Wedding Gift Giving Etiquette: Engagement Parties

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Starting the Celebration: Engagement Parties

Wedding season is no longer restricted to the balmy, breezy days of early summer. These days, couples are planning their weddings all year round. What does this mean for you as a guest? For one, budgeting for weddings isn’t as easy as it used to be. Secondly, the expectations and etiquette of these joyous occasions have changed as well.

Don’t worry – we’re here to explain the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of all wedding-related events, including the big day. For part one of our Wedding Gift-Giving Etiquette series, let’s discuss engagement parties.

 

And So It Begins

Your phone rings (or dings) and your friend or family member has big news – “We’re engaged!” If there were ever a reason to celebrate, this is it. Engagement parties typically occur within the first few months after the proposal. Traditionally, the party served to introduce the two families coming together through the marriage and was hosted by the bride’s parents. However, anyone can take it upon himself or herself to host a celebration these days, especially close friends or siblings. Some couples even throw their own engagement parties but usually only because circumstance, such as a tight timeline or distance, makes this necessary.

If you decide to throw an engagement party, you’ll need to get the bride and groom involved sooner rather than later. And, to keep costs and expectations reasonable, set a budget before you set a guest list. Lastly, it’s important to note that it’s bad form to invite anyone to the engagement party who won’t make the final guest list for the wedding (unless it’s a destination wedding, but we’ll get to that occasion later in this series – stay tuned!).

 

Be Their Guest

As an engagement party attendee, you’re not expected to bring a gift, especially if the party is a surprise. Some guests do choose to bring a small present, such as champagne flutes, a book about wedding planning, a bottle of wine or simply a card. Since engagement parties don’t typically have a gift-giving portion, like at a bridal shower, there’s really no pressure to bring anything other than your selves.

 

When it comes time to shower the bride (or the couple) in gifts, do you know what the rules are about gift giving? Our next installment will cover everything from registries to properly approaching invitations to multiple showers.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Fall means cooler weather, apples.....and pumpkins!!!  Check out this awesome recipe to make these melt in your mouth pumpkin cheesecake bars.  Just a word of warning...you can't eat just one!

It is that time of the year…..PUMPKIN TREATS!!  These Pumpkin Cheescake Bars are fun to make and will satisfy two cravings at once!

They look like they are difficult to make, but they really are not.  So, you can make them for any gathering and your family and friends will be not only impressed at how they taste, but that you worked so hard to make them.  (Don’t worry – it will be our secret that they were easy to make!).

INGREDIENTS

CRUST

1 cup gingersnap crumbs
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Rectangular springform pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray springform pan with cooking spray.  Pulse the gingersnap crumbs, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and sugar until mixed into fine crumbs.  Add butter and pulse more to blend together.  Press evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before adding filling.

 

FILLING

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Mix cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed – until smooth and creamy.  Slowly mix in pumpkin until blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed.   Finally, pour in milk and vanilla and mix until combined.  Stir in cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt (or mix on low).  Pour onto crust.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

 

TOPPING

2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp water

Directions

Combine all items in a bowl until well mixed.  Spread on top of bars.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

The bars should be cut into squares and can be stored in an air tight container (in the refrigerator) for up to 4 days.

Not Yelling at My Kids: A Work In Progress (What I Am Doing To Be A Better Mom)

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As a mom, there are times when we lose our cool and end up yelling.  It is not our proudest moments.  I've been working very hard at NOT yelling at my kids by trying new tips and tricks - and they are working!  Click on over and read more to help you gain better control and not yell quite as much.

 

It happens.  You know those moments when you are trying to keep your cool and two kids are fighting. You try to let it go, but it seems that it gets louder and louder and before you know it, you’ve lost your cool and you start yelling back.  *SIGH*  I hate those moments.

I feel horrible when it happens.  As an adult I know it is not right.  That is not how to handle a situation.  Whenever the kids are doing things be it not listening, fighting, being told to do something for the twelfth time….it all can make us blow our tops and end up yelling at our kids.

