The most wonderful time of the year!

So the Christmas “wish lists” were finally delivered to my house this week… and I seriously feel like a little kid again looking through them.

Anyone remember that massive book they used to deliver to our houses? I think it was from Children’s Palace? (WHY doesn’t Children’s Palace exist anymore?!)

FLASHBACK: My favorite Christmas memory EVER was when I got a Magic Nursery doll and a boom box.

blog image

Oh yea. I am a child of the 80s/early 90s, if you can’t tell. All I remember about that doll is if it was a boy, I was going to be PISSED. Am I the only one creeped out by this commercial?

Ok back to being 30.

I received the Toys R’ Us and the Target Christmas toy circulars this week and they are both FILLED with great coupons.  I also got MORE toy coupons in this past Sunday’s paper.

TARGET:

blog target

There are $100 worth of coupons inside the book, an additional coupon inside a smaller booklet attached the book for $5 off $25 purchase of infant/toddler/kids apparel and on the back there are TWO more coupons: $5 off toys/sporting goods purchase of $50 or more and $5 off electronics purchase of $75 or more.

If you didn’t get this in the mail, I’m not sure where else you can. Apparently some are available in stores, but the extra coupons in the smaller booklet/back likely won’t be included. (I’m a Target Red Card holder. If you’re not, you should be. It can be set up as debit or credit card and you save 5% on all purchases.)

Here’s a full list of coupons from the blog Totally Target.

FYI: The advertised prices are designed to fool you. The toys are priced according to what they’ll be AFTER you use the coupons included in the book. In very fine print you’ll see it states “after coupon.”

TIP: Text KIDSGIFTS to 827438 to get this same set of coupons sent to your phone and don’t forget to use Target Cartwheel for extra savings!

TOYS R’ US:

blog tru

(oh.. and if you’re wondering… yes, I did spill something on my Toys R’ Us ad. I think it was water even though it looks more like grease. hahahahaa)

This book, similar to Target’s, has a bunch of coupons. On the front is also a $10 off a purchase of $100 or more.

In my opinion, Target’s deals seem better — particularly because you can pair them up with Cartwheel deals, Red Card discount and manufacturer’s coupons.

What’s nice about the Toys R’ Us coupons is they’re mainly for higher-value items, and they’re decent deals (ie. $10 off Lego construction sets, $20 off CARS bikes, etc.)

TIP: Toys R’Us and Target both price match – so if you do find a better deal on Amazon, by all means let them know!

I can only assume, but if you didn’t get this one in the mail… check out your local store. I’m willing to bet they have them (possibly without the $10 off $100)

SUNDAY PAPER TOY COUPONS INSERT:

blog flyer

If Little Tikes, Lalaloopsy and Bratz toys are on your gift-giving list this holiday, hopefully you got the coupon booklet from the 10/21 Sunday paper

These coupons are all manufacturers’ coupons that expire on 11/20/13 (before Black Friday).

Look for the Little Tikes Super Savings Book shown in the photo above. You’ll find coupons for the Little Tikes red coupe, various Lalaloopsy and Bratz dolls and various Little Tikes toys.

Keep in mind mostly all of these coupons expire before Black Friday. If you think you’ll get a better deal waiting it out –  do it!

HAPPY SHOPPING. 

Party planner: Gender Reveal

Since planning my wedding, I have been obsessed with event/party planning. Pinterest didn’t blow up until after my wedding in 2011, so I didn’t have that to reference but I still had a ton of small, intricate, original details. The whole year of planning made me want to get in to the wedding planning business and I still hope someday I’ll be able to do it.

I’ve thrown quite a few parties since my wedding and am currently planning a New Year’s Eve party and my daughter’s first birthday party. (I started planning her party before I was off maternity leave … that’s how obsessed I am with that one.)

