Monday, August 30, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

This week in Finney's Friday Free Stuff:
  • Coupon for a free Philly Cheesesteak Burger from Carl's Jr.
  • Coupon for a free coffee candy bon-bon bar from the Bon Bon Bar in SF
For info on where to send your self-addressed, stamped envelope, go here.

Per Finney's website, all offers are available only to viewers of KGO-TV. Sorry to my friends outside the Bay Area.

For more on Finney's Friday Free Stuff and to see what other goodies he's offered, click here.

Dinner this week...

The end of August. Where did the summer go? My goodness. September is already here. In the Bay Area, that means another month of summer temperatures...usually. We shall see.

Last week, I made PW's Shrimp Pasta in a Foil Package. It was so delicious. I enjoyed the leftovers for my lunches. Yum, yum. So this week, I'm turning to PW for inspiration again since I've got a leek and some bacon and goat cheese in my fridge.

Here's what we are having for dinner this week:
Monday: Chinese Chicken Salad, fruit
Tuesday: PW's Potato-Leek Pizza, watermelon
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: For dinner swap this week, I'm making my chicken enchiladas, rice, salad, and Jane's homemade frozen yogurt for dessert.
Friday: Ham and cheese paninis, butternut squash soup
Saturday: I'll figure something out when it gets closer.
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shopping for Me!

My closet has been so sad lately. Clothes stained by toddler tears and sticky-handed hugs, pulled out of shape by a nursing babe and little ones wanting attention. Getting dressed has become a dilemma: dress for battle with the kiddos or dress for the hot mama that I hope still lives inside me?

Earlier this week, I cleared out some items that no longer fit, flatter, or (as Pioneer Woman would say) make my skirt fly up. Then I found out that Gap was having their "Give and Get" sale (formerly known as "Friends and Family") this weekend and I could give my closet the boost it needed for a lot less moola.

I decided to check out the Gilroy outlets (since the Gap coupon works there, too) and took my three babes with me. Though they made difficult work of my closet boosting assignment (it is so hard to think "hot mama" when little ones are wrestling with mannequins), I did get some deals that will make getting dressed a whole lot more fun.

J. Crew Outlet was my first stop and I picked up two pairs of corduroy pants for $39 each. They fit like they were made for me; I couldn't pass them up.

At Gap, they didn't have too much for the kiddos, which made me sad. I really wanted to get them some cute fall clothes. I found a lot for me; their women's section is huge. I limited myself to one knit cardigan ($24.99 before my 30% discount) and my deal of the day: a pair of Long and Lean jeans ($27.99 before my discount). When I pulled on the jeans in the dressing room, I actually said "hello, old friend". They fit me that well.

I hope to check out Gap and Old Navy tomorrow to see if there is anything else I can't live without. I am bummed that this coupon only works in store: I really prefer to shop fromGap and Old Navy online, but I'll take what I can get.

To get your own coupon for the Give and Get event, just google "Gap Give and Get August 2010" and you should be able to print one out. And don't worry if you can't make it out this weekend; if history repeats itself, Gap will do another Give and Get event close to Christmas time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

I received my July rebate check from Rite Aid this week for $12.99. That's a big boost from the past few rebate checks I've received!

This week's deposit:
  • $12.99 from Rite Aid Single Check Rebates

That brings my total up to $268.47 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mommy's Junior Pre-school

I have started "home schooling" my twins. Now, they are not even three years old, so I don't really consider it "school" but I wanted to have some regular time set aside to help them start to recognize letters, shapes, numbers, etc.

I've been doing a modified "Letter of the Week" curriculum. I choose one letter and focus on that for the week, working in other ways to also focus on colors (which they know really well) and shapes (not as well) and numbers (ditto).
This is only our second week, so I don't have a whole lot to report, but the girls are really enjoying it. Last week we did the letter "A". We colored a picture of an alligator, matched ants with a big "A" and little "a", made a 3D apple, and did a gospel lesson about Adam and Eve.
And now is a great time to stock up on supplies for our home school. Yesterday I went to Target and found some foam 1" blocks for counting and building shapes: a bag of 50 blocks was $1. They also had little dry erase boards for $1 each. I thought those would be great for helping them down the road a bit practice their writing. I've also picked up washable markers ($2 each at Target), glue sticks (25 cents for 2), white glue (20 cents each), and scissors (50 cents for 2 pairs).
There are also tons of places online to find worksheets and cute ideas. Some I've found so far:

It is bringing a little more order to our household and the girls love learning and playing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dinner this week...

