Friday, April 24, 2015

Sick Boys & Goals

I haven't mention that my boys have been sick for the last few days. First it was Lucas who complained of a headache and then promptly fell asleep a few minutes later. That was unusual, so I knew he was not feeling well. It was followed by a fever, body aches and vomiting. Then a few days later Ronin joined the party with the same symptoms. Lucas was on the mend, while Ronin was just beginning.

Lucas tried to go to school Tuesday, but despite urging him to take it easy he went full throttle at recess and then paid for it. So, I had to pick him up before lunch because he was not well. Ronin has thrown up twice since getting sick and is utterly weak. Lucas is finally better and is at school right now. Ronin tried a few hours of school, but was promptly set to the office because he kept falling asleep in class and coughing. His teacher realized he was not ready to be back yet.

When a wrench is thrown in my plans, I have to be honest, I usually turn to food. Food for comfort, food for distraction or food for sustenance. I don't usually make good choices. It will consist of fast food or whatever is easiest to warm up in the microwave. When I am running around getting the things my children need, cleaning up vomit messes, changing and washing linens and trying to keep them hydrated - the last thing on my mind is eating healthy.

But, I'm trying this time. I really am. I've continued to be mindful of my meals - cooking despite the above happening as well. I am making food from scratch and sitting down to eat. I've also continued to exercise by doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and lifting weights at home. And because my husband's work schedule is more flexible, I've been able to sneak away to the gym to get a workout in. I love him! I don't want to be completely derailed from my goals. When the boys are well, I want to keep on rather than starting over. To tell you the truth, the healthy eating and the exercise has made it easier for me to take care of my kids. I'm not as irritable and I'm not as exhausted. There is something to that saying, "Take care of yourself and you can take care of others".

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Couponing This Week: Target

Target had the best deals this week. I was able to pick up items that I needed to replenish my stockpile. I was also able to pick up items I've been wanting to try but was just waiting for a good deal to pop up. Target is a great place to coupon because you can stack your coupons and mobile coupons. For example, Purex Crystals are regularly $3.99/each. I had a manufacturer coupon for $3/2 and Target was offering a Cartwheel discount of 10%, too. To make it sweeter, use your Target charge/debit card and get an additional 5% off. All these discounts add up!

Bought 2 Purex Crystals, regularly priced at $3.99/each
Target Cartwheel discount of 10% ($0.39/each)
Used  $3/2 Purex Crystals coupon
Used my Target debit card of 5% ($0.21)
Paid: $3.99 or $1.99/ea

Bought 6 Chobani greek yogurts on sale for $1/each
Used (2) $1/3 Chobani coupon
Paid: $4.00 or $0.66/ea

Bought 3 L'Oreal hair care products, Buy 3 and get a $5 Target Gift Card @ $5.99/each
Used (2) $3/1 L'Oreal hair care products
Paid: $11.97 and got a $5 Target Gift Card
Coupon Deal: $6.97 or $2.32/ea
Note: This was similar to last week's Pantene deal as the size of the products were 24.5 oz. I wouldn't usual pay over $2 for hair care, but with the right coupons, volume of product and incentive ($5 gift card) - this was a great deal as I build up my stockpile again.

Bought 1 Up & Up Tissue box for $1.42
Used (1) $0.50/1 Target Catalina (the coupon that prints at the register)
Paid: $0.92

Bought 1 Up & Up Baby Wipes for $1.39
Used (1) $0.75/1 Target Catalina (the coupon that prints at the register)
Paid: $0.64

Total: $20.65 + $5 Target Gift Card = $15.65

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Couponing This Week: Walgreens

I must admit that Walgreens is not my favorite store to coupon at. I'm not a big fan of the Balance Rewards program and their Register Rewards (RR) offers are scarce. On top of that I always forget about their 1:1 coupon/items policy once I get to the register and end of up having to throw in a filler to make the whole transaction work. And don't get me started with their less than clear signage about which products qualify for a RR and you never find out until after the transaction and no RR prints up. In other words, too much to think about!

But, on the rare day when they have clear cut sales and the couponing is pretty simple, I will venture to the store. Just like I did this week.

