Friday, July 30, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

A little housekeeping note: Finney's Friday Free Stuff will now be published on Mondays.

Have you been sending in for your free stuff? I have! However, this week I got one envelope returned to me, but it had been opened, so there was no coupon inside. : ( And, the Safeway ice cream freebie ran out so I got a coupon for a free box of crackers instead. : ( : (

Oh, well. There's always more free stuff on the horizon.

Traveling with kids: Wine Country

I've been putting off my report on our trip to Napa because I could not find my camera. Lo and behold it has finally resurfaced!

Husband and I took our three little girls to Napa earlier this month. We needed a change of scenery, a break from the day-to-day. Whenever I told people we were going to Napa, they would say, "what are you going to do with the kids"? It seems that Wine Country has gotten a reputation for being an "adult only" destination. But Husband and I aren't wine drinkers, so we were looking for alternative forms of entertainment anyway.

After lots of research, I made a list of potential spots we could visit and then we just played it by ear each day. So where did we end up?

We crossed over into the Valley of the Moon and visited Sonoma Train Town, which was just perfect for our little crew. They have a scaled-down train that travels a delightful little track through tunnels (S loved that part), over bridges, and past waterfalls.
Your train ride stops part way at a little town where they have a petting zoo set up and a town that's built at half-scale.

After the train ride, we bought tickets for some of the rides (5 tickets for $10, or $2.50 each). Each ride is one ticket. I rode the ferris wheel with the twins. Let's just say that once I got to the top I realized why I wasn't so keen on riding with two wiggly two year olds! But S had been dying to ride the ferris wheel since she saw one on the Fox and the Hound 2 and when she couldn't ride the ferris wheel at the Alameda County Fair because she was too little, she was devastated.

The girls then rode a Dumbo-like airplane ride. There was also a carousel and a little roller coaster. Thomas the Train Engine fans will love the little depot where all the trains are housed.
Summary: Good for little kids (under 5 is best, but kids up to 10 would probably like it). Not too expensive at $4.50 each to ride the train (babes under 1 year are free). You can see everything in about an hour or two.

We left the Train Town and picked up some Slurpees at a 7-11, then headed towards Sonoma's town square. There's a playground and a little duck pond. The town square is my favorite thing about Sonoma. It is so cute with fun shops and restaurants, although I wouldn't take my little kids into any of them!

Another day we headed up to the tiny town of Glen Ellen to swim in Morton's Warm Springs. It is a bit of a drive, but the layout of the "resort" is nice. There are three pools: one about 6 inches deep for babes. It is big enough for lots of little ones. The second pool has a shallow end about 2 1/2 feet deep and the deep end is about 3 1/2 or 4 feet deep. One of my twins went in there with Husband and loved that she could stand up in the water. The third pool is big and deep enough for the big kids.
They have a little snack shack with your regular "shack" fare of hot dogs, pizza, and ice cream. I forgot to pack swim diapers and they had them for sale there.

Summary: It is a little bit expensive ($8 for adults, $7 for children over 1 year), but if you were going to spend the day there, it would be worth it. It is a lot less than the other natural springs pools (Calistoga is $25 per person over $1). This would be super fun for a big group with the picnic area and different pools: something for everyone at Morton's.
Other places on my list that we didn't get to this time...
  1. Napa Firefighters Museum in downtown Napa. I actually walked past this when it was closed and it looked pretty cool, though not for my under 3 crowd. I think I would wait until the kids are 5 to take them here, unless they listen when you say "don't touch". It is a very small museum, so it would be fun to stop in if you are exploring downtown with your little ones.
  2. John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. I didn't get to see this, but it sounded cool. The park supposedly has lots of picnic tables and playground equipment with a trail that winds along the Napa River.


  1. Old Faithful Geyser. We didn't hit this one for two reasons: (1) it would have been $8 per adult and (2) we were worried about keeping our little ones far enough away from the spewing hot water. Maybe in a few years.
  2. Sharpsteen Museum. A cool museum for little ones about the history of the Napa Valley with exhibits that change often. Admission is free.
  3. Pioneer Park is across the street from the museum and has a gazebo, picnic tables, and climbing structures. There is also a stream to play in. It just sounded so quaint to me.

