July – 2012 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

July 2012

SwimWays Spring Float {Giveaway!}

Is it as hot where you live as it is here? With temperatures hitting triple digits on a regular basis, everyone I know is looking for ways to cool off – and of course, hitting the pool is one of the best options!

SwimWays has all sorts of fun accessories that make swimming & relaxing in the pool an even better experience – and their popular Spring Float is one that is versatile and easy to use.

  • With it’s patented spring technology, the Spring Float opens and closes instantly, allowing for quick set-up and easy folding for storage and transport in the included mesh carry bag.


  • A Jet Valve allows for easy inflation/deflation.
  • Soothing mesh cradles body contours in total comfort.
  • 66″ x 40″ lounge is the perfect size for everyone.
  • Available in a variety of styles and colors.

The Spring Float is available in a variety of styles and colors, including blue/aqua, white/aqua, pink/blue and aqua/blue so that you can choose which combination fits you best! The float retails for $29.95.

To see more about the Spring Float, check out this video:

One lucky winner will get their own SwimWays Spring Float!  This contest is open to all U.S. residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Monday, August 13. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

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Who, Why, What, Where, When to Learning English

Most of you that read my blog probably speak English as your first language. There are quite a few readers that come from different parts of the world and might not be native English speakers. I know I went to graduate school with several people from other countries, including a good friend from China and one from India. I hope information in this guest post will be helpful for those who do need to learn English!

Who takes the PTE Academic test?
The Pearson Test of English Academic (also known as the PTE Academic exam) is a computer-based, advanced English language proficiency exam. Administered by Pearson Language Tests, it is most widely used as an admissions test for English-language higher education programs. The exam is, at its core, designed to evaluate and certify the ability of non-native English speakers to participate in an English language courses at the university level. As a result, the exam is primarily taken by non-native English language students who are about to enter an English-speaking academic program.

Why should you take the PTE Academic exam?
The PTE Academic test was created with higher education institutions and their non-native students in mind. As the exam is calibrated to such a high standard, it is also aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference (or CEFR) and can certify candidates with English speaking abilities ranging from B1 to C2. As a result, in addition to being widely accepted as an approved certification of English proficiency by colleges and universities around the world, it is used by the UK Border Agency for Tier 4 (student visa) applications and considered the preferred test of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Importantly, as a computer based-exam, candidates can take the test with as little as 24-48 hours of advance notice. Also, because it is a computer-based exam, applicants can take the exam at one of the many Pearson Language Test certified testing centers around the world.

What exactly is the PTE Academic test like and what can I expect to see on it?
The PTE Academic is a computer-based test comprised of 20 different question types over four sections. Which four distinct sections are listed below, tasks often measure two skills at the same time. For example, a question may involve both listening and reading or reading and speaking rather than each part individually. Moreover, although the length of each section can vary, the PTE Academic exam is always 3 hours long. Because the timing for each section can vary, when the time is up on one section, the test automatically proceed to the next section. One preliminary section, provided as a warm-up exercise, is always included. This untimed personal introduction section is recorded but not graded.

The remainder of the tasks are divided into 3 general sections:

  • Speaking and writing, which can last from 77 to 93 minutes;
  • Reading comprehension, which can last from 32 to 41 minutes; and
  • Listening, which can last 45 – 57 minutes.

Throughout the exam, the PTE Academic uses real-life, academic-oriented situations. For example, Reading passages may include excerpts from textbooks or other aspects of student life. Likewise, listening passages may be reproductions of lectures or even recordings of actual speech samples collected from working university classrooms.

As a computer-based exam, results are available by e-mail in as little as five days. Scores are provided on a scale from 10-90, with scores below 43 considered insufficient to certify English proficiency for an academic setting and score above 84 considered exceptional. Scores between 43 and 84 are recognized the UK Border Agency and also correspond to the following CEFR scores:

PTE Academic Score         CEFR Score
43-58                                           B1
59-75                                           B2
76-84                                           C1

Where and When can you take the PTE Academic exam?
The PTE Academic test is available at many of the Pearson test centers operated around the world. Registration for the test is available online up to 48 hours in advance but up to 24 hours in advance by phone (and all phone inquiries should be made to the Pearson directly). Times and dates vary by location.