Basically the last week of the month. Summer is winding down (did we even really have a summer here in the Bay Area?). The grocery budget is getting slim. Let's see what we've got cooking this week, shall we?

Monday: Rotisserie chicken, carrot souffle, green salad
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Pioneer Woman's Shrimp Pasta in Foil, salad, homemade french bread
Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise
Friday: Church Activity, but I do need to bring a side dish. I might bring my sister's famous Ascini di Pepe salad. I've never tried to make it on my own!
Saturday: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken, yellow squash, fruit salad, and biscuits. (We didn't get around to having this last week.)
Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deposit to European Tour Fund

Last week was my first time with no deposits to report! : ( But we are back on track this week since I received my Big Fat Check from Ebates.

Have you been using Ebates? I never make a purchase online unless I check Ebates first to make sure I can't get some cash back. Even if it's a few cents, all those pennies and nickels eventually add up! There are no fees to join and you only need to earn $5.01 in a quarter to receive your check. Click here if you'd like to sign up for Ebates.

This week's deposit:
  • $10.67 from Ebates

That brings my total up to $255.48 saved since May 1st! One quarter of the way to my $1000 goal!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Traveling with Kids: Wine Country, Part 2

We decided to rent a house for our trip to Napa. I found ours on (which has listings all over the world!). Traveling with kids changes your priorities about what you need when you travel. I knew I wanted a house because:
  1. I wanted the kids to sleep in a separate room from me. They sleep better that way, so everyone sleeps better that way.
  2. I wanted the extra space to spread out.
  3. A backyard would be a great place for the kids to play.
  4. A kitchen makes it so much easier not only for meals, but also for snacks. : )
  5. It's more private/you don't have to worry that your crying baby is keeping up the neighbors.

Our little house was a 2 bedroom/1 bath but it had a little sitting room with a daybed, so it kind of worked out to be 3 bedrooms for us. One of the twins slept on the daybed, the other in her own queen bed, and the baby was in a pack and play in our room.

Some vacation rentals offer extra perks, like stocking your fridge with light breakfast food. Ours didn't do that, but we did have bikes in the garage that we could take out and we also had bathrobes in the closets.

Another bonus about vacation rentals is that the owners usually love the area and know almost everything there is to know. Our owners had several binders with different subjects: where to eat, what to do, etc. Our kitchen had cookbooks, many with local flavors and recipes.

If we do decide to stay in a hotel next time, I might check out the Embassy Suites on California Ave. I drove past it on my way to the grocery store, and it looked pretty nice.

If you are going to Wine Country without kids, I must recommend staying at The Cottage in the Vines. It is a one bedroom guest house in Sonoma. The owners are so friendly and take such good care of you. They delivered breakfast outside our door each morning, which we ate out on the deck overlooking their vineyard. I was unable to find their website, so maybe they are not renting at this time, but you can email them at or call 925-216-5881 for more information.

We did not eat out with the kiddos. We decided that we didn't want the headache of it, so I cannot recommend a good place to take little kids. However, I did take the kids to a place for a light lunch. It's called The Little Gourmet (A Kid's Restaurant that's Grown-up Friendly). We got to eat outside. I ordered the girls each a smoothie and we shared a Monte Cristo sandwich. (I am very particular about my Monte Cristo sandwiches. This one was okay, but not what I like in a Monte Cristo. By the way, if you've never had a Monte Cristo, my favorite place to get them is at Bennigan's.)

The first night we ordered pizza from a local place called Papa Joe's. Really good pizza and good value. We ordered a large and had lots of leftovers.

Another night I got a marinated steak from Browns Valley Market in Napa. I also got an eggplant that we grilled with the steak and some stuff to make a salad. This is a nice, locally owned store and it was nice to shop in there. They also have pre-made stuff in their deli that looked yummy and plenty of goodies to make a sandwich. I walked right past the dessert display because I knew I would blow my budget there!

There were some main stream stores not far from our house: Safeway, Target, CVS. We got most of our provisions at Safeway, which kept our costs low. There was also a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods nearby.

