Monday, September 26, 2011

Fish Bowl Roundup!

Maybe it's because I painted a goldfish bowl on my 2nd cousin's cute "baby bump" last week, but lately I've been noticing some really cool fish bowls out there.  Doesn't every kid have a pet goldfish at some point?  Or a beta?  I know I had plenty of both when I was little, and even got into saltwater fish in college.  But, there's no reason you can't let your kids learn the responsibility of pets and still enhance your home!  With these bowls your fish can double as cool modern decor.

Check out this wall mounted fish bowl.  Wish I had seen this back when I used to have a fish themed bathroom!

This bowl is shaped like a fish...I'd have to name my fish Jonah if he lived in this bowl:

 These fish bowl bookends would hold up your copy of Moby Dick nicely (or more realistically in my house, "One Fish Two Fish"):

I'm sure I've already posted this one before, but had to include it in this post...the Umbra Fish Hotel!!

This FishScape glass fish bowl is super awesome, and while I'm certain that never in my lifetime will I spend $190 on a fish bowl, it's fun to imagine.  (This one of course would not be handled by the kids!)
Looking for a more thrifty way to house a fishy?  Check out the aisles of your local thrift store, and think "outside the bowl" a bit.  How about a clear glass pitcher?  Or some other cool glassware on a stem?  Chances are you'll find plenty of ideas at the thrift store, and if not, I almost always find standard fish bowls, tanks, and aquariums there!

Okay now, I just need my 3 year old to start asking for a fish so I have an excuse!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fun Fall Project Tutorial: Marbled Leaves!

Okay, so a few days ago I had put Toby down for bed, and we had one hour of "Sammy time" before he too went to bed.  I proposed two options:

1) Watch his new Thomas movie (just got at a garage sale for $2) and eat the new "magic" blue popcorn (I got for free with coupons)


2) Do a craft project with Mommy.

To my surprise (and delight), he chose option #2!  So, I dove into my Pinterest list of things to make with the boys, and decided to try making these cool marbled fall leaves!
Here's how we did it...

First I found a scrap of white poster board in my office, and just used scissor to cut some random leaf shapes.  (If you don't want to freehand it, you could use real leaves as templates, or pull some leave illustrations off the web too)
Next I covered a plastic food container lid with shaving cream.  I used a knife to spread it like frosting so it would cover the whole lid.  I found I didn't really need this much, but it worked...

Next we took some of my acrylic paints and squirted them around the shaving cream.  I used a little bit of gold paint which added some nice sparkle...
 (Sammy is smiling big because the paint container farted! Aah, little boys...)

Now we took a wooden skewer and swirled the paint around in the shaving cream.  Fun for kids!!
Then, lay your leaf on the paint and gently press it down:

 Then carefully lift it up.  It looks pretty thick and goopy and you might think, hey, this doesn't look like the picture!!
Take a flat edge of a knife and scrape off the shaving cream:


These turned out pretty cool I think for our first try!  These would be extra cool if done on both sides, sprinkled with a little glitter, then sprayed with some clear coat and strung together into a garland!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Special Garage Sale Find: Mary's Craft Box

Today's "garage sale finds" post is not quite like any of my other posts bragging about my great deal, but more about the humbling experience of my special find!
I went out garage saling with the boys this morning, as I often do on Thursday mornings.  On our way back home we decided to stop at just ONE more sale, even though the car was pretty well packed with a large kids' picnic table I had just purchased, among other things.

This sale was full of all kinds of interesting things.  There was a huge 10 gallon tote full of little matchbox cars, and Sammy had a blast digging through them.  We took home as many monster trucks as his little hands could hold.

But the bargain that got me most excited was a huge Rubbermaid bin marked "Arts and Crafts."  The sticker on the box read "$5 for all."  Inside the bin were more smaller bins full of interesting items.  There was another bin next to it for the same price, so I figured I'd take this larger one, being the bargain hunter that I am.

Below is a photo of the bin and contents, AFTER I spent an hour sorting through every item, tossing out little scraps & dried up paints, pulling out all of the already finished crafts, and re-organizing.  There were beads, scissors, a glue gun, ribbon, pom poms, puff paints, wood pieces, you name it!