Fruit-Tea Smoothies Recipe

We’re big tea drinkers in our house. Pure Leaf Tea is a bottled tea with a fresh brewed taste – it’s great on its own but also provides a base for adding to it and making your own fun summer drinks to have for guests.

We decided to try out the tea on its own first to see what we thought – it really does taste fresh and is delicious over ice. Brian liked the unsweetened kind best, and my favorite (of course) was the sweet tea.

If you’re looking for a great summer drink to have when guests come over, be sure and check out the Pure Leaf Facebook page for tons of great recipe ideas! We decided to try mixing juice with unsweet tea, which added some fruitiness and sweetness to it and was very fresh and light – perfect for summer!

Here’s a recipe I think sounds SOOOO good, created by Gail Simmons (judge on one of our favorite shows, Top Chef):


Servings: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • 16 ounces Pure Leaf Iced Tea with Lemon or Pure Leaf Unsweetened Iced Tea, chilled
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup fat free vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

In blender, process all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately in tall glasses and garnish, if desired, with fresh strawberries.

What kind of drink would you like to make with Pure Leaf Tea? I’d love to hear your favorite recipe – it’s HOT here in Texas and we can always use another way to stay cool & refreshed!

Note: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Lipton Pure Leaf. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Skeeter Nut-Free Cookies Provide Allergy-Friendly Dessert Option

We’ve been thankful that neither of the boys have food allergies, but I know many families deal with this issue and it can be very scary for both parents and kids! Over the past fifteen years, the number of children with nut allergies has more than tripled, making it important—now more than ever—to consider snacks that are nut-free and nut-safe for everyone.

Skeeter Snacks are a line of nut-free cookies that anyone can safely enjoy.-

  • Created by two dads with nut-allergic children, Skeeter Snacks are produced using the highest safety standards in facilities that do not process any products containing tree nuts or peanuts.
  • The company is committed to the ongoing education of parents, educators, and others about the dangers of nut allergies. In fact, a portion of Skeeter Snacks’ profits supports the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
  • The snacks come in three tasty flavors, including Chocolate Chunk, Golden Oatmeal, and Skeeterdoodle. They’re available online and at major retailers.


The boys tried the Golden Oatmeal and Skeeterdoodle (snickerdoodle) the other day for a treat, and they were a hit! When you’re looking for a convenient dessert option, Skeeter Snacks are a great option that provides peace of mind and delicious cookies that kids and parents alike will enjoy.

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

Wordless Wednesday: Swagger Wagon

We held off on getting a full-fledged minivan, buying a Mazda 5 in 2010 as a compromise. But now that we’ll soon have 3 kiddos, it was pretty much inevitable we’d need something bigger. Well, I felt that way, and Brian either agreed or got tired of hearing me talk about it. :) Regardless, we traded in the Mazda for a Toyota Sienna on Saturday. And, well, I kinda love it. I think Brian might, too.

Winners Galore :)

Well, I think this is the largest number of giveaways I’ve announced at once – it’s a lot of fun seeing this big list of people that have all won a great prize! :)

Yarnaholics Winner

“Teach My Baby” Kit Winner

Ritmo Audio Belt Winner

Ritmo Advanced System Winner

Signazon Custom Canvas Winner

Universal Organizers Winner

Jason’s Deli T-Shirt Winners

Jason’s Deli $25 Gift Card Winner

Exederm Moisturizer Winner

Cold Stone Gift Card Winner

Cozy Coo Sway Seat Winner

BEABA Prize Pack Winner

The Children’s Place $25 Gift Card Winner

Balboa Baby Shopping Cart Cover Winner

Join me for the Pulled Pork Twitter Party!