One place you don't need to go is Oakville Grocery. It's supposed to be this quaint little grocery with delicious sandwiches and other lunch fare. We stopped there on our way to Sonoma Train Town (which really isn't on the way to Sonoma). I went in, just the twins and me. Just inside the door, I froze: the walls were lined with glass jars filled with delectable (and expensive) vittles for your picnic basket. What was I doing in there with 2 little kids?

I quickly grabbed a sandwich in their pre-made case and an Odwalla smoothie for the girls to share. I picked up licorice from their candy section (although I didn't have any, the girls ended up not eating it and Husband threw the bag away after eating one piece) and then waited for 10 minutes to spend $15 on three big cookies. My total for this lunch? $35. Yes: thirty-five dollars. I was so frazzled with the kids in there that I didn't even blink when she handed me my receipt. I just wanted to get out of there without further incident.

So, skip Oakville Grocery and pick up a lunch for 1/3 of the price at Trader Joe's. It will be just as delicious!

Have you found any great spots to take kids out to eat in Wine Country?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinner this week...

I'm feeling a bit under the weather. This fall-ish weather we're having has brought a little cold into our household! So I'm feeling like putting together a hearty stew and baking up some bread from the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" book that I finally got from the library. We'll see...

Monday: Stew? Homemade french bread?

Tuesday: Spaghetti, green salad

Wednesday: Sandwiches. Maybe chicken paninis.

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister's family. Almond crusted fish, veggies, rice, and marshmallow cookie sandwiches for dessert.

Friday: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken, yellow squash, green salad, biscuits

Saturday: Quesadillas with grilled veggies, watermelon

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week?

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Each week, Michael Finney shares a freebie on the ABC 7 5pm newscast. This week's free stuff:
  • Coupon for four free 6-packs of Refreshe soda at Safeway

To find out where to send your self-addressed, stamped envelope, go here.

Per Finney's website, all offers are available only to viewers of ABC 7/KGO news. Sorry to my friends outside of the Bay Area.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sad eyes

I had a busy morning. My baby girl had her one year checkup. Then we had park day. Then we had some quick grocery shopping to do. (Note to self: Shopping with all three babes is never "quick"...even when your list has only 5 items.)

I got the cool shopping cart with the car on the front so the twins could entertain themselves while I shopped. I even gave them books to peruse. Somehow, the itch to get out and cause havoc got to them...and it all came to a head at checkout.

It wasn't anything that I haven't been through before: wandering away, picking up every piece of candy at the checkout, touching the self-scanner so it won't work (why do I go through those lines?!), the ONE coupon I had didn't work so I had to rescan all my items (and didn't buy the item with the coupon).

By the time we got out to the car, I was DONE. Get in the car. Get in your seat. Please don't whine. I turned up the music to help drown out the sound of little voices, the pitying and sad glances of passers-by at the grocery store flashing in my mind and making my blood boil a bit.

Sad? Don't be sad for me. Yes, I had a rather arduous trip to the grocery store. But I'm not sad. My life as a mommy is far from glamorous, but I make up for that in payments of kisses and hugs.

It's all about balance: tempering the hard times with the good, blocking out the lack of sleep and the ruined wardrobe and the piles of dirty laundry that lurk around every corner. Replacing those with images of popsicle smiles and snuggling your once-tiny babe into your squishy tummy (who needs rock hard abs?).

Every day the challenge begins anew to love and teach and guide my little ones and take a deep breath when they spill the milk or say "it's mine!" one hundred times.

Sad? No, don't be sad for me.

Food Storage: What to store?

I know that food storage can seem overwhelming when you don't know what to store. If I could just find a list, then that would be great! Well there are lists, with things like fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. You just need to tailor it to your family.
One really good idea is to write down 10 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and 5 snacks and desserts that your family enjoys. That way you can see what ingredients your family leans toward. You may have to make adjustments for meals that can be made with only pantry items.
I haven't done this exercise yet, so I'm going to try it:
Bay Area Mommy-nomics Food Storage Menu

  1. Oatmeal made with quick oats and evaporated milk, a little bit of brown sugar, and bananas and cinnamon on top. If I didn't have fresh bananas, I'd use frozen blueberries or frozen peaches.
  2. Steel cut oats made with water and a little bit of powdered milk, a splash of vanilla, and topped with jam or maple syrup.
  3. Cold cereal
  4. Pancakes. I make mine from scratch, so I'd need milk or water and eggs along with my dry ingredients.
  5. Toast with peanut butter.
  6. Blueberry Muffins
  7. Pioneer Woman's Egg in a hole
  8. Scrambled eggs with cheese and a little bit of green onions
  9. Waffles
  10. Cinnamon rolls with yogurt and fruit


