Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bippity Boppity Blog Part 1--Saving money at Disney and beyond...

I have been pondering how to write a post about saving money in the Orlando area for quite some time now, and have decided that it is going to warrant more than one post! Our family has been to the Orlando area two times. The first time we went in 2008, and we went again this year. Our first trip was our biggest, and at the time, I thought it would be our only trip there. I planned for nearly nine months; the six of us spent 9 days, but we did EVERYTHING, and that's not too much of an exaggeration! So, here are a few tips from someone who's been there, done that...I would LOVE to get your input on this one so that we can all help each other.

Next to theme park tickets, crazily enough, one of your biggest expenses will be food. This is often something that we don't plan well for enough, if at all, and the theme parks count on this. Once you are inside the parks, there will be a great temptation to pull out the credit card and spend $50-$75 or more per meal. I know for many folks, eating out is a big part of the vacation, and they'll go in extra debt to do it. It's very hard to say "NO" when you are at the happiest place on earth! Resist! Personally, I would rather spend my money seeing/doing something new and save in the food department...and then enjoy myself the day the credit card bill arrives. While I may be a minority on this, I can give you some great tips on how to save. Many of these are from experience, a few from others:

1. Stay off site in one of the bazillion hotels close by and get one that has free breakfast included! Eat a lot for breakfast!!
2. Be sure to fill up your refillable coffee mug that you brought with you while you are at breakfast!
2. Get a hotel/rent a home that at minimum has a mini-fridge and a microwave, if not a full kitchen and take advantage of them! The second time we went, I had a voucher for a free hotel stay, and it didn't have either. The first thing we did was make a Wal-Mart run and I bought a cheap styrofoam cooler, milk and a few other frig items. We used ice from the ice machines in the hotel. Saved a BUNCH of money.
4. If you are flying, consider ordering a case or two of water or juice from Sam's, Cosco, Walmart or Amazon and having it shipped to your baggage fees! Drinks are incredibly overpriced everywhere you go.
5. If I understand correctly, you are now allowed to bring food into the Disney theme parks (woot!). This will be a great help to us frugal types who think that paying 4 bucks for Coke is highway robbery. Eat your big breakfast at the hotel, bring lunch into the park, and eat supper after you leave the park.
6. Before you go, purchase an attractions book for the Orlando area. This will give you lots of dining options.
7. Also check at for some great deals in Orlando.
8. If you don't want to carry around a water bottle, you can ask for a cup of water at a restaurant. They should give you a cup for free even if you aren't buying a meal.
9. If you do carry a water bottle, consider packing some individual flavor packs in your purse to add a little flavor to your day.
10. If you are driving, (or even flying), consider bringing your crock-pot to the hotel. Another option is buying one at a thrift store when you get there. At your first Wal-Mart run, buy canned soups, pastas or other easy crock-pot heat-ables from the deli section of the grocer and a loaf of fresh bread. Voila! A nice, inexpensive warm meal waiting for you when you get back at night! (I've never had a problem with the hotel staff on this one.)
11. The greater Orlando area has some lovely free parks and gardens (another post). Consider packing a picnic lunch and heading out for a day of reprise in the midst of the chaos.
12. If you are driving, stop at one of the many visitor centers when you cross into Florida and pick up lots of free visitor guides that are filled with coupons. Don't forget your free cup of OJ!
13. Go to and look for restaurant gift cards at a discount. Combine these with coupons you picked up and you have an even better deal.
14. Water fountains are a requirement. Enjoy.

If you do choose to stay on site:

15. On-site hotels often offer a deal where you buy a souvenir beverage mug the first day of your trip and get free refills (at your resort only) during the length of your stay. This little perk can save significant bucks if you prefer to get soda or coffee. However, bringing your own is still cheaper, and it's a long walk back to your resort!
16. Make lunch your big meal of the day. If you'd like to try some of the nicer Disney World or Universal restaurants, especially those in Epcot's World Showcase (the best place to eat at the parks, IMHO), book them midday, when prices are considerably lower than for evening hours.
17. Consider sharing entrees, which are typically huge. Kids can eat off mom and dad's plate.
18. Obviously be on the lookout for restaurants offering deals where kids eat free.
19. Want to try a classy, atmospheric restaurant? Book a 3 P.M. seating time and just have dessert. You'll experience the ambiance, get a pleasant sugar high and spend far less than the cost of a full meal.
20. Check out and for other ideas!

As I mentioned, I'd really love your input on this! Any other ideas on ways to save on food??

Thanks for continuing to vote for me! Much appreciated:)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Free Hat and Free Brita Water Pitcher...because you are awesome!

My computer has been acting possessed lately, hence the lack of blogging....but I needed a break anyway. Have you been getting freebies in your box? In the last week I've received Poise samples (these can be used as regular pads, by the way), Dove body spray, Bobbi Brown lip gloss, a coupon for free Zyrtec, John Frieda hair samples and several magazines! I just love getting free stuff, somehow it makes the bills a little more tolerable.