To-date, my favorite party I’ve planned was our gender reveal party. If you’re not familiar, it’s a semi-new concept in the world of baby-making. When you go to your sonogram to find out what you’re having, you ask the tech to scribble the gender down and put it in a sealed envelope. Then a few days later you find out the gender of your new baby together with all of your friends and family.

This party was totally Pinterest-inspired, with a few details thought up on my own.

I chose to go with a “Whoo will it be” theme, complete with pink and blue owls. I decided on the theme based on these invites I found on Etsy.

invite

(TIP: A lot of graphic artists sell their designs on Etsy. You pay for the design, they send it to your email and then you print as you please. For less than $20 you can get an awesome design. I always send them to be printed at a professional printer and then glue the invite to coordinating card stock to add a more handmade/fancy feel)

I handmade all of the decorations: this included several pink/blue owls out of construction paper and a bunting banner that I hung above the dessert table.

reveal blog 1

The dessert table included pink/blue owl cupcakes, pink/blue Kool Aid (with mason jars and pink/blue stripped straws with straw flags), Hershey bars (with HE and SHE colored), Sour patch kids, homemade pink/blue thumbprints (by my mom) and pink/blue chocolate covered pretzels everyone got as a favor for coming.

(TIP: I made the pretzels using molds from Joann Fabrics. If I can do it, so you can you. They make molds for everything!)

reveal blog 3

reveal blog 2

Additionally, I asked everyone who was coming to wear pink or blue to indicate what they thought we were having. I also had everyone pose with a “team pink” or “team blue” sign when they got there. We had close to 50 people at the party and it was split down the middle! Here’s a pic of my adorable nieces casting their vote!

teams

I opted for balloons in a box for the reveal. This took some planning with the balloon people (and a lot of explaining to the old ladies who didn’t quite understand at first.)   A friend of mine had another friend use the same approach at her party a few weeks prior, so she gave me her reveal box. I had planned on making mine, but this one was adorable so I saved myself the time!

box

The day of the party we took the box to our local grocery store’s floral department. (We had spoken to them a few days prior so they knew what to expect). We gave them the box and our sealed envelope. The lovely workers then put 6 weighted and as many other un-weighted balloons that could fit inside. We roamed around the store until they paged us back to tell us it was ready.

 (TIP: Tell your sonogram tech to wrap the paper with the gender in another piece of paper before putting it in the envelope. My husband actually saw through the envelope and knew what we were having THE DAY OF THE SONAGRAM but he kept it a secret from me for an entire week!)

After everyone arrived we congregated outside and ripped open the box. Here’s our (my) reaction:

reveal

Additional details included “Blue” Moon beer and “Pink” champagne punch (for those of us who weren’t pregnant). Handmade tissue poms hung throughout our garage/house and $1 store pink/blue table clothes to cover up the nasty garage ceiling (it made it look like a circus tent!) Plus, Christmas lights and streamers hung in the garage to give it a more cozy feeling. (We have a fabulous finished basement but used the garage for the food so there would be enough room for everyone).

reveal 2

Case of the Mondays?

Well – it’s here again. Monday. If you’re feeling particularly down… here’s a few things that may pick you up:

Monday morning finds:

Groupon has a couple great deals for you moms out there.

Available now is a $15 voucher for Toy/Babies R’ Us for $7.50. I wasn’t impressed with the offer at first, but you’re still saving $7.50 on mostly anything. I think the only restriction (besides the obvious ones) is Apple products. Buy it HERE. (This offer is only available in some markets. Currently it’s not in Pittsburgh, so just use San Diego. The Groupon can be used at any store.)

bru

Also – there’s a new 20% Toys/Babies R Us coupon available. These always have a ton of restrictions, but PRINT it anyway and see if you get lucky enough to use it on something your child may want.

(FYI: I don’t know if you can use the Groupon and coupon together. I’m guessing not since the Groupon deal states you can’t use with any other offers. Just do a separate transaction if you want to use both in one trip.)

If you’re planning on getting your children’s photographs taken for the holidays. Don’t miss out on this Picture People deal.  For $16 you get one pose and 8 photo sheets (multiple sizes).

