for a few days before moving on to another town. You’ll get a lot more for your money in local hotels and B&Bs, and you’ll be able to fit much more into your time away.

Go off the tourist trail

We all know that tourist-friendly areas are more expensive to visit. Save money by going off the tourist trail and into quieter areas. Restaurant prices, hotel rates and the cost of souvenirs are all likely to be lower if you go off the beaten track, and, thankfully, having your own car makes that a whole lot easier!

Make memories

Remember, making memories is free so all you have to do is enjoy yourself! Drive safely, take plenty of photos and enjoy your vacation!

This partnered post comes from our friends at the British company, PassSmart.com.

WummelBox Puts Fun & Creativity At Your Fingertips!

Note: We received a WummelBox through Child’s Play Communications to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily for our post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Our boys have gotten more into arts and crafts as they’ve gotten older – which I love! We do a TON of coloring at our house, and one of my favorite things is to wake up in the morning and walk in the living room to find them both drawing in their sketchbooks. Of course, with how busy we are, we have a hard time putting the forethought into doing any sort of actual hands-on craft beyond drawing or painting. So, of course, I LOVE the idea behind WummelBox, a subscription service that delivers ready-to-make crafts right to your doorstep.

A few things to know about the company, first of all, that made me like them right off the bat:

  • The high-quality materials in the sets are eco-friendly! Each box includes materials like cork, sand and reforested wood. Even the box is re-useable, becoming a part of each craft!
  • Each craft is designed to be used not once but over and over again (e.g. a car, a cashbox, a windchime, etc.)!
  • Each high-quality WummelBox contains 3-4 themed-based projects (Nutrition, Sound, etc) and is designed to inspire children age 3-8 to learn and explore the world around them.
  • Straight from Berlin, projects are developed by experts, refined by parents andapproved by kids!
  • Each WummelBox contains everything needed to immediately begin crafting.

We got a box that focused on music, and for a FULL WEEK all I heard was, “When can we make our instruments?” They were thrilled that we got to work on them this weekend, and I have to admit I bribed them for good behavior at soccer games by promising we’d do our WummelBox when we got home.

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The box itself is cute, with a print all over it. And, like I mentioned above, you even use the box as part of one of your crafts, so it’s not wasted – LOVE that (plus, moms, these boxes would be great for storing kids’ artwork and other papers, just FYI).

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Everything is packed neatly in the box and is organized as separate crafts wrapped in tissue paper. As you can see the boys were eager to scope out what was inside, and C (on the left) was thrilled that there was a hedgehog (his favorite animal right now) on the instructions!

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First we made a drum. This was SO easy for the kids to do, and they thought it was a blast. You can see how the instructions make it really clear what to do.

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We also made chimes, which was a more time-consuming activity – I had to thread the string through the wooden bar and through each chime, which took me a good 10-15 minutes. Once they were done, though, I thought it was very cool how the chimes could attach to the box. And as you can see, J loved playing the chimes. We were quite a musical household on Saturday between the drum and the chimes!

Another fun activity in the box was a Sound Memory game – we put different items in film canisters (both the items and canisters were provided) and the idea of the game is to shake the containers and find matching pairs. VERY fun, and perfect for our kids’ age range (C just turned 4, and J will be 6 in August).

The WummelBox has a retail value of $35.95. You can get a box for as low as $19.95 if you sign up for a year’s subscription – or you can do a 3-month subscription for $24.95/month, or just get one box for $34.95. Regardless of what plan you pick, your kids will have a lot of fun when their package arrives!

If you want to try WummelBox, visit their site to find out more. I hope you and your kiddos have as much fun with this as we did!

Wordless Wednesday: Baby Smile

I take LOTS of pics of my kids, baby E included. I posted this photo of her to Facebook the other day:

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But of course, as parents know, the posted photo is very rarely the only photo taken. I usually take 5 photos to get the one I end up using. So, I thought today I’d show the photos I took leading up to E’s smile. I actually like them all, but of course I am her mom. :)

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Will You Be Seeing Disney’s “Planes” Movie When It’s Released?

Our family has watched Cars and Cars 2 more times than I can count, so I am pretty sure Planes will be right up our kids’ alley too. If you haven’t heard much about the movie yet, you can find out more now… A new trailer for the movie, called “Disney’s PLANES Take Flight,” has been released, and I’m getting to share it with you today! Do you think this will be a movie your family will want to see? I think we’ll be going opening weekend as a fun family outing – it releases in theaters everywhere on August 9!

“Like” Disney’s PLANES on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DisneyPlanes

 “Follow” Disney’s PLANES on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyPictures

 Visit the website: www.disney.com/Planes

Note: This information was provided by Disney. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are honest and are my own.