Now, I am not saying that there are not times when it may be OK to yell at them.  Those are when there may be danger like a hot stove or running into the street, etc.  What I am talking about are the moments when I need to really be the adult and learn how to control my own emotions.

Kids learn from their parents.  The last thing I want is for them to think that the way to handle situations is to yell.  We know that doesn’t work.  Instead, I want them to learn how to calmly and rationally deal with a situation.

A couple of years ago, my son had my iPad in his hand.  Somehow, he dropped it and it fell on it’s corner and landed on a rock.  Of course, that instantly shattered the screen.  I could have yelled at him.  Trust me, it would have been easy.  But you know what, I didn’t.

Why, you ask?  The reason was him.  The minute it happened, I looked into his eyes and could see the fear.  He thought he was in the deepest trouble he’d ever seen in his young life.  I also realized that it was a thing.  It was replaceable.  Sure, it was expensive to do, but at the same time, he did not intentionally do it.  It truly was an accident.

Instead, I hugged him and told him that I knew it was not on purpose.  We then sat down and talked about how we take care of our things.  We discussed why we really should not take them outside.  Instead of me yelling at him, we turned it into a learning moment.

You might be thinking “That was a special circumstance Tracie, what about the day to day things – like the fighting?”  I have been doing better with this.

Kids having a quarrel and fight - tough parenthood concept

The minute that they start to fight, I just try to stay out of it.  I truly do not intervene.  I am trying to teach my children how to fight their own battles.  I am not going to be with them most of their lives, so they need to learn how to diffuse a situation.  Quite often, they do actually work it out.  (I will admit that I am doing a lot of deep breathing and focusing on something else to ensure I do not get involved).

Of course, they are kids, so they can’t always come to a resolution on their own.  Sometimes, it will end with a punch or slap to the arm.  That is when I have to step in.  I still do not yell.  This is what I do:

  1. Take a deep breath before I speak to them.
  2. I get down on my knees so that I am eye to eye level — or lower.  I don’t want them to feel me looking down on them.  Instead, I look directly at them or up at them.
  3. I hold their arms up by their shoulder so I can ensure they look at me in my face.
  4. I start to talk to them about what happened.  I do this with each of my kids and tell the other one to wait his or her turn.  This is done so I can get the facts.
  5. Once they fill me in, I ask each of them, what was wrong about what you did?  What could you have done differently?  They each give answers to me that prove they have listened to me.
  6. We end with me hugging them and telling them that I always love them, but I don’t like it when they fight.
  7. Finally, they have to hug one another or do a fist bump or something before they are allowed to run away.

That is how we handle fights.  As I said, there are a myriad of reasons as to why we might yell.  These are the thing I have been doing and you know what, they work (most of the time):

Take a deep breath. Before I ever speak when I am upset, I just take in a deep breath.  That allows me the pause I need and can often switch off my brain from feeling the need to yell so that I can speak to my kids rationally.

Put myself in my kids’ shoes.  This is one of them that really works for me.  Whenever my kids say that I am yelling, it makes me think about how it feels to be them.  As a result, I try to put myself in their shoes.  If they make a mess, they were trying to be independent (which is what I want).

Speak softly.  I will admit that I have a pretty powerful voice. I may be just 5’2″, but when I talk, you’d think I was 5’11”.  That can be intimidating to a lot of people, especially kids.  I just try to speak more slowly and calmly.  What is amazing is how much better I feel when my voice is not booming through the house too!  This is a win-win situation.

Being more mindful.  Whenever something is bothering me, be it family or work related stress or I am trying to focus on a difficult task, it can make my temper a lot shorter.  I find in those moments I yell more.  I try to really think about what is going on with me personally and try not to project that onto my kids or others.

I also do this with my kids.  When my oldest gets hungry, she gets irritable and cries.  When my son is tired or overly stimulated, he cries and gets frustrated.  When I can recognize these situations in my kids, then it helps me know that they are not intentionally acting up, it is truly something that they can’t control.  In these moments, I can be more thoughtful and mindful of what they are going through.

