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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last minute party idea!


Let the countdown begin! No doubt if you are hosting a party where family and friends are planning to bring children, you probably have the food options well in hand by now. But what about something other than the TV to entertain the younger set? Martha Stewart suggests getting plain plastic top hats (the ones pictured are from Oriental Trading) and setting out all sorts of basic craft supplies (easy to get at Michaels, Jo-Ann's or Target if you don't already have some) - glue, stickers, child-safe scissors, pom-poms, streamers (left over tinsel?) and double-sided tape. Soon you will have your own New Year's "mad-hatters" creating their own party hats! (Personally I'd recommend more tape and less glue and stay away from glitter!).

Have fun and be safe out there!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sweet treat for any occasion!



So here's a great dessert idea, especially for a party! (Thanks, Charlie!) - Take a muffin pan/cupcake tin and turn it upside down. Cover the "molds" with cookie dough and bake. When they are done you have cookie bowls for ice-cream, sorbet or fruit! Easy yet a little bit different!



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After the holiday clean-up tricks



The gift wrap is still laying around the tree, guests have finally departed and it's time to get your house ready for New Year's Eve. Here are a few hints to help you make clean-up a cinch:

* Use wire to make arack against the ceiling in a closet to store rolls of gift wrap - keeps them from taking up space and getting ripped in the process.






* Use a walnut (out of shell of course!) to rub over scratches in wood furniture to disguise dings and scrapes.



* Use egg cartons to separate and store your holiday decorations.



* And that earring you lost during the party? Put a nylon stocking over the vacuum hose and use it to gently pick up tiny items like that before you do the full cleaning.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays



Wishing you and your friends and families a peaceful and wonderful holiday wherever you are!



I will return and have more posts for you on Dec. 27th.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Give the gift of gratitude



I came across the perfect post for this season at http://www.americanprofile.com/ entitled "Five Ways to Show Gratitude." Here are counselor Richard Nicastro's recommendations to improve all of the relationships in your life:









  • Think small (don't wait for the new car or dream cruise; focus on the little things, your spouse's smile, a friend picking up a coffee for you...)



  • Choose to be grateful (for everything, not just for what you want - like being able to breathe fresh air...)



  • Feel appreciation before you express it (it means more if your words are authentic and heart-felt!)



  • Don't expect anything in return (be selfless!)



  • Avoid expressing gratitude when others are upset with you (resolve conflicts or issues before you say "thank you")



If everyone chose to do these things, wouldn't our world be a nicer place? Let's be the ones who start the trend!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Decorate and party at the same time!



OK, so we are a little late in the season with this one, but still a fun idea and I'll offer another twist at the end as well!






Why not host a holiday decorating party (now my source was suggesting Christmas, but there are plenty of options during this season). First, set up a small artificial tree and ask guests to bring an ornaments that they feel define themselves. You serve beverages and flavored popcorns and they decorate the tree. What a nice way to remember friends each year!



Now for the twist - have friends come by each with an appetizer for a party - you provide beverages and cut-out cookies with all the decorating goodies - sprinkles, frosting, etc. and everyone leaves with a few cookies and fond memories. (This is also great for a kids' holiday gathering).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nuts about the holidays!



Looking for a last minute gift for someone and minimal budget remains for your holiday list? I came across a recipe that is simple and can be used as a holiday gift, hostess present, midnight snack (for Santa?) or even a great game day munchie! Here you go - you can thank me later!


Spiced Nuts


3 cups pecans


1 cup shelled pistachios


2 cups almonds


1/2 tsp. ground coriander


1/2 tsp. ground cumin


3 Tbsp. butter


2 Tbsp. brown sugar


1 and 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce


1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper


1 and 1/2 tsp. salt



Preheat oven to 325 F. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven, shaking the sheet several times during baking, about 10-15 minutes.


Meanwhile, in a small skillet over low heat, add coriander, cumin, butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and salt. Stir until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved. Place nuts in a bowl and drizzle with the warm, spiced butter; stir until well-coated. Let the nuts cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 cups.

You can certainly substitute peanuts (not great idea for a gift in case of recipient having allergies), cashews or other favorites in the recipe. Play with it and make it your own signature holiday gift!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Gallery at your Fingertips!