For All You Love

Paper flowers made by C for me this year

Paper flowers made by C for me this year

Note: I am participating in a compensated Johnson & Johnson campaign with The Motherhood.  All thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. The kids (even baby E) have already started bringing home handmade cards and trinkets, and the boys are so proud of what they’ve made. Of course, with the holiday approaching I’ve been thinking about my role as a mother, and how much love I have for each of the kids. Before having C, I wondered how you could love more than one child as fiercely as you do your first. It’s an amazing thing how your love spreads, and how you love them each equally despite how different they can be from one another.

Johnson & Johnson just launched their “For All You Love” campaign, which celebrates the selfless and unconditional caring of caregivers, including moms, and all the ways they care for those they love, and I thought I’d write a little about that today.

I think about how much I love my kids every single day – I seriously get that warm, “my heart’s about to burst with love” feeling on a regular basis, because I’m absolutely in awe that I have been blessed with these three wonderful little people. Don’t get me wrong, they can drive me nuts, too… but at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed, it’s the happiness of the day that I think about. And when 5:00 is nearing each week day, it’s the thought of their little faces that makes me realize the best part of the day is about to arrive.

As a mom, I’ve done things I never thought I would be strong enough to do. I’ve never handled the sight of blood well – my mom told me the story of her stubbing her toe when I was just a toddler, and the sight of her toe bleeding caused me to throw up. That’s been a running theme throughout my life – I can’t even handle watching people donate blood. Yet when J cut his chin open at a friend’s house, and there was blood everywhere, I wasn’t fazed one bit. His comfort and well-being were all I could think about. He was scared, and my focus was making him feel secure. I think it was that moment, three years in to being a parent, that I really understood how much power there is in my love for my children.

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing justice if I didn’t share a little about each of the kids – they each have their own distinct personalities and little things we love about them.

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J, our 5-year-old, is our firstborn. He is hilarious, and he lights up when he realizes he’s making people laugh. His latest schtick is quoting his favorite TV shows and movies – gestures, intonations and all – and we can’t help but crack up. He is also fiercely protective of his younger siblings, yelling at C to stay away from the street without holding my hand, or running to give E her pacifier if she’s crying.

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C just turned 4. He’s our sensitive soul, so we have to be a little bit gentler with him. He loves to be a helper, running ahead to beat J at opening the door for us, and he is snuggly. At night if I’m laying on the floor in their room, he is the one that wants to reach out and hold hands.

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E is 8 months old and her personality is still expanding more and more each day. She wakes up in the morning smiling and blowing raspberries. She grins and squeals and babbles all the time, but she can still have very serious expressions that remind me a lot of her daddy. She is a perfect completion to our family.

What have you done for someone you love? How have you seen someone else show their love for you? Love can be seen in the grand gestures, of course, but it’s in the small, day-to-day moments that it builds and builds, shaping us into who we are.

J&J Campaign Manifesto

 

As a part of Johnson & Johnson’s “For All You Love” campaign, recognizing their commitment to the health and well-being of moms and kids worldwide, J&J is also planning to donate $25K this Mother’s Day to Save the Children®: http://www.savethechildren.org

Oh, and I adore this spot J&J put together:

Speaking of love, be sure and spread the love this Mother’s Day – and help support a great cause, too! In celebration of Mother’s Day this year, JOHNSON’S Baby has established JOHNSON’S Baby CARES Care Cards, a digital e-card platform encouraging moms to share positive messages of encouragement with other moms across the country, while simultaneously supporting Save the Children.

Simply pick and share a card filled with messages of reassurance for a Mom in your life on Facebook at http://www.johnsonsbabycares.com. For every card sent, shared or liked, JOHNSON’S Baby will donate $1.00 to Save the Children (up to $150,000) to benefit early childhood education programs that foster education and reassurance for new moms. These cards will not only spread encouragement to Moms throughout the country but will also provide Moms in need with the skills and knowledge to successfully support their child’s growth.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. May this weekend, and beyond, be filled with love.

Wordless Wednesday: The Color Run • Austin, TX

This past Saturday I did The Color Run with a group and we had a blast! It really is a happy 5K, and I’d highly recommend giving it a try if it comes to an area near you!

My gear – the black packet is filled with colored powder.

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Pre-race manicures:

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Me and two of my friends, all clean before the race!

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I can’t even begin to tell you how crowded it was there – there were thousands of people ahead of us, and this is the view behind us as we waited in the starting chute.

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I love blue!