Give yourself a time out.  This is one that works for me – a lot.  If I feel I am going to explode with anger and yelling, I will actually put myself in my own room for a time out.  It is amazing how well that works.  I get a chance to just remove myself completely from the situation. I can think for a moment and clear my mind.  It helps calm me down so that I can return to the kids and speak with them rationally and not like a raving lunatic.

Let me just say that this has NOT been easy.  However, most things we do as parents seldom are.  This is not a job for the weak.  You have to be very strong to be a parent.  Sometimes, it just flat out sucks.  However, most of the time, it is the most amazing job on the planet and I’d not trade it for anything at all.

 

How to Throw a Super Mario Bros. Party!

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How to throw an awesome Super Mario Bros. birthday party! Includes games, decor and more!

When my daughter decided on the Super Mario Bros. theme for her 5th birthday party, I did what every creative, DIY mom does…got on Pinterest!  After some looking, I found some ideas I could build off.  I also found there weren’t a lot of ideas for Mario parties!

Normally, in the past I had made parties difficult for myself. Those parties required me to have a ton of prep, and had me baking until all hours of the night the day before. I decided this year, that everyone would enjoy the party just as much without all that, and I would get to enjoy it even more! In this post you will find all the details and pictures from her party. I hope it gives you some ideas too!

 

Mario birthday cake

Now since this party was for a girl, we decided to go with a Princess Peach themed cake! My aunt at Three Fat Ladies Catering did an amazing job at creating the cake! Each tier was a different flavor. The characters on the cake were part of a set I purchased that included a slew of characters and doubled as a birthday gift as well! You can find the best price on the whole set of characters here.

 

Super Mario Bros Snacks

 

To make things easy on myself, I made some easy signs with pictures and named the food themed names. We had cheeseballs and called them “Fireballs”. I also found Mario Fruit Snacks for $2.00 a box at Walmart and included them too!

 

Super Mario Bros Snacks

 

I also got gold foil covered chocolate coins to represent all the couns in Mario games (these were a hit!). They were hard to find, but check your local Walgreens, or Hobby Lobby for the best bet. I ended up buying mine at a bulk candy store because we had about 50 guests. I also found packages of peach sour gummies at my local Dollar Tree. We called these “Princess Peach Rings” and put them in a cute container. Adding signs to all the food items, really helped guests tie the theme into the foods.

 

Fire Flower Veggie Tray

 

 

This fire flower inspired vegetable tray was my favorite to make! I love adding a healthy element to birthday parties, and this was such a fun way to do it! The orange circle is made from a bag of baby carrots, the yellow inner ring on the face is from yellow bell pepper, the stem is a whole, sliced cucumber, and the leaves are two heads of broccoli. The white face is made from Marzetti’s light Ranch Veggis Dip, and the eyes are a black olive, cut in half. This thing was devoured in no time!

 

Super Mario Water Bottles

 

We removed the labels from ordinary bottles of water, and replaced them with this super-cute, printable Mario labels! They print three to a page, and were the perfect touch. You can get the link to download those HERE.

 

Yoshi Paper Cups

 

These were one of my favorite original creations! Yoshi’s Egg cups! These are just ordinary white, paper cups that I got in the decor section at Dollar Tree. My daughter and I used the lime green stickers that you can get to make yard sale price stickers and put five randomly on each cup to resemble Yoshi’s Eggs. We couldn’t find the stickers at the Dollar Tree, but had no trouble finding them at Walmart.

 

Mario Party Decor

 

For the plates, napkins and utensils, we just used $0.97 items from Walmart’s party aisle. The napkins were a little bit more because it was a larger package, and the napkins were bigger ($2.97), but they were worth every penny – because they looked like Yoshi Eggs too! What a neat find! You should have seen me doing my happy dance in Walmart!

 

Brick Boxes Mario Party

 

I wanted to have a dramatic display featuring my daughter’s name, and that caught your eye as son as you walked in to the venue. Bricks are a HUGE part of any Mario game, and only seemed appropriate to be included at this over the top Mario party! I wanted to make sure my boxes were all the same size and perfectly square, so I purchased shipping boxes from Walmart for $0.68 each to make this display.