Ah yes, the holidays are around the corner and you have a little time off, but not enough to travel (to say nothing of the lack of funds after that last trip to the mall)! What to do, you ask? Check out http://www.googleartproject.com/ for virtual tours of the most amazing museums in the world - "visit" the Tate in London or MoMA in NYC. There are no crowds or lines or expenses, just you and some great masterpieces!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Give yourself some time off!


The holiday season is, without a doubt, one of the most stressful times of the year - it's special but we often feel the pressure to make everything perfect - the food, the gifts, the cards, the events...it goes on and on. Remember to take some time for yourself each day. Give yourself some time with a good book, a cup of tea, a nap (yep, a nap!), or just a walk around the block. Take yourself away from the "to do" list and it won't seem so daunting when you get back to it!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reverting to my childhood!


Remember favorite products, toys and candy from yesteryear? Want to bring some memories back at the holidays? I have a "new" favorite Christmas catalog from "The Vermont Country Store" (or shop online at : www.VermontCountryStore.com). Some blasts from the past...


Ribbon candy
Silver tinsel trees with the color wheels to make them change color (ok...don't really miss them, but fun to see them again!)
Classic Fisher-Price Toys...the Chatter Phone, music box teaching clock, Snoop 'n Sniff pull toy dog
Mood changing lipstick
and...get this! the original Mystery Date Game (authentic reproduction)!

Even if you don't order anything, it's fun to "window-shop"!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Everyone has a little "elf" in them!



Struggling to think up new gift ideas on a budget? Check out one of the Penny Pincher's favorite sites on this subject:

www.learnvest.com/living-frugally/guerrilla-guide-to-the-holidays

They have suggestions and complete instructions for 8 "DIY" holiday gifts sure to cheer even Scrooge himself!

The goodies include:

Home- baked biscotti
Homemade bath salts
Infused vodka
Photobooks
Granola

...and more! Fun to make and great to give!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cards for Heroes


As always, I am looking for ways to make a difference without going broke myself! This particular option is easy, inexpensive and yet very important. When addressing your holiday cards this year, address a few extra - each one to the following address - to go to a veteran or active military man or woman to add some cheer to their holidays:

Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20191-5456

To be included, your cards must be postmarked no later than Dec. 9th! Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So before I rush you into December...


Admittedly my last post may have pushed all the holiday stress buttons, so let's step back into November! "Woman's Day" (11/17/11) had an easy, interesting way to decorate your Thanksgiving table...one of many in that issue I might add!

If you are using a solid color tablecloth (red looks great), spray paint whole walnuts (in shell obviously) with gold spray-paint and lay them around the table. They add a feeling of texture and color to the dinner table! Go a step further and try it with miniature pumpkins or squash!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Here comes Santa Claus...


Now my regular readers may recall, I am always early in my Christmas preparations - particularly cards and gifts. (This is NOT to insinuate that I like Christmas decorations and music the day after Halloween in my grocery store!). But, in case you are wondering, yes, my shopping is done, all out of town gifts have been shipped (I detest lines at the post office) and I will mail my already addressed cards out on December 1st.

But for the more normal holiday shoppers out there, here are some ways to sparkle up your wrapping for very little expense (way to go Martha Stewart!):

  • Use silver garland to create pom-poms for bows.
  • Layer colors of tissue paper when wrapping to give a unique look.
  • Use knotted paper "rope" to make really easy, stylish bows.

Check out more at marthastewart.com and start wrapping!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Helping Military Families with Expired Coupons!


So to celebrate Veteran's Day while sticking to my "penny pinching" theme, I have a great program to tell you about (thanks Charlie!!!) Our US military commissaries will allow our enlisted soldiers and their families to use our expired printed coupons for 6 months past their actual expiration dates! Help our troops by sending your expired coupons to selected co-op operations for military family support centers overseas. Even better, start a larger collection program - collect at your workplace, organizations you are part of, schools, places of worship...it's easy and doesn't cost more than a little postage (and, for military bases, the postage is the same as US postage...no added expense)!