Not into Picture People? Here’s another decent deal for JCP Portraits. For a few more bucks you get a couple more poses and a CD containing your images.

89 years of Pearl:

On Sunday we celebrated my grandmother’s 89th birthday. What a gem she is.  This woman is hilarious and fabulous.

PEARL JPG

Here’s a few facts about our beloved “Pearlsy”

  • She considers the Cheesecake Factory  “fine dining” (and quite frankly thinks Eat N’ Park is superior in every way.)
  • She is a celebrity gossip queen. She can tell you all of Brad & Angelina’s baby’s names, lets us know who broke up this week and subscribes to Us Weekly.
  • Leopard print is her favorite print.
  • She is also full of random facts. Most recently she told me: “According to the Farmers’ Almanac (she read front to back) we will be getting as many bad snows this winter as we had foggy mornings this fall.” **I really hope this isn’t true**
  • And here she is blowing out all the candles on her cake. It took her a solid 5 minutes to get them all out. Why? “It took me so long because I was afraid I would blow my teeth out.”

pearl bday

If the above mentioned things didn’t brighten your Monday….. maybe this will?

Have a great week!

Friday recipe roundup: Easy-Peasy

This week threw us some curve balls in the dinner department. I was prepped for dinner on Monday, knowing full well that our little one was scheduled to get her shots that night. I needed to have something easy and ready to go so I could focus on keeping her comfortable and happy. (She’s the type of baby that doesn’t react well to shots. She normally spikes a fever and just wants to be held. I happily will hold her as long as she wants). We had pretty simple meals this week, and because of that… guess what? I didn’t screw up anything!

So here goes…

menu

Monday: French Onion soup and Grilled Cheese

french onion soup

FRENCH ONION SOUP RECIPE 

I prepped the soup on Sunday night and all I had to do Monday morning was click the Crock Pot on. When we got home from the doctor’s the house smelled awesome and all I had to do was whip a couple sandwiches. I did nothing fancy – just your old school bread and cheese. I love a grilled cheese.

 

Tuesday: Oven tacos. I told you about these guys in my first Friday Recipe Roundup. And if I wasn’t clear then, let me  repeat. They’re awesome. Change up Taco Tuesday with this twist on the traditional. We usually prefer soft tacos over hard taco shells, but when you make them this way…the shells become a little soft (not a bad kind of soggy though) and have just enough crunch. Perfection.

oven tacos

OVEN TACO RECIPE

Wednesday: Spaghetti and meatballs. Told you we kept it easy this week… except we didn’t eat this meal Wednesday. The husband worked really late and I wasn’t about to prep a whole meal just for myself. So I heated up the leftovers from Taco Tuesday and called it dinner.

Thursday: When we really ate spaghetti and meatballs. I used angel hair pasta (my favorite) and made homemade meatballs. I loosely followed this recipe, but did not make my own sauce. Channeling my inner Sweet Brown cue the words: Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Turkey-meatballs

MEATBALL RECIPE

Friday: We’ll be having spinach and sausage pasta tonight. Use this recipe if interested. I can’t say much about it since I haven’t cooked it yet…. But looks great to me!

sausage pasta

SPINACH & SAUSAGE PASTA RECIPE

Weekend meal: We are attending some parties on Saturday so I’m skipping cooking that day. Sunday we’re going to have crock pot turkey.  This one should be interesting. Stay tuned.

crock pot turkey

CROCK POT TURKEY

Have a great weekend!

Knowledge is Power

I came upon a blog entry posted by the Huffington Post  this week that really got me thinking about charitable donations, what I’ve personally done (or not done) and how vital is it to do homework.

This lovely, breast cancer survivor explains (to those of us who are LUCKY enough not to be personally affected by the disease) how most of the pink products you’ve purchased this month have actually done NOTHING to help the actual cause.

READ ARTICLE HERE.

