Frugal Novice

Elena of Avalor Birthday Party and Birthday Cake

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My daughter E just turned 4 last week, and has been excited about her birthday party for MONTHS. She ran through many different party theme ideas, and finally settled on her new favorite, Elena of Avalor. Only five episodes have aired so far, and we know them – and the songs within each episode – by heart.

Since Elena is a newer Disney princess, there’s just not a lot out there on the market yet. We found Elena toys for her gifts, but when it came to party planning we had to get creative.

The city of Avalor – and Elena’s culture – is influenced by diverse Latin and Hispanic cultures, so we decided our party would have a fiesta-type atmosphere showcasing vibrant colors.

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My coworker donated some leftover tissue paper flowers from a party she’d thrown – we used them on the windows, and at each corner of our big chalkboard. Check out how easy & affordable it is to make these colorful decorations here.

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I found some cute pom pom fringe ribbon in the Target dollar section; we (I have amazing family that is awesome at helping decorate, especially my MIL!) used that to drape along the arms of our chandelier, to trim out our lamps and side table, and to add some charm to the chalkboard. The “Celebrate” felt banner is also from the Target dollar section (I kinda love Target. A little lot.)

We used a lot of streamers in a variety of colors, and tons of colorful balloons, too – cheap & effective additions for creating a perfect party atmosphere.

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Another easy thing to add to atmosphere is buying fresh flowers. Our local supermarket has them for $5 a bunch, and they really provide great color, don’t you think? We put a vase on the party table (as you can see in a pic above), and on the bar alongside party favors, too (I’ll get to party favors in just a bit).

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Our Family is Flipping for Free Kids’ Pancakes 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.

I’ve written many times over  the past few years about how affordable it is for families to eat at Denny’s. Well, it’s now even easier and more affordable than ever for families to enjoy its all-new pancakes thanks to its “Free Pancakes for Kids” offer. This whole month your kids will have a free opportunity to see if Denny’s new pancake stacks—made with fresh buttermilk, real eggs and vanilla—really are better than ever.

For the first time, the pancakes are available in a variety of kid-sized signature dishes, including the Jr. Cinnamon Pancakes, Jr. Strawberries & Cream Pancakes and Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Kids ages 10 and under can enjoy Denny’s pancakes in any of these dishes for free every day in September from 4-10 p.m. with the purchase of one adult entrée at participating locations. We will definitely be going and taking advantage of this great deal! You can also add sides for just 89 cents each – I know my boys will want to add bacon to their pancakes!

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“With families getting back into groove of the school year, the month of September is the perfect opportunity for fans of Denny’s to take advantage of our Free Pancakes for Kids offer,” said John Dillon, (follow him on Twitter, by the way – @DillonJohnW), chief marketing officer for Denny’s. “Not only is this a great way for our guests, including kids, to try our new pancakes, but it is also our way of inviting families to enjoy breakfast for dinner at an affordable price.”

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Take the brightpeak $500 Savings Challenge (& Get a Head Start With This $25 Giveaway!)

This is a compensated, partnered post with brightpeak and The Motherhood. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Did you know that about 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account, and 21% don’t have a savings account at all? Especially if you’re a young couple just starting out, or if you’re a young family with lots of expenses, it’s easy to see how having a savings account can seem out of reach.

love the idea of finding ways to save more money, but I’ll fully admit it’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and lose track of savings goals. That’s why I was pretty excited to learn about brightpeak’s free $500 Savings Challenge – it makes it pretty foolproof to set aside $500 in savings… in just one week.

I signed up to give the challenge a try – I was curious what kind of steps one has to take to achieve the goal of saving $500 in seven days. Were they going to suggest ideas that were really difficult to accomplish?

When you sign up for the challenge, you get one email each day with an action you can take to save money. And guys? Each suggestion was really reasonable. My favorite suggestion is selling something worth $100. It’s my favorite because it accomplishes two things – decluttering the house and earning money! If you take a look around your house with open eyes, I’m sure you can find an item worth $100 to sell on Craigslist or a local Facebook garage sale group. And if you can’t find one item, surely you can find several items to list that total up to $100 (For example, I have a big stack of E’s 3T clothes she’s outgrown – it’s so easy to sell them if I just put my mind to it!). You’ll be one step closer to your savings goal, and you’ll have purged items you didn’t really need anyway.