I have been diligently working at cleaning out some clutter from my home.  Last week I donated several bags of goods to the National Kidney Foundation; they do regular pick ups in the area. I also sold a sweater to Plato's closet, took 10 used ink cartridges in to Staples (will get a $20 rewards credit for that), andwent through all the closets looking for shoes for my shoe drive next month (more later.) This week my goal is to list 20 items on ebay and/or Craig's list. One little step at a time.

Here are a few great deals for you:

You are's a hat to prove it!

Allure is having free giveaways to the first 10,000 every day at 12 noon this week. Check out all the details here:

If you live near Walgreens and have been wanting to make the switch to filtered water without much cost, here is a chance to get a free Brita water pitcher! I've been using mine for 10 years now. Read the details at a another wonderful site:

Thanks to those of you who have been voting for me daily. I truly hope that I can return the favor one day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pondering money...Free $10 from Ted Nugent's Sportsman Guide


At first glance, it would appear that the Bible is full of contradictions when it comes to money. On the one hand, Jesus tells his disciples to give up all they own to follow Him, not taking as much a two sets of clothes on their journey. No planning ahead; you will be cared for he promises--consider the sparrow (yes, Keith Ham, I still think of you when I read that), don't I care for them? So I will take care of you too. But then we are told to consider also the ant, who works industriously and stores up food for hard times. Or what of the rich man, who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to get to heaven. Jesus tells him to sell all he has, and the rich man goes away sad. Harder it will be for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven, Jesus says. But wait...then he tells the parable about the this case money. One man is given five (I remember reading somewhere that this was well over 200 grand in today's dollars), one man two and one man only one. The men given the most double their money and are commended, the one with the least buries his in fear and has even that taken away and given to the richest man. The widow's mite,we are told, is more valuable to the Kingdom than all the money of the Pharisees, giving thousands and blowing trumpets to announce it. So what is the key? Two things, I think: the heart and the context. Jesus, God/Man, always knows our heart. He knows if He is more important than our "stuff." He knows when we are trusting and when we are worrying. He knew those first disciples had a job to do, and fast. He also knows it is prudent to plan ahead. What are we to do? Plan. Invest. Save. Give. Help. Worry less. Yes, all of them. Will he call you, like George Mueller or Mother Teresa to give up worldly goods to follow Him? Possibly. Does He want you to use your talents to make a lot of money and fund the next George Mueller? Maybe. One thing is for sure, He wants to be first in our lives and that will look a little different for each of us. I'm trying really hard to listen when He speaks, because, you know, He knows my heart better than I know it myself.


Do you have a sportsman in your life?? How about a free $10 gift shipped to your door? "Like" Ted Nugent's Sportsman Guide facebook page and get a $10 e-gift card sent to your email. You can use it for anything in the store...and apply it to shipping too! May be slow to load...keep refreshing the page.

How about a free Artisan's pizza from Dominos? They are giving away a set amount each day. Click here for details:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

grateful for a day of saving...follow freebies

Thankful and Thrifty.

"In everything....with thanksgiving.....make your requests known to God."

It's been a day of trying on this gratefulness-in-all-things: Follow me...that's the easiest way that I know how to teach you this frugal life....

~Grateful when the frig was leaking and I stepped in the puddle and got my sock wet (because I have a frig and it's not dead yet!)
~Grateful for the same reason when the dishwasher had the same problem.
~Grateful when my computer keeps freezing (I can walk to the library, after all...)
~Grateful that I had sense enough to return a new stovetop that I bought for half off over Labor Day weekend (I'm sure I can do better than 50% off, and that was $650 back on the credit card, which more than makes up for the days I'm not working this week!)
~Grateful for coupons for a FREE pumpkin latte at Dunkin Donuts and a FREE spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-a. Yummm. Free lunch!
~Grateful that Plato's Closet gave me $7.20 for one of Abby's sweaters (she'll get the $:)...even if they turned away 10 other items.
~Grateful that I'm making headway in the "clean out the clutter" vow I took for fall. (see above)
~Grateful for 5 hungry men who'll be coming home soon, bellies all a grumble, covered in mud, full of bravado. Taco Casserole and salad coming right up!
~Grateful for the opportunity to bless others this week. (Have you done a good deed yet? It'll bless you, I promise!!)
~Grateful that I "spent 15 minutes on Geico" (and several other sites). It appears that I really will save us $500 or more on car/home insurance!
~Grateful that I went into Ollies today (for those who don't know what this is, think Big Lots). I spent about $15 on food and another $65 on Christmas gifts...a great start on the season!!
~Grateful for $124 worth of totally free-after-rewards items from Office Depot! Do you need to stock up on paper (to print free coupons) and batteries? Who doesn't? Be sure to print the $20 off $100 coupon first. Here's the link:
Free sample of Tom's of Maine new strawberry toothpaste for kids:

~Grateful for all of you keeping me in first place in NC...nice! Thanks so much:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Of Dahlias and Potted Herbs; Lots of weekend freebies!