EXCERPT: “And while I do think we need more awareness and education (about metastatic disease, about how young women can develop breast cancer, about how women (young and old) DO die from this disease, about the importance of research, etc.), I don’t think we need the kind of awareness that buying a jar of salsa with a pink ribbon on it brings. While I hardly ever see “awareness” products addressing the topics above, I can’t go anywhere without seeing pink products. Heck, I just have to look out of my front window to see giant pink garbage totes. The stores are filled with pink as companies try to make a buck off breast cancer. If you look carefully at these products, you’ll find that some of them don’t even donate a cent to breast cancer awareness, support, research, etc. And oftentimes those that do make a very minimal donation-and not always to organizations/programs where the money is well spent.”

 This article is powerful in so many ways —  and even though Breast Cancer Awareness month is wrapping up soon, and we’ll stop seeing all of those NFL players decked out in hot pink on the field on Sundays — this issue applies to ALL charitable donations.

 (FYI: According to a Sports Illustrated report, less than 10%… TEN EFFING PERCENT of the NFL’s pink merchandise is donated toward cancer research. PATHETIC. Read more here : http://bit.ly/17fcw3C)

The point of my writing this: If you have the ability to donate, don’t waste your hard-earned and well-intentioned cash on a lackluster organization that is essentially a fraud. (eh hem… NFL PINK MERCHANDISE).

In the Huff Post link above, Leisha Davison-Yasol lists all of the organizations that actually DO make a difference.  (Leisha is the author of the blog http://cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com/)

Here are a few of the national organizations that I like to support when I can, mostly because I know people who have been personally benefited from the efforts of these organizations:

Make A Wish > http://wish.org/

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition > http://www.ovarian.org/

More so, I like to donate to local charities.

Here’s a link to the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation for Postpartum Depression > http://awildhope-nicole.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-alexis-joy-dachille-foundation-for.html

And here’s info on the Woiner Foundation > http://woinerfoundation.org/.

My friend Jessica started this charity after her father passed after a hard-fought battle with Melanoma. Her mother, shortly after her father’s death was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I have witnessed Jess’s strength through these times and she is really someone to admire. Her work is incredible.

Savvy shopper

Call me a dork. My husband does all the time. But I personally get my biggest thrills nowadays from shopping — and shopping smart. In my past life, when I wanted something I just bought it. I didn’t look for coupons and didn’t really care about sales.

But now, in the days of student loan payments, mortgages and an effort to get myself out of debt… shopping savvily (not a word) is the ONLY way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrifty, but not cheap. I still splurge on plenty (hence the $30 eyeliner I just bought, but I digress).

As a follow up last week’s post: Ready, set….GO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING… here are a few more deals, steals, bargains and tips to get you ready for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

KOHL’S:

I am a HUGE fan of Kohl’s. Specifically when it comes to buying toys. YES. Toys. This department store chain has a generous rewards program for their card holders. It was newly launched this year. So if you haven’t signed up already. Do it. CLICK HERE.

In a nutshell, Kohl’s rewards is a program that gives you $5 back for every $100 you spend.

I signed up the day my husband finally got rid of all of his old high school shirts/sweaters and decided he needed a new, more adult-like wardrobe. FINALLY. I was more than happy to oblige and we bought him a ton of stuff using a 30% coupon. I wound up earning $25 in Kohl’s rewards that day (including the $5 bonus you get for simply signing up.) As far as I understand, you can use your rewards with earned Kohl’s cash and your store coupons.

The catch here is that you don’t get that reward right away. You are issued your reward monthly and they seemingly have a quick expiration date. So if you begin spending now… you’ll get your reward for December. Which is perfect!

Here’s the deal I was able to score this week. THREE Fisher Price toys for less than $40! I kind of fell into this deal on a fluke, but this is how I did it. Kohl’s sent me an email (I get them every, freaking day… but thanks to Gmail’s new format they go straight into my promotions inbox so it’s really not that bothersome) stating that their toys were on sale. I combined the sale prices with the online promo code:PUMPKIN30 (30% off) AND SHIPPINGMVC (Free shipping).  And used my $25 reward. (Disclosure: not sure when these promo codes expire, but go ahead and give them a shot.)