There are, of course, 6 other days worth of challenges, and I’ll keep the rest of the actions a surprise so you can learn them for yourself. I’ll say this, though – it’s totally achievable and realistic to save the $500 in 7 days and get the boost to your savings account you need!

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Help Your School with Box Tops for Education @ H-E-B!

I can hardly believe the kids are back in school again – the summer flew by. We had a really great three months with lots of family time and fun, and now we’re adjusting to school mode again – earlier bedtimes, earlier wakeup times, quick breakfasts, packing lunches… all the little routines that help make our kids’ days smoother and better.

The weekend before school began I started stocking up on favorite healthy snacks and nonperishable lunch items so we’d be prepared. We love H-E-B and all the variety they have to offer, so it was a great one-stop shop for everything we needed. As I shopped, I realized that I always gravitated towards options that offer Box Tops for Education. We love the Box Tops program, because all we have to do is shop for things we’re already planning to buy, clip the tops, and send them to school (your school will receive 10 cents for every Box Top you clip and send!) – it’s an incredibly easy way to support our school and its teachers. Just look for the box Tops label when you shop General Mills products at H-E-B.

Whether we’re shopping for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snacks, it’s easy for us to find Box Tops products to help support our schools.

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I have many friends who are teachers, and my mom was a teacher for many years until she retired this summer. I know how much teachers invest in their students by purchasing many things on their own dime, so it’s incredibly important for us to support teachers and schools with great programs like Box Tops for Education.

Right now there’s an even easier way to ramp up Box Top efforts – 20 Texas schools will win 20,000 bonus Box Tops (this is a value of $2,000!). Support your school by registering here for your chance to win the sweepstakes, and let your fellow parents know so they can enter, too!

 

 

Perfect for School Lunches: Summer Citrus From South Africa Easy Peelers

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This is a partnered post with Summer Citrus from South Africa. All opinions are honest and our own.

School is back. We’re still settling in to the new routine, especially in the mornings. With three kids, we’re rushing around each school day making sure breakfasts are eaten, teeth are brushed, clothes are chosen, backpacks are ready, and lunches are packed.

Lunches are a big deal to me as a mom. I’m away from the kids all day, and lunchtime is a chance to send them a little love with a great meal. My husband and I send a joke in our boys’ lunches each day – usually one of us will write the joke and the other one will draw an illustration to go along with it. It’s a fun and easy way for us to brighten the kids’ day while they’re at school!

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I like to make it really convenient to pack lunches during the week, so I pre-portion lunch meat, pepperoni, and pretzel sticks in snack baggies, and choose other healthy and convenient foods to go along with them. Easy Peelers from Summer Citrus from South Africa are a great school lunch staple – they’re SO easy to put in lunches (no slicing needed), the kids have fun peeling them and breaking them apart, and they’re delicious!

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We also have Easy Peelers as a snack after school. Even my daughter, who’s almost 4, can easily peel one, she loves tearing them apart, and they disappear quickly because she gobbles them up!

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Here’s something else to bring a smile to your face…

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I’ve got TWO amazing giveaways you’ll definitely want to enter.

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First, enter to win a really fun summer prize pack: an orange pool float, RTIC Insulated Tumbler, Popsicle Mold and eos Lip Balm. Just click here to enter! This giveaway is sponsored by Summer Citrus from South Africa, and it ends September 9.

The other giveaway is one I’m hosting right here, and it’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself! Check out what all you’ll win:

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This prize pack is wonderful, y’all. The winner will get a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream Maker, dessert bowls, a citrus juicer, a zester, eos lip balm and a $50 Walmart gift card! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CanvasPop Provides Quality Custom Canvases

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We received a custom canvas to facilitate this review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Brian and I completed a BIG project this summer – a huge custom built-in bookshelf in our living room. We filled many of the shelves with books, but there are some larger areas that are intended to display art. These areas are unique sizes, so finding pieces to fit just right can definitely be a challenge.

I knew right away that I wanted a photo canvas for one of the spots, and I found out that CanvasPop could provide truly custom dimensions, allowing the canvas to fit perfectly within the shelves, with a 2″ margin on all sides. We love it!

