Monday, September 13, 2010

A Moment Captured


Quietly talking amongst themselves, little Lu gently slips her hand into her big sisters. Melted my heart.

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life". ~Isadora James 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Healthy Home-Made Veggie Wash (Recipe)


How many of you use FIT or some other sort of pre-mixed veggie wash? Well we just recently ran out so while I was at the market my jaw almost dropped when I revisted the price, I held off on purchasing so I could research a coupon deal and well lucky me, I came across something better! My friend Karen, who may I add is super creative and makes tons of home-made things, shared this recipe for home-made veggie wash on her blog Sippy Cup Central. Score!...an awesome frugal find and she agreed to let me share it with y'all, hope you can use it too!

Homemade Veggie Wash Recipe:
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 TBS baking soda
2 TBS lemon juice

Directions:
-Mix ingredients then pour in clean spray bottle. Spray vegetables and fruit generously. Sit for 5 minutes then rinse off well.
-Make sure to first mix ingredients in deep container since there will be some fizzing from the baking soda and vinegar.

(Thanks Karen!)

**Enter my GIVEAWAY for a Thirty-One Demi Purse, ends 9/11**

Friday, August 20, 2010

YES, We're HOMESCOOLING! History Lesson #1 Family Tree Project



Homeschooling?...Who me?...It is actually pretty funny, in my own head, that I took this on! So you may have these two questions...WHO are you homeschooling? and WHY are you homeschooling LILY? And you may or may not care about the HOW but either way I am going to blog about it just in case you are wondering :-).

I...I mean WE...decided it would be a good decision to homeschool Lily considering two things...she is a young five, birthday May 24th which means she would always turn the next age after the school year ended, being probably one of the youngest of her peers. Second, she did very poorly on her Kindergarten readiness exam, yes they do those in Ohio (not here in South Carolina). There are alot of things I question about Ohio's 'public' academia but this is not one of those things (may I gently mention that South Carolina is not in the clear either).

In all due respect, Lily progressed nicely through two solid years of preschool so I decided another year of preschool would be unfruitful...SO here we are...HOMESCHOOLING!

God blessed and surrounded me with a plethora of other homeschooling parents immediately here in South Carolina, I was kinda intimidated so thank you Lord! So now here I am doing something I once thought imaginable...and I am very serious when I say imaginable!

So here is our staff line-up...I will be teaching Language Arts, my dear friend Donna will be teaching Math, Science and Bible will be integrated through the curriculum, we will be meeting daily for two hour lessons. Once a week we meet with a co-op of two other families both having little girls that are part of the group. At the co-op, Sandy teaches History, myself and Donna will be teaching Girl Scouts and Karen will be teaching Five In a Row. We will also incorporate field trips, hands on projects (art), scrapbooking (art), physical education/sports and the such. More details to come :)!

So our first week was meeting with the Co-Op where Sandy taught the first lesson on Family History, prompting the children (even Lucy participated, how awesome is that!?) to answer questions about their own "history". Such as, where were you born? When were you born? Who are your grandparents? They also did a coloring page. The girls were attentive and engaged in (making an attempt to) answering the questions about who they are and how they got to be who they are today. Also, how do we know about history? Yes, through the written word and through photos! After a solid hour of learning, the girls were ready for playtime!

So, me taking it one step further, as it was Lily was crying and begging to "learn" the very next day pushing me to provide more...I think she is going to push and teach me! I planned Lily's (and my friend's daughters) FIRST Kindergarten scrapbook project...Her Family Tree! Not at all unique as I remember the boys doing it in their "regular" K classrooms BUT I guess I just feel that mine is home-made...special touch added :)! So Lily watched as I planned it all out and we sat and discussed "history". We talked more about what history means, "it is a story of what has already happened" and we discussed different ways that history is documented, "the written word...God gave us His HIStory in the Bible...Historians documented the History of OUR country in textbooks...Mommy takes photos to share YOUR History with you and others..." Fabulous! She's getting it!

So here is our project....(keep in mind...this is the layout...not glued together)...

FAMILY TREE


Supplies needed?

  • 1-Red, 1-Green and 1-Brown Construction Paper

  • 1 - 12x12 scrapbook layout page

  • 1-2 copy paper

  • Printer w/ black ink (or black marker for labels)

  • Photos

  • 16 Apple cutouts

  • 6 Brown branch cutouts

  • 1 Brown trunk cutouts

  • 16 Green stem cutouts

  • 6-? Labels cutouts

  • 6-? Photo inserts (not pictured but labeled in photo)

  • Scissors

  • Glue sticks


I used this apple template to do the cutouts....


I found it HERE and just slimmed it down to size. The trunk is 7 1/2" X 2". The branches and stems are randomly cut ~1/4" width and length as needed. I typed and printed the labels in 20" font of my liking and then cut it free hand...keeping it simple (you can also hand write)! The photo inserts...head shots of each individual will be printed on regular copy paper and cut by the child to place in the center of each apple.


Estimated prep time: 15 minutes
Estimated craft/learning time: 30 minutes

  • HISTORY

  • FAMILY HISTORY

  • FINE MOTOR SKILLS (cutting and gluing)
So I am eager to continue to add to Lily's learning...so do you have any suggestions to enrich the learning of family history? Let me/us know by commenting below!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where Do You Get All Of Those Coupons?


Lately I have been getting this question often, "Where do you get all of those coupons?" I typically answer the basics...paper inserts and internet printables. However, the truth of the matter is that I get my coupons from everywhere and anywhere...they seem to seep out of the woodwork and take over my home at times. A blogger friend of mine, Coupon Katarina, compiled a great list recapping all of the different ways you can build your coupon library, I added some additions. Keep in mind, this list is not meant to overwhelm you, just to educate and keep you aware of the many resources out there. Anyone can shop smart and save but those that work the hardest at it will get the deepest discounts. :-) SO let's get started:

WEEKEND NEWSPAPER: This is (and always will be in my opinion) the #1 way to get coupons. In my area we receive our coupon inserts in the Saturday paper; however the majority of you will want to purchase the Sunday paper to receive all your coupons. ALWAYS CHECK to make sure the paper you are purchasing has the coupons inside. I’ve been burned a couple times…got home…no coupons! Ugh. That’s the worst. Usually on holiday weekends there are no coupon inserts (boo!), but sometimes they surprise you, so always check. The coupon inserts are as follows: RedPlum, Smartsource, General Mills and Proctor & Gamble.