But the interesting story here was not in this great bargain I had, but the story behind it.  I told the woman at the sale that I'd take that big green bin full of craft supplies.  She said, "Oh, great! I had a little girl with Leukemia and that was all we could do to keep her busy!"  She followed me over to the bin and started piling on more plastic storage containers full of popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and other supplies.  "Here, take these too!  Your boys can have fun with these..."

I went home happy that I had scored such a great deal, but sad to think of another child who had to go through something as tough as Leukemia. Pulling a small bag of colored feathers out that still had the $5 price tag, the price I paid for this entire box, I thought to myself, I'd spend hundreds on craft supplies for my kid's too if they were battling cancer and it distracted them from that harsh reality for even a moment.

As I sorted through the items in the bin I couldn't help but think of Mary, the little girl who worked so hard on the dozens of finished ornaments, pins, earrings, and other items in the box.  I pulled out this little guide to the "Craft Show Extravaganza and Bake Sale" at Children's Hospital from November 2001:

I found some unopened packages of "Specially Hand Made By Mary" labels.
(If anyone out there named "Mary" would like these, let me know and I'll send them to you for free! I just couldn't toss or donate them!)

I couldn't help but think the whole time I sorted through these items about just how blessed we are to have two healthy boys.  How lucky I am to be stocking up on craft supplies to keep them busy when cooped up this winter...not because they are stuck in a hospital undergoing chemotherapy, but because their feet got cold and wet with snow that soaked their boots after building snowmen and sledding for so long.

I don't know if Mary won or lost her battle with Cancer...I couldn't bear to ask her mom.  But I sure hope she had one rockin' successful craft sale at table #42 in the Children's Hospital in November of 2001.  Her listing in the directory says "former patient," so that give me hope that she won her fight, and I hope it never returned!

I gently stacked most of the little crafts and ornaments in my charity donation bag, but decided to keep one ornament to hang on our Christmas tree.  This one I thought captured the hand made nature of Mary's crafts the best:

I plan to hang this ornament on our tree each year as a reminder of just how lucky we are to have healthy kids who are here in our home with us, making enormous messes every 5 seconds, dirtying tons of laundry from playing, and eating us out of house and home. Thank you, Mary, for this valuable reminder. How very blessed we are!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fun Fall Projects: LEAVES!

Yesterday we were in the 80's...last night some big winds blew in, and we're in the 60's.  I think fall has officially blown in!  Fall is my favorite season yet it never lasts long enough in Minnesota.  So, we try to take advantage of the cooler temperatures with outdoor activities, and celebrate with fall bbq's and of course fall projects with the kids!  I've recently become addicted to the instant creative gratification overload that Pinterest provides, thanks to my wonderful friend Michelle, and as a result I am posting a bunch of fun looking leaf-themed fall projects to do with the kids that I found there!

These wax paper fall leaves look really fun and easy, and a great way to use those little stubs of broken crayons in the bottom of your crayon bucket. 

These decorated leaves look like a really fun and easy idea.  This blogger used paints and a brush, but these could easily be done with paint pens, similar to the rocks we did this summer:

Here's a cool way to make prints using leaves:

This looks SO cool and I can't wait to try it...marbled leaves using acrylic paint and shaving cream!

I used to make stuff out of salt dough all the time as a kid.  Here's a cool way to incorporate leaves by making prints in the salt dough:

This is another easy, fun idea that doesn't require a lot of work or tools...glue leaves to paper and then use your creativity to turn them into fun animals and people!
 Or, you can use just the leaves themselves to make leaf animal collages:

Here's something you could hang on your front door year after initial made with fall leaves.  This one uses those dyed leaves you can get at craft stores, which I'd recommend, as real leaves would quickly turn brown and crumble...
And don't forget about some of my previous projects that utilize outdoor nature collage and a cool fall leaf placemat!

Okay, so if you've been to Pinterest you know you can probably find hundreds of fall leaf related crafts, but these were a few favorites I found recently.  I'll post some more fall project ideas later and try to group them by theme.  In the meantime, have fun with some leaves and enjoy this weather while it lasts!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Adventures in Not-so-Extreme Couponing!

So, check this out.  Here's what you can get for about $14 regular price at Rainbow Foods:

 ...and here's what I got this morning for $14 at Rainbow Foods, saving over $31.00:
I think we're set on Hamburger Helper for a while! How did I do it?