I love to write about food and recipes, so I’m especially excited to announce that I am co-hosting a Twitter party with the National Pork Board and The Motherhood!  We’ll be talking about recipe ideas for pulled pork – a tasty and versatile summer staple for potlucks, picnics and group gatherings – and giving away great prizes!

When: Thursday, July 19, 7-8 p.m. ET

Where: The party will take place on Twitter, using the #PlatesofPork hashtag.

Who: The National Pork Board (@AllAboutPork) and The Motherhood (@theMotherhood) will be hosting. You must follow both Twitter handles to be eligible to win prizes.

Prizes: Five prize packs will be given away throughout the hour, based on responses to trivia questions.  Each prize pack will contain a $20 Walmart gift card, slow cooker, cutting board, three-piece BBQ tool set and sauce bucket/brush (total ARV $116).  Official Rules are here.

RSVP: Let us know if you’ll be there! Click this link and press the orange “count me in” button on the right-hand side.

I hope you’ll join us! It’ll be a lot of fun, and you might just win one of the great prize packs!

Note: Thank you to The National Pork Board and The Motherhood  for this opportunity.  I am being compensated for my time as a co-host.  All opinions stated in this post are honest and my own. 

Fun Shutterfly Contest – Win a Trip to the Bahamas!

I’m a big Shutterfly fan to begin with (have you seen all their photo products? Their photo books are my favorite – and I’m a BIG fan of vacations, so it only seemed fitting to share this contest with y’all.

Long Live Summer Facebook Photo Contest Details: July 9 – August 12  – Multi-week summer themed photo sweepstakes with instant win prizes!

Win a trip for four to The Bahamas and a professional photo shoot so you’ll remember your vacation forever.  All you need to do is upload your favorite photo and caption based on the theme of the week.  Get a gift from Shutterfly just for entering! You can enter at any point during the 5-week sweepstakes period.


•       Week 1(7/9): Americana

•       Week 2 (7/16): Great Outdoors

•       Week 3 (7/23): Water Fun

•       Week 4 (7/30): Sports & Activities

•       Week 5 (8/6): Parties & Celebrations


•       Instant win prizes just for submitting a photo!

•       Weekly prizes (contestants can enter one time/week)

•       Weekly featured photos: up to 5 weekly entries will be selected from the gallery and featured on the Facebook fan page and awarded a $500 gift card on Shutterfly and a copy of the new Lonely Planet travel photography book.

•       Grand prize: trip for 4 to Bahamas, 4 nights, family photo shoot

Shutterfly Sweepstakes – Official Rules

Note: I am receiving a promotional item to thank me for this post.

Lansinoh Affinity Double Electric Pump Review

I had no clue about the importance of a good pump when J was born. Of course, some people just breastfeed exclusively and don’t use a pump, but for me it was a really important tool. We ended up renting one from the hospital, and it worked well but was $45/month, which adds up quickly. With C, I bought a single electric pump. Although it served its purpose, I realized quickly that a single pump was not for me – it takes twice as long!

This time around I am excited to have the Lansinoh Affinity Double Electric Pump to use.

Lansinoh is a well-respected name in breastfeeding supplies. Their pump is affordably priced at around $129.99 (depending on retailer – I found it for more and for less at various online stores).

One aspect of the pump I love right off the bat is the capability to plug it in OR use batteries (6 AA). In most instances I’m sure I’ll use the plug, but if you’re traveling then being able to use batteries can be a lifesaver.

The flanges around the pump are a soft material (silicone, I believe) which allows for a much higher comfort level than the hard plastic many pumps have. And as you can see in the photo above, the whole unit is pretty compact – which again makes it great for traveling.

The base is pretty simple to operate with a power button, a let down button, and then buttons to to control the speed and the suction. The digital screen allows you to keep track of settings and the time you’ve used the pump.

I’ll follow up once the baby is here and let you know how it’s going using the pump, but for now we just turned it on to see. The pump is somewhat loud, but from my experience with other pumps it’s not much louder than the norm, and in most cases this won’t really matter because I pump at home. I held one of the flanges up to the palm of my hand to gauge suction, and this seems to be a powerful pump especially for the size!