  1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  2. Egg salad sandwiches
  3. Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
  4. Quesadillas with grilled vegetables
  5. Macaroni and cheese
  6. Bagels with cream cheese
  7. Smoothies
  8. Scrambled eggs
  9. Chicken salad sandwiches
  10. Soup


  1. Chicken Enchiladas with rice and vegetable
  2. Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes and carrots
  3. Spaghetti with vegetable or fruit on the side
  4. Poppy Seed Chicken with angel hair pasta and peas
  5. Black Bean Burritos
  6. Sloppy Joes with sweet potato fries and fruit
  7. Quiche with fruit
  8. Pizza
  9. Chili and cornbread
  10. Hamburgers with sweet potato fries


  1. Popcorn
  2. Crackers (wheat thins, Ritz)
  3. Dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries)
  4. Banana bread
  5. Tortilla chips with salsa


  1. Chocolate chip cookies
  2. Brownies
  3. Atomic popcorn (super sweet!)
  4. Chocolate pudding
  5. Cupcakes

Whew! That was kind of hard for me! How did you do? Come back week for the next step!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner this week...

Some friends are in town and we are having them over for dinner this week. We've also got leftovers from Baby Girl's first birthday party this weekend. Here's what I've got planned:
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, green salad, jello (as requested by my girls)
Wednesday: Pizza
Thursday: Dinner Swap Surprise
Friday: Garlic shrimp, butternut squash risotto, green salad
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Leftovers
What's on your menu this week?

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

In this week's Finney's Friday Free Stuff:
  • Free bag of Attune Probiotic Granola
  • Coupon for a free dessert from San Francisco's Orson Restaurant

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

Per Finney's website, free items are available only to viewers of KGO-TV. Sorry to my friends outside of the Bay Area.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deposit to the European Tour Fund

I cashed in several gift cards in July. I'm still using my version of the cash envelope system, so I just deducted each gift card amount from my "cash". Now I'm transferring that money out of my grocery fund and into my European Tour Fund!

This week's deposit:
  • $10.80 from Visa giftcard I received from Rite Aid SCR
  • $20.54 from Target giftcard that I found in my wallet. Nice!
  • $20.51 from Amazon giftcards I cashed in to buy my wipes. Most of that was from money earned doing surveys for Valued Opinions.

That brings my total up to $244.81 saved since May 1st.

For more of my European Tour Deposits, click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cage free chicken drumsticks $0.99/lb.

I have been trying to feed my family healthier food options. That includes eating better meat and dairy products (antibiotic free, hormone free, vegetarian feed, cage free, etc.). That is not always the most wallet-friendly choice, however. And I admit that lately, I've been picking up irresistable deals in the marked-down meats' section of my Safeway.

With a new month comes a recommitment to put my money where my values are. I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some chicken breasts this week. I ended up getting their chicken tenders at $4.99/lb. Ouch.

So I was excited to see the weekly specials from Whole Foods this week include their Rocky Jr. drumsticks (cage-free and antibiotic free) on sale for $0.99/lb. in a value pack. That's my stock up price for drumsticks at Safeway!

There you have it: a healthy choice that doesn't break the bank.

Prices are good from Aug. 4th through Aug. 10th. Check your local store's ad to make sure these prices are available in your area.

Field Trip: Berry picking

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I took our kiddos to pick berries at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. (Uh, where?) Well, it's between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, tucked away outside the tiny town of Davenport (population: 367).
Swanton Farms has U-pick ollalieberries and strawberries now (although I think ollalieberry season is winding down), blackberries at their Coastaways Ranch, and kiwi in the winter. (How cool is that?)

We started off with the ollalieberries. C just wanted to eat them. They are a little bit of work to get, but oh, so juicy! (You want to pick the black ones, not the red ones, remember.)

Then we headed up a little hill to get some strawberries. Again, C just wanted to loll in the field and eat berries until her little tummy was full.

After we paid for our bounty (ollalieberries were $4/pound and strawberries were $2.50/pound, and everything is organic), we had a little picnic at one of the tables they have there. Finally, we washed the kids up (as best we could) and drove along Highway 1 to head home. Such a beautfiul sight to see the ocean along the way.

