Archive | April, 2013

Couponing Update: Last week’s CVS haul

29 Apr
It's that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

It’s that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

About a year and a half ago I started my couponing, and last spring I decided to try to stock up for summer on things we go through most, so that I would not have to shop for those items over the summer.

This year, it’s springtime again and I’ve decided to do the same thing. As time has gone by, I have gotten a better handle on things we go through a lot of and things that last a long time.

For example, last year I found out that 48 rolls of toilet paper lasts way longer than just through the summer, but body wash we go through almost weekly. So this year I’m making adjustments in my stockpile. Recently I’ve gotten good deals on women’s deodorant, dish detergent, and a few other things. Last week, however, I had a particularly good “haul,” so I thought I’d share it with you and tell you how I did it. People often ask me for a quick tutorial, so this may help anyone who’s thinking about couponing.

Today’s post is about a CVS trip, and it’s probably the place I shop the most often because of their great store sales, their fantastic stackable coupons, their super Beauty Club, and their awesome Extra Bucks.

Going into CVS, here is what I had:

a $4 off $10 worth of body wash which I’d gotten out of the CVS machine. CVS brand body wash is $2.37 each or 2 for $4.00 normally. That week though in the CVS flier, it was Buy one get one half off. I had to buy 7 to get to $10, but then I got $4.00 off.

5 manufacturer’s coupons for Old Spice men’s deodorant for 20 cents off. The deodorant was on sale in the flier for $2.29 that week. So I’d be getting mine for $2.09 each.

1 CVS machine coupon for 20 cents off Palmolive dish soap. The soap was on sale in the flier for 99 cents already. Normally it’s more than $1.00 at CVS.

7 manufacturer’s coupons for $1.00 off two bags of Chex Mix. The Chex Mix was on sale at CVS that week four bags for $5.  Each bag is more than a single  serving, so it makes a great lunchbox snack if you put it into ziploc bags, and it is great for a playdate or after school snack. During the summer it’ll be great for beach snacks, assuming it lasts that long!

I also discovered that day that Chex Mix comes in Chocolate Turtle flavor. I had to remind myself that each bag was more than one single serving or I might have eaten the whole bag.

My total cost that day was $30.

I got:

7 bottles of body wash
5 deodorants
1 Palmolive dish soap
14 bags of Chex Mix

So, in total, 27 items for $30.

If you are new to couponing, the lessons to take away from today’s post are the following:

Be sure to examine *all* of your couponing and sale options. Use the CVS machine coupons, and remember you can scan your card multiple times a day until it tells you there’s nothing more for you.

Look closely at the flier because oftentimes the fliers and sales coincide with the store and manufacturer coupons. Remember that you can stack CVS store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Only buy what you use, unless it’s totally free and you can donate it. Don’t spend money on things you can’t use, just because it’s on sale.

And finally, use as many manufacturer coupons as you can. Having multiple numbers  of coupons is great when stores run sales such as the one I got on Chex Mix and deodorant this time around.

Happy Saving!!

My new addiction: Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake

26 Apr
Nutella is not new, but there's this great little treat that I make with it, which I'm addicted to!

Nutella is not new, but there’s this great little treat that I make with it, which I’m addicted to!

For the longest time, I knew that Nutella existed, but I never bought it.

Yes, seriously. It was not on my all-the-time shopping list.

That was in my old life. My pre-Nutella addicted life.

Recently, Elizabeth came home and said how her good friend had a Nutella sandwich for lunch at school. It got me thinking. There’s so many things you can make with Nutella, and it might be a great treat for the kids’ lunches and mine, on occasion.

Let me just say, it’s a slippery slope, that Nutella. One lunchtime treat has led to many jars of Nutella in my shopping cart.

I love it for breakfast, for lunch, with strawberries, with bananas, with peanut butter and for a late night snack.

I think about it all the time.

And I keep finding bigger jars of it. I first started out with a small jar. I’d buy two at a time. Then I found an even BIGGER jar at Target. I’m on my second one of those. But I hear there’s an EVEN BIGGER jar available at BJ’s. I’m afraid to go see. I’d join just to buy it.

So one day, my friend Paula sends me a link she’d found to a Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake. She found it on a blog called Kirbie’s Cravings.

Four ingredients. One of them being Nutella.


Check. Check. Check.

I had all four ingredients.

I’ve made a mug cake before from a different recipe for a coffeecake, and didn’t love it. Never posted it.

This, I love.

I think I’ve made it four times in two weeks or so.

It takes all of five minutes to mix up, if that.

It takes all of one minute and 30 seconds to cook in my microwave.

I kid you not.

So today, for my Friday post I share with you my newest addiction: the Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake from Kirbie’s Cravings.  Now pay attention when you read her blog post about this cake. She has taken a lot of ingredients out of her original recipe, which used to be over 1000 calories. Now it’s just over 500 calories. That’s still a lot. But knowing it *used* to be more, doesn’t that make it sound like a bargain?