Here are some of the addresses:

COMFLEAT DET
Yokohama
Family Service Center
PSC 472, Box 8
FPO AP 96348-1150
______________________

Navy Family Service Center
U.S. Fleet Activities
Sasebo
ATTN: Coupon Distribution
PSC 476, Box 62
FPO AP 96322-1114
______________________

ANSBACH 235TH BSB
Unit 28614
APO AE 09177
(Germany)
_______________________
NAPLES NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY
PSC 810, Box 53
NAS Naples
FPO AE 09619
(Italy)
__________________________

For additional locations go to:
http://couponing.about.com/cs/aboutcouponing/a/militaryexpcoup.htm

And don't forget to thank every veteran and active military member you see!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fun food fast!


In the Phoenix area, we can boast that we have our own Food Network star, Robin Miller ("Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller"). But what is really cool about this is that she specializes in 30-minute simple family meals. A few of her favorite tips? Check these out:

  • Double recipes and freeze half for a second meal.
  • Always have "must-have" items on hand (herbs, pasta, rice, olive oils, vinegars, etc.)
  • Build meals around seasonal foods - they will taste better and cost less.
  • Freeze 1/2 cup measures of ingredients such as onions and peppers to make quick soups or stir-fries without all the chopping.
For more of these helpful hints, check out Robin's latest book, "Robin Takes 5."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seven Memory Improvers


USA Weekend published seven ways to improve your memory (Aug. 26-28, 2011). I can be scatter-brained sometimes, but I am in favor of avoiding that! Here are their techniques as recommended by experts in the fields of cognition and aging:


1 - Paint a mental picture to help you remember a name or date.

2 - Switch things up - change your PC font to one that is actually harder to read as it forces you to concentrate more on the info you are reading.

3 - Talk to yourself (uh...no problem there for me!).

4 - "Use it or lose it" - the more you work your brain the healthier and sharper it will be - learn a new language, play Scrabble, take on online course - exercise for your brain!

5 - Don't be a loner (they even suggest that Facebook and Twitter count as social activities because written communication keeps your language skills sharp).

6 - Take a walk - studies suggest that regular exercise might slow or even prevent memory deterioration!

7 - Get a good night's sleep (zzzzzz)

So...summed up: sleep well, study more, exercise, be sociable and work your brain!

Check out usaweekend.com for more info and some puzzles to get you started!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Donate $5 to a school for free!?


This may or may not be a great deal for you...I personally am a Starbucks addict! Now until 12/21/11, if you purchase a specially-marked package of Starbucks Gold Coast Blend (Morning Joe edition), Starbucks in conjunction with MSNBC will donate $5 to the DonorsChoose.org project of your choice. To be honest, Starbucks isn't any more expensive than many of the other brand options out there, so wouldn't you prefer to do some good while you get your caffeine fix? Visit donorschoose.org/starbucks for more information!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gift card deals!



Ever diligent, your Penny Pincher is looking for great resources for you to save money (well, ok, I'm not a total philanthropist - I want the deals for me too! USA Weekend, the insert in many of our Sunday newspapers (yeah, the paper version of the news; some of us still like that - if only for the coupons!), offers loads of savings ideas. One that I was particularly intrigued by was savings on gift cards. You can buy them at a discount OR (and this is really cool if your family and friends really don't understand your unique tastes!) you can sell them on these websites too!

Check out:

Giftcardgranny.com and plasticjungle.com

What a great idea! I'm off to check them out myself!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The perfectly ghoulish Halloween treat!


Looking for something unique to take to a Halloween party (for adults or teens)? Check out Cost Plus World Market's "body parts" candy sushi! Each tray is only $2.99 and comes complete with chopsticks. Creepy yet oh so chic!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Easy holiday travel planning


Planning a trip for the holidays? Here are some great websites to check-out:

Kayak.com (one-stop shopping pulling results from hundreds of other search engines)

RoadTripAmerica.com (its Road Trip Map Wizard even lets you add roadside attractions, historic sites, restaurants, etc. to your customized, printable map)

Yelp.com (provides user reviews for restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. anywhere in the US)

TripAdvisor.com (unbiased reviews of all things travel related)

Every little bit of advance info helps!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Costume hunting on a budget


If you have a Halloween party coming up or you just need costumes for your kids, don't forget to check out Goodwill! I was in our local store the other day and they had rack after rack of really amazing costumes, masks and accessories! And the cost if you hit on a 50% off Saturday will be so low it will scare you! (Get it?!). Happy Haunting!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home again, home again!