INTERNET SITES LIKE: coupons.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com, etc. There is an insane amount of printable coupons these days – it is never ending.

MANUFACTUER WEBSITE: If I know that I am going to buy a particular brand and I don't see a coupon on an internet site and I don't have a paper coupon then I check that brands website. Most always there is a coupon on their website or on their facebook page (read below). Good examples are Betty Crocker, Kellogg's, International Delight, Right at Home -Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Glade. There could be an endless list of possabilities. If I can't find a coupon on their website then I will write and request one (listed below).

FACEBOOK: has become the new cool place to release HOT high value coupons and even FREEBIES. If you are leary of putting your info on the internet for all the world to see, I would still sign up with Facebook even if it is JUST to grab HOT coupons and freebies.

ASK FRIENDS and FAMILY: Chances are most of your friends and family are not using all of their coupons. Speak up and ask if you can save them from the trash! My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law both give me their extra coupons and I repay them with some of the free stuff I got from using them! Seems like a fair deal to me.

BLINKIES and TEAR PADS: Blinkies are little machines that spit out coupons and tear pads have coupons attached to them. Be on the look out for these at all times!

PEELIES: These are coupons and offers attached to products. These are ONLY for the customer purchasing the item. It is NOT okay to peel off coupons from items you are not buying!

CATALINA MACHINE: This is the little machine that prints along with your receipt. It’s main purpose is to reward you for a specific purchase, but sometimes it has advertisements for upcoming Catalina deals and such, but many times it spits out extra coupons!

CHECK RECYCLE BINS: Now some of you might turn your nose up at this idea, but if you’re anything like my husband (fyi: this is Katarina talking)…you live for dumpster diving! Hey, don’t knock it. You can get lots of freebies! Our local paper recycling bin contains ONLY paper and mostly newspaper, so it’s actually pretty clean!

TRADE ON THE INTERNET: There are several coupon trading/clipping sites. There are several of these companies out there, but here are just a couple you can choose from: Coupon Dede, Ebay (Go through ShopAtHome to earn 1-3% cash back on Ebay purchases!). I purchase coupons from these sites once in awhile. For example, when Rite Aid has their Covergirl BOGO Free sale and there is a BOGO Free coupon…I stock up and get tons of FREE makeup a couple times a year.

MAGAZINES: Several magazines feature a few coupons per month…don’t let those get away! Even the ones you wouldn’t expect to have coupons will sometimes surprise you!

I cannot say enough about ALL You magazine, which features 40+ coupons within their monthly publication. You can also print coupons off of their website! I will make sure to give you a heads up when this subscription is offered at a great price! Check my Magazines category for the latest deal on this mag.

STORES: Many stores, especially drugstores like Walgreens will put out their own monthly coupon booklets to be used exclusively in their stores. The great thing about these is that these are store coupons that can be stacked with a manufacturer coupon, which makes for some great deals! Another way they promote coupons is in their weekly ads, so don’t forget to check those out. I also like to check out Target and CVS.
Grocery stores, like Kroger will mail you coupons based on what you buy.

EMAIL YOUR FAVORITE COMPANIES DIRECTLY: Just ask! I try to email about 10-15 companies each month to compliment them on a quality product. In response they mail me coupons! It only takes a few minutes of your time and the majority will respond with coupons. These coupons are usually higher value than ones you find anywhere else. To avoid bombarding your inbox with junk mail, I would definitely open a separate email account through yahoo or hotmail just for this purpose.

FREEBIES: So I may sometimes look like a free sample junkie but there is a bigger reason besides getting something for free that I sign up for them. Not only will you get a freebie but most come with high value coupons. It's a win-win!

MAILERS: If you sign up with different companies they will usually mail or email you promotional offers and coupons periodically.

INSIDE PRODUCTS: Make sure to check inside the products you buy. Also sometimes manufacturers will put coupons on the box, so don’t throw away anything without checking for coupons first!

LOAD ELECTRONIC COUPONS TO YOUR STORE LOYALTY CARD:
 


Another great way to amp up your coupon savings is by loading them directly to your store’s loyalty card (example: Kroger Plus Card). It is very convenient…never forget your coupons again!

3 easy steps to instant clip-free savings

1. Register your store card on each electronic coupon website
2. Check the coupons you wish to load
3. Swipe your card at checkout and coupons are automatically deducted

(the coupon deduction does not show up at the end of your receipt with the other coupons…it shows up immediately after the item scan)

Here are the 5 websites I load coupons from each month:
Shortcuts, Cellfire, P&G e-Saver, Kroger and Upromise

Each month, I always print a list of what I’ve loaded to my shopper’s card and keep it with me so I can easily match up sales to coupons to clip-free coupons. This makes for some great deals on the spot!

Sometimes these coupons are stackable with a paper coupon. It depends on your store, which site you loaded it from – and sometimes it just depends on the weather! It is so inconsistent that I always consider it a bonus when a digital coupon comes off in addition to a paper coupon.

GET TO KNOW YOUR GROCERY STORE: For example, Publix will accept competitors coupons so it is certainly worth noting who the competition is in your area. Once you have an idea then make sure to periodically check these stores for their coupon booklets and/or the store coupons they have on their websites.

Thank you for the wonderful guest post Coupon Katarina with additions made by Mission Driven Mom

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where would you go? Would you go? Advice/Opinions NEEDED!


(This photo was taken by me as we cross country traveled last summer with all four of our children!)

Have you ever thought about living somewhere other than where you live now? I don't mean the neighborhood next door or even the neighboring city. I am referring to new horizons, you know that location that in your mind fulfills certain desires; such as a better climate, more family friendly, less crowded or more crowded, less depressed economically, more like minded community, and on and on this list could go.

My husband and I have some big decisions to make over the next several months. One of them is that we are moving and we can pretty much go anywhere we desire! His job is remote and therefore our location can be transient. I thought this decision would be easy but now I am thinking about it and I am not as "pick up and go" as I thought I was.