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The shelves of our built-in are a little less than 4″ deep so they can hold books but not stick out too far into the space. If we got a thin photo canvas, it might look a little too recessed, so this was something I was concerned about – until I went to place our order. CanvasPop offers a 2.5″ depth, which really gives a high-end feel.

Our canvas was hand-crafted, as evidenced by the seal placed on the back:

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We’re Keeping our Furry Foodies Happy with Beneful’s New Recipe!

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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. We’re proud to be #FriendsOfBeneful! 

Blue_POSTERBrian and I consider ourselves foodies. We love to cook, we love to test new recipes, and we love to try new restaurants. One of my favorite things to do each weekend is to look up recipes and plan our meals for the week. We’ve gotten the kids in on our love of food, too – even our picky child! So it only makes sense that in this family of foodies we don’t want to leave out our sweet dogs, Sally & Ninja.

Beneful is a brand we’ve loved for our dogs for a long time, but we love them even more now that they’ve rolled out their new recipes for their dry food.

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It’s a sign to us as dog owners that Beneful really cares about making the best quality food for our furry family members. Real meat is the #1 ingredient in their beef and chicken dry foods.

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Did you know you can get a free sample of the new Beneful dry dog food so your pup can give it a try?Just go here to sign up.  (By the way – it’s important to note that dogs can be sensitive to change, especially when it comes to food. Even if you currently feed your dog Beneful, you’ll want to transition to the new Beneful recipe as you would for a new type of food. Check out these helpful feeding tips and tricks for how to make the transition smoothly.)

When we got our sample in the mail, Sally was practically beside herself with excitement.

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I apparently took too long to open the package, because she hopped up with her front paws on the dining table. She’s never done that before (she totally knows that’s against the rules!) but apparently the allure of Beneful was too much!

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Curlformers Make Gorgeous Curls Easy!

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I’ve always had straight hair, but I’ve always loved the way curly hair looks, and have wished I could have  that look for myself. Unfortunately I’m not a morning person and just don’t have the patience to stand in front of the mirror for an hour with a curling iron.

Thankfully I can now achieve gorgeous curls within minutes each morning, with Curlformers. These are SO cool – the design is genius, and they’re pretty foolproof.

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You can put them in your hair, use a dryer to set them, and remove the curlers – or if you’re like me and aren’t a morning person, you can put these in your hair at night, sleep on them, and pull them out in the morning.

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Brian helped me put these in my hair since it was my first time trying them, and he said it was really easy to do. It took about 15 minutes to put them all in, so I can only imagine that as I use them more and more it’ll become an even quicker process!

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Check out my suuuuuuper cute look. Yes, I look like a friendly, makeup-free clown. But friends, it is worth it. These rollers are flexible plastic. They’re not soft like foam, but I slept in them and was comfortable.

It took literally 1 minute to pull all the rollers out in the morning, and I was left with some seriously impressive curls. I played with my roots at the front a bit to give them body and de-frizz, but I was really happy with the finished product and would definitely recommend them.

Here’s a photo I took immediately after removing the rollers, and before I adjusted my roots:

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Pancakes That Will Make Your Family Flip!

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

Our family loves pancakes. We make them at home a lot… but now we’ve got some serious competition. Denny’s has upgraded their pancakes, creating a recipe so good it even tops those that are homemade!

One thing I’ve learned throughout my time as a Denny’s ambassador is that this is a company wholly committed to quality. They put hours of work into each recipe that makes it to the menu, so it was no surprise when I learned they transforming their pancakes with pure ingredients and classic flavors for a bigger, better, and tastier pancake. They’re now 50% fluffier and made with fresh ingredients such as real eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

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There are four limited-time signature builds available right now:

  • Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast
  • Strawberries & Cream Pancake Breakfast
  • Double Berry Banana Pancake Breakfast
  • Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfast

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The Dream Dog Park Project with Beneful

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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. We’re proud to be #FriendsOfBeneful! 

Blue_POSTERYesterday we decided to take the kids on a special outing. We had dinner at home, and then told them we were going to the park, which garnered some moderate excitement – who doesn’t love a good playground? But then we told them we were going to a dog park, and that we were taking our Yorkie/Schnauzer mix, Ninja, with us. Glee erupted – they were thrilled! Ninja was pretty excited, too, and we promised Sally (our Lab/Golden Retriever mix) that we’d take her next time (Our city has a small dog park and a large dog park, so it’s easier to take them one at a time and all be able to hang out together in one or the other).