Santa Rosa:

A bit of a drive, but still considered part of wine country, we wanted to visit Santa Rosa as Husband had briefly considered a job opportunity there. We didn't get to make it this time, but I really want to check out Howarth Memorial Park. Apparently they have a playground, pony rides, petting zoo, merry go round, and miniature train. They also have a splash pad and ice cream shop, which sounds perfect for the summer time! What sounded really fun were the teepee huts and an "extensive kid-sized Old West town". We're definitely going to try to work that one in next time!

Have any of you found a great place to take kids in the Wine Country?

Tune in next week for more on where we stayed and what we ate in Wine Country!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Deposit to the European Tour Fund

Two rebates this week. One is from Rite Aid. The other is from Gerber (remember this?). Here's this week's deposit:
  • $2.00 June rebate check from Rite Aid
  • $2.50 rebate check from Gerber "Try Me Free"

That brings my total up to $192.96 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dinner this week...

It's the end of the month and it feels like it is going to be a busy week. I'm giving a presentation on emergency preparedness/food storage at my church this week, so I've been doing a lot of research for that. It's also my littlest one's first birthday next week and I'm making party preparations! I'm all about keeping it simple, thus the frequent use of leftovers on the menu.

What we are having for dinner this week:

Monday: Stuffed shells with marinara sauce, green salad, garlic bread

Tuesday: I'm thinking of doing a roast in the crockpot. (tonight, if you're interested!)

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: I never made that pizza I mentioned last week. I think we'll do that tonight.

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

In this Friday's Free Stuff:

  • one free large Real Fruit Smoothie from McDonald's
  • one free Cobb Salad from the Royal Exchange in San Francisco

For more information on where to send you self-addressed stamped envelope, click here.

Per Finney's website, Finney's Friday Free Stuff is only available to ABC7 viewers. Sorry to my friends outside the Bay Area!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

This week I received a check from Kraft for the rebate they had in the Back to School coupon book. (You could submit a rebate for 2009 and 2010.) My check was for $20, which brings my total up to $188.46 saved since May 1st.
For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Save on baby supplies at Amazon

Have you ever tried using Amazon to get your diapers and wipes? Amazon offers a 15% discount when you sign up for their "Subscribe & Save" service, which signs you up for automatic deliveries every 1, 3 or 6 months. The great thing is that you can change your delivery frequency at anytime...or even cancel it altogether.

Right now, Amazon is offering an additional 15% off their already marked down price, making their Subscribe & Save option even better.

I just ordered two boxes of Huggies wipes through Subscribe & Save. Each box had 3 refills with 216 wipes in each refill. After discounts, each box cost me only $12.16! I used a giftcard I earned taking surveys to lower my out of pocket expense. Nice!

Shipping is free for Subscribe & Save items, so you don't have to meet the $25 quota they normally reserve for free shipping.

***Update: I just checked the price on these and it has gone up to $14.22, which is still a great deal at 2 cents per wipe. Amazon's prices do tend to fluctuate. The Pampers wipes are actually a better deal right now at $13.47 for 720 wipes or 1.87 cents per wipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bed Bath & Savings Beyond

A friend of mine works at Bed Bath & Beyond and told me a few little known facts:
  1. You can use expired 20% off coupons (you know, the ones you seem to get all the time until you actually want to use one)
  2. You can use more than one 20% off coupon in one transaction. In fact, you can use one 20% off coupon for each item in your transaction.
  3. If you don't have a coupon at the time of purchase, you can come back with your receipt and your coupon and get a price adjustment...whenever! There is no time limit!

So earlier in the year, I bought two new slipcovers for our couches at Bed Bath and Beyond without a coupon {gasp!}. (For shame, I know.) Then my friend told me about the little known facts above. After misplacing the receipt and miraculously finding it after cleaning out my junk drawer, I decided to put it to the test.

Today I took my receipt and two 20% off coupons (one of which was way expired) to get my price adjustment. And guess what...I walked out with $40 some odd dollars back on my Visa card. Suh-weet.

I was feeling so great about how smart I was when I walked out into the parking lot only to see that I had left one of the sliding car doors open. Doh! Oh well. I guess you can't win them all. : )

So check your filing system for old BB&B receipts and see if you can make some money out of nothing today!

Dinner this week...

I'm going to have some repeats this week because last week was still a little up in the air, planning-wise. The beans I was supposed to make DID NOT turn out. It's not PW's recipe, this is the third time I have tried to make beans "from scratch" and it didn't turn out any of those times, so I'm stumped. Any suggestions would be great!

Monday: Spinach & onion quesadillas

Tuesday: BLT's

Wednesday: Spaghetti night, green salad, maybe some garlic bread

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister...still thinking about that one...

Friday: Chicken paninis?

Saturday: Tacos in the slow cooker

Sunday: Dinner at my parents' (didn't go last Sunday, but definitely going this Sunday)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Living in the Bay Area, surely you've heard of Michael Finney from Channel 7's "7 on your side". Did you know that every Friday in the 5pm newscast, Michael Finney offers his "Finney's Friday Free Stuff"? It's completely free, all you have to do is mail in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

I've gotten a few of these great free things, including a free large, one-topping Papa Murphy's Pizza and a coupon for a free frozen appetizer from Safeway.
Each Friday, I'll post the details on Finney's Friday Free Stuff for the week. This week's offers are:

  • Free Hunt's tomato product

  • Free Safeway Select 1/2 gallon of ice cream

Click here for information on where to send your SASE.

Per Finney's website, offers are available to ABC7 viewers only. (Sorry to my friends out of the Bay Area.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Traveling with kids: Sacramento, part 2

Yesterday I talked about my trip to Sacramento and highlighted some fun places to take the kids. Today I'm finishing up by sharing where you could stay and some kid-friendly eating establishments, if you're planning a trip to our state's capitol.

Where to stay: There are lots of hotels in the area, with all different pricepoints. We chose to stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in West Sacramento. Each party got a king-sized studio suite, which was very nice. We got a crib for the baby, and put it kind of in the closet, so it was out of the way and a little more quiet. The twins slept on the pull out sofa and Husband and I got to sleep in a king bed. The room had a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker and a little sink. It was right off the freeway, but not so close that you heard all the cars.

On the other side of the freeway, there was a large shopping center with a Super Wal-Mart and lots of restaurants, including Chipotle (which is where we got dinner one night). We almost went to the In-N-Out Burger right across the street from the hotel, too.

We spent lots of time in the swimming pool. We also enjoyed the complimentary breakfast: muffins, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, and make your own waffle (just to name a few items). The room was very nice and for less than $100/night, I thought this was a great deal.

Where to eat: Finding a kid-friendly restaurant seems to be the most difficult trick of all. I'm not an expert on Sacramento (in fact, this was my first visit there!), but I can share with you the two places we went out to eat with the kids.

Logan's Roadhouse: with the music blaring and the peanut shells on the floor, no one will complain when your kids are screaming or the make a huge mess. I ordered the half rack of ribs with a baked sweet potato. So good. In fact, probably the best ribs I've ever had. And the rolls...oh my goodness. My kids each ate a whole roll and I ate 4...and then I lost count. Warm and floury goodness, those rolls. The juke box is free and the atmosphere is laid back.

Kids' menu: I ordered mac & cheese for one of the twins and chicken tenders for the other with french fries and cinnamon apples (I split these between the two). They got milk to drink. The girls ate a decent amount, but it was a little hard to concentrate with so much going on.

Joe's Crab Shack: This was the most fun I've had at a restaurant in a long time. There's loud music (again) and this location (in Old Sacramento) had an awesome view of the river. I ordered the snow crab (with garlic and herbs), which comes with new potatoes and corn on the cob. It was a little bit of work, especially with the kidlets getting antsy, but it was so, so good. And be sure to try the Crazy-Good Crab Dip. It definitely lives up to its name.

Kids' menu: I liked the selection on their kids' menu. I ordered Cheesy Mac for one twin(again...hey, she loves cheesy noodles) and pizza for the other with applesauce for both this time and milk to drink. The portions were plenty big enough for big kids. My hungry little one ate almost the whole huge piece of pizza! I fed some of the applesauce to the tiny babe.

We were there a long time. It was a little slow because it was 4th of July weekend on Saturday at lunchtime. The servers danced twice, which was really fun. My brother-in-law and I actually got up to join them for part of the second song. Definitely some good times!

Deposit to European Tour Fund

I received three checks for completing surveys this week. All three were from Pinecone Research, which I love because they always pay promptly and I sometimes get to try out some cool stuff.
  • $9.00 in checks from completing Pinecone Research surveys

That brings my total up to saved $168.46 since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Traveling with kids: Sacramento

Two weeks ago, my brother met up with our family in Sacramento for a mini-reunion. Since our group had four kids 4 and under (plus 2 babies), we decided to make it a "kid-focused" trip.