I did it! I read half of Ann Voscamp's book One Thousand Gifts. It is as wonderful as I knew it would be, and it is inspiring, after I got over being angry for really selfish reasons! As I suspected, the theme is gratitude. Giving thanks to God for ALL THINGS, but especially those things that we don't want to give thanks for. Stopping to give thanks, she says, forces us to live fully in the moment. She kept a list of one thousand things for which she was thankful, and it changed her perceptions of what was going on around her. This is a similar concept that was introduced to us in the 90s when Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote her bestseller Simple Abundance. She suggested keeping a gratitude journal (scrapbook) and filling it full of quotes and musings and magazine pictures that make us smile. Same idea, different author. (But I must say that Ann has a better grip on Who to thank....Sarah's god seemed a bit more ethereal than the living Christ!)

Thankful today?

Today I dug up some herbs that were left over in the garden next door when our neighbors moved. I didn't take them all! I left a good deal for whoever rents next. Here they are on my windowsill. We'll see how they fair:

I also stopped to admire all the beautiful flowers, and especially the dahlias, that my husband has planted and cares for meticulously. I'm thankful that he has a hobby that adds beauty to our home and doesn't just bust the budget:

And I'm ever thankful for the long growing season here in NC. Here is today's harvest. Not many more days for fresh tomatoes, I'm afraid!

I will be leading a group for like-minded frugal women at my church (Friendly Hills Church in Jamestown) starting sometime next month. I'm VERY excited about this opportunity!! We are having a free luncheon after church on Sunday inviting ladies to learn more about women's ministries at Friendly Hills, so be sure to stay after if you are interested. I'll post more details on the group as it all comes together.

My husband and I will also be hosting a showing of Chuck Colson's nationwide live simulcast, Doing the Right Thing. This will be held at Wesleyan Christian Academy in room 410, located at 1917 Centennial Street in High Point. Enter from the Eastchester side of the school across from the mall. It will be from 9-1:30 this Saturday, the 24th. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, but you need to email me at so we'll be sure to have enough food. There you go, 3 free meals in one weekend if you plan it right!!

Also, keep in mind that this Saturday is free museum day nationwide. Click here for a listing:

To honor our veterans, hundreds of inns and bed and breakfast around the country are offering a free nights stay on Veteran's Day, November 10/11th! What a great way to honor those who serve! Check out the link here:

And yet one more freebie this Saturday and also Nov 11-13, over 100 National Parks will open their gates for free! Check out the details:

Here's a link to a free subscription of Bass Player Magazine:

Thanks for voting! I am truly shocked at how well I am doing. I really didn't ever expect to make it this high up the scoreboard, and that is all your doing, whoever you are. Thank you so much! If nothing else, it's just a fun ride getting this far:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fighting Poverty 101

I've always had mixed emotions about the arbitrary lines our government draws concerning the "poverty level." Given the fact that our very poorest have so much more than many third world countries, it seems a slap in the face of humanity in general. Also, so much of the current welfare system in our country relies on these arbitrary lines drawn in the proverbial sand, causing hundreds to "work the system." Why get a better job when that will cause me to get less aid? Have you seen the movie Million Dollar Baby? It is a poignant scene when the star of the show, Maggie (played by Hilary Swank) earns enough money boxing to buy her mother a home and help her out of destitution, only to have her ungrateful mother refuse to sign the papers because she won't be able to get her welfare check anymore. I suppose there are those who would say this wouldn't happen in real life; they are wrong. I know some of them personally.

Most of you know that I grew up in rural Maine; this was and still remains a very economically depressed area. I didn't have hot running water until I was in middle school, I qualified for free lunches and my dad--and many other men--poached deer and other wildlife to put meat on the table. Still, we had more than many other neighbors, some of whom don't have indoor plumbing even now, and never, ever did I consider myself poor. I never remember being hungry, cold or without basic necessities. It wasn't until I applied for college and had to fill out financial aid forms that I discovered that I had grown up "in poverty." Yet, my parents were always generous to everyone around them. In other words, neighbors helped neighbors.

"Last week, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty, a record 46.2 million people. The poverty rate, pegged at 15.1 percent, is the highest of any major industrialized nation, and many experts believe it could get worse before it abates." (from Yahoo News)

So there are those numbers again, telling us who is poor and who isn't. And the bottom line is, it's not going away soon, regardless of where we draw the line. So what can we do? Well, personally, I don't have to look very far to find someone I can help. I know many on a very personal level who can use a hand right now.In some respects, this is why I write this blog: to help others find creative ways to save money. And also to find creative ways to be grateful, because no matter how little you have, I can guarantee you that somewhere in this big old world, somebody has less.