Ninja could hardly contain himself on the car ride over (he needs a hair cut, btw – he’s scheduled for the doggie spa tomorrow… so excuse his shaggy look!):

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When we got to the park there were four other dogs already playing. Ninja was a little hesitant at first, doing his own thing with our family, but soon all the dogs were playing together.

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Three Tips for Surviving Your Baby Becoming Mobile!

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If you’ve got older kids, you probably remember very clearly how life changed once your babies started crawling. Our three kiddos are all VERY mobile, but my nephew, who is nearly 9 months, will be crawling before we know it – so in his honor (and for all you other mommas out there with little ones), here’s a survival guide for getting through the transition to mobility:

1. Set up safe areas. When your baby starts moving, he’ll want to explore! We found that the best compromise for us was getting a large play yard (we got one with six panels that we could set up in a variety of shapes). We put it in the living room so that our son could cruise along the front edge of our couch and had a wide area with different toys set up around it. The panels allowed for us to link toys to the walls, too, so he had lots of different things to move to and play with. This way he didn’t feel too contained, and I wasn’t worried about what he might be getting into!

2. Buy diapers that will stay in place as your baby moves. Diaper leaks are NO FUN (especially if it’s a dirty diaper – EW!) so it’s crucial that you get the right diapers. Huggies are a great option – only Huggies diapers have a stretchy SnugFit Waistband to help the diapers stay in place like no other diaper. The unique contoured shape provides a comfortable fit and stays in place as babies move and play. We also love that Huggies have new and improved Leak Lock, which provides the protection and security you need between diaper changes. The double grip strips provide a comfy fit that lasts a long time. The DryTouch liner is another great feature that’s part of the Huggies “Moving Baby System,” so your baby stays dry as they move around and explore! Bargain tip: Sam’s Club members will save $3.00 instantly at check out until July 17th! 

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3. Keep the floors clean. When you’ve got a crawling baby in the house, it’s more important than ever to keep the floors clean. Mop and vacuum more frequently than you normally would so that those little hands pick up less germs as they move around! You also don’t want them finding any crumbs, pieces of grass, or anything else to put in their mouths (because we all know everything ends up going into their mouths)!

I hope these tips help your little mover get going safely – and help to give you peace of mind as they get mobile!

Ad: Who Won Our Tyson® Chicken Nuggets Championship?

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #PowerTheirPlay  #CollectiveBias

Now that summer is in full swing, I’ve had to adjust our grocery list to make sure we have plenty of great lunch options for the kids to eat when they’re home. I love having choices that are filling – and that are quick to make, too. I recently headed to H-E-B and stocked up on Tyson® Chicken Nuggets (by the way, click here and type in Tyson Chicken Nuggets into the search box to find a $1.00 coupon!) & State Fair® Corn Dogs (keep an eye out for the $2.00 yellow in-store coupon at H-E-B!) from their frozen section.

We love to go to the freezer aisle to stock up on foods that’ll fuel our kids for long days of playing hard. Both the Tyson nuggets and the State Fair corn dogs are good sources of protein, so they’re a great go-to for lunch or even for a mid-afternoon snack. The corn dogs are portable so we can just heat and eat – even take them in the car while out running errands! Our kids love that they’re fun to eat and that they’re a great mix of sweet and savory. And the nuggets are a win-win for me and the kids. The kids think they taste great, and I love that they’re made with 100% all natural ingredients, and use white meat from chickens raised with no added steroids or hormones.

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The summer is also a great time to come up with creative activities, and the Tyson nuggets inspired me to do something really fun. Our kids love to watch cooking shows, and we’ve especially enjoyed watching some of the kids’ cooking championships as a family. Our two oldest kids have said they’d love to go on one of those shows, so we decided to have our own cooking challenge: the Chicken Nugget Championship.

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The rules? Each of our boys was responsible for coming up with their own recipe using Tyson chicken nuggets. They had to use ingredients we already had in the kitchen for their creations. Brian, my mom, and I each tasted both recipes and were the judges.

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