So now I feel stuck in the middle, a horrible place to be. I refuse to be held back by fear so I am carefully considering, praying and being sensitive to my inner cues. I am also someone that, while going through a decision-making process, likes to hear feedback from others!

So I am torn, since the day we met we have daydreamed of living somewhere other than here but the opportunity has never been open, until now. We have done some extensive traveling and we have our favorite destinations that we like to call our "home away from home". Destinations, that if given the opportunity, we said we would move there in a heart beat. We consider ourselves as fairly adaptable and social. We love to try new things. I have made and acted upon difficult decisions such as change my son's school mid-year for the benefit of my child, which is going against the grain a tad. We don't like where we live (and I will not bore you with those details). I think we have what it takes.

On the flip side, where we live now is where our family ties are which is extremely important to us. It is familiar; we have both lived here all our lives. Our children are vested in their school which is positive. We are huge supporters of my parent's local ministry.

 I am curious...

1. If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?

2. Would it be difficult to go? If yes, would you go anyway or would you be held back emotionally?

3. Additional thoughts or experiences...?

I am weighing and praying heavily and I would love to hear from you to help provoke my thoughts..

Do you stay or do you go?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Superbook Kid's Radio: Stream Christian Children's Radio For Free


I just came across this awesome find...it is Christian Children's Music that is streamed for free HERE on CBN's Superbook website. My daughters, in particular, LOVE listening to children's music and I am more than thrilled when I find children's music that I also enjoy having on in the backround! I have been listening to this station for about an hour now and the songs are great! There are also free games for them to play too.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lessons Learned From Extreme Couponing...

Today I made my first charitable donation out of our stockpile! Ahhhhh...did it feel SO good to see my hard work paying off!

You see there is a man at our church that has been without work for quite some time. He is a painter and he has done so much to contribute his talents to ministry without monetary expectations. In addition, he is the primary caretaker for his 11 year old grand-daughter. He truly has a servants heart.

So today it was on my heart to make a contribution into his home. So, I prepared a tote with some groceries...toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, noodles, spaghetti sauce, cereal, jello and I made a tuna noodle casserole split into two meals that could be frozen if so desired.

Now I am not posting this to boast...I want to hopefully portray a very important point about the value of extreme couponing and stockpile shopping...(yes, that is what I am, what I do and what we are about here at MDM!) and it is...

JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT IT OR NEED DOESN'T MEAN THAT SOMEBODY ELSE COULDN'T USE IT OR WANT IT!

SO I WANT TO SHARE 'SOME' EXTREME COUPONING TIPS AND INSIGHT:

1. I don't throw away any coupons that I view as unnecessary to my household (until expired and I'll give them away to the Military). True that! I never know what sales or deals are coming up and sometimes the best ones that work in my buying strategies involve products I would have never considered buying prior to couponing. Also there are so many, that if used properly, get you the items for virutally nothing. I will get these items simply because they are so cheap or free or sometimes I have to get these items to make it work to get the items I really want for free or close to it. It becomes a wash.

2. Not everyone knows how to extreme coupon and get things for free or close to it. This is a gift and a skill that can be used to not only help your family but bless others in need. I have learned that to me, an extreme couponer, I look at a tube of toothpaste as .16 cents but to most people it is $3.00.

3. Do you know that one of the reasons I started couponing so heavily is because my husband told me that we didn't have enough money for food!?! True that! Now this is getting personal but really...it is true. It is a very scary place to be...it is painful (and makes me uneasy to even speak about). However, this experience brings me to a place where I know how it feels to have no one to ask for help. We make far too much money to get any type of assistance and yet we still found ourselves in this situation...so then what? It is a silent pain...it goes unspoken. Since I am aware of this...I know the value of the small stuff. You know, that deodorant that doesn't really work on you...well,  if it was given to me during that period of struggle that would mean lunch for my four kids...SO I would have used it anyways. Means nothing to you but the world to someone else.

4. Lastly, I just want to add that just because you don't need it or want it NOW doesn't mean that someday you or someone close to you will. I think about the plethora of candles that I have acquired and the comments that I have received from family members..."I don't burn candles so I don't need to buy those...", "do you really need anymore candles..." ... the answer is "NOT NOW I DON'T but MAYBE SOMEDAY...they don't have an expiration date!" We live in tremulous times, I don't think you can have enough of the basic survival items (but that is just me thinking outside the box here).

You know, for me, extreme couponing started out as a means of survival (not a means of frugality, again for me that is)...it then turned into a hobby...AND is NOW not about me /us! That is the precedence of starting this blog to begin with. My husband says all the time, "now if we were only doing this from the beginning...think of all the money we would have saved!" Believe me when I say that the time to start is not during desperation!

So today, I say, hold onto those coupons and shop with a list derived from strategy vs. a list derived from personal desire. Here, on MDM, I talk strategy...math...stratego...planning...and it doesn't always make sense at first glance but it does in the big picture. It may take some trial and error...some learning and adjusting but ultimately your family will benefit, your budget will benefit and so will others as you will be able to sow into charity!

So today, I am blessed that I was able to make my first charitable donation with many more to come! Praise God!

Feel free to comment &/or add your own personal expreriences!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Home-Made Art Clay


One thing I have never purchased is art clay! Although the kids love crafting with it and they always love the little jars and bowls they created at school, I have just never spent the money on the this craft.

Well, just recently I had to make some for Kameron to bring into school. It was so cheap and easy to make (and they love it!!) so I thought I would pass the recipe along for those of you who may want it for a rainy day activity.

Basic Art Clay

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 3/4 cups warm water
*(if you want a specific color than add the food coloring to the water)

Process:
1. Mix all ingredients in bowl
2. Knead 5-10 minutes (I had to add quite a bit of extra flour as I kneaded)
3. Model
4. Bake 300 degrees until hard or air dry for a few days
5. Done...OR you can paint your art piece!

*If you store it in a Ziploc it will moisten so be prepared to add more flour upon use.

ENJOY!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Mystery Of Sleepwalking and Spiderman


I know most often I am posting about saving money in some shape or form but here is an experience I had last night with my 7 (almost 8) year old son, Kameron.
He has always been prone to sleep walking. Most often he'll do things like slide down the banister (YES! that is not a typo!), randomly come and sit on the couch, go to the bathroom, nothing too obnoxious...well except the sliding down the banister which I can't seem to figure out at all.