So my goal this week is to find a different, concrete way to help someone each day. I have some ideas, and I won't blog about them because this is really a personal issue, but I do challenge my readers to help someone this week, even just one time, regardless of how strapped you are financially. Maybe you can't give money, but could donate a few hours at the homeless shelter or give a bag of clothes to a family you know who may need them.

I really think this is the heart of the American spirit, or at least it used to be. And if a neighbors can help neighbors, we'll get through this thing called "recession!!" Happy Giving!!

As always, thanks for voting for me! I'm up to #20 in the nation, second in the state. You all are the best!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Follow me!

Thankful and Thrifty:

What a beautiful, cool fall day! The whole family ran in a 5K race to benefit the heart center at my hospital. My men folk did great! Me? Well, I was just glad to finish and very happy that the money was going to a good cause.

Sometimes friends want me to teach them how to save money, and I wish that they could just follow me around for a couple of weeks, because, well, that would just be easier. Here are a few examples from my money saving day:

I picked up 5 loaves of whole wheat bread at the Merita Bakery Outlet for 80 cents a loaf.

I stopped at the library to return and pick up books and movies. Why rent? Hundreds of options available.

I had to pick up a few items at Wal-Mart. I had coupons for free scalloped potatoes and BOGO La Creme coffee creamer, which made it cheaper than generic half and half. I was craving a beef stew and have not seen a good sale on beef lately. I didn't really find one either, but I did manage to snag a small package of steak with a mark down sticker on it. I went heavy on the celery, potatoes and carrots. Served with hot cornbread  no one seemed to notice the scant amount of meat. I also made "chocolate chip" cookies with a bag of crumbled chocolate candy that I bought at the salvage store for 75 cents. Chocolate chips are getting so expensive.

I spent a couple of hours with my cousin again, redressing the hands. I love to listen to stories about life during the great depression, which was our subject of choice today. I realized as I listened how few people there are left who actually lived through it. I am blessed to know some of them. They have so much to teach us.

The boys and I are getting ready to snuggle under fleece blankets (I have a rule that I won't use the furnace before October husband doesn't always obey the rule:) and watch a movie! Cheap family entertainment.

Thanks for the votes!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Freebie Friday! Gratitude continued...Dunrobin Castle


It wasn't that before our car accident I was an ungrateful sot, and it certainly wasn't that I didn't believe in God before then, it's just that something changed that day, and I am better because of it. My husband read a quote a few years back, I think it was by Chuck Swindoll, and while I don't remember the exact wordage, the gist of it was that you can measure a person's maturity in general (and particularly maturity in Christ) by how grateful they are, i.e. gratitude is the surest sign of a true relationship with God. Wow. I am so not there yet. I fail everyday...but like the great apostle Paul, I am learning to be content, and it is best learned in times of adversity. But we do have to learn this gratitude thing. Day by day. Hour by hour. Moment by moment. Because everything in us leans to selfishness.

And so, I really thought I was on to something fresh and new. I've been pondering the whole subject quite often these last few months (and years). This fall, just when I thought I'd have time, energy and enough thoughts to start really blogging about it, my husband gives me Ann Voskamp's New York Time's Best Seller, One Thousand Gifts, for my birthday this summer. He meant it to be a validation of what I was doing; he thought it was the perfect gift--but oh no, poor guy, it made me mad. I picked it up and read a page or two...and doggone if Miss Ann wasn't saying everything I wanted to say, and rather than feel validated, I felt dejected. I still haven't read it, isn't that crazy?? Ungrateful for someone elses gratefulness. The irony. Moment by moment.

So today, I'm thankful.
I'm thankful for not having to turn the furnace on...yet.
Thankful for a bag of bruised and shriveled apples that I turned into a delightful apple crisp.
Thankful for my cousin--90 years young. Today I went to his house to bandage his dog-bitten hands. We talked about the Sutherlands of Maine, in the area where we grew up. My great-great grandfather was a Sutherland. It's my dad's middle name, my son's also. So he tells me that this Sutherland crew came from Scotland. In fact, they are from Clan Sutherland, who happen to own this: Dunrobin Castle:
Yep, that's right. One of the most visited castles in Scotland today and it belongs to my kin. OK, so my cousin also told me that the Sutherlands had a rather sordid reputation; they ran off some of their own clan, burned their homes, and put them on ships guessed it...New England. And my NE branch was dirt poor. But it's still a pretty nice thing to know.

Free Photo Journal (pay shipping) with the code WRITEITDOWN:

Free facebook sample of Infusium hair treatment:

Free sample of Bragg seasonings. Look on the left side of the page for the link:

Here's a link for a $10 rebate on the purchase of $50 worth of certain P&G products. This isn't that great in and of itself, but if you combine it with the $10 off $30 that drugstores are having right now (Walgreens this week) AND use sales and coupons, you can easily get 50-75% off! It's good until 10/31

And lastly...don't forget to vote today....thanks!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The beginning of deliberate gratitude.


