Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

I may be a little late to the party, but I refuse to start talking about the back to school season in early July. As a child, I always dreaded seeing the flyers advertising Trapper Keepers and #2 pencils in the middle of summer, and I can only assume that kids today feel the same way. However, now that we’re past the mid-point of August, back to school is fair game.

I love my children more than anything, but I’m looking forward to getting back to a somewhat more regimented routine. Let me rephrase the second part of that sentence. I’m looking forward to getting a sliver of time each weekday where I’m not refereeing screaming matches, stepping on Legos, repeating the same phrase fourteen times in a half hour, and reminding a hysterical 4 year-old that she can NOT drink an open glass of grape juice on the couch in the living room, even though the couch looks like it belongs in a fraternity house.

Even though the start of school is providing me with the luxury of some uninterrupted bathroom time (along with time for a few other things, I hope!), there is still a price to pay. The price I am speaking of is an actual monetary price, because back to school, like all other “holidays” worthy of sales flyers in our society, costs money. Hopefully, I can help ease a little of the pain with some strategies on how to get into the back to school season without going broke.

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Can Princesses Be Role Models?

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Before my children’s current obsession with superheroes, I was asked the question “Who’s your favorite princess?” more times than I needed to hear. Growing up, I’d never really given the question any thought. Lucky for me (and my parents), the Disney Princess franchise wasn’t really a thing in the 70’s. Looking back, I thought there was only one princess: Cinderella.  I must have repeatedly viewed Disney’s 1950 version of the fairy tale because my memories of it are vivid. I’m assuming the other two princess movies available at that time weren’t part of my repertoire. Watching them now, I think I know why. Sleeping Beauty never grabbed my attention, and the ending when Maleficent turns into a dragon is too much for me to handle (or it probably was the one time I watched it as a child). Don’t even get me started with her names. Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora, Briar Rose…just pick a name and stick with it!  Snow White was a classic story but I have a hard time enjoying it because it seems too old timey and out of touch. And that prince…I’m still not sure what the attraction is with him.

 

Times have changed, and princesses have evolved. I’d like to hope it’s for the better, as it’s important to have positive on screen role models for our children (girls & boys alike).  I know Disney Princess allegiances are strong, so hopefully I won’t hurt any feelings as I give you my Top 4 Disney Princesses!

 

4. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

I feel a camaraderie with Belle right from the start. Anyone who has felt out of place in their lives (hello, high school!) can relate to Belle as she yearns to get out of the poor provincial town where no one seems to understand her. Plus she likes to read so she gets points for that. In addition, she shows bravery and an undying devotion to her father as she takes his place as a prisoner in the Beast’s castle. Beauty and the Beast is one of those movies that, embarrassingly brings the hopeless romantic in me to tears as Belle learns to love the Beast despite his brutish appearance.

 

3. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

Tiana has determination, which is why she’s in my top 4. Everything looks hopeless for her at the beginning of the movie, but her hard work pays off and she comes out a winner in the end. She’s a mold-breaking princess who puts her dream of owning a restaurant in front of landing a man. In the end, in true fairytale fashion, she winds up with both. Watching Prince Naveen’s transformation from a carefree, lazy playboy to a man (or a frog) with a good heart as he falls in love with Tiana is also a testament to her charm.

 

2. Merida (Brave)

The only princess in a Pixar film, Merida is definitely a badass. From the opening sequence as she rides through the forest with her bow and arrow, you can tell that she’s not your typical damsel in distress, and she proves that as she defies her parents’ wishes that she marry one of their allies’ sons. She breaks the Disney princess mold by realizing she doesn’t need a prince to be complete. She also has a really fun Scottish accent (which I believe is called a burr). When my kids watch this one, I just hope none of them decide to give me a cake with a spell attached, as I’d prefer not to turn into a bear.

 

1. Cinderella (Cinderella)

The only princess in my top 4 who was so special they named the movie after her. That has to count for something. This girl has been through it all: both her parents have died, there’s evil all around the house (stepmother, stepsisters, and the aptly named Lucifer), cleaning said house day and night, and her only friends are either feathered or furry. Throughout it all, she keeps a smile on her face and a sunny disposition, clinging to the understanding that someday her prince will come. It’s a little sad, and a little sappy, but when you’re a prisoner in your own home, I guess that’s what gets you through the day. In the end, she finds true love (we can only assume, as the courting period is rather quick) and exacts her revenge by living well. Well played, Cinderella.
Time to sound off!  Who are your favorites & why?

Chilling out at the Library

IMG_1144The heat’s been pretty uncomfortable this week in the northeastern United States. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn that my range of temperature comfort exists between the degrees of about 60 – 82, and only with low humidity. In other words, I’m kind of a pain with the weather. The good news is, when I love it, I really love it, and if you’re near me on one of those picture perfect days, you’ll probably hear me say “Could it BE any nicer out?” at least 12 times an hour. (I guess if you’re near me, that might not exactly be good news because I can imagine it gets a bit annoying.) So since we’re currently not in my ideal temperature comfort zone, I decided I needed to spend some time in the great (air conditioned) indoors.

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Books can take you anywhere!