The letters were from the craft department, and while they were nearly $2.00 a piece, they could easily be used again for many other things. I painted the boxes with Krylon Rust Protection Primer and the name of the color was Red Oxide. I only needed one can for all four boxes and it only took one coat. I only used the brand and primer than I did because it was the closest to “brick red” as I could find! After the paint dried, I manually drew on the brick pattern with a permanent marker on all four sides of the boxes. For the final touch, I painted the letters of her namepink, and hot glued them to the boxes (since it didn’t need to be a permanent fix).

 

Super Star balloons

 

On the tables, secured with balloon weights, we had Super Star Balloons! These are THE most simple things to make, that even someone who isn’t crafty can make these! The Dollar Tree carries these balloons (style number 182). For $1.00 you get the balloon, which they inflate with helium, and a ribbon attached to it. To make it into a Super Star balloon, and you need to do is draw two rectangles fro eyes with a black permanent marker. That’s it!

 

Yoshi Egg Game

 

Now, what fun is a party with no games? We had an old-fashioned egg-on-the-spoon race. Except for, I hard-boiled the eggs (because of the age of the majority of the kids, and we had a carpeted floor), and to keep with the theme, we used a lime green permanent marker and put polka dots on the eggs. Each kid was given a spoon, and if the egg was dropped they had to start all over. If they made it to the bowl with their egg still on their spoon, they could return to the line to allow the next child to go. We also had a “level up” round, where the kids had to the same thing with their eyes closed! It was a hoot!

 

mt5color-8

 

I couldn’t believe how well these kids did with their eyes closed!

 

Pin the Mustache on the Mario game

 

I think this game was a party favorite! We played, “Pin The Mustache on Mario!” Each child was blindfolded, and given a stick on mustache (find them in packs of seven at the Dollar Tree.) They were then shouted directions by the other kids in line at where to place it! The child who came the closest to giving Mario his proper mustache – won!

Pin the Mustache on Mario game aftermath

 

Here was the aftermath after some of the kids had taken their turn! Some of them were pretty close! By the time it was all over, he had mustaches in his ear, on his hat, his chin and all over. The kids all enjoyed it! Finding a Mario without a mustache to use can be tricky, but I used this downloadable file, and had it printed at my local UPS Store as an 18″ x 18″ poster to make playing easier.

We also had a pinata that looked like a Mystery Box, but do you think I can find pictures of that before they beat the snot out of it? Nope.

All in all, the party seemed to be a great success. All the kids had a good time and most importantly my daughter was overjoyed at getting to spend time and play games with her friends. And Mommy was happy to, because I was able to enjoy the party and the gueests for the first time, without being overly stressed.

Most of these images were taken by an amazing photographer named Jill Phillips! She not only does photography, but makes some AMAZING Geek Girl Accessories that make awesome gifts to. Check out her website!

Now you know how to plan your very OWN Super Mario Themed Party!!!

15 Ways to Ask “How Was Your Day?” Without Asking “How Was Your Day?

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If you ever ask your kids "How was school?" they usually just answer with OK or don't really share what happened that day.  Check out these AWESOME ideas on how to engage your child in conversations about their day (and even find FIVE bonus questions for teens)!

 

Every night at the dinner table we would ask our kids “How was school?”  We’d get the obligatory “Fine.” or “OK.” response.  It seemed that was all they would say.  Both my husband and I knew that we wanted to connect with the kids more and truly find out what they did that day and possibly open up ideas to have a great family conversation.

This last year, we started asking different questions.  These are allowing us to not only find out what went on at school, but even get to learn a little more about our kids.  We’ve learned how much our oldest loves science and that our son really enjoyed making presentations on the computer.  Without opening up our family dialogue, I do not know if we would really know as much as we do now.