Our first stop was Fairytale Town. I was really excited about this little place. Size-wise, it was perfect for our group. We didn't get separated too easily and when we did, it was fairly easy to track the others down. We arrived right before closing time, although they will let you stay an hour after closing time if you are already in the park. My sister had a coupon for 20% off that she printed from the Entertainment Book, and all but one of the kids were free, so our group got in for a pretty good price.

The downside to going at closing time is that all the animals had already been put away. Bummer. We could peek at a few of them in their cages, but that wasn't quite as exciting.

The biggest hit of the park? There were two: the treehouse slide, which my nephew desperately wanted to tackle head first, and the Crooked Mile. My girls walked that crooked mile half a dozen times and were not one bit tired of it!

Great for little kids (under 5). Perfect price, especially for going with bigger groups. You can easily see everything in about an hour or so, perfect for those short attention spans.

The next day we hit the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. We didn't get in to the museum because the train was leaving. It's an actual train that takes you on a 40 minute ride along the river. We were on the first train of the day and it was a little crowded, but nice to be able to just sit. All the kids were good about staying in their seats. The train does stop at the halfway point and turn around, so you're free to get up and walk around during that stretch, which is good for the kids.

Old Sacramento is so cute. They have lots of different shops (especially candy shops) and even in the heat of the day, the shaded sidewalks are nice to walk down. We stopped to get an ice cream bar from one of the stores as we took in the sights.

A must see. Great for all ages. You can gauge this to suit your budget. Train rides are $9 per person, with kids under 5 free and kids 6-17 for $4. The same prices apply to a visit to the museum. Even if you don't ride the train, it's fun to walk around downtown and see the train leaving from the depot. Several people are dressed in period costume, which is always fun. There is paid parking at the nearby garage, but several stores and restaurants offer validation.

Tune in tomorrow for more on my Sacramento trip, including where to stay and eat.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dinner this week...

No more's time to get back into the regular old routine. I'm actually looking forward to that! Since we spent a little extra money on our recent trips, I've got a hankering for some basic eats. Here's what we're having for dinner this week:
Monday: Dinner Swap Surprise (I am really grateful for this since my cupboards seem a tad bare.)
Tuesday: Bruschetta and watermelon
Wednesday: Pioneer Woman's beans and cornbread
Thursday: Fish tacos, fruit salad
Friday: Spinach and onion quesadillas (so simple but they are really good!) and maybe a light salad on the side, either something with strawberries or oranges.
Saturday: Homemade pizza night. Jane posted a suggestion for pizza that sounded really yummy.
Sunday: Dinner at my parents' house

Friday, July 9, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Did you know that every Friday in the 5pm newscast, Michael Finney offers his "Finney's Friday Free Stuff"? It's completely free, all you have to do is mail in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

I've gotten a few of these great free things, including a free large, one-topping Papa Murphy's Pizza and a coupon for a free frozen appetizer from Safeway.

Each Friday, I'll post the details on Finney's Friday Free Stuff for the week. This week's offers are:
  • Free Chiquita Fruit Crushie, available fora limited time in certain Bay Area Safeway stores(click here to download your coupon)

  • Two free weeks at Crunch plus two personal training or Pilates sessions. (go here to fill out the form for your guest pass)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

This week I'm depositing the extra money I saved from June's grocery budget. I cashed in some Swagbucks for $25 in Amazon giftcards and used those to order some diapers early in the month. I took that $25 in "cash" out of my weekly envelope so I wouldn't spend it.

I also got a $35 pre-paid Visa from Rite Aid for one of the rebates from April (I think). I used that on some of my purchases and took out that "cash" from my envelope, too.

So here's my deposit for today:
  • $25.00 from Amazon giftcards/Swagbucks
  • $24.20 from money spent on pre-paid Visa

That brings my total up to $159.46 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dinner this week...