Admittedly, I have slacked off on providing you with fresh ideas! My apologies...work, life, etc...all sort of interfered but I am back! And yes, please pass the link along, invite your friends & family because the holidays are upon us and we can all use some inexpensive gift, meal and decorating ideas! Honey, I'm home...! (And yes, this photo seemed fitting with Halloween just around the corner!) Boo!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quick and easy breakfast!


Always on the run and grabbing a donut for breakfast? Here's a healthy breakfast you can make in 2 minutes or less! You need 2 eggs, 2 Tablespoons milk, 2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Coat a 12 oz. microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray. Add eggs and milk; beat until blended. Microwave the mixture on high for 45 seconds and then stire. Microwave about 30 to 45 seconds longer until the eggs are almost set, then top with cheese and season with the salt and pepper. Instant "omelet" in a cup! Tah dah!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What would you like to order?


OK...I haven't "groveled" for inputs regarding blog topics, design, suggestions, etc. since the end of July (that's pretty patient for me)! So, here we go...What would you like covered in this blog (anything is fair game as long as it ultimately has to do with saving money or getting the most for your money)?
I also am open to great charity donation sites as you've seen over the past couple of years on this blog.

What would make you want to read my blog daily? What would convince you to invite your friends and family to sign up to read this blog?

Thanks in advance (please send ideas)!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can't let 9/11 pass without an entry...


OK...normally I am all about donations, remembering to help others, being patriotic, etc...Bear with me if I don't do a heavy, monumental tribute to 9/11 - I tend to avoid watching the old newsreels, don't hide in my room to avoid another attack, and try to just treat it as another day...you can't change what happened, but if you make it a huge holiday, you are simply prolonging the pain and adding to ongoing fears and hatred. I agree with those that say you should go out and help someone on 9/11, but do we really need to relive the day with the horrible sights and sounds? I was there - I saw both planes hit the Towers, I was lucky to be later for a meeting there! I saw people jumping, was unable to enter a building over two stories, couldn't call my friends or family to tell them I was ok though thousands were not, and then watched the towers fall...help someone but don't prolong the tragedy! Check out 911day.org for volunteer opportunities and ideas!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Help the Penny Pincher become AZ's Greatest Couponer!


Yours truly has entered a contest here in Arizona to be The Valley's Best Couponer (or some amazing title like that!)...I had to tell how much I saved on average per month grocery shopping (a minimum of $150 if you are curious) and that I spend a total of $350/month maximum for three adults at home plus 6 dogs, a bird and fish...including food for all, toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper goods AND prescriptions...not too shabby, eh?!

I naturally mentioned that I blog on these cost-saving topics too...so, do me a favor....please?!!!!
Share my blog site with friends, relatives, people you don't like and want to spam (just kidding!!!), etc. so that if they check they will see how many people I reach with this blog! Thanks in advance!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quick, filling and healthy breakfast ideas!


I've recommended the hungry-girl.com site several times and will do so several more no doubt! In fact you can sign up for their recipes and food finds emailed to you daily by going to hungry-girl.com...WAIT! Don't go yet...finish this post first!

A sampling of great filling yet low-cal recipes from this site caught my eye in a recent issue of "Redbook" magazine. My favorite:

Turkey Scramble - In a large skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray, cook 2 oz raw lean ground turkey with a dash of salt and pepper. Add 5 egg whites and scramble...mix in 2 chopped-up slices of cooked turkey bacon and then top off with 1/2 cup chopped tomato (yuck - I'm not a tomato fan, but I know many of you are!) and another sprinkle of salt and pepper (only 250 calories, 9.5 g. fat)!

Another great idea is the "Oat-rageous chocolate-chip pancakes" - OK, NOW go to the hungry-girl site!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Giving warms the heart and warms the homeless!


In Arizona it's often hard to remember that fall is upon us and cooler temperatures will be chilling those who are homeless throughout the winter months. Start thinking now to help those less fortunate...here are some easy ways to help:

* Visit www.socksnundies.org for a guide to organizing a drive for underwear for the homeless (this is a great scouting or class project)!

* Donate your family's outgrown coats - check www.onewarmcoat.org/donatecoat.php to find a donation site near you!

* Volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen - check out www.homelessshelterdirectory.org to get more information.