The pump came with a few extras, too:

I’ll be planning to get more of the storage bags – these are great for freezing milk in to have on hand for longer-term use. They also have more of the bottles you can screw on to the pump, and I’ll probably get more of those – it makes it easier to have multiple bottles and not have to wash them each time you want to pump.

Overall I’d say this is a great, affordable pump that is easy to use. Keep an eye out for my follow-up post once the baby is here and I’ll give you some more opinions!

Note: I received this pump to facilitate my review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Little Busy Books from School Zone

The School Zone “Little Busy Books” are aptly named, considering they’re meant for preschoolers – who are always busy! We got the Coloring Adventure book (perfect for C, with a little help from us) and the Dot-to-Dot book, which J just loved. We used them at church last Sunday, and they were great for keeping the boys busy & quiet! These books both retail for $2.99.

Note: We received the books for review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and our own.

Blooming Bath Review & Giveaway

After having two kids, it’s easy to feel like you’ve seen all the products that are out there. I was completely surprised and intrigued when I discovered the Blooming Bath, a soft insert that parents can use in the sink to easily bathe their babies. It was created by four dads who all noticed how hard it can be to safely bathe slippery, squirming infants.

The Blooming Bath is a good size – I didn’t realize how large it would be, but it really is substantial which provides plenty of cushioning for your little one. Here’s a shot of it spread out on our table – isn’t it cute?

The center is a brown minky fabric that’s really soft for babies to sit on:

Here you can see a shot of the fabric from the front of the petals and then the backing too:

And on the back of the Blooming Bath there’s a tag that also doubles as a loop for hanging it up:

I tried putting ours in the sink to see how it would fit, and it seems like it will be a great setup for our baby to sit in and lean against for bathing:

The Blooming Bath is machine washable, but if it doesn’t get dirty you can just toss it in the dryer after you use it – simple! I mentioned that this is pretty large when you lay it out, but since it’s soft and foamy it’s easy to fold it up into a compact size that makes this a travel-friendly option, too. And wouldn’t this make a great shower gift? It’s adorable and practical, and will make a great impression on the recipient.

One lucky reader will win a Blooming Bath in their color choice (turquoise, pink, or yellow, ARV $40.00)!  This contest is open to all U.S. residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Saturday, July 28. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Note: I received a Blooming Bath to facilitate this post, one is being provided for this giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions in this post are honest and are my own.

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Tommee Tippee Bottles

I’ve written a couple of different posts about Tommee Tippee products – their sippy cups are our new favorites, and I’m so impressed with the compact efficiency of their bottle sterilizer (I know this is going to make life easier once the baby arrives). I also got a chance to review some of their bottles, and was especially excited after hearing great things from other friends who use them.
You can tell these bottles are different right from the start – they’re wider than normal bottles, for one thing, and the entire bottle nipple area is wider too (meant to mimic breastfeeding, making it easier for babies to transition between bottle & breastfeeding). There’s also an advanced easi-vent valve that helps guard against air intake, vacuum buildup and nipple collapse, reducing the chances of gas and colic while baby feeds. This is really important to us because C had a ton of issues with gas & spitting up, and we think if we’d had the Tommee Tippee bottles it would have helped.
Features of Tommee Tippee Bottles include:
  • BPA- and phthalate-free
  • Unique soft, ultra-wide nipple mimics natural shape, feel and movement of breastfeeding
  • Ultra-sensitive anti-colic valve lets babies feed at their pace for less air, vacuum build- up and nipple collapse
  • Seamless transition from breast to bottle
  • Shaped for a comfortable hold for baby and mom
  • Nipples are progressively staged to meet baby’s needs from first latch to first sips
The Tommee Tippee bottles (and other products) are available at Target now, did you know? Our Target had an aisle that held a bunch of their products:
I’m really excited to have discovered Tommee Tippee products this time around! Have you seen their products in your Target?