I can tell you the exact moment when it happened, my first brush with living this life of true gratitude. I remember it so distinctly because it was such a shock. I was sitting beside my third child (in photo) in the emergency room at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. He had just drifted off to sleep, or at least into a drug induced stupor, as the morphine surged its way through his veins, calming the pain of a cracked vertebrae and a possible internal rupture...somewhere. My only daughter was in surgery, face smashed, back broken and bowels ruptured. My oldest and youngest sons were in adjoining rooms, one with a massive cut across his face and back fractures and both with (what we thought at the time) internal ruptures of their own. My husband had just been taken down for x-rays on an obviously broken hand. I leaned my head back against the wall. I don't remember having any thoughts at all. I guess I was in shock. We had been travelling to Michigan to visit family. It was Christmas Eve, 2008. We hit ice. We hit a cement wall. And in a 15 seconds, life changed. At this point, it had been about 5 hours since the wreck, and we had been transferred to this hospital. I had been told that all the children and my husband would be going to surgery. I didn't know anyone from Cleveland and we were 5 hours from the closest family and 8 hours from our NC home. I pulled off my boot, finally realizing my foot hurt. My sock was bloody. I quickly tucked it into my purse, wiping off the blood. No time for that. I leaned my head back again.

As I sat there, I became very aware of God's presence, and it was the strangest sensation because I wasn't praying or seeking or questioning; I wasn't sad or angry or hysterical, in fact I was incredibly calm. I am not by nature a "mystical" type person. I don't seek signs or wonders, but I do believe that God in Christ is very real and meets us where we are. At that moment I can only say that three unrequested thoughts entered my mind: I AM here, I AM sovereign, and I AM very, very good. What? I sat up and looked around. I had who often struggles with the goodness of God, especially when "bad things happen to good people."  A doctor came in, my husband was back, they were "reducing" his fingers in the next room, my youngest son was asking for me; I stopped to see my oldest on the way to the youngest.

The next 40 hours were a blur. Surgery after surgery. Doctor after doctor. 4 kids in the PICU on Christmas day, getting presents from people they didn't even know. It took time to process my ER awakening. To see it for what it was...a test, a gift, a thing of beauty that changed me from the inside out. About 3 days into the 21 day vigil, my husband and I had time to talk...and pray. We knew. We had to praise God though this whole thing even though we didn't know what the outcome was going to be. "Don't waste the car wreck," became our theme. It was a transformation that was for me both sudden and gradual, but months later my husband would say, "You've changed. You don't get angry at God anymore."

Angry at God? I didn't think I was. But he was right, and I had changed. And so began the gratitude journey...and this story will have to be continued...


Yesterday I realized I had a CVS ECB for $5 that was expiring, so I checked for the best deals (and I advice you to always do so before any shop at the "big 3" drugstores), clipped /printed my coupons and made my list. My husband I walked that way last night. I spent $11.00, saved $12, and got back $13 in ECB to use for next time. I purchased toothpaste, tampons, body wash and allergy meds.  This is part of my thrifty living. Always picking up the free stuff so I don't have to run out and pay full price.

Always find new ways to save. Even if you think you know them all, read one more book. You'll surely learn something; I know I always do.

Don't forget to keep voting...thanks!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What type of tightwad are you?? Knife Set giveaway coming up!

I don't know why I've always been fascinated with the economy, I really don't. First thing I look at in the paper is the business section, and it's not because I follow the stock market, I just like to read the headlines. Dow Jones up. Dow Jones down. Housing market halts. Jobs have slight uptick. Consumers still not buying. European market teeters on edge. You know, you see it too. But I'm guessing you don't read it first!

I've always been fascinated with money, and more precisely saving money. I've never had a desire to accumulate a great deal of it, it just has always pricked my interest. My mom used to give me her old check book ledgers to play with on my little white desk before I even went to kidding! Ever since I doubled that first coupon back in Lincoln, Maine at the ripe ol' age of 12 (Anybody remember Wellbys Superdrug, beside Shop & Save?), I could never for the life of me figure out why anyone would pay full price for anything. That's not to say that I never do, it's just that I try awfully hard not to.

Through the ups and downs of the economy, I've noticed that there are several types of frugalistas. Here's my synopsis:

The "I'm only frugal because I have to be and as soon as the money's back, I'm spending!" In my not-so-humble-opinion, these aren't tightwads at all. They don't understand the concept, which is why they are usually in boatloads of debt and only start saving money to be able to spend again. Author Joni McCoy, (Miserly Moms), fits this category.

The "I love to get a deal, but only because I like really nice things and I want to buy more of them." These are the folks who still want to look rich, but don't want to spend lavishly. They appreciate the finer things in life and would rather have one really nice item than 5 generic alternatives. They generally shun debt. Authors Mary Hunt (Debt Proof Living),  Marjorie Harris (Thrifty)  and Dave Ramsey (Total Money Makeover) belong here.