* Provide a blanket and clean sheets for a homeless child with a $35 donation at www.covenanthouse.org/donate/gift-catalog.

* Click on www.clicktogive.com/End-Homelessness.aspx. You can click it once a day at no cost to you and the site's sponsors will donate to the National Alliance to End Homelessness every time you hit "Click to Give." This one is too easy to pass up...go there now!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Smart Savings...Don't Forget!


I enjoyed Redbook's (Sept.2011) article entitled "There are no dumb ways to save!" I still think some of the ideas were a bit silly (though not necessarily dumb!) - such as giving yourself a tip every time you give yourself a manicure or putting $2 in a can every time you do a load of laundry! These are kind of annoying to remember if you ask me. But I did like the idea of checking with my bank to see if they have a free text-message service that will ping me to remind me to move money into savings. I am going to check that out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting out without going under!


We've always enjoyed going to museums, exploring the state we live in, catching a play or movie...but with the economy in rather dire condition, we are not going out nearly as often. Fortunately, The Arizona Republic had a feature in the Aug. 29th issue entitled "September Savers: 20 Ways to Have Good Fun at a Good Price"...Many included deals I've mentioned before - free museum nights (first weekend of every month courtesy of Bank of America) and the Culture Passes you can check out of the Phoenix Public Library branches - 2 free passes to everything from the Science Center to the zoo to the Botanical Gardens!

But they also listed half-price tickets to see plays at the Herberger Theatre during lunch-time shows, restaurant buy-one/get one free deals, free ballet performances and area farmers' markets. I realize most of my readers are not in Phoenix, but keep an eye on local "to do" articles online or in your newspapers so you don't miss these great (and inexpensive or even free) opportunities!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Dollar Store and...Skype both in one post?


Sorry for the rather long hiatus, but I'm back! My son has moved to Japan to teach English...preparations were hectic, but before he left, we found we were very grateful for Dollar Stores - got some cheap, easy-to-pack items for his new apartment so he wouldn't feel like he needed to buy everything when he got there! And, once he got there, the best thing? Skype!!!! It's like sitting and talking face-to-face and it's free. If you haven't tried it, set it up at www.skype.com. You can chat with video (or without) anywhere in the world that you can get on the Internet!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Create good karma!


I just saw a great feature in "Self" magazine (Aug.'11). It advises that people who volunteer actually live longer, are more focused and less apt to get the "blues"! Create some good karma by volunteering...here are some of their suggestions to get you going:

If you are talented with crafts you can knit hats for chemo patients (check HatsOffForCancer.org) or create greeting cards to send to troops overseas (find instructions at AMillionThanks.org).

Do you like to work with kids? Help low-income high school students (check MindsMatter.org to become a mentor or writing adviser).

Good at tech-related stuff? Teach seniors to email and surf the web (check your local senior or community center)!

Do you like the outdoors? Help build and maintain hiking trails (visit AmericanHiking.org) or aid beach-sweep efforts to salvage shores (check out Surfrider.org).

They offer even more ideas...check out the magazine issue or go to Self.com and "Kreate Karma" :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Drive in for cheap flicks!


Leave it to AARP to think of drive-ins for cheap entertainment (after all isn't it our age group that remembers them in the first place?)!

Cheap movies, fresh air (ok, maybe a bit of exhaust), no one blocking your view and you can bring in your own food if you want! There are 371 drive-in theatres still open in the U.S. (One is near me in Scottsdale, AZ!).

Check out www.Drive-ins.com to find your closest one!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Helping you help your pet!


I don't know about you, but I never actually broke down and got pet medical insurance. Seems like with 5 dogs, it costs more monthly for insurance than I'll ever get to use. And with the economy being what it is...that's an added expense I've had to opt out of! But, I saw an interesting item recently; it seems that if you are having difficulties affording your veterinary care, you can visit www.humanesociety.org and get a list of assistance programs. That's good to know!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flights not so fancy (vs Flights of Fancy)!


Learnvest.com recently posted what they called the "Eight Crappiest Things Airlines Are Doing To You"...Now I know that gas costs have sky-rocketed, I'm ok with bringing my own food on (generally better than what they sell on-board anyway) and I've learned to deal (and play the odds for a free ticket) with getting bumped from the occasional flight. Frequent fliers are an adaptable bunch by nature.