Well, last night he had an episode...

I was sitting at the kitchen table...blogging. My husband was sitting in the family room, right next to me playing a video game. We could hear footsteps that were unusually heavy, coming down the stairs and along comes Kam, head up-looking very serious-holding his Spiderman pillow.

Wondering what is going on and not realizing yet that he is not really there, I try to engage him in conversation in which he mumbles back something that doesn't make sense. OK--sleep walking it is! Disregarding me, he walks towards the couch where my husband is sitting and aggressively throws his pillow on the couch then turns around and briskly walks himself back to his bed.

I know he is sleep walking but I do try and engage him several times. Nothing!

So we followed him upstairs, where he laid himself back down, he covered himself back up and refused to sleep on his Spiderman pillow. DH tried everything....even lifting his head and sneaking the pillow under him...with his eyes closed at this point, he only inched his head farther away until it was in the corner of the bed.

So, I grabbed another pillow--draped in plain green, picked up his head and placed it on the green pillow. He snuggled in, no prob! Ha, Ha!

What?!? Was it the pillow? Was it Spiderman? How does the unconscious mind of sleep walking make decisions like this? OR is there 'the spirit of Spiderman' that was freaking him out?? OK now that is getting creepy and superspiritual but really....!?!

I told him all about it today...no memory of the episode...only hilarious giggles of disbelief!

If you have experience, please do comment!
Although hearing real life stories is by far the best...if you are interested in learning more on sleep walking, click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cincinatti Chili Recipe! Simple, Good and Cheap!


Next Week At Giant Eagle:

When you buy 2 -26 oz. Ragu jars you get box of pasta free!

Use this coupon $1.00/2 Ragu -- and final price is $1.50 for 2 Ragu's and 1 Pasta.

You may want to have this on your dinner menu for next week! I have made it and it is very good!


Cincinnati Chili (Compliments of Betty Crocker)
10 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground turkey breast (or ground beef)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jar (26 to 28 ounces) chunky vegetable-style tomato pasta sauce (use Ragu Garden Veggie)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.
2. While spaghetti is cooking, heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook turkey, onion and garlic in oil 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink.
3. Stir pasta sauce, beans and chili powder into turkey mixture; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve sauce over spaghetti.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): No changes.

Prep Time: 30 min
Total Time: 30 min
Makes: 5 servings (1 cup chili and 1 cup spaghetti each)

ENJOY!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Perfect Home-Made Playdough

Today, I was searching for an indoor activity for the girls. Uhh...the winter indoor blues have set in and you know it is TIME for the season to shift when even the kids have had it.

Looking through the same of same old I realized that all the play-doh containers were in the play-doh container but empty. What to do...what to do? I decided to dig out the playdough recipes that I have and away we went cooking.

I don't know, maybe you are reading this and thinking, "duh, homemade play-doh that is so old" but I remember a time when I searched the web looking for one that actually worked. It always seemed that I would find one only to make it and it come out too gooey or something was just off. This recipe was given to me by a teacher and is awesome...it comes out so soft and it is not sticky!

So anyways, if you are need...here is a fabulous recipe for Homemade Playdough. It is cheap to make (got to stick with our frugal principles anyways :-), it is quick and easy (only takes about 5 minutes) and it comes out perfect!

Playdough Recipe
1 1/2 Cup Salt (in pantry~.15-.25c)
3 Cups Flour (in pantry ~.99)
3 Cups Water (I used warm water)(free)
6 Teaspoons of Cream of Tarter (in pantry ~.60)
3 Tablespoons of Cooking Oil (in pantry ~.10)
Food Coloring--about 10-15 drops/color of choice (in pantry ~.10)

Add food coloring to the cups of water. Mix all ingredients together in skillet or sauce pan. Cook over medium to low heat. Be sure to stir mixture constantly until it becomes solid. Remove from pan and let cool. Place in airtight container/baggie.

Fills ~9-10 containers of "Play Doh" cups for ~$2.00!

Also makes for a fun in the kitchen activity...Have Fun!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chew On This!!

One of the strategies I use ALL the time, everyday to help curb my munchy cravings is to chew gum. I just always found this to work really, really well for me. SO today...CONFIRMED to be true!! I read in Ladies Home Journal that the University of Rhode Island did a study and found that people who chewed gum in the morning ate 68 fewer calories for lunch than those that didn't. And they didn't make up for the calories later in the day. Why? One possibility: the nerves in your jaw muscles feed into the hypothalamus, which houses your brain's satiety control center. The very act of chewing may make you feel full.

Cool...now isn't that a good little tid bit to know...so glad I got all that gum at the salvage store! :-D

Happy Chewing!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free Preschool Printouts


Visit Snackpicks to download some free Clever Kids Fun With Reading & Counting worksheets for toddlers & preschoolers. While you're there you can also print a coupon for $1 off Kellogg's Fruit Snacks.


My girls will love these!!!

Salvage Shopping

Wow, I can't believe that I didn't get to posting on the blog yesterday. There are a ton of "freebie" deals running through my feed and I will catch up later and highlight the besties. I am sorry if you came looking for some new couponing updates and didn't get any :-( check back later :-). However, this is quite a unique post as I am going to talk to you about my trip to Amish Country to go to salvage shopping.


So anyways, let's talk...yesterday I went shopping with a girlfriend of mine who also has four young children and shares the same frugal mindset. We had a lot of fun shopping together despite Lucy screaming for an hour straight and our two older girls biting thru 5 bags of specialty candy which we in turn had to purchase (LOL!)...Ahhh! Well, shopping with a partner was great...needed may I add! Two reasons...1. not being alone (sometimes that happens way too often in the world of mommyhood)! Neither of us had gone out with a friend, shopping that is, in quite awhile...being that it is hard enough to go alone with kids it is even harder to shop with friends when you have multiple children between the two in stow and 2. we learned some new strategies bringing our different shopping styles together....awesome!

One thing I learned from her was what a salvage store is. I had never heard of a salvage store, I don't know...have you? Anyways, a salvage store contains groceries that are deeply discounted due to damaged packaging, being slightly outdated or unpopular in the retail setting. Most salvage stores purchase reclaimed groceries and other household items in boxes by the pallet and truckload. No two shipments are alike and they only get what is offered. The items are sorted and cleaned for display in their sales areas.