Yes!! It does!

And she recommends sharing it.

I don’t choose to go that route.

She also recommends waiting to eat it until it cools.

I don’t do that either. I can barely get it out of the microwave and I’m getting my spoon.

I recommend topping it with whipped cream or something like that. My whipped cream is fat free. In fact, most of what we eat is low fat or fat free, so I don’t really feel terrible eating this on occasion.

Multiple occasions.

Here’s the recipe. Try it out!

Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake

from Kirbie’s Cravings


4 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Nutella
3 tbsp fat free milk


Combine all ingredients into an oversized mug. Mix with a small whisk until batter is smooth. Cook in microwave for about 1 minute. Sharp knife inserted should come out clean and top of cake should look done rather than gooey. If cake is not cooked in one minute, add an additional 20 seconds. Let cake cool in mug completely before eating.

Totally Addicting.

Totally Addicting.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Brussel Sprouts

24 Apr
Until the other night, I had never had brussels sprouts.

Until the other night, I had never had brussel sprouts.

Ewwww….brussel sprouts!!!

Isn’t that what everyone always says? When people want to come up with the grossest vegetable to make you eat, isn’t it always brussel sprouts?

I guess I’d always just taken their word for it because in my whole life I had never had a brussel sprout until two nights ago. I think I just always assumed they’d be gross because everyone says so. It wasn’t until recently when someone said, “They’re just like baby cabbages,” did I realize that I might actually like them, as I like cabbage.

I took the next step: I bought some at Aldi’s.

Then I forgot I had them until my daughter was home sick, watching Cupcake Wars on TV and one of the challenges was to incorporate brussel sprouts into the recipe.


“I have those in the fridge,” I said to Elizabeth.

We decided to give them a try. I looked up recipes and came up with this one for roasted brussel sprouts. Sounded basic, easy, and delicious.

Don came home from work that night and said, “I was talking to someone at work about how to cook brussel sprouts, and she said we should roast them with salt, pepper and olive oil.”

Well that was funny, same recipe I’d come up with.

So we tried them.

I loved them.

I was the only one.

Don liked them, Liz could take or leave them, and Caroline and Alex didn’t like them at all.


However, because I loved them I am posting the recipe. I had the leftovers again, the very next night.

I’d love to know though, how do you cook your brussel sprouts if you are someone who makes them? Please share any good recipes or tips with me.

And, a couple of things to note: Don parboiled them in the microwave first, just to jump-start the cooking. And, he also sprinkled garlic on them before roasting, along with the salt and pepper.

They do look just like little baby cabbages.

They do look just like little baby cabbages.




Original recipe makes 6 servings Change Servings
1 1/2 pounds Brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, yellow leaves removed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt (we used regular)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  2. Place trimmed Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly, and shake to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet, and place on center oven rack.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, shaking pan every 5 to 7 minutes for even browning. Reduce heat when necessary to prevent burning. Brussels sprouts should be darkest brown, almost black, when done. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt, if necessary. Serve immediately.

Monday Musings: Bookworms and Books

22 Apr
Having a place to show off what they've read adds to the feeling of accomplishment that kids get when they finish a book.

Having a place to show off what they’ve read adds to the feeling of accomplishment that kids get when they finish a book.

When my oldest daughter Caroline was in the first grade, her teacher started a classroom bookworm on the wall. She used construction paper circles and each time a student finished a book, the bookworm got a new circle added to his body.

At the end of the school year the circles got sent home with the students. My daughter came home and put them on her bedroom wall, starting a bookworm at our house. Every so often, she’d add to it.

When my second daughter was in the first grade we had the same teacher and her circles came home with her too. This time our bedroom set up was now with bunk beds and Elizabeth’s circles wrapped around the room, up near the ceiling.

My youngest…same story! Same teacher, same circles, and our bookworm got longer and longer. Last year at her seventh birthday party Alex’s friends even added circles to it of books they had read. It was so cute to see the handmade circles and the little kid handwriting on them, showing off the books they’d read.

This week however, the bedroom underwent major renovations, getting a new paint job and a new floor plan. In preparation for that, we had to take down the old bookworm. My kids were heartbroken, especially Alex. I felt bad, but it couldn’t really be helped. The circles had to come down and they were old and worn out so they didn’t even come down in one piece.

Coincidentally, last month I came across some vinyl decals for walls at Walmart. They came three to a pack and they were even dry erase and came with a marker! As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have them. I had to make a new bookworm! So I bought the circles. They were $2 for the three pack and I loved the bright colors they came in. They brightened up the kids’ playroom/office and gave anyone who wanted it, a place to show off what they’ve been reading lately.

To that end, I thought Id’ share part of a list I came across last week. You can see the list in its entirety by clicking on the link and see the book covers of each book on the list as well. It’s a list of “The 25 Books Every Kid Should Have on Their Bookshelf.” How many of them do you have on your bookshelf? Although we’ve read a lot of them, there were many we have not. Maybe they will become part of our bookworm in the future.