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Me, post-race and pre-party:

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Me and my friend Kristi – she had already gone to the after-party:

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Color!! This part was so fun – they played great music and every 5 minutes or so they’d have everyone toss color in the air.

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This is what my mother-in-law looked like after the party:

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And here’s me:

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Can’t wait to do this one again next year!

FREE Downloadable “Monsters University” Activity Sheets!

Are you as excited for the Monsters University movie as we are? Brian and I have been huge fans of Monsters, Inc. since it first came out. And that scene at the end when Sully grins as he sees Boo’s face gets me every time. 

Monsters University will be our next family movie to all go see in the theater, and we can’t wait! To help us (and you) pass the time, Disney is letting me share some great downloadable activities.

Reminiscent of (but so much more fun than) the original pin the tail on the donkey, “Archie on the Loose” lets your kids try and put the Monsters University logo on the Fear Tech mascot (ah, classic college prank!) while blindfolded. Click the image below to download your free printable PDF!

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This next activity sheet is one I know my boys will enjoy – you can create your own MU (Monsters University) ID badge! Just print out the PDF and let your little monsters draw their little monsters on the card, and voila! You’re good to go. Again, just click on the image below to download your free printable!

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Note: Disney provided these activity sheets for me to share but I am not compensated in any way for doing so. I just wanted to spread the fun! 

Vera Bradley Baby Clothes & Accessories are a Great Addition to the Brand!

Note: We received a Vera Bradley baby item for review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

If you remember, back last summer I reviewed a Vera Bradley diaper bag. This bag is my favorite diaper bag we’ve had – it’s stylish and we get compliments on it, but it also is great for organizing baby gear, and it’s held up the best of any diaper bag we’ve owned. Well, now Vera Bradley has expanded their line to include baby clothes and more accessories, and these pieces are just as great!

The new pieces include blankets, booties, layette sets, onesies and even oh-so-adorable socks… and more!

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We got to review one of the new Vera Bradley baby dress & bloomer sets – in Tutti Frutti. When it arrived and I saw the packaging, I knew this was a perfect gift idea for a special baby in your life. Isn’t this absolutely adorable??

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We LOVE this dress. It’s soft and well-made, and the pattern is just perfect. E has gotten so many compliments on this dress! We think she looks pretty cute in it, too – what do you think?

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You can find the Vera Bradley baby clothes and items on their site. Be forewarned – you’ll want to get one of everything!

Wordless Wednesday • May 1

I knew when I married Brian that I was blessed with a wonderful guy; we’d dated 5 years at that point. But when we had J back in 2007, I also learned what an amazing father I’d chosen for my kids. He, of course, is great with all three of them (the boys think he is the coolest), but I thought for today’s Wordless Wednesday I’d share some father-daughter pics. This little girl loves her daddy, and boy does he love her!

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Official MLB Strollers Now Available From Kolcraft!

Note: We received an MLB stroller from Kolcraft to review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

If you live in Texas, you hear about the Rangers. A lot. And you see Rangers gear pretty much everywhere, too. Our boys both have Rangers shirts & caps, and we got J his first Rangers cap when he was just 6 months old! Now we have another way to show some Rangers love, with our awesome official Rangers stroller from the MLB line at Kolcraft.

From the Kolcraft site: “Now your little one can be a part of the team with this Officially Licensed MLB stroller! These umbrella strollers are perfect for quick trips or outings to the game, and kids will love riding along with their favorite team.”

The boys thought it was SO cool that we now have a Rangers stroller, and when we first brought it into the house it turned into quite the popular item to sit in. They were even eager to have their photo taken with it, which is saying something! We decked them out in their Rangers gear as a preview for what we’ll look like at the next Rangers game we attend:

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This stroller is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and is sturdy, too. We love the built-in sunshade (which so many umbrella strollers don’t have). But of course the awesome red and blue design is the best part of it! The stroller  retails for $39.99 and comes completely assembled, so all you have to do is take it out of the box and you’re ready to use it! It has a lock that keeps the stroller shut when you’re not using it, so it does not come undone (really important for when you’re carrying the stroller around, or storing it someplace). The stroller also features locks on their wheels, so you don’t have to worry about the stroller rolling off with your baby inside.

Doesn’t E look ready for her first Rangers game?

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The MLB strollers are perfect to add to your baseball gear. In addition to the Rangers, these other teams have strollers available:

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Boston Red Sox
  • San Francisco Giants
  • New York Yankees
  • Chicago White Sox
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Philadelphia Phillies

You can also get potty seats and step stools in the MLB designs – keep an eye out for an upcoming post on our great Rangers step stool – hand washing and teeth brushing has never been so exciting in our house!