(4) Puffs 48ct box of tissues on sale for $0.99/ea
Used (2) $0.25/1 Puffs coupon
Paid: $3.46 or $0.86/ea

(4) Palmolive Dish Liquid at $0.99/ea
Paid: $3.96

(1) Irish Spring Body Wash on sale for $3.99/ea
Used (1) $2/1 Irish Spring Body Wash coupon
Paid: $1.99 + Received a $2.50 Register Reward

Coupon Deal Total: $9.41 + $2.50 Register Reward = $6.91

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Couponing This Week: CVS

CVS had two good deals this week that I took advantage of. Here's a tip - when looking for an item that's on sale, be sure to check the front end caps (the displays at the end of the aisle). If it's on sale, the store will display it prominently so that customers can take advantage of the sale. When I was looking for the Xtra detergent I went straight to the cleaners/laundry aisle and found the shelf cleared out. I walked to the front of the store and bam! There it was displayed at the front of the store. 

Xtra detergent on sale for $1.99
Used a $1/1 store coupon from the CVS Coupon Machine
Paid: $0.99

Colgate mouthwash was Buy One Get One 50% off. 
Buy $10 worth of Colgate products and get $5 Extra Bucks. 
Bought 4 mouthwashes 
Used (2) $2/1 Colgate Mouthwash coupon
Paid: $11.86
Coupon Deal: $6.86 with the $5 Extra Bucks or $1.71/ea

Monday, April 20, 2015

Frozen Dark Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bites

Since about February this year, I've been making a more concerted and focused effort at being more healthy and eating better. I'll admit to being a gym rat, but it's only now that I've realized that all the effort I put in the gym wasn't going to make a dent if I didn't begin to change the way I ate. 

Long story short, sweets have been non-existent. I do have fruits (in the form of smoothies) in the morning, but other than that, my sweet cravings have not been satisfied. I'm not even a big fan of bananas, but beggars can't be choosers, can they? So, I finally decided it was time to find a healthy alternative that could satisfy my need for sweets. I introduce to you Frozen Dark Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bites (courtesy of Pinterest). 

 Get 3 bananas and slice them into small discs. 
 Between two banana discs, spread a small amount of your favorite nut butter. I really like Peanut Butter Co.'s Smooth Operator. 
 In two separate bowls, pour 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut. 
 Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and arrange your banana bites. Put in the freezer for 1 hour to set. 
 Melt 1 cup of dark chocolate (whatever you like) in the microwave in 30 second increments. Stir until smooth. Do this about 5 minutes before your bananas are going to be taken out of the freezer. 
 Take each banana bite and dip it half-way into the chocolate and then immediately dip it in either the coconut or walnuts. Return them to the sheet pan. 
 When they've all been assembled return the banana bites to the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours to fully set. 
Voila! Yummy frozen bites of heaven! All-natural yummy goodness that's guilt-free. (Just don't eat the whole bowl in one sitting) I found that two banana bites were quite satisfying!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Coupon Deals of the Week: Target

Here are the items I was able to pick up from Target during last week's deals. 

Buy 3 Pantene Products Get a $5 Target Gift Card
Bought Pantene Shampoos (2) and Conditioner (1) at $5.99/ea
Used (3) $1/1 Pantene Product
Paid: $14.97 
Coupon Deal: $9.97 with $5 Target Gift Card, so $3.32/ea 
Note: Not the best deal on shampoo/conditioner - but I think the 24.5oz bottles make up for that as well as the fact I was completely at ZERO shampoo/conditioner in my stockpile. This should keep me going until the next deal!

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Milk on sale for $2.99/ea
Used (2) $1/1 Blue Diamond Almond Milk
Paid: $3.98 for two or $1.99/ea
I am falling in love with almond milk! I use it in my smoothies, protein pancakes and cereal. I've tried the sweetened (which I like) and I also bought an unsweetened version for cooking and baking. 

Dawn Dishwashing Liquid at $0.97/ea
Used (4) $0.25/1 Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
Paid: $2.88 or $0.72/ea

Clorox2 Stain Remover at $2.49/ea
Used (1) $1.50/1 Clorox2 Stain Remover Product
Paid: $0.99
Never used this product before. Claims it can take out stains that have even been through the dryer already. We will see!