I know you are wondering, how in the world can my spouse (significant other) and I do this with our own kids.  Below you will find ten different ways to ask your kids about their day without actually asking the same rhetorical question to them.  Just be prepared for some great conversations! 😉

1.  What was the best thing about your day?  (You can follow up asking what was the worst)?

2. Who did you sit by today at lunch?  What did you talk about?

3. What did you learn today?

4. What did you do at recess?  Who did you play with?

5. Who would you like to get to know more?  Why?

6. If you were teaching the class, what would you do differently than your teacher does?

7. What was the funniest thing that happened (or something that made you smile)?

8. What subject is the easiest for you? Why?  (Can follow up with which is the most difficult)

9. Who is your best friend?  Why?

10.  Who is the funniest person in your class?  Why?

11.  Is there anyone in your class who you think could use a new friend?

12. What did you to to help someone today?  What did someone do to help you?

13. If you could teach any subject, what would it be?

14. What would you do if you had one day where you were the principal?

15. What do you think you need to work on more in school?

 

BONUS:

If you have a teenager, it can be even more difficult to talk to them.  Check out these five additional questions you might ask:

A.  If you could be invisible, which place in the school would you like to visit (can’t say restroom or locker rooms).  Why?

B.  Which class is the easiest?  The hardest?

C.  If you had to write a book about today, what would the title be?

D. If you had the ability to read thoughts, whose mind would you read?

E. What do you all do when in the halls between classes?  Where do you go after school?

 

I know there are more great questions you can ask your kids, so if you have ideas, please share them below!

DIY Washi Tape Pencils

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diy washi tape pencils 2

School is starting back up very soon (or has already started for many!) Which means time for some fun back to school crafts to keep the kids entertained for the last few days of summer. My kids LOVE playing with washi tape. It’s easy to use, essentially mess free and it comes in 100’s of unique colors and styles. This washi tape activity requires just two things, pencils and washi tape. Turn those boring yellow #2 pencils from drab to fab!

Supplies

  • #2 Pencils
  • Washi Tape of various colors/styles

Directions

  1. Select a few of your favorite washi tape designs. Measure pencil length and cut washi tape to that length.
  2. Starting from the base of the eraser gently place washi tape to pencil. Firmly press it down, making sure to rub out any bubbles. Depending on the width of your washi tape you may need to use two strips of washi tape per pencil to completely cover it.
  3. Make each pencil as unique and fun as you desire. Pack them up, take them to school and show off your unique pencils. They will definitely be one of a kind!

Tips to Save when Shopping for the Holidays!

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The holidays can be stressful for many.  It isn't the events, but often times the money it may cost.  When you start to plan ahead, you can really save a LOT on your holiday gift giving.  Check out these reader tips with ideas to really stretch your budget!

 

Oh my… We officially have 14 weeks until Black Friday and 18 weeks until Christmas!! If you’re already starting to think about the holidays know that these last couple of months with fly by, especially with school being back in session! If you buy gifts for the whole family then you may be wondering how to save when shopping for the holidays…

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.

“I shop clearance sections throughout the year or after the holidays for the next year. Then it’s all done.” – Melissa B.

“We shop during the year, usually start in June and make our own salsa and other goods to give away. We have found the people we buy for don’t really need more stuff.” – Christine G.

“I make my own! I start in June and finish by christmas.” – Lucy V.

“I’m mixing homemade gifts and small purchases this year. Friends love my baking and treats so everyone’s getting a box of nuts and tin of cookies. Then something on the low end of the $ spectrum that the kids have been wanting. Watching sales all year long.” – Kristen S.

“I shop clearance and sales all year. I set a budget and stay in it (although I do go over sometimes for my kids I don’t for anyone else). I make a lot of my gifts.” – Tiffany J.

“I make some gifts and for the adults, consumable items only like treats, mixes, Bath and Body Works, etc. Kids I make a list and stick to it. I’m not a good shopper anyway thanks to ADD so I want in and out of a store quickly lol.” – Susan B.

Not only are these great ways to save now but there were quite a few people who had ideas on ways to save starting right after Christmas, meaning you start thinking about next years holidays while you’re still celebrating this years. Their tips to save starting at the holidays are below…

“I take money from my tax returns and put it in a savings account. I don’t touch the money until Christmas shopping. That way I don’t have to worry about it. I always use coupons on top of the Black Friday sales. I also do those free offers from shutterfly. They make great personable gifts.” – Sabrina A.