What did I do with all those juicy berries? First, I made some ollalieberry jam, courtesy of Swanton Farms' recipe here. Oh my goodness, it is so yummy. I must get myself some ollalieberry plants, stat!

I had fewer strawberries than ollalieberries, but we just ate those as fast as we could: on shortcake, in yogurt, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in smoothies. We picked the bright red little ones. So delicious!

There are several U-Pick farms in the Bay Area. To find one near you, hop over here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Food Storage: 3 month supply

A little while ago, I did a little post on food storage introduction to food storage, if you will. Last week, I did a presentation on food storage for some women in my church. Let me tell you, I learned so much from preparing for that night!

I went through our food storage and calculated that we had about two weeks worth of food and only three days' worth of water. Husband and I talked it over and decided that food storage was very important to us, so we are going to try to have a three month supply, as is suggested by our church leaders.

We determined that we would make a commitment to have 3 months' worth of food storage and two weeks worth of water in six months' time, by February 1st, 2011. I'm sharing this with you so that (a) I can be held accountable for this commitment and (b) maybe you'll get some idea of how this is accomplished.

I am not an expert in this area and am learning a lot as I go, so you are welcome to learn right along with me.

I've divided up what we need to store for each month, although depending on sales, some months I may get more of one thing and less of another. Here is my outline for this month:

Grains (wheat, flour, cornmeal, popcorn, oats, etc.): 49 lbs.
Legumes (beans and lentils): 3.15 lbs.
Powdered milk: 2.3 lbs.
Cooking oil: 0.79 quarts
Sugar or honey: 4.725 lbs.
Salt: 1.16 lbs.
Water: 9 gallons
Canned fruits: 37 cans (these are the 15oz. size)
Dried fruits: 0.75 lbs.
Fruit juice: 3.6 bottles (these are the half gallon size bottles)
Canned vegetables: 37 cans (these are 15oz. again)
Proteins (canned or frozen chicken, tuna, beef, etc.): 19.76 lbs.
Evaporated milk: 43 cans
Processed cheese (powdered and/or frozen): 5.9 lbs.

Now these may seem like crazy numbers to you, and it did to me, too. I got these numbers from a blog called Totally Ready. Our three month supply is supposed to be food that we eat on a regular basis, so I think that as I go through this exercise, I will see more of what we actually eat and can fine tune my storage for our family.

For example, I have a few cans of Manwich sloppy joe sauce. My family loves it and yes, I consider it a vegetable. : ) I also have a freezer in my garage and I have frozen fruits, meats, and vegetables and some grains in there, so I'm counting those items as well as the items in my pantry.

Another example: evaporated milk. 43 cans? I don't think I've even used 1 can in the last 3 months! But I've been reading another amazing website called The Prudent Homemaker and she talks about how you can use evaporated milk for a lot of cooking and it tastes better than powdered milk. I would definitely use it if I had no source of income to buy fresh milk, but I don't think I need that many cans to round out my three month storage.

So we'll see how things go. I'd love to hear how your food storage efforts are going as well!

I also thought I might do a post each week with what I think are good items to add to your pantry (at their best price) to help you fill in the holes in your food storage.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finney's Friday Free Stuff

Every Friday, Michael Finney shares a freebie or two with those who watch channel 7's five o'clock news. This week's freebies:

  • One free week of yoga or one free 30 minute Pilates session at Yogaworks Studio

  • One free individual chocolate fondue from the Melting Pot in San Mateo.

All you need to do is send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For more information, check it out here.

Dinner this week...

It's a new month, which always gets me excited to start planning some dinners. I'm trying to plan the whole month out this time. I think it might help me look for some deals ahead of time.

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Pizza bianca with goat cheese, green salad, watermelon

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: My turn to take dinner to my sister's. I'm making Cheesy Chicken, wild rice pilaf, carrots, and whole wheat chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for dessert. Yes, these cookies are healthy and yummy. I like to add M&M's. You know, to make up for the healthy stuff.

Friday: Grilled steak, potato bundles, grilled corn on the cob (6/$1 at Safeway!)

Saturday: Date night. Husband and I are going to have a picnic. I'm going to pick up some treats at Trader Joe's, like cheese and crackers, grapes, and maybe some delicious bread.

Sunday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner?