Just Heather

Last month, I stumbled on a #bakingday hashtag through my Twitter feed. The idea is to tweet and/or blog about your freezer cooking progress to give one another ideas & encouragement. It sounded fascinating, and I wanted desperately to jump in. However, as I was not prepared or stocked for 2 days of baking, it just wasn’t in the cards. I was paying attention this time around, though, and have been buying ingredients here and there for the last few weeks.

I RSVPd on Facebook, and have been watching Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom for all the details. I was all set to blog about my plans when I realized I didn’t really have any. Basically, at this point I know I want to use up the leftovers from Thanksgiving, and put together some breakfast & lunch options since the next few weeks will be very hectic and exhausting. It’s time to put together an actual plan.

The Freezer Cooking Menu:
Turkey Pot Pie (leftover turkey & veggies)
Ham & Potato Casserole (leftover ham & amp; broccoli)
Stuffed Baked Potatoes (leftover cheese & Hormel bacon bits I got triples shopping last week)
Baked Potato Soup (Seriously, I bought a ton of bacon bits)
Lasagna (the sauce is ready from doubling the recipe last time; I just need gluten free noodles)
Cranberry Muffins (leftover cranberry relish)
Banana Nut Bread (I just have a lot of bananas right now)
Breakfast Casseroles (I way overshot on the eggs we’d need for Thanksgiving baking)
Ham & Cheese Omelets (Again with the eggs!)

That gives me some lunches, a few breakfasts and several dinners to get us through my last few weeks of college. I think the ingredients overlap quite nicely to make it easy on me. I’m not getting too ambitious since I’ve got homework, Girl Scouts and a 4-year-old, but I’m hoping to make some progress. If you see me tweeting tomorrow without the #oamc hashtag, make me get back to work!

Congratulations to Craig, winner of last week’s U-Printing stickers! I don’t usually offer two giveaways within a week, but when U-Printing offered me a postcard giveaway, I just couldn’t pass it up. It was just too coincidental to have this opportunity during the same week that the Money Saving Monday topic on Inexpensively is party planning. We are in the throes of party planning around here—a Feel Your Boobies Cause Party, a Halloween party and Lorelai’s 4th birthday. I have an awful lot of invitations to send in the next few weeks!
Postcards are my all-time favorite way to send invitations since they are inexpensive to make and to mail! I like to put together a 4×6 invitation, matching the theme of the party. They are just so colorful and fun to receive! The girls can add a personal note to the blank side, add a stamp and invitations are on their way. I’ll be using my award for hosting this giveaway to order the invitations for my college graduation.

After 14 years, I am ready to celebrate crossing #7 off 40×40“>my list. If you have something to celebrate or need invitations, thank you cards or postcards of your own, you can save 10% on your U-Printing purchase now or, even better, win 100 custom postcards here—simply leave a comment, telling us what you’ll do with your prize. You can earn additional entries by:

  • Following U-Printing and me on Twitter
  • Blogging about this giveaway
  • Tweeting about this giveaway: Win 100 free custom postcards from @Uprinting and @JustHeather!

For your extra entries to be counted, be sure to leave an additional comment directing me to your entry. Only one additional entry per method (i.e. While multiple tweets are appreciated it, only one will count as a drawing entry.) The contest runs until October 26th at 11:59pm edt. One winner will be notified by email on October 27th (as selected by Random.org) and must submit their mailing information within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Open only to residents of the U.S. & Canada and cannot be shipped to PO boxes.

postcard_upYour prize (full color 2-sided printing on 14lb matte paper sized 4×6″ with 4 Business Day printing) will be awarded in the form of a custom coupon code, redeemable at U-Printing.com. Prize includes free UPS shipping in the U.S. (Canadian winners will be responsible for any shipping costs incurred.)

I was offered this giveaway as part of the U-Printing Blog Sponsorship program. I am receiving 100 free postcards in addition to the free product for my readers for hosting this giveaways, but the opinion is 100% real and honest.

2009-06-051_595Those of you who know me and my frugal ways may be surprised by the quote of the day: “Why don’t you like cheap things, Mommy?” ~Brenia

The truth is, she’s absolutely right. I’m frugal as all get out, but I hate cheap things. It’s one of the many reasons I don’t shop at Walmart. The girls have really taken to spouting my favorite line—When you buy cheap crap from Walmart, you get cheap crap from Walmart. Now, whenever something breaks Brenia asks if I bought it there.

The answer is almost always no, since I avoid the place at all costs. This week, we had to discuss the difference between inexpensive and cheap. I gave it to her on a 1st grade math level. Which is cheaper, a $5 shirt or a $2 shirt? Obviously, the $2 shirt. However, what happens if the $2 shirt has to be replaced 3 times in the same amount of time that the $5 shirt will last? You’ve then spent $6 on the cheap shirt, but only $5 on the higher quality item.

Even my 6-year-0ld could see which one was really the better deal.

I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic. I have a piece (okay, two) with my bubble bath every night. A couple weeks ago, I ran out! With my deals and stock-piling, that almost never happens. Luck was with me, though, as the CVS Sweet Reward deal started a week later. Of course, me being me, I never found the time to shop there. I got lucky again when I discovered it was one of their extended ExtraCare Bucks deals.

Yesterday, I managed to organize myself and make a quick CVS run while Brenia was at her first on-stage dance rehearsal. I was also pleased to see that I still had several ECB from my last CVS run to make my out of pocket costs even less.  I had it all planned out – 2 bags of M&Ms, 2 bags of Reese’s Bliss and 3 candy bags. The total should have been $15 before coupons with a $5 ECB printing for next time.

The Reese’s peanut butter cup singles listed in the ad were specially marked in the store and rang up 2/$1 instead of 3/$2. This would have been a great bonus, except that it caused the Sweet Rewards deal to not work properly. The manager fixed it for me and I got my coupons. Here is what I ended up with (among a few additional purchase):

2 bags peanut M&Ms
1 bag Reese’s Biss
1 bag Hershey’s Biss
4 Hershey’s candy bars

I used $3 in manufacturer’s coupons plus my prior rewards so that my candy was basically free. First thing this morning, I discovered the girls had eaten half a bag of M&Ms and almost an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups before I woken up. These would be the girls whose bodies cannot properly handle processed sugar. I’m definitely paying for my candy now!

img_1779-largeHubby got an iPhone last fall and I, of course, have wanted one ever since. I don’t usually require much in a cell phone. I need it to call, text and survive the occasional fall. That means the iPhone was out for me, until I heard about the hard-shelled cases people use to take their iPhone mountain biking. Perhaps, with a hard-shelled case, an iPhone could survive even me.

Of course, we don’t have an extra $200 to get another one. Enter the new iPhone 3GS with the resulting price drop in the plain, old model that’s good enough for me. We have one contract up for renewal now and another in October, but still lack the funds to pay even the reduced price. Then I saw a Tweet from Planet Green about recycling your old phone if you plan to get a the new iPhone. My savings-oriented, scheming brain kicked into over drive.

I headed to my favorite gadget recycling site and checked the value on the current iPhone. $249—more than enough to buy the new one when it is released later this month. By the time I convinced hubby that being without his precious iPhone for 2 weeks would be worthwhile if it means he gets the updated model for nothing,  the value had dropped to $229. That is still more than enough to pay for the updated model with our contract-renewal discount.

We thought he’d be using my seriously jank phone until June 19th, but it looks like the buy offer is good through 7/9 so he’ll be keeping the iPhone until his free Father’s Day present arrives. It means the purchase goes on a credit card, but it will be paid off as soon as our inexpensively” target=”top”>Gazelle check arrives. If you have an AT&T plan up for renewal and a current iPhone, I’d try it out before the values drop even more.

As for my phone, I’ll still have to wait. I’m such a good wife.

When I jumped back in to this blogging thing, I once again enjoyed the community aspect—reading other blogs, commenting on posts, chatting with fellow bloggers.  I discovered a lot had happened while I was away.  Gone were the useless memes and quizzes (those are all on Facebook now), but the space is now filled with giveaways and contests.

I entered one, mostly because I actually had a comment about the prize, at Gotcha Baby.  The prize was listed as a collection of Hallmark cards for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Excellent timing, what with both holidays coming up (okay, so I’m a little behind on posting this), and me being too cheap to buy cards.  Anyway, as the title suggests, I actually won!

2009-05-266I wasn’t really thinking much about it, other than to be thrilled that I didn’t have to traipse through the store with 3 girls and attempt to choose cards for our parents.  Imagine my surprise when the package arrived just a few days later and it was chock full of photo cards, musical cards, recordable cards and a selection of their inexpensive (there’s the stuff!) recycled cards for every day use. I have been officially welcomed back to the world of blogging. Most importantly, I am set on cards for the next couple months.

I was super impressed, even if I am negligent in sending my thanks.  The cards themselves are a lot of fun. There are 4 that are clearly the highlight of the package—2 for Mother’s Day and 2 for Father’s Day.  Both are recordable music cards.  There is a song already in the card plus an opportunity for you to record your own, personal message.  The girls had a lot of fun with that part and I was impressed with how easy they are to use.  I figured the mic would have trouble picking up their voices, but they didn’t even have to be super close to the card for it to work.  In fact, you could conceivably make a recording with all 3 kids buckled into their respective carseats on the way to dinner with the recipient.  Just sayin’.

girlsTwo of the cards were also photo cards.  Unfortunately, it turns out that we don’t have a good, recent picture of all 3 kids.  That is probably in part because one of them is in constant motion.  Lucky for me, my hubby is rather talented.  He threw together a collage of the girls that I like even better than a posed still shot. I think it captures each girl’s personality quite nicely. Each set of grandparents will get a copy (though some have to wait until Father’s Day) and I printed another for us but I’m still not sure what I’m doing with it. I only know that I needed to capture this moment in time, when each girl has her own distinct personality yet somehow still forms a cohesive family unit.

There are dozens of amazing deals this week at Meijer. I headed out to snag them on Saturday night after dropping Stacia at a friend’s house to sleepover. Quite impressed with the bargains and selection, I moved on to the checkout, where my good impression was quickly replaced. The cashier was rude, clueless and superbly slow.lush

So when I got home with my spoils, I was really not in the mood to put it all away. Since much of it required refrigeration, it had to be done anyway. That was when I realized I had accidentally purchased many of the ingredients for my favorite summer dessert. It’s an old family favorite and I needed only to buy pecans. I put it on my mental list (because actually writing it down was just too taxing at that point).

While digging through the freezer on Sunday (for the ingredients to make grilled pizza), I noticed a nearly empty (but just enough) bag of nuts. I was so excited about my pecan discovery that I immediately twittered about my need for a pitch-in so I could have an excuse to make the dessert. At nearly the exact same time, I got a text inviting me to an impromptu Memorial Day picnic. Friends, fun and an excuse to showcase my bargains in chocolate? Sold!

Just in case you also need a yummy, cool dessert (and/or you scored all the same deals), here is the recipe for Lush (I know—how can you resist something with a name like that?):

Cut 1 stick butter with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Spread into the bottom of a 9×13 dish and bake 10-11 minutes at 375. Meanwhile, set out a brick of cream cheese and 16 ounces Cool Whip to soften. Cool crust completely before continuing the delicious layers. For the 2nd layer, mix cream cheese, 1 cup Cool Whip and 1 cup powdered sugar. If you plop the mixture onto the crust in a bunch of different places before attempting to spread this layer, your crust will remain intact a bit better.

2007-07-031The 3rd layer (this is where it gets really good) is 2 small packages of chocolate pudding whisked with 3 cups milk. Honestly, you could use any flavor you want but why wouldn’t you want chocolate? For the final layer, spread the rest of the cool whip onto the pudding after it sets. You can also garnish with crushed pecans, sugar crystals or fresh fruit (totally kidding—I would never attempt to make it healthy!).dessert You could also use fat free cool whip and fat free cream cheese, but, really—what’s the point?

The original Alphabet Dating project fizzled out last fall. After a phenomenally rough holiday season, Spencer and I decided to give it another try. When my brother and his wife gave us Pacer tickets for Christmas, coupled with an evening of free babysitting, we had the perfect opportunity to start again. Armed with Restaurant.com certificates for Blue Crew, we were prepared for an evening of athletics. A sports themed date is perfect for us. I love basketball; he loves the Colts.

View from Our Baseline Seats

View from Our Baseline Seats

It was a decent game, and I really enjoyed the baseline seats. We’ve been to several games over the years, but this was my first opportunity to have noisemakers behind the goal. I was stupidly excited about it! After the game, we headed out for appetizers at the Blue Crew. When we arrived at 10:05pm, though, we were told the kitchen closed at 10. Having missed dinner, we were hungry but I was determined to keep with the A-themed evening.

Majors Sports Cafe

Majors Sports Cafe

The next thing to pop in my mind was a sports cafe run by a friend of mine. Majors Sports Cafe has 47 television screens around the restaurant and a unique, eclectic menu including buffalo meatloaf! We enjoyed our dinner and conversation while we I kept an eye on hockey, soccer, a Peyton Manning documentary and an XBox competition—definitely more sports than even I was anticipating.

not from our baseline seats

Game 2: Club Level

We actually had the opportunity to revisit the Pacers (for free, I might add) before we got around to the next letter in our dating journey. That was a serendipitous evening with an even more serendipitous meeting. We bumped into our high school best friends as we were walking to the club level. Clearly the beginning of our new Alphabet Dating experience was steak sauce. Because that also starts with an A.