The "Green is good, I am saving the world by being thrifty." This is a bigger movement than I'm sure I am aware of, but there are hundreds of blogs out there on the subject. These are the folks who will spend extra to buy organic and who wouldn't be caught dead with a Teflon frying pan. They are thrifty because they don't want to use precious resources, but it's really not about spending less, it's about consuming less. Thrifty Green by Priscilla Short fits here. 

The "I'm so cheap I'll do things that border on illegal just to save a buck." Now, IMHO, these guys sometimes go too far. I take great pains to try to be "above board" in all I do. John Hoffman (The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving) lives in this group. I have to admit, the book is funny...and yes, I've been a diver on a couple of occasions!

The "I'm living in grinding poverty and see no way out." This is truly the saddest place to be, because I believe there is a way out (at least in our county), but it's not an easy road and requires much work. I have seen this first hand (up close and personal) growing up in rural Maine.

The "I'm just thrifty because I like to be. I appreciate nice things, but I can do without them because I have greater goals in mind, and debt is the REALLY bad 4 letter word." This would be the Jeff Yeager (The Ultimate Cheapskate), Amy Dacyzyn (The Tightwad Gazette) and Steve & Annette Economides (America's Cheapest Family) crowd. Oh, and this would be me! So, of course, I'm a little partial to this brand of tightwad.

Now, obviously there is overlapping involved and sometimes folks move from one category to another, but no matter which way you slice the frugal pie, there's enough thrift to go around. And you can even have a cup of coffee with it (make mine generic!) In which category are you?

I haven't had a giveaway in quite some time, and have decided to set a goal. Right now I am at approximately 205 subscribers and 57 followers. If I can make it to 300 (combined) by October 1, I will randomly select one person to receive a brand new 14 piece knife set!
This will coincide with the beginning a great shoe drive I am planning to be a part of. The greater frugal blogging community is "pairing" up with and (I know, a little weird, apparently because of their name, they are sponsoring the drive) to collect shoes to give to some of the world's poorest people. There is a contest involved (surprise) to see who can collect the most, but really, I'm just doing this one to help clean out my closet! My collection will run the entire month of October. So, while you're doing your fall clean-out, save a few pairs of shoes for me!! More info will follow.

And thanks to you, my blogger friends, I am advancing nicely in the Bring Home the Bacon Contest. Thanks so much for your votes of confidence, 3rd in state, 33rd overall. You really have no idea what this means to me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unsettled...but thankful for the free stuff!

I have that unsettled feeling I get sometimes....don't like it, not one little bit...but I've learned (scratch learning) that feelings are just feelings and I can choose what to do with them. Sooooo, I talked with my big sis, purveyor of sanity and sage advise, had a great time in the good book, prayed for wisdom (that's a constant) and now I'm dusting off my lazy self and my living room furniture, hanging my sheets on the line, going for a 3 mile run, returning a movie to the library, making dinner for my 90-year-old cousin who got his hands mauled by a dog he was trying to adopt, and then I'll pick up my boys, and go in to work for a 12 hour night shift thankful for a job as my hospital just cut 63 positions!

God is good...all the time! Here are some great freebies for you:

Free Kleenex cool touch sample:

Free sample of Biker Bull leather therapy restorer:

Free sample of Crest white strips:

Facebook sample of Purina ONE catfood:

Do you live near a World Market? Sign up for their "Explorer rewards and get freebies on your birthday and free coffee!!

Thanks for keeping up the votes!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011, Lest we Forget

"Blessed be your name, on the road marked with suffering

                                       When there's pain in the offering, blessed be your name."

                                                                   10 years later:

"Blessed be your name, when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be, blessed be your name."

"Every blessing you pour out, I'll turn back to praise,
When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say:
Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Matt Redmon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter..." 4 new freebies!


All Truth is God's Truth, and can show up in the most unexpected places. Don Henley wrote a song in 1989, called "Heart of the Matter." The chorus is as follows:

"I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter,

But my will gets weak,
And my thoughts seem to scatter,
But I think it's about forgiveness,
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore."

And you know what I think? I think Henley hit the nail right on the head. It really is all about forgiveness, forgiveness whether of not the one who "dun you wrong" ever acknowledges your attempts. I've carried a lot of bitterness around at times. You understand, I'm sure? Someone you care about  deeply does something so hideously hurtful that you wonder who they even are. Everything in you screams, "HOW DARE YOU!!" And you revel in the pain. I know I do. I want to feel miserable and I want them to know that I feel miserable. "If you did this to me, missy, you're gonna feel the scorn." Been there, thought that.
I can carry it for a good long while, too, and the longer I carry it, the more justified I feel; the more I really believe that they should never be forgiven.

But then it creeps in. That niggling reminder that I have been just as hideous. I remember past offenses. The times when the words rushed forth and I couldn't take them back. The phone call I should never have made; the letter I regretted the moment it dropped it in the slot. The murderous thoughts of the heart that would shock those who know me.