This week I was able to get my coupon shoppings lists prepared on Saturday morning. I plan to shop at Walgreens for a body wash deal, Target for more shampoo deals as wells as a greek yogurt deal, and CVS for more mouthwash. Still haven't pulled the trigger on any newspaper subscriptions

Friday, April 17, 2015

FBF: Our Cuddle Bug

Our little cuddle bug when he was 2 years old. He was (and still is) so affectionate. He gives the best kisses.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Couponing Again

I began couponing around spring 2013. It was such a revelation when I realized that with a couple of newspaper subscriptions and a few blogs to reference I could really save a lot of money on everyday items for our home. Being a stay at home mom, it was the perfect way for me to contribute to our home without spending a lot of money.  

I was able to build a pretty decent stockpile of items that not only provided for my family but also for other family members who "shopped" in my stockpile. And because I bought many of the these items at super discounted prices (even free), it felt great to share the wealth with others. 

Fast forward to summer of 2014 - my stockpile was out of control and our family was having a hard time getting through many of the items before they expired. I also began to discover the items my family really used and those they didn't care for. I began to taper off on couponing simply because I was skipping deals on items I knew we just didn't use. I started to give away much of my stockpile because I didn't want them to go to waste and if I found a family who could use them - even better! I was able to get my stockpile down to a manageable size and decided to stop couponing until it was fairly depleted. 

Honestly, it was quite freeing. I was no longer running from sale to sale getting the best deals. I no longer spent my Sundays perusing sites and organizing my coupon shopping lists. I also cancelled my newspaper subscriptions. I really enjoyed the time off and spent it with my family, catching up on my reading, watching shows I've been putting off and just relaxing. 

Well my long break is over. My stockpile is pretty sorry-looking. The day I had to buy shampoo and mouthwash for full price was a very sad day. So, today I begin my couponing again. I'm quite excited and refreshed after almost 8-months of no couponing. The above picture is my first couponing deal of the week. 

(2) Colgate mouthwashes on sale for $5.99 each
Used a (2) $2/1 Colgate mouthwash coupon
Received (2) $2 in Extra Bucks
Paid: $7.98
Coupon Total: $1.99 each

(1) Colgate toothpaste on sale for $3.00
Used a $1.25/1 Colgate toothpaste coupon
Used a $2.50/1 Colgate coupon from the CVS Coupon Machine
Paid: FREE

(1) Ajax Dish Soap on sale for $0.88
Used (1) $0.49/1 Ajax from the CVS Coupon Machine
Paid: $0.39

(2) Revlon lipsticks on sale for $6.99 each
Received (2) $4 in Extra Bucks
Paid: $13.98
Coupon total: $2.99 each

Paid with tax $23.69
Received $12 in Extra Bucks
Coupon total: $11.69 

That $12 in Extra Bucks will come in handy for the following week's deal when I hope a good shampoo and/or body wash deal will come up. I plan to also visit Target this week and start shopping around for a deal for 2 newspaper subscriptions. 

Spring Break 2015: Hiking at Westwood Hills

Another fun and free excursion is hiking. We found this easy hiking trail in Napa called Westwood Hills Park . We just started taking our boys hiking (8 years old and 10 years old) since they finally got to an age where they could keep up with us and needed minimal items (water and a hat) to be comfortable. We took them to Rockville (see earlier post) and they really liked it. So that's what led us to this park. It's a climb all the way up but totally doable. Once you reach your first plateau there are several crossroads you can take to get to the top of the hill. Since it was our first time there, we decided to stay on the easiest path to get the lay of the land. There is plenty of shade at the beginning of the path, but the trees thin out as you reach the top. Once at the top, you are rewarded with an awesome view of the city of Napa and the Napa Palisades. We followed a family down another path that led to a hidden climbing tree. The best way to describe it is that it's much like a banyan tree with its many large limbs growing in an octopus-like tangle - perfect for small kids to climb. It was the highlight of the hike (yet I have no pictures) - just trust me!

Spring Break 2015: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

 Ronin gifted me with his first prize since he knew I loved Hello Kitty. 
 This was about as close as we got to the beach. Sunny, but chilly!
 Ronin loved this ride - can't you see it on his face? 
 The Bazooka game. It was so loud and fast - just the way Lucas wanted it!
 Clowning around while waiting for the bumper cars. 
Daddy won Ronin this brontosauraus which he immediately named "Bronty".