“I shop after Christmas sales and get things dirt cheap. I got some awesome stuff for the boxes I am sending for the kids, stocking stuffers, and stuff for those work parties and people who drop by. I also got tons of bags, paper, boxes, treat bags, ribbon, tags and bows. I still have presents to buy, but, I saved my state income tax check to take a chunk out of that.” – Luann N.

“Oh, another thing I do is keep 2 piggy banks. One is for pennies and one is for silver coins. People can do their own 2 piggies and spend the pennies on themselves and silver for family for the holidays. If you start on Jan. 1, you could have a few full piggies.” – Matthew G.

“I buy stuff for my 3 year old all year long that way it’s not overwhelming me.” – Misty G.

I shop sales and clearance all year. Christmas shopping for the next year starts the day after the present Christmas. Not only does it allow me to wait for good deals, but it’s much nicer on the bank account to spread out Christmas expenses over 12 months. A tip I read in Pinterest that I thought was a good idea was to purchase a small gift card with every paycheck. That way, when Christmas arrives, you have a whole bunch of gift cards to buy presents with and won’t be racking up debt on the credit card.” – Kristen E.

These tips are really good and will help anyone save some much needed funds… Also, if you’re in a large family you could suggest that all adults buy for the kids only to help take some of the strain off purchasing for everyone. Then, the adults could all bring one gift, wrapped, and do an exchange of sorts… make sure you set a minimum, maximum, gift limit. :)

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

 

List of Senior Discounts and Deals

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The best way to easily save money is to know where you can get savings and discounts.  If you are 55 or older (or know someone who is), this list is the one to check out!  We've put together all sorts of offers from stores to restaurants and even travel and entertainment!  Remember that these may vary by location and you may need to ask to get the discount.

If you are 55 or older you’ve not only learned a lot in your lifetime, but you also deserve some breaks!  Many retailers and restaurants actually offer discount and deals for people who are 55 or older.  Check out this list and bookmark this page so that you can check back to it later!

LocationDiscount Offered
*May vary by location
Details Location Type
Alamoup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Alaska Airlines10% off65+Travel
Albertson's10% off first Wednesday of each month55 +Grocery Store
AMC Theatersup to 30% off55+Entertainment
American Airlinesvarious discounts65+, call before booking for discountTravel
American Discount Stores10% off every Monday50+Retail Store
Amtrak15% off62+Travel
Applebee's15% off60+Restaurant
Arby's10% off55+Restaurant
AT&TSpecial Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month65+Entertainment
Avisup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Banana Republic30% off50+Retail Store
Bealls20% off first Tuesday of each month50+Retail Store
Belk's15% off first Tuesday of every month55+Retail Store
Ben & Jerry's10% off60+Restaurant
Bennigan'svaries by location60+Restaurant
Best Western10% off55+Travel
Big Lots30% offRetail Store
Bob's Big Boyvaries by location60+Restaurant
Bon Ton15% off on senior discount days55+Retail Store
Boston Market10% off65+Restaurant
Budget10% off; up to 20% off for AARP members50+Travel
Burger King10% off60+Restaurant
http://buschgardens.com/">Busch Gardens Tampa$3 off one-day tickets50+Entertainment
CJ Banks10% off every Wednesday50+Retail Store
Cambria Suites20%-30% off60+Travel
Carmike Cinemas35% off65+Entertainment
Chick-Fil-A10% off or free small drink or coffee55+Restaurant
Chili's10% off55+Restaurant
CiCi's Pizza10% off60+Restaurant
Cinemark/Century Theatersup to 35% offEntertainment
Clarion Motels20%-30% off60+Travel
Clarks10% off62+Retail Store
Comfort Inn20%-30% off60+Travel
Comfort Suites20%-30% off60+Travel
Denny's10% off, 20% off for AARP members55+Restaurant
Dollar10% off50+Travel
Dress Barn20% off55+Retail Store
Dunkin Donuts10% off or free coffee55+Restaurant
Econo Lodge20%-30% off60+Travel
Einstein Brothers10% off baker's dozen of bagels60+Restaurant
Enterprise5% off for AARP membersTravel
Fry's Supermarketfree Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday55+Grocery Store
Fuddruckers10% off any senior platter55+Restaurant
Gatti's Pizza10% off60+Restaurant
Golden Corral10% off60+Restaurant
Goodwill10% off one day a weekdate varies by locationRetail Store
Great Clips$8 off hair cuts60+Beauty
Greyhound5% off62+Travel
Hallmark10% off one day a weekdate varies by locationRetail Store
Hampton Inn & Suites10% off when booked 72 hours in advanceTravel
Hardee's$0.33 beverages everyday65+Restaurant
Harris Teeter5% off every Tuesday60+Grocery Store
Hertzup to 25% off for AARP membersTravel
Holiday Inn10%-30% offdepends on location, 62+Travel
Hy-Vee5% off one day a weekdate varies by locationGrocery Store
Hyatt Hotels25%-50% off62+Travel
IHOP10% off55+Restaurant
InterContinental Hotelsvarious discounts at all hotels65+Travel
Jack in the Boxup to 20% off55+Restaurant
Jitterbug$10/month cell phone service50+Cell Phone
KFCfree small drink with any meal55+Restaurant
KMart40% off50+, Wednesdays onlyRetail Store
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http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/">SeaWorld Orlando$3 off one-day tickets50+Entertainment
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Upcycled Personalized Earbud Case

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

ear bud case

Kids love having their stuff personalized and I love having their stuff organized! These upcycled personalized earbud cases are really a blast to make and are perfect for keeping in your purse, school backpack or wherever. Since all of our kids had earbuds on their back to school supply list this year, we thought this little craft would be a great activity to do as a family. Plus it will help keep the kids organized and from getting their earbuds all tangled up.

Supplies

  • Mod Podge
  • DCWV Scrapbook Paper
  • Scissors
  • Mint/Gum Container
  • (optional) Mason Jar for tracing circle

upcycled earbud case

Directions

Remove the stickers off an empty/used mint container (we used an Icebreaker container).

Take your scrapbook paper and cut out a circle. We used the mouth of a mason jar to trace our circle first, to create a more even look.

Fold your circle in half and cut directly down the middle. You will now have two half circles.

Using the Mod Podge generously glue each half circle on the container. Place the glue on the bottom of the paper as well as paint it heavily over the top. Allow at least 10 minutes to dry.

If you want your container to be decorated on both sides, cut a second circle out of scrapbook paper and glue it to the bottom of the container. This time you can leave the circle in one piece. Remember be generous with the Mod Podge. You can’t use too much!

Now for the finishing touch, using either a Silhouette cutting machine or pre-purchased alphabet stickers carefully place your child’s name on the front.

Viola. You’re done. This project took us about 15 minutes from start to finish to do and my daughter it ecstatic to have a little something unique and personalized to add to her back to school supplies.

upcycled personalized earbud case

Glamping with al fresco! #glampalfresco

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Glamping Social graphic[1][3]

Have any of you heard of glamping before?  Believe it or not, it is a real thing. It is “glamorous camping.”  I tried this for the first time a few weeks ago with the folks from al fresco and had the time of my life!

I headed out to Ithaca, NY.  I had never been there and absolutely fell in love with the charm of this small city.  There is something quaint about all of the curving roads, trees and homes you pass as you drive.  Best of all, you can find amazing nature right in the city limits!  Check out this waterfall!!

1

We got to the campground, which was Firelight Camps.  The owner was none other than Emma Frisch, one of the finalists from Food Network Star Season Ten!!!  That was awesome to meet her (and she is just so down to earth and sweet).

The lobby was a tent itself – which was so awesome!  Each of us had our own tent to sleep in.  It had two beds: one full and one queen, a desk and plenty of space to move around.  They were even equipped with small decks so you could sit outside and just enjoy nature.

alfresco collage

The funny thing about our trip was the frogs.  Three of us had tents near the pond.  The frogs would begin to serenade us at about 9:00 p.m. They did not stop until sunrise.  It was so loud at times that I just knew I was going to pull open the flaps of my tent and there would be an army of frogs just waiting to invade!

group-frogs

The event was more than just taking in the beauty of nature.  It was an opportunity to visit with other bloggers to learn more about the al fresco brand.  Our biggest event was an Iron Chef/Chopped competition.  We were split into teams of two and had to make a breakfast item with one of the al fresco products.  We could choose all of the ingredients we wanted ourselves for the first round.

iron chef

My team mate was Jen with Mother Thyme.  She is an absolutely AMAZING person, cook and blogger.  Her photos on her site are beyond gorgeous.  Be careful when you visit, you may find yourself licking the screen!

Our first dish was California Breakfast Burritos.  We used al fresco Country Breakfast sausage which was finely diced with red peppers, shallots and onions.  To that, we added in eggs and cheese and scrambled it together.  When it was finished, we sliced avocado and placed it onto a large burrito shell.  We wrapped it up tightly and tossed it onto the grill to get those beautiful grill marks and add some crunch.

Our second competition was a chopped version.  We had basket ingredients that we had to incorporate into our dish.  Jen and I had to use collard greens, finger length potatoes, carrots, rosemary and green beans.  We decided to use the al fresco Sundried Tomato Sausage.  First, we removed the casings, so that the flavor of the sausage could cook into the dish.

dishes

We boiled penne pasta and sliced our green beans on the angle (to mimic the noodles) and added that to the boiling water.  We chopped the potatoes and carrots and cooked them down with some shallots.  We added in the sliced sausage into the mix.

Once everything was cooked, we added in butter, garlic and rosemary to the vegetable mixture.  We simmered that and then added in the beans and pasta.  We finished the dish by tossing in the collard greens (we did not want them too mushy) and some cheddar cheese.  This also turned out beautifully!!

Don’t worry if you want these recipes as I promise to post them soon!  So stick around and I’ll share those details within the next couple of weeks.

We had to present our dishes to a panel of judges.  One was the VP of Marketing with al fresco and the other two were well renowned local chefs. To say it was intimidating would be an understatement (especially for this mom who is not known for her culinary skills).

We called ourselves Team Mom.  Everything we cooked was from the view of a mom: something quick for breakfast and something well balanced (with some hidden veggies) for dinner.  We had a lot of fun presenting our dishes.

winner

The judges had to deliberate and select a winner of the breakfast dish and also the dinner plates.  Jen and I were thrilled when we learned our breakfast dish won that category!!  They then announced the overall winner of the competition………….. and it was us!!  We were both so shocked that we jumped up and down.  Honestly, I still can’t believe it.

alfresco

What I loved best about the event, was not even winning.  It was a chance to learn more about this amazing product.  al fresco offers so many options of chicken sausage.  Just check out all of their amazing products:

  • Fully Cooked Chicken Sausage
  • Dinner Fresh Chicken Sausage
  • Breakfast Fully Cooked Chicken Sausage
  • Breakfast Fully Cooked Chicken Patties
  • Breakfast Fully Cooked Chicken Sausage Links
  • Fresh Chicken Burgers
  • Gourmet Chicken Grillers
  • Fully Cooked Chicken Patties
  • Fully Cooked Chicken Meatballs
  • Antibiotic-Free Deli Turkey
  • Uncured Franks

I love sausage, but my stomach can’t handle anything too greasy or heavy.  That was never the case with the Al Fresco brand.  They shared that they are always thinking of new products and some of those they are considering sound amazing (and I can’t share, so you will have to just follow them on Facebook in order to learn more).

This is one of those rare blogging events that I can say was amazing.  It was not just a tour of a building. This allowed us to really connect with the product and see how it could really be used in our lives.  Seeing (and tasting) the products that they have really allowed me the chance to do just that.  And now, I can’t wait to start cooking for my own family.

fire

Oh, and the glamping trip? If you ever have a chance to go – I recommend it.  Sleeping in a bed in a tent outranks sleeping bags and hard ground ANY day of the week!

 

This was a sponsored post on behalf of al fresco sausage.  The provided my trip to me free of charge.  All opinions and photos in this post are my own and were not influenced by any parties.