So I push back. "Surely when I hurt him, it was deserved," I rationalize. I refuse to acknowledge the truth. I read, "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive you, " Obviously that applies to everyone except me. If I don't consciously think that, I certainly live it by my actions.

Who am fooling? I am hurting myself and everyone around me by my selfish acts of unforgiveness. It is no accident that steps 8, 9 and 10 of Alcoholics Anonymous all have to do with "making amends." Forgiveness is the most powerful tool in the universe. It is what brings us to Christ,after all, and if He can forgive me, bloody, wretched mess that I am, who I am to hold on to any bitterness at all? Who am I to think that I can have any true relationship with a forgiving Savior if I can't just let it go?


Some free samples for you:

Facebook sample of Green Mountain Coffee:

Free sample of   Emergen-C Kidz

Free Teasta Tea samples:

Free one year subscription to Making Music magazine:

And once again, if you like my blog, I'd love your vote! Thanks!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A grief of one's own...finding mama's mittens.

It happened again this week. There I was in the drug store, running a bit frantic as usual, trying to get one last errand in, my mind scattered. Then I saw her, all 5 feet of her stooped little gray-haired self, holding on to her shopping cart for balance and looking not only lost, but for all the world just like my mother did a year ago, white tennis shoes and all, the very last time I took her shopping. Mom had just lost everything she owned in a fire--knowing she was dying of cancer--she didn't even know what to buy except for her prescriptions. What did she need after all? My throat constricted and I felt dizzy. I didn't know whether to hug her or run as I stood there trying to gain some balance of my own. I ran. Salty tears pelted my tank top as I stepped back through the door, lifting my face to the deep blue sky and letting the breeze dry my blotchy face. The day before it had happened too. I was digging in my dresser, trying to find a t-shirt when my hand landed on the wooly, gray mittens. I pulled them out, remembering that I had hid them there last year, not wanting the kids to use them any more. Mom wouldn't be there--ever again--to knit a replacement pair. I fingered the moth hole and all the patches she had stitched; I held them to my heart (because that's what we do with things we love); I inhaled deeply though they've been washed a hundred times, trying to get one last scent of her. Grief certainly has a way of catching us when we don't want to take the time for her. I'm sure my interludes with her are exacerbated by my own daughter's going off to college (I can't even find solace cuddled up on the couch watching Pride and Prejudice!) and the fast approach of the one year anniversary of mom's passing.

And then there's Autumn. It's that time of year that I love. Autumn. Blue, brilliant skies and leaves that shock me every year. Autumn. Pumpkins lined up on doorstops and air with a bit of a chill. It has always been my favorite season, and yet, it has become the season that I more and more associate with loss. The only grandmother I knew died in October, my father died in late August (fall if you are a Mainer), my favorite Uncle on October 23, and most recently, my mom on October 13. Just when the colors are brightest in Maine. Last year I sat in a big Adirondack chair in front of Care Ridge Estates in Lee, Maine, sobbing as the sun came up on the frosted trees and illuminated them in all their brilliant glory. It was pre-6am and my older brother was inside, having stopped on his way to work. I woke to his sitting there at the foot of Mom's bed. I had pulled the recliner so close I could rest my head on her pillow, smell that death-smell that I am so familiar with as a nurse, and hold her hand as the blood flowed slower and slower. He was sipping coffee, teary-eyed himself. We didn't have to have words to communicate. And so I went to get my own cup of liquid adrenaline and stopped for a moment to get the tears out for awhile. But they never stop. Not really, and I don't think they should. We were made to cry, to release all that we can't possibly hold inside. It feels good, doesn't it, when you finally let the ache loose this way? What a gift in a fallen world. Someone once told me that it matters not your age when your parents die, you are still an orphan.

So bring it on autumn, it all your glorious splendor, and I will be thankful for the beauty of you and the ache you bring when I feel the frost on my nose and see the trees light up again. That's really gratitude wrapped in a different blanket. Because we wouldn't have the ache if we hadn't had love in the first place.


Need a cup of tea with that grief? Here's a great chance to get some free Twinings samples:

And also, if you like my blog, I'd LOVE your daily vote (may sure to vote for triciacliff, not Patricia Cliff, thanks) :

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Free book and more & Couchsurfing (not as bad as it sounds!)

Isaiah 53 Explained
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there seems to be quite a lull in the freebie world lately, but here are a few for you to pick up:

Here's another opportunity to get a free book: I think the title pretty much gives it away!

Free sample of Huggies diapers from Sam's Club, no membership # needed:

Free sample of Rachel Ray's dogfood:

Also, I generally don't promote too many sweepstakes, but for my readers who are in range of Irving heating fuel/propane, here's a chance to win a year's supply, and with costs going up, I would LOVE to see one of you win! One entry per household.