Laugh & Learn Baby Grand Piano: $79.99 value >> marked down to $49.99 >>> + 30% off sale price

Laugh & Learn Say Please Tea Set: $29.99 value >>> marked down to $19.99 +30% off sale price

Silly Sounds Puzzle: $19.99 >>> marked down to 11.99 >>> +30% off sale price

GRAND TOTAL (AFTER REDEEMING MY REWARD) = $39.28

Extra tip: If you’re like me and cringe when you peel the sticker back on your Kohl’s ad and only get a 15% off coupon, you’re better off shopping online if you can a. reach the free shipping above $75 or find a free shipping code. You can almost always find a 30% off promo code.

Kohls savings

PROMO CODES:

If you’re wondering if I was sent those promo codes somehow… I wasn’t.

If you don’t know about retailmenot.com…now you do.

Go there, type in the store you’re looking to buy something at and PRESTO, the codes appear. You can even see how successful each promo code was. The site doesn’t have ALL promo codes though, so do a simple Google search with, for example: “Kohl’s promo codes October 2013” and in a couple of clicks you’ll have your money-saver.

TARGET CARTWHEEL:

As I mentioned before, Target Cartwheel is So. Much. Fun. I love saving and seeing how much I save. Plus — I get to see what my friends are buying and saving on too. If you recently signed up and can’t figure out how to earn another badge, just go to a friend’s Cartwheel (by clicking on their name) and add something to your list from their list of things. Now you’ve earned the buddy badge. Simply visiting a friend’s page won’t earn you that badge, you MUST add something from theirs. (Hopefully that makes sense).

Another great feature of Cartwheel is that you can use each offer up to THREE TIMES! I’ve used a lot of the grocery offers to save on things you can’t normally save on at the grocery store, like milk.

 Word of caution: Always check your receipt after redeeming Cartwheel discounts. I discovered that the register didn’t accept one of the offers I tried to redeem this past weekend. I went to customer service and they immediately refunded me what I should have saved. The only bummer is that it wasn’t added to my “Total Saved,” which cut me short of earning my next badge. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll earn the $20 savings badge this weekend.

photo

FISHER PRICE:

If you haven’t scored the high-value Fisher Price coupons yet, there’s still time. I was able to get several $10 coupons this week off of fisherprice.com. (if you want these, set up a google alert! They go fast). As of now, they’re still available. Check to see here.

I’ve read that Kohl’s accepts Fisher Price coupons in addition to their percentage off deals. I’ve never tried, but I may try soon. I plan on pairing these coupons up with target coupons to score some great gifts for my nieces and nephews.

FYI: Toys R’ Us has BOGO Fisher Price toys right now. And don’t forget they price match. Pair that up with the high-value coupons and you got yourself another sweet deal.

EBATES:

If you’re more an online shopper, sign up for Ebates. This program sends you a check for simply shopping online. I signed up for this last year but have chronically forgotten to use the site. Check out pepperminting.com’s post about Ebates. Jesi and I met while we were both honeymooning in Jamaica two years ago and have kept in touch via Facebook ever since. Her blog is full of great stuff!

 

So there you have it. Oh, and did you hear that most stores are opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night for Black Friday? Forget dessert. I’m going shopping.

 target tailgate

 This is me tailgating at Target on Black Friday two years ago.

A weekend in review: ‘You’re boring’

Sometimes I feel as if my weekends are more exhausting than my weekdays… and this past weekend was no exception.

I always try to cram as much as possible into the 48 or so hours a week that I get to exclusively dedicate to my family and my house… while also getting a chance to socialize a bit. I think most working moms would agree that something usually falls to the wayside. That something for me happens to be my social life. But more on that later.

Since the husband went out on Thursday night after work with a few of his work buddies, we made a deal that he would stay home with the babe and let me do a few hours of shopping…BY MYSELF. It was as glorious as it sounds. I got to Target and picked up a few things, including a Christmas gift for the baby and a ½ Birthday gift too (we celebrated 6 months of cuteness on Sunday). Then I hit up the mall and perused through the department stores, got my eyebrows done and took my time in Baby Gap. Ahhhhhh.

As usual, we had nearly every hour booked so Saturday morning rolled around and we were out the door before 9 a.m. to get our flu shots – which inevitably means we’ll get the ONE strain of flu that the shot doesn’t protect you against.

Nonetheless, the waiting room was filled with people who were complaining of flu-like symptoms, so get your flu shots people. There’s a reason why doctors recommend it and since I don’t have a Ph.D in medicine, I’ll shut up and listen (even though my arm STILL hurts).

After that I squeezed in some laundry and house cleaning before we were out the door to the pumpkin patch.  Here’s a couple photos from our adventure.

ImageImageImage

The weather was less than perfect, but we tried to make the best of it. I think the little one was a bit overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds…that or she was just unimpressed.

Image

My little cutie is wearing a custom-made onesie and leg warmers from this Etsy shop. Her name is embroidered on the onesie, but I whited it out for privacy purposes.

Image

(ps. I LOVE Etsy. If you’re not familiar, just go to Etsy.com and search for something you want. It’s there and it’s most likely handmade. I plan on doing an Etsy post later, stay tuned.)

The little one’s adorable cousins had a lot of fun and we had some awesome apple cider, so all and all it was a good day.

Image

As I mentioned earlier in the week, we made dinner reservations for our anniversary. After getting home from the pumpkin patch, I got myself cleaned up, fed the baby dinner and did a little more cleaning around the house before rushing out the door.

We ate at a restaurant that claims to be the best seafood restaurant in Pittsburgh. It was delicious; don’t get me wrong… but the best? Probably not. It’s called Penn Avenue Fish Company and they have two locations – one in downtown Pittsburgh, the other in the Strip District. I’m in no way a “foodie,” but I love food. Mine was delicious (lobster risotto) and my husband’s was good too (Chilean sea bass). But for the price we would have rather visited a restaurant with better atmosphere. The downtown location is small, loud and dark. But, at any rate, the food was good. We usually go to a restaurant called Joseph Tambellini’s in Hyland Park. If you want a fantastic meal and awesome atmosphere, go here. We’re sorry we didn’t go to our ol’ faithful and promise to be back for Valentine’s Day Mr. Tambellini!

We didn’t get any photos of us together on our night out, but here’s one he snapped of me while waiting for our check.

Image

(In full disclosure, we “unplugged” for the entire meal…but of course checked our phones when we were done. Sometimes I despise my addiction to social media.)

Following dinner we planned on getting a drink at a nearby bar. But here’s where my body decided otherwise. I was exhausted. We walked to a Starbucks a couple of blocks away to get me jolt of caffeine, which helped for a little while. But one drink into our after-dinner cocktails, I had it.  This resulted in a disgruntled husband who called me “boring.” But if fitting all of the aforementioned activities into one day makes me “boring” – then consider me guilty.

Sunday was just as crazy – in a nutshell, I did my usual Sunday morning routine: Peruse Pinterest for recipes, meal plan, coupon clip, make grocery list, grocery shop. After that we had family photos/baby’s 6 month birthday pics scheduled with a photographer at a beautiful park near our home. We brought the gentle giant to be included in some of the photos…and both the babe and the fur-babe were amazing. Rooney – who is usually freaked by the little one – let her sit in between his legs for a few photos. I cannot wait to see them!

Afterward I did MORE cleaning/laundry and then prepped dinner for Monday. I know it’s going to be a busy day, which includes shots for my little pumpkin. (It never gets easier, does it?).

We tired.

IMG_0684IMG_0683