But there were a few things the site listed that I just don't agree with! First, this "pay for a pillow or blanket" scheme seems a bit over the top. Maybe they should go with free ones for flights over 3 hours (sort of like the food deal - peanuts only on short flights, snack boxes for sale on medium flights and meal on overseas or coast-to-coast flights)...I could live with that!

Then they noted that some airlines are charging for infants even if they ride on a parent's lap. Perhaps this is to encourage the safety of a child seat in its own space...not sure, but really glad my kids are over 18 now!

Finally, and this one I'm still pondering, the site suggested that United Airlines has arranged the buttons on its check-in kiosk screens so that you are more likely to hit "purchase" than "next" based on where they've placed the buttons. One quick click and "oops!" you have upgraded to business class. I am a fan of United and a long-time member of its Mileage Plus program. While I admit this could be confusing, I would like to ask why anyone wouldn't take an extra few seconds and read the buttons before clicking on them!

Any pet peeves you'd like to tell us about from your summer travel experiences? Please share!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Take it from the Coach!


Still a fan of Oprah (though honestly, I've always preferred the magazine to the show)! In the May 2011 issue, there was a small ad for Seattle's Best Coffee noting that they've tied in with Susan Hyatt, a certified life coach, who will share her 5 levels of living life to the fullest to promote their new level system for coffee blends.

You can download Susan's life-coaching exercises at Oprah.com/coffee.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Off the Hook!


Over 1.4 billion fishing hooks and other gear catch hundreds of thousands of sea turtles every year. Go to Oceana.org and sign up to get sea turtles "off the hook!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eau de Provence - Relaxing with Lavender


My regular readers probably know that I love all things French - wine, Paris, cheese, you name it!
So you shouldn't be surprised that I also love lavender! This simple scent can relax you and calm the savage beast within you!

Check out www.auracacia.com to purchase lavender essential oil and to find lots of great recipes, uses for the oil and get coupons. A few ideas:

* Mix 6 drops of the lavender oil per 1 oz. of water and use as a soothing skin mist.

* Inhale the scent to calm yourself during a frustrating commute (might take a full bottle if you are in NYC or LA!).

* Add 12 drops per 1 oz of skin care oil for a relaxing massage oil.

* Combine with baking soda and a spritz of lemon to create a natural scouring powder.

* Put a few drops on your pillow at night to have a soothing sleep.

The list goes on and on...What an easy way to relax and get a break from your hectic day!




Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To drive or not to drive...the dilemma of high gas prices!


I'm one of the lucky ones...I work for a consulting firm and my office is upstairs (HQ is in Florida). Yes, it's a tough commute...I drag myself and my coffee (extra strong, no cream) up a flight of stairs into my own office. While dress codes are lacking, so are the gas costs associated with hitting the highway!

"All You" magazine (7/22/11 issue) suggested ways to prevent the cost of gas from dragging you down:

* Keep your car in tune (tire pressure, oil changes, clean air filters) to get better gas mileage.

* Using cruise control helps you stay under the speed limit on the highway and improves gas mileage!

* Plan gas fill-ups ahead of time whether in-town or on vacation - checking sites like gasprices.mapquest.com to compare costs and fit the fuel stop into your schedule while getting the best price.

*Don't turn up the air-conditioning as soon as you sit down! Roll the windows down for awhile first and save the air for the highways...sounds strange, but at lower speeds it works fine and then at high speeds open windows actually cause wind drag and more fuel use than the air-conditioning does. (I know...that's a new one for me too!)

*Clean your car's fuel intake system with a product like STP gas treatment - it's cheap and will help your mileage.

It seems like a lot to remember, but it can save you money in the long run! Any tips from readers?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Green pens


Here's something new...a pen made from recycled bottles! Simple, useful and green all at the same time! And it's out in time for the back-to-school supply shoppers! They are put out by Pilot and you can check them out at www.notjustapen.com/red1

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Post-Its"


OK, this is my 401st post in 2 years of writing my blog...It's been awhile since I actively solicited ideas for topics from my readers...so let's do it again for old-time's sake!

My overall theme is "penny-pinching" - getting good deals, DIY projects, and ways to improve your health and lifestyle at a minimal price (better yet for free!). I've covered pets, couponing, vacation ideas, gift ideas, hobbies, education...you name it! Aha...but that's what's missing!!! You haven't named it!

What would you like to have covered in the blog? What do you think would interest people enough that they would also follow my blog? I have seven regular followers and I hope that I've kept your interest over time! To help me continue to do so, post your ideas and don't forget to post your comments on any of the things I write about. I'd love for this to be a forum for sharing these ideas as well!

Thanks for your support and (in advance) for your ideas!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Going to the Dogs!


One of my recent favorite sources for pet-related posts is Wagworld (see my post from 7/14/11). In the August '11 issue, they suggested some ways to make your home more dog friendly (ok, some are more for you than your pets and I will pass on getting a doghouse that resembles my house or a mural of my dog on my wall...!). Here are a few that aren't bad!

* Windows at your dog's level so he/she can look outside
* A dog wash station for those quick cleanups of muddy paws, etc.
* A play area (they said a room but I'm not quite that generous) with dog toys, bedding, etc.

My dogs give these a paws up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in July?


I admit it! I am one of those annoying people who shop year-round for the holidays...why not catch a great sale on Memorial Day or Labor Day? I hate the lines and chaos that hit in November and December - I'd rather sip hot chocolate and watch "White Christmas" and enjoy my holidays.

So, given my mindset on this topic, I am offering some ideas for holiday gifts (but you can always use them as hostess gifts, birthday gifts, etc.)! Once again, Martha (check out marthastewart.com for more ideas) has some great ideas for creating gift packages or baskets.

For example:

* Buy some classic board games (checkers, scrabble, Twister, puzzles, etc.) - stack several together and tie with a wide, colorful bow. Great gift for a family at the holidays!

* Bar in a box? Why not? Martha suggests putting items such a cocktail napkins, paper straws, coasters, a cocktail recipe book, cocktail shaker, mixed nuts and umbrella picks (or other similar types of items together on a wooden tray and wrapping it with cellophane and a bow. Very chic for a housewarming party, shower gift or hostess gift!

Some of my own suggestions:

* Basket for babies (everyone does the toys or clothes, but what about a rubber duckie, baby lotion/shampoo, towel, etc. placed inside a baby tub?)

* A colorful canvas bin (the kind you see at Target to slide in sectioned shelves) could be filled with a selection of paper, scissors, stamps and similar goodies for your friends who are fanatical about
scrapbooking.

The possibilities are endless - pasta kits, wine & cheese baskets, baskets for jewelery-makers, pet-owners' goodies in a dog dish, coffee & tea basket, a spa set, movie package (popcorn, candy, and rental coupons, a watering can with gardening items...You get the idea!

None of these have to break the bank either...look for sales (yes, throughout the year!), coupons, and great deals at places like Michael's, JoAnn's or Tuesday Morning. Even your local dollar stores are likely to have items perfect for these occasions. Watch out! I may just have changed your perspective on Christmas in July!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Perk up while keeping your cool!


We all have our guilty pleasures...other than chardonnay, mine is coffee, and in Phoenix iced coffee is best in summer. Martha (aka Stewart!) suggests saving the last bit of coffee or tea you've made and using it to make ice cubes. You can add those to iced coffee drinks or iced tea to avoid watering down your beverage while still keeping it cold! I bet it would be great in Bailey's Irish Cream or Kahlua too...yum! Now if I can only remember to do that!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Free of the "Funk"


Need to break out of a "mood"?

  • Drink more water - hydration "de-fuzzes" your mind.
  • Music creates adrenaline and bright light makes you more alert; so increase the volume and wattage and get moving again!
  • Think positive (you know..."don't worry, be happy!") - positivity increases energy too!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mix it up!


Think healthy when reaching for snacks to take to a movie or on a hike! Mix it up and make your own trail mix. Some possible ingredients? Check these out or add similar healthy picks of your own:
almonds, peanuts, dried fruit (cranberries, bananas or cherries are good), coconut, sesame seeds, yellow raisins, carob chips...any suggestions that you've tried? Let us know!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Best...Ad...Ever (or very close)!


I love The Skin Cancer Foundation's ad in Redbook (8/11) - "Keep tanning. You look great in leather."
That just says it all!