This week we've returned from one vacation and are leaving again, so we'll be keeping it simple.
Monday: Dinner out at the Alameda County Fair! Most likely something on a stick.
Tuesday: Taking dinner to my sister's: White Chili Casserole, Ina's Fresh Corn Salad, watermelon wedges, and Prudence Pennywise's Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Raspberry Bars for dessert (except I used homemade strawberry jam instead of raspberry)
Wednesday: Clean out the fridge...maybe quesadillas
Thursday: Vacation in Napa. Eating out.
Friday: More vacationing in Napa. Find something yummy to cook at the house.
Saturday: Still vacationing in Napa. Eat out or cook? We'll decide on the fly.
Sunday: Coming home to an empty fridge (again!). More sandwiches?
Hopefully I'll have a more exciting menu for you next week. What about you? What's for dinner?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Did you know that every Friday in the 5pm newscast, Michael Finney offers his "Finney's Friday Free Stuff"? It's completely free, all you have to do is mail in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

I've gotten a few of these great free things, including a free large, one-topping Papa Murphy's Pizza and a coupon for a free frozen appetizer from Safeway.

Each Friday, I'll post the details on Finney's Friday Free Stuff for the week. There is nothing to send away for this week, but the freebies Finney mentioned were:
  • Buy one, get one free any barista beverage at Tully's coffe July 2nd-July 5th
  • Kids eat free at Ikea through July 5th (no adult purchase necessary)
  • Free ice cream from Ben & Jerry's for volunteering (see info here)

Cash Envelope Experiment Update: June Report

According to our Microsoft Money software, I was under our grocery budget by $22.49, which is really great. It's actually more than that because I have a little bit of cash in my wallet that I'll use next month, so it will all filter through in the end.
I attribute my success to the cash envelope experiment. I wrote down each receipt total and then would take the "cash" out of my envelope so that I could actually see how much I had left. I always rounded up, so I think I saved around $3 in spare change alone.
Most importantly, I had to weigh my purchases more carefully: do I really need this? If I buy this, then I won't have enough money to buy that okay? What's the best way to stretch my money this week/trip/etc.? Don't assume that it was time consuming because it wasn't. It was just a little reminder every few days that someone is watching you. (In a good way, of course.)
I don't quite feel ready to move on to real cash only...yet. I like my credit card rewards (especially at Costco) and the ease of swiping a card when you have three crowing birds in your shopping cart really cannot be overstated.
At the outset of this experiment, I said that I would put whatever was leftover from my grocery budget into my European Tour Fund. Husband is not convinced of this idea. We do have miscellaneous expenses that crop up (like dance class or other things that you don't necessarily budget for) and my scrimping equals a little more saving in other departments, so that's fine with me.
Don't worry: I've still got some tricks up my sleeve to infuse some cash into my fund.
I am really excited to get into July's budget and start saving away. I just need to sort out my Monopoly money first.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund: My first $100!!!

I have two items to deposit this week:
  • I received my May rebate check from Rite Aid for $2.00.
  • I also got some money for my birthday (June 17th). I thought about how much of my birthday money to set aside for my European Tour Fund and I decided on $31.00 (since I just turned 31!).

These deposits bring my total up to $110.26. I've reached my first hundred dollars in my fund!

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Where to take the kids around the Bay: Oak Meadow Park

I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the cool places around the Bay to take the little ones. Kids are out of school and there's suddenly nothing to do! Since I'm in the South Bay, I have more experience down here, but I'd love to hear about other places nearby, too.
Last week I took my kids to Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos. There are two playground areas (one for bigger kids and one for toddlers) that include an actual airplane and firetruck. It's pretty cool. What I love about this park is that they have a carousel and a train ride. Kids 2 and under ride free on both. Ages 3 and up are only $2 each per ride. During the summer (June 15 though Labor Day), the train and carousel run daily 10:30am to 4:30pm.

My girls loved the train ride and every time they ride the carousel they say it's just like Mary Poppins! : ) After our carousel ride, we stopped by the little snack shack and each girl got a "snowball" (a snowcone) for only $1 each. They have hot dogs, popcorn, and drinks and I think everything is $1.
Saturday, July 10th is the carousel's 100th anniversary. They'll have lots of fun activities for all ages from 11am to 2pm.
There's a big open field for those little ones who like to run and Oak Meadow Park is connected to Vasona Park by walking/biking trails. There are geese and ducks by the lake and there are several beautiful picnic areas.
Sometimes there is a parking fee at Oak Meadow Park and almost always at Vasona.
I feel like I'm stepping back into a simpler time whenver I visit this park. It is so beautiful, really well-taken care of, and all the guests really enjoy themselves. The staff is great at the carousel and the train. Its proximity to the cute shops and yummy restaurants of downtown Los Gatos doesn't hurt either. : )