As I child I loved to read. I devoured books like they were chocolate covered pretzels. (I really love chocolate covered pretzels.) I still adore reading, but unfortunately don’t have the time that I used to. However, whenever I pick up a book, I truly feel like a child again. The fact that I can be instantly transported to wherever the author wants to take me is amazing, and I can sit and read, engrossed for hours. I would love for my children to find the joy and adventure in books like I have, but I don’t know if they will. They’re still young, so I don’t want to push too hard or make reading seem like a chore. I could have headed to the bookstore to buy them a stack of books, but that didn’t seem like a wise idea. So in the end it was my thriftiness, wish for comfort, and love of books that helped make my decision to visit our town library a no-brainer.

To me, libraries are treasures. Where else can you get your hands on so many books (including ebooks & audiobooks), CDs, DVDs and magazines for absolutely no cost? Our library also has a delightful children’s room with daily story time for the little ones, book clubs, a few computers, crafts, toys, games and puzzles. The large basement area is decorated with whimsical paintings on the walls and fluffy pillows for sitting on the floor. There are Thomas trains to play with, and small tables where kids can color with crayons and coloring books that are provided. Of course my kids usually find their way to the computers, but they’re loaded with educational games and each child gets a time limit. After their allotted computer time today, I made sure we made our way to the books and chose a few to take home. I was even able to make my way upstairs to the adult section of the library so I could pick up something for myself. If I’m lucky, I might even get to read it!

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A place to hang out and read

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Story time & crafts room for little ones

 

I feel fortunate to have such a great library in my town, but believe me, any library can be a treasure because of what’s inside. It’s the perfect destination, even if the weather isn’t unbearable.

Happy Birthday Little Sis!

My little sister turns 30 in 3 days, so this past Saturday her husband planned a surprise party for her. The weather couldn’t have been better, so we were all able to celebrate in the backyard with pepperoni bread, cocktail meatballs, ceviche, & scrumptious empanadas (and of course friends & family!) I mention the food, because today is Tasty Tuesday, and because I’m kind of obsessed with yummy things.   

After the food was served, we had dessert for everyone and birthday cake shots for the adults.  The shots are super easy to make and add a fun and festive touch to any celebration, so I’ve included the recipe below. I bought disposable (or reusable if you’re being eco-conscious) shot glasses at the party store since I was making a large quantity.

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Birthday Cake Shots

  • 1 oz. Irish cream liqueur (Bailey’s or any other)
  • 0.5 oz. vanilla vodka
  • Whipped cream (the kind in a squirt can)
  • Multi-colored sprinkles

Mix Irish cream and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Strain into shot glasses.

Add whipped cream and top with sprinkles.

**Recipe can be multiplied depending on how many shots you want to make**

 

Let me know if you give them a try!

Landfill OCD – Being a saver (not a hoarder!)

stickersMy husband likes to tease me all the time about the amount of stuff that I save. On the rare occasions we watch those hoarding shows he jokes that I’ll be having the same conversation with one of our kids one day where they’re trying to get me to throw things away and I just won’t budge. I’d never tell him, but I agree to an extent. I definitely form attachments to things that should probably be passed on (partially due to OCD, partially due to laziness). However, I am more than willing to pass things on if I can find a good home for them. I’ll call what I have “Landfill OCD”. I have a problem actually throwing things out (actual trash notwithstanding) as I can picture them sitting in a landfill and it bothers me. Of all my friends, I’m probably one of the greener ones but I don’t exactly consider myself a trailblazer of the eco-friendly path. I’m surprised that more people don’t think like I do. Why on Earth (no pun intended) would anyone want to throw away things that they may have a use for one day? I’m in no means trying to encourage hoarding, but here’s a list of things that I’ve found useful in my quest to be a conscious saver.

  1. Stickers – This one comes in especially handy if you have kids. Over the years I’ve collected stickers from goody bags, doctors’ visits, charity mailings, supermarkets, calendars, Christmas stockings, Easter baskets and a host of other places. I keep the stickers in a plastic take-out container (something else I have way too many of, but that’s for another time) and whenever the little ones need something to keep them busy at the kitchen table or on a long car ride, they can just sit down with some scrap paper and stick away! Since most of the stickers were free, they can use as many as they want and it doesn’t seem like a waste. They also love giving them to their friends and decorating homemade or store bought birthday cards.
  1. Take out sauces – You know the ones I’m talking about. Ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, duck sauce, Chinese mustard, sometimes a BBQ sauce or Italian dressing makes its way in as well. Call me wacky for hanging on to these, (also in a plastic take-out container) but there’s been many a time when we’ve run out of ketchup for our burgers or I have a recipe that calls for soy sauce and the bottle is just about empty, and who’s the smart one then?
  1. Cosmetics – Now this may be where I lose a bunch of you if I haven’t already. I know there are expiration dates on cosmetics for good reason but sometimes I feel like they set those dates too early. 3 months for mascara? Really? As a WAHM, there are times when I probably use my mascara once a month and there’s no way I’m going to throw it after using it three times. In addition to my regular cosmetics kept in a makeup case/tackle box, I also hang on to all the cosmetic freebies and samples I get. Just like the sauce packets, you never know when you might find yourself out of shampoo or conditioner and the little bottle you got at the Hilton last year comes in super handy. In addition to that, I also find these small items very helpful for packing on weekend getaways (rather than bringing an entire bottle of shampoo).

I probably shouldn’t be asking this (as I really don’t need to save anything else) but are there any other conscious savers out there? What do you save?