So my friend told me about the stores that she had been going to, with hesitation, thinking I would be "grossed out" (her words, not mine), but farther from the truth...I was intrigued, curious and by all means if I can get a deal then I am open! I suppose I have become a true bargain hunter! So yesterday we headed to a little Amish store that sat alongside an Amish country home and farm.

The store is called Kurtz's Salvage and it is located in Middlefield, Ohio about 30 minutes from my home. It resembled a normal little tackle type store with an ice machine outside and a table orderly packed with serving type items for sale. The inside had 3 aisles packed with pretty much everything and anything you'd be looking for...even Matrix hair care, Ha! I was actually quite impressed as the store was clean and contained items that appeared a little bumped and nicked up but NOT suitable for the trash, by means of being edible that is. So I scanned and moved things around the shelves until I had a cart full. Believe it or not, I walked away spending $15 on groceries...the only outdated items were 4 cans of Campbell's cream of celery soups and they are just past the mark...no biggie for me. Knowing prices fairly well, I believe I saved 50-90% off the retail prices!

SO what did I get...
4 cans of Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup
5 48oz. cans of diced tomatoes (spaghetti sauce x2 here I come!)
1 48 oz. can of black beans
4 packs of Wrigley Extra gum
5 pounds of white rice
2 large canisters of salt
2 bags of Stauffer's cookies
2 boxes of Quaker Oatmeal bars
1 canister of whole grain oats
4 boxes of Kraft Mac&Cheese
1 box of Macaroni Noodles (they had tons of noodles)
2 bags of Honey Roasted Almond Accents
AND of coarse, the bags of candy, thanks to Lily!

You can do the math but my quick estimate brings it to easily $40 retail.

Is Salvage shopping for you?

If you live in Northeast Ohio...YES! If you like bargain shopping...Yes! If you want to stockpile pantry items at a cheap price....YES! If you don't mind dinged up cans...YES! It was fun and worth the trip. I think I will be driving out bi-weekly to stock up on pantry items. Check out this link to get a list of these Amish salvage store treasures in NEO. I am sure you can google your local area to find a salvage store near you.

Kurtz Salvage
Salvage groceries and reclaimed items, also some bulk food items and locally made maple syrup, 16777 Shedd Road, Middlefield, Ohio 44062. Amish owned.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pork Dinner...Healthy, Inexpensive and Something Different

This is what we are having for dinner!! Mmmm...fyi: I am substituting pork for chicken. My sides will be wild grain rice, cut green beans and toasted bread. Believe it or not, I got ALL items on sale and with coupons (one of the benefits of stockpile shopping) bringing this meal just under $10.


Sweet & Spicy Picante Chicken (Pork)
From: Campbell's Kitchen
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups Pace® Picante Sauce
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
3 cups hot cooked regular long-grain white rice
Directions:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the chicken into a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Stir the picante sauce, brown sugar and mustard in a small bowl. Pour the picante sauce mixture over the chicken.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with the rice.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with steamed cut green beans. For dessert serve lemon sorbet.

Nutrition Information
Calories 355, Total Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 907mg, Total Carbohydrate 47g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 30g, Vitamin A 0%DV, Vitamin C 0%DV, Calcium 0%DV, Iron 0%DV
Save and Enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beef and Black Bean Tacos Recipe

I got this recipe in the February issue of All You Magazine. These are absolutely delicious, easy to make, healthy, inexpensive and everyone ate them!! LOL~definitely qualifies as a winner in this house and worth sharing.

Beef and Black Bean Tacos (Serving 5)
1/2 pound of ground beef or ground turkey
1 16 oz. can of black beans
1 package of taco seasoning
1 package of flour tortilla's
Toppings (as desired): Tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.

Brown meat in skillet, drain. While meat is browning drain and rinse beans. Once meat is cooked and drained add beans, 1/2package of taco seasoning and 2/3 c. of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve.

FYI: Beans are a perfect filler, cutting down on the expense of meat and adding a healthy dose of fiber!
I prepared a double portion and fed my family (and 3 extra kids) for around $10 with left overs. Enjoy this wonderful meal!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Make Your Own Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns


Does anyone have a bread machine they want to sell cause I want to make these???? Well, for now they are documented for later use and here to share with you!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's for dinner?

It was 6 weeks ago that I was listening to the Christian morning show, on 95.5 The Fish with Len and Brooke, and they were discussing making healthy food choices to go with the bud of the new year. That week there was one interview that really stood out...it was with a man named David Zinczenko who is the author of, Eat This, Not That a book that discusses the application of making nutritional food swaps in order to lessen daily caloric intake which in turn helps you lose weight. I thought it was an interesting concept but the shock factor kicked in when he started discussing the calories in prepared foods (like restaurants) vs. the homemade edition. He mentioned PIZZA! HE had my ear because pizza was a weekly staple, mainly for convenience but also because we love it. He said that order out restaraunt-style pizza, from lets say Pizza Hut, is equivalent to 2,100 calories vs. homemade 500 calories (these are approximations). WOW! I was amazed. Now being that I had already began on my quest to getting the same amount of food for the family on far less money, I decided that maybe the homemade version would be not only a healthier option but also a more cost effective option which would give us back one of our comfort dinners. So I tried it...





First, let me just say that it is so much fun to work on dinner with my kids! Lily likes to help me every step of the way (good math review!) and this is an easy meal to make with children. So in the past we would order pizza for convenience but then have to go pick it up... a 20 minute round trip. Making pizza takes just about 20 minutes to prepare and cook. Hmmm...maybe a few more dishes but overall, espcially with no chopping involved, this qualifies as an easy dinner night!

Second, this definitely saves a ton of money. I make TWO 1/2 sheets pizzas on two large cookie sheets. I use four bags of pizza dough, one jar of pizza sauce, 4 cups of Mozzarella cheese and I spray a little cooking spray on the sheets prior to laying the dough. All that for both extra large pizza's~~you can certainly modify if you are feeding less. I get these items on sale and use coupons so my total is ~$6. It feeds our family of 6 and we have left overs that go in the boys lunches the next day. When we used to order pizza out, it would cost $15 for ONE pizza of the same size...AND it was far more greasy!