- Rainbow had a 10/$10 sale on Hamburger Helper and Progresso soups. (oops, I know, I got 1 extra soup today!)
- I had a few manufacturer coupons to spread among each item (a couple "$1 off 5 Hamburger Helpers", etc)
- I went on Wednesday: Rainbow doubles manufacturer coupons with face values of up to $1 ($2 max savings per coupon; they double up to 5 coupons and I had 5)
- Toothpaste was free! (on sale for $0.99, I had a $0.50 coupon that was doubled, so they gave ME $0.01)
- And there's more.... that's not counting the money I'll get off of gas from their rewards card, or the other $4 in coupons that printed out on the register for my next trip.

I know there are much more experienced couponers out there who could probably get the store to pay them to take this food, but considering the difference between using some coupons and not using any, this got me excited enough to blog anyway.

Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a couponing blog, but I thought it was about time I share my recent adventures in couponing for those of you moms who would like to try it but are overwhelmed by the idea! I've only been trying to utilize coupons for 3 weeks but have already seen some massive savings.

I caught a 10 minute glimpse of an "Extreme Couponing" show probably a year or more ago.  I was amazed at how much people were saving, but at the same time found it totally overwhelming, even being the bargain hunter I am.  Seeing videos of people dedicating entire rooms in their house to their stock piles, pouring through circulars through the wee hours of the morning, spending 30 hours a week strategizing shopping trips and digging through dumpsters for coupons just didn't seem worth it to me, or at all possible while raising 2 boys and running 3 businesses.  I still do not understand the extreme couponers who have hundreds of deoderant or toothpaste tubes for themselves...At some point doesn't stuff expire and then you're just wasting it?  But I do love the stories of people who donate their deals to more needy families, charities, or to send to our troops!

So I decided that hey, this is TV.  People wouldn't watch it if it weren't "shocking" and "extreme."  But I didn't have to be "extreme."  I don't have to dedicate my life to accumulating "stuff." I just wanted to save some money. I decided to at least subscribe to the Sunday paper and get in on SOME of these deals.  I'm finding that without being SO extreme, I'm still saving $60-$100 in a week!
Sure, there are people who somehow stock pile hundreds of copies of store circulars...I'm not sure how they do this but I'm not interested in dedicating THAT much time on it.  I don't want to miss out on my boys' childhoods because I'm held up in the basement with a pair of scissors. But here's what I've been doing, which hasn't been all THAT time consuming, and has really paid off so far...

1) I get the Sunday paper.
2) I pull out the coupons and the store ads for Target, Walgreens, Rainbow & Cub.
3) I clip the mfr. coupons for any product I think we'd use. (brand loyalty goes out the window)
4) I organize them in my little alphabetical file that I got at Target for under $5 that fits in my purse:

5) I flip through the store ads and see where I can match up a store coupon, a manufacturer coupon and a store sale on the same item. (Couponers call this "stacking")

6) I make a list for each store's shopping trip for the week on my shopping list app on my iphone, and put the coupons that go with that shopping trip in envelopes labeled for each store:

Really high tech, huh?

Here are a few things I tell myself to keep myself from turning into the crazy coupon lady:

- You don't need to clip EVERY coupon.  For example, skip the dog food coupons if you don't have a dog...unless you have a pet owner friend to donate to.

- You don't need to spend a ton of time on this. One hour a week WHILE watching TV or in the car or doing something else will save a lot of money! My suggestion to get started: Pick up one Sunday paper at the gas station, and start by matching up coupons/sales from just one store's insert.  I'd try Walgreens or Rainbow as they seem to get the best deals for me so far.  See what you can do, and if you like it, try two stores the next week if you have the time!

- You don't need a massive storage room.  If you have plenty of shampoo already, either don't go buy more for a while, share your coupons with a friend, or donate some to charity! And if you DO have the room to stock pile enough stuff to take care of your family for a year, more power to you! Who knows, it could come in VERY handy if someone loses a job or you get into another tight spot!

So there's one example of one store I have been saving a lot of money on, and how I've been going about it.  So far I've already had a few instances where a store actually paid ME to take something, which gets my bargain hunter's heart fluttering. I know I'm a total newbie, but each week I seem to be saving more and more off my total bill.  So my point is this: If you want to get in on saving money, you can do it without going so extreme and still make a big impact on your budget in the end!  So give it a try and see what happens! You've got nothing to lose except space in your pantry!


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