Here's an interesting website for the true cheapskates amongst us.  Basically, this is a site for folks who don't mind the old-fashioned way of seeing new places--staying in other people's homes! Personally, I like this way best. There's no better way to get to know a new place than to stay with the locals! There are lots of safety nets in place on the site, and it's a worldwide network which has been highlighted on CNN, Time and The New York Times. I have not personally signed up YET, but I can see my husband and I doing this is the future. I may also sign up to be a host for now. Speaking of host...we do love to have people stay in our home, and I welcome any of my readers to do just that! Just give me at least a days notice:) We also love to stay with other families. We have found, having 4 kids ourselves, that generally speaking, the larger the family, the more apt they are to let you stay with them! I guess that's because we lots-o-kids families know that it doesn't have to be stressful and our kids don't mind camping on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, if you're up for an adventure, check it out!

Now, on to my last item of the day. Those of you who follow me on facebook may have noticed that I am currently competing in another challange; this time the prize is getting paid to blog! I would love this opportunity, but I'm also very realistic. I enter contests often, but if and when it becomes apparent that I can't win, I don't push it, I bow out graciously. (This happened with the school computer lab contest, by the way). That being said, this voting period goes on for 3 MONTHS!! Crazy. After the first 2 months, the top 5 contestants from each state will compete for first in each state for another month and then those top 50 compete in a "find the best deal" challenge. If my blog has meant something to you personally or helped you in some way, I'd appreciate your vote...and you can do so DAILY. Right now I am 6th in NC and 99 overall (out of 1995 contestants) but anyone can still sign up. SOOOOOO, if after a few weeks it appears pointless, you'll not read about it again! here: (should just be two clicks!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Basic Muffin Recipe (you decide what to add...)

It's been a good day. I worked a 12 hour shift last night, so I came home and fell, exhausted, on the living room sofa. It was not my intention to stay there, but I woke up about 5 hours later. This is a blessing in itself because I--who never used to have trouble sleeping in the day--have not been able to sleep lately, so today was a blessing indeed. I woke up to the mailman stuffing freebies in my box, can't beat that.

I decided to use the new Samy FAT hair color that I got for 99 cents after a sale, +UP reward and internet coupon. The box said "dark blond." I think not. However, I am satisfied with the coverage; that is to say, my gray is invisible at the moment. Certainly worth the 99 cents and it saved me a trip to the salon, shoot, I even did my laundry during the process! I'll take practicality over pampering.

I've been thinking much about the costs of cooking vs. eating out. It is very tempting to lie to ourselves in this regard. I remember a lab tech who worked at our hospital quite a few years back. Anna (named changed to protect the guilty) loved to pick up her meal on the way to work, and generally speaking, it wasn't Mickey Ds. One day she was eating with us and I pulled out my tuna sandwich with an apple on the side. Anna looked me straight in the eye and said, "It's so much cheaper for me to eat out! I'm a single lady. Do you know how much it would cost me to buy all the ingredients for this shrimp dinner and cook it myself?" Now, I had a choice at this moment, and I decided I wasn't going to make much headway with Anna. I knew her too well. I wanted to explain that yes, her initial outlay for ingredients would most likely be more expensive, but she'd have enough for 5 meals! I might have told her that instead of  buying the $8 dinner...she could have packed a 50 cent dinner like mine. Less bucks, less calories, more nutrients. But I didn't say any of this; Anna wasn't ready for it, because Anna was lying to herself and she really didn't want to hear the truth.

Confession: I lie to myself about this also. I was all but convinced that my new fav fast food, Lil' Caesar's large pepperoni pizzas for 5 bucks, couldn't be made for less. I mean, with grocery costs being what they are these days, how could it not be so? Then I did the math. I pulled out my receipts and calculated the actual cost of ingredients: flour (even whole wheat purchased at Ollies for 20 cents a pound), yeast, oil, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, etc; I can still make a large pizza for around 3 bucks. Obviously, my version is healthier to boot. OK, so what's the lesson here? Never eat out? No! Just don't try to tell me (or yourself) that's it's cheaper.

Here's a recipe to get you started. Muffins are incredibly easy and versatile. I usually use half whole wheat flour in mine. When we have muffins, that's the meal. It's not muffins plus something else.

Basic Muffin Recipe
 2 cups flour (or sub 1 cup with oatmeal, cornmeal, whole wheat or other dry ingredients)
1/4 cup sugar (or sub splenda, honey  or leave out all together)
1 TBS baking powder (or 1 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt (may be eliminated)
1 egg
1 cup milk (or buttermilk, cream, fruit juice of even water in a pinch)
1/4 cup oil (or use half oil and half fruit puree, like applesauce or pumpkin)

Serve plain or get creative! Add nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, get the idea.  If you are adding a lot of say, dried apricots, you may need to use a tad less flour. Play around until you get your favorite.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. I use cupcake liners and spray the bottom of the paper. Easy clean up and the muffins don't stick! And no, they aren't cheaper at your friendly neighborhood yuppie mart.