Lastly, homemade pizza IS delicious...my kids request it! Pair it with some cut carrots or tossed salad and you have a wonderful meal without the guilt for under $10!

Monday, February 15, 2010

ZUMBA, What?!?!

If there was a hidden camera in our basement you would have wanted to tune in this evening at 8:30 pm to watch me, my husby and my mom work out. It was leg crossing, buckle over HILARIOUS as we made our first attempt trying to master ZUMBA Dance Party! You had my mom falling over at every hop step, Kenny marching instead of hip thrusting and me always a few steps behind. What a trio! So what is Zumba anyways?

Have you ever heard of Zumba? I had heard of it...like I knew it was dance related but didn't really know much more than that and had never seen it. So let me tell you a little about ZUMBA...

Not to be confused with Team Umizoomi which probably most moms are more familiar with these days, Zumba is an aerobic fitness program/cardio workout using Latin dancing. The music is based on salsa, merengue, cumbia, calypso, cha cha, hip hop and other music. It is very up beat and the dancers are beautifully fit and fun. (Ummm...not so much me!)

Dancing to work out sounds like a ton of fun, right? HA! ZUMBA was pretty fun BUT IT IS HARD! Maybe even harder than advanced step....SERIOUSLY! First it starts off at a fast pace and then then it is relentless, non-stop butt kickin' core and cardio action. Felt it full throttle in my hips, abs and calves. By the end of the first song I was beading sweat, huffing and puffing and looking for my water. Here is a YouTube Video I found that looks just like our dance trio...OK...not really because the girl is a sweet dancer and well, we have alot of work ahead of us...WoWa wait to you see this in action!



So what is our take?
1. Yes, we are going to do it again...maybe a couple times to get the moves down.
2. Don't skip the basics portion...you'll need it to learn the moves and build up to the harder stuff.
3. Have water close by.
4. It is an awesome cardio workout, one of the best we've done so far.
5. It forces you to use both parts of your brain.
6. It is hard but moves quick and you are not watching the clock so before you know it, it is cool down.
7. Zumba is a good couples workout, hard not to laugh at the husband with no rhythm, but ultimately that is why I think it is a GREAT couples workout...it is fun to laugh together while working hard AND learning to have smooth rhythm can only mean good things for a couple in love! LOL!

Give ZUMBA!!! a try and tell me what you think!

My weight loss goal...I have 45 stinkin' pounds to lose! Errr...some moms stay skinny during child bearing but I did not and it has been an ongoing battle since Lily was born! BUT no more having kids for me and my health is extremely important to me so it became time for me to get serious about my goals.

So far, it has been about 6 weeks and I have lost about 8 pounds, 1 pant size and I have a new smaller bra size. Now I have made many modifications but in the area of exercise, my husband, my mom and I have committed to 5 days a week. Having them on board has been a wonderful asset in that we have partnered up and workout together. We work out after the kids go to bed and Kenny is willing to work out to what us ladies choose...at first he grumbled about the cardio but now likes it! Our 5 days a week look something like this...we do 2 days-45 minute Strength Training, 1 day-60 minute Kempo Karate Cardio and usually 2 days-30 to 40 min. Cardio which changes from Core work to Zumba...sometimes these are the lighter days and serve the purpose of just getting our hearts pumping.

My body adjusted fairly quickly, the first week was the toughest but I have been able to build up weekly at a consistent pace. The biggest challenge has been working out after the kids go down...it is difficult because I am tired so I am thankful to have an accountability partner and to not be on my own!! However, it does have its benefits...it is great spending time with my husband in an activity that is so productive for eachother, it does help me from night time snacking, I am sleeping much better and when it comes down to it...during the day doesn't work with the kids and scheduling so it is the NO EXCUSES part of my commitment!


Have you tried any workout routines on DVD that you love and would recommend? Please share them with me!!! We are always looking to try something new!

Decoding Coupon Lingo



I think it's time to decode the coupon lingo. I do abbreviate things a lot, so it's important that you know what I am actually talking about!






Here is a good list to start with...
•SS –Smart Source insert
•RP –Red Plum insert
•P&G –Procter & Gamble saver insert
•B1G1 -Buy one, get one free
•CAT- Catalina Coupon
•EX - Expires On
•GC- Gift Card
•MFR -Manufacturer Coupon
•MIR -Mail in Rebate
•MM- Money Maker
•OOP -Out Of Pocket
•Peelie- Coupon peeled off product itself
•RR- Register Rewards (Walgreens)
•SC –Store Coupon
•SCR- Single Check Rebates (Rite-Aid)
•WYB –When You Buy
•YMMV-Your Mileage May Vary (a generic term for "It worked for me, may not work for you")

What is a Register Reward?

Register Reward programs are being implemented at stores such as Walgreen's, CVS, KMart, Giant Eagle, Rite Aid, Target.

Register Rewards are Catalina coupons, Catalina coupons are those coupons that print up separately from your register receipt after you purchase qualifying items. The Register Rewards can be used like cash on your next purchase.

Catalina machines are generally programmed to print one Register Reward coupon for one qualifying item. If you purchase more than one of the same qualifying items per transaction, you will only receive one Register Reward coupon.

In order to get more than one Register Reward coupon when purchasing more than one of the same qualifying items, request that each item be rung up on separate transactions. If you purchase different qualifying items in the same transaction you will receive one register reward for each item.

Note: In some areas the request for separate transactions may be denied. I have found most cashiers to be helpful and 'couponin'g friendly. :-)

Register Rewards, being that they are same as cash, can roll over into big savings. There is some strategy that comes into play...the best scenarios are when you can combine store rebates (found in the circular), manufacturer coupons, sales and register rewards PLUS multiple transactions.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to MY Lucy!



This is not going to be a long post...I just wanted to honor my sweet Lucy on her birthday! She is 2 today!

May you all have a blessed Valentine's Day filled with everything SWEET! XOXOXOXO

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It Worked For Me: Stop Throwing Money in the Garbage!


It's the weekend which me means COUPON time in my house! I have been able to save SO much money couponing and matching them with the stores deals that when I share the savings with my family they think I am crazy! I am talking toothpaste and lotions for free, Kotex pads for .50 cents, coffee creamer for .50 cents and the list can go on. My sister has been begging me to teach her...well, really just tell her where to go as she claims she can't map it all out the way that I do.

So first things first...where do I find all these coupons on this little adventure/hobby of mine?

Here's what I've found so far.....

NEWSPAPER ~ I just signed up to receive our local newspaper on Sundays only. It's fairly inexpensive to do it this way, especially considering the savings I will be getting. Each Sunday there are 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 coupon inserts. In my research so far, I've heard that you should buy a newspaper for every member in your family. So, I have 6 in my family, so I should get 6 papers because that's SIX times the savings. I'm going to start out with one and ask around there may be a friend or family member who will give you their inserts if they aren't going to use them.

I also found a place where you can get a discount on your newspaper subscription, CLICK HERE to check it out. For me it is quite a bit of savings for the first 6 months and then it bumps up to normal price. Not bad!

ONLINE ~ I have found many websites that offer FREE printable coupons, but these are the ones that I've found, so far, to be the best. There are plenty more sites, but I'm trying to save myself time by going to the best ones. I will definitely be adding to this list more as I do more research.

www.coupons.com
www.redplum.com
www.smartsource.com
www.boxtops4education.com
www.retailmenot.com (Great for online promo codes)
www.upromise.com (And you save for college)

MANUFACTURER'S WEBSITES ~ This is a biggie! If there are some specific brand names that you like, go to their website and sometimes you might be surprised to find a coupon right there. Try International Delight Creamer to get a .55 cent coupon (that doubles at most grocery stores!). Also, FREE SAMPLES! Like the one that you can get from Pearl Tampax.

EBAY ~ Yes, I just said EBAY! There are tons of grocery coupons for sale there. Now, it is against the law for people to actually sell coupons, but they can charge a fee for their time to clip them. I was able to get 20- $3 off diaper coupons for $1. Also, most coupon Ebay sellers will ship for free or cheaply. This is a great way to get coupons for a specific item that you want to stock pile on, use on a regular basis or the store is having a mega deal and you want to match it a coupon you don't have. Look for coupons under .99 cents, so that they double! Make sure to check expiration, you don't want to only have 2 days to use them. Make sure you check the sellers details, do they ship asap and are they reputable.

STORE ADVERTISEMENTS ~ Lots of times there are coupons in the different advertisements for different stores (ie. Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.). You would find these in the mail, in the newspaper or at the actual store. Also, a few places post coupons online!! Such as Target, Walgreens, CVS.

THE MAIL ~ I was pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of grocery coupons in my mail just this weekend! In the past, I've considered these junk and would have tossed them, but now how could I? It's like money in my pocket that I would be throwing in the trash!

PRODUCT PACKAGING ~ I was amazed to find coupons already in my pantry! Some companies put coupons right on the packaging of the food items that you already use.

MAGAZINES ~ I'm not talking about coupon magazines. I'm talking about regular ole magazines (ie. Everyday w/ Rachael Ray, Family Fun, Country Living, etc.). I love ALL YOU magazine, they also have coupons on their website.

Wow, that is a lot of places to find coupons! Just think, that I've been throwing away all of these things all these years! I am seeing coupons in a whole new light these days. They are like free money. I now save my receipts to calculate my savings at the end of the month. What to do with the extra money? For us, right now that is, I can just get more with the money budgeted for groceries BUT this could be a great way to start a savings account. Take the "savings" listed on each receipt and move it over to savings, you can collect enough for a family vacation or add to a college fund.

Do you have any coupon resources that I haven't already mentioned here? I would love to hear 'em!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Awesome Reading List for BOYS!




This weekend we'll be celebrating my little guys 9th birthday. First, I just got to say "WOW...I can't believe I have a 9 year old!"

Second, I started getting the requests of what to get him for his birthday. Quite frankly, I wanted to say NOTHING...PLEASE...he has not one need and, although he loves them, I personally can't take another Lego or Hot Wheel. However, I do recognize the importance of gifting so I had to come up with some sort of ideas for our seeking family members. So I started thinking about his "needs" and the only thing I could think of was that he "needs" to develop a love for reading and some new books would make the perfect gift. He has always been a struggling reader and I love to read so it just drives me crazy to see him avoid it like the plague! I know that it is not easy for him and that is an apparent distraction but come onthere has got to be some story line out there that should make him giggle, relate or peek his curiosity enough to get to the next page to find out what will happen next! Thinking that maybe our home library was outdated, too girly, unaccommodating I sought the help of my friends on Facebook and got an overwhelming response (thank you Facebook friends!). Now there are some books on the list that we have tried but most books on this list are either new to me or I hadn't thought of trying with him. Maybe that's because I am still thinking about The Babysitters Club when it comes to 9 year old reading selections but let me just say...I am REALLY outdated when it comes to knowing hip elementary literature (not any longer, woo hoo!!).

Who knows...I started thinking that although I have a ton of friends that are well versed there may be others that could use the list too AND maybe those well versed friends of mine may find some new ideas from this list too. So here is the wonderful list...FYI: my only stipulations were no scary, magic or dark themes.

1. Suggested to go to library and seek a book list from the children's librarian
2. Hardy Boys (x2)
3. Goosebumps
4. Gerinimo Stilton Series (x2, about a detective mouse)
5. The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle
6. Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary
7. The Stink Series (x2, third gr. level)
8. A to Z Mysteries (x2)
9. Nate the Great
10. Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little by E.B. White
11. Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo
12. Wayside School Series by Louis Sachar (is silly and fun)
13. The Ready,Freddy! Series (mid-second gr. level, funny and good for boys)
14. My Weird School Series (mid-second gr. level, funny and good for boys)
15. Magic Tree House Series (x2)
16. Cul-De-Sac kids
17. Chronicles of Narnia Series
18. The Three Investigators by Alfred Hitchcock ("They weren't scary, they were cool mystery stories like the hardy boys and Nancy drew but better. I think they were a little easier than the hardy boys too.")
19. Captain Underpants Series(x2, good for reluctant boy readers)
20. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series (x2, good for reluctant boy readers)
21. Henry and Mudge Books
22. Goonie Bird Greene
23. Any book about sports
24. Author Matt Christopher who writes books with sports themes (early 3rd gr. level)
25. Hank Zipzer Series
(the x2 means that multiple people recommended)

So there is an absolutely fantastic list of books for boys, I would say the 7-10 year old age range AND I trust it because I know the highly educated sources they came from.


If you contributed to this list...THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

If you would like to add any additional books to the list or comments on the above selections, please do so in the comment box below.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mission: Eat Right, Eat Good but DO it Cheap!


One of my biggest challenges is feeding a family of 6, and often more since we always have guests, on a tight budget. Call it maturity or whatever you want to call it, but I realized that alot/most of our "extra" money was being spent on FOOD!! Our hard earned cash all gone to food! I thought, 'what a racket?...If I could cut our food bill by $50 or more that could really add up or help in other areas in our financial budget that has a need.' Unfortunately, it took tight times to force us into this more disciplined nature of resourcefulness but the Lord used this as an opportunity to show me that this is an area that we as Christians are to focus on and me/we were in desperate need of a makeover. We are called to be resourceful, whether there is a current pressing need or not. We are to learn to be good stewards as God expects His people to use the resources of time, money, abilities, and spiritual gifts to the best possible advantage in their pursuit of excellence in ministry.

Luke 16:10-11 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"

So I made it one of missions for 2010 to be a better steward of the money that we do have. One area I could immediately modify was to work at cutting our grocery bill by $50-$100 a week! Yes, I said a week and yes I said work at! And I will say that so far so good. If you would like to strive to do the same, follow me as I am going to start posting the strategies that I have learned, from so many others willing to share, and use to accomplish this monstrous task.

Proverbs 24:3-4
Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms shall be filled with all precious and pleasant riches
.

I am going to start a little out of order but today I felt compelled to share a recipe that I found that is SO resourceful and looks so yummy!

Today's Tip: Find recipes where the majority of ingredients can be found amongst your pantry staples and then purchase the supplemental ingredients.

Here is a recipe that I found in All You Magazine that is healthy and will cost me barely anything to make and feed our mass family.

Black-Bean Burgers
Prep: 10 min.
Bake: 20 min.
Serves: 4
Cost per serving: 67 c.

*2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
*1 stalk of celery chopped
*1 onion chopped
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1-15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
*1 large egg
*1 Tbsp. Cumin
* 1/2 c. plain bread crumbs
* Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
2.Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minutes longer.
3. Our beans into a large bowl and use a fork to mash into a thick paste. Scrape vegetables from skillet into bowl. Stir in egg, cumin, and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and use your hands to form 4 patties. Place on baking sheet and bake until firm and set, about 10 minutes on each side.

Per Serving: 215 cal., 9g Fat (1g sat.), 53mg. Chol., 7g Fiber, 8g Pro., 28g Carb., 821mg Sod.

Kitchen Tips:
*Do the mash. The burgers turn out better when the beans are well mashed. use a food processor if you prefer.
*Add extras. Present the burgers just like regular hamburgers. Add a slice of cheese just after they come out of the oven, if desired.

YUM and SO HEALTHY! I carry all but beans as staples in my kitchen so all I have to get is the beans!! This meal will cost me under $10 for 8 to eat and we'll probably have left overs!

ENJOY!!

xoxo Halley

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

*Cleveland* Ranked Worst Winter Weather

So yesterday I heard on the radio that Cleveland was ranked as #1 big city for having the worst winter weather, according to Forbes.com. Other cities included Boston, NYC, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Indianopolis, Columbus, Detroit and Boston. *sigh* I felt relieved to hear that I am not alone when it comes to feeling like we are at war with the elements all winter long and that there is objective proof to back my feelings! So curious to get the details, I went to Forbes.com and here is brief overview of why they claim Cleveland was picked...

"America's Worst Winter Weather Cities
Tim Kiladze, 02.05.10, 05:00 PM EST
These areas get the most snowfall and rain, and experience the coldest annual temperatures, of the 50 measured.

Our measures show that those in Cleveland experience the worst winter months. Located on the south shore of Lake Erie, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has relatively mild summers but its winters require endurance. Cleveland gets hit by lake-effect snow, averaging almost 60 inches every winter and its frigid winters help produce an average annual temperature of only 50 degrees, 10 degrees below the 50-city average." www.forbes.com

Keep reading and you will find 35+ reader comments and opinions. Now that is what I want to talk about because I didn't feel like there were many that agreed...so here is a brief overview of why I believe Cleveland, from a local subjective perspective, was picked for qualified reasons...

Today, and many days throughout this season, we have a plethora of slick snow, ice, rain and brisk wind. The area we live in has far exceeded the 60 inch average (that is why it is an average for a big city that spans ~100 mile radius). Today it took me 25 *extra* minutes to commute my kids to school. I witnessed cars off the roads, I almost hit a bus that suddenly stopped (while mine did not!) and my van hit a slick spot which threw me into a tail spin. Our car got stuck in the driveway...twice. This is a pretty normal occasion for the area of Cleveland that I live in...we are in the thick of the snow belt, the outskirts of the metro suburbs. We have to live with a generator to accommodate the many outages we have experienced for days at a time when a bad ice storm hits typically at the end of winter-beginning of spring. They put black cinder on the roads which mixes with the snow slush and tracks into our garage, house and builds up all over the roads, cars and stains our clothes with only a small rub against the car upon entry or passing...yuck! The wind can get so brisk that the skin on my face gets hives if I don't cover it and my kids get wind burn at the tops of their cheeks and around their mouths. To top it off...we get very little sun during the winter months!!! Need I say more...the winter weather here is harsh! It is terrible! I barely tolerate it! Yes with a snowy down pour my home surroundings are transformed into a winter wonderland and is extremely serene and beautiful...but only while I lay in my bed and look out the window early on a Sunday morning (or go out and sled with the kids, snowboard or hike!) However, it quickly loses its serendipity when it comes time to gather the family and drive to church...because then again we are in Cleveland and life goes on with 5 feet of snow!

So please, I get it...there are lots of places that get terrible weather...worse, same, bigger city, smaller city....but please don't try and say our weather doesn't qualify and please don't complain about not making the ranks. Seriously, if your city was on the list then you'd be complaining about that too and defending your hometown (like the Clevelander's on there...paleez!!).

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