Top Ten: The 25 Books Every Kid Should Have on Their Bookshelf

1. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

2. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

3. The Pushcart War, Jean Merrill

4. The Sweetest Fig, Chris Van Allsburg

5. Matilda, Roald Dahl

6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

7. Dealing With Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

9. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

My moment of silence

19 Apr
The events of this past Monday in Boston have left me truly speechless.

The events of this past Monday in Boston have left me truly speechless.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Cheeseburger Pizza

17 Apr
A great pizza option for get togethers!

A great pizza option for get togethers or dinner any time!

A few weeks back, I was having the typical “What are you having for dinner?” conversation with my friend Paula. When she asked me what I was having, I said, “I have no idea. What are you having?”

Her answer: Cheeseburger Pizza.

Now we have homemade pizza all the time. We make plain, mushroom, cheese, olive, bbq chicken and even Hawaiian pizzas. But, we’ve never made a Cheeseburger Pizza, as simple and delicious as it sounds.

I had everything but the dough: pizza sauce, non-fat mozzarella cheese, and ground turkey. I could easily have Cheeseburger Pizza for dinner at my house too!

And so we did. I picked up my dough on my way home from work and that night we added a new, fun pizza choice to our repertoire and we were dinner twins with my friend who was having the same thing at her house.

Everyone liked the new pizza and I’d do it again for sure. I think it’d be fun for a get together with friends and I also think you could add other toppings to it, and still keep it healthy: some fresh diced tomatoes or some olives might be great, too.

So today’s WFDW is not a recipe per se, but a menu suggestion and a question for you to go along with it: What is your favorite fun pizza to make at your house? Leave a comment and let me know!

Monday Musings: A tribute to Mom and a new perspective on motherhood

15 Apr
Congratulations Mom!

Congratulations Mom!

Friday was my mom’s last day of work.


For 32 years she has worked for the same corporation, through location changes, job title changes, changes in upper level management, and much more. She was one of the only “original” members of the staff, and they had to create a “Thirty-Two Years of Service” award for her, since no one else had ever been with the company as long as she has.

Thursday night her colleagues held a gathering in her honor and Don and I were asked to be there. Of course we said yes! I was excited to celebrate with her and to see the people I’d gotten to know from my visits to her office over the years as well. My dad had retired nine months ago, and I was excited that my mom would be joining him so that they could embark on this next part of their journey together.

What I did not expect however, was for this night to be such an eye-opener for me, such a look into my mom’s life as a young mother back in the early 1970’s and 1980’s and as a valued co-worker to the company for the next 32 years. I was struck by so many things as I listened to her talk to people and tell the story of how she got  this job, when she hadn’t even been looking to go back to work at the time.

I am continually amazed as a mother and as a parent, at the perspective I gain into my parents’ years as young parents. I think of them whenever my kids are sick and I remember how sick my brother, in particular, was when he was young. I think of the times we got chicken pox together and strep throat together, every time a stomach bug wipes out my family all at once. I thought of them managing the Blizzard of 1978 as we recently managed Blizzard Nemo of 2013.

But last Thursday night, my perspective was a new one, as I put myself in my mom’s place as a young mother and I realized what hadn’t hit me til that moment: how similar our stories were.

My mother graduated from a secretarial school after high school, prior to having children. She worked for two of the mayors of the city I now live in, as it was the city she and my dad grew up in and lived in for a time as well. When she had me, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mother, as many moms then (and now) did. At some point when we were little, she became an “Avon Lady,” a home-based business owner, circulating catalogs, taking orders, meeting with customers and delivering orders. I remember being a runner with my brother, jumping out of the car, running up to doors and leaving the catalogs in bags hanging on the door handles, as she drove from house to house.

Mom and me at my birthday in August 1977.

Mom and me at my birthday in August 1977.

Although I finished up a four year college program after high school, I too, left my job and took on a home-based business when my kids were born, my path mirroring my mother’s. Although slightly different along the way, we ultimately ended up in the same place. I had gone back to work teaching when my oldest was just nine weeks old and stayed there for two years, but started the home-based business when she was one year old, a year before I left my job, in order to get the business up and running. I kept my home-based business for eleven years through two more pregnancies, only closing up shop just two years ago this summer. I had three children, rather than two, but I worked hard during the days, nights and weekends, working my business in between having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I took orders, filled orders, wrote newsletters, hosted meetings, taught classes, spoke at regional events and more, all while raising my children. It was very difficult, but it was very worthwhile and very much like what my mom had done with the two of us in tow, all those years ago.

One day my mother received a phone call, around the time her children were in elementary school. I was nine, my brother was seven, (similar in age to the ages of my younger two children today). A friend asked her to cover her job for a number of months while she went out on maternity leave. As I listened to my mother tell the story on Thursday night, she relayed how surprised she was to get the call, and how she had not been looking to return to work.

“I set out conditions. I couldn’t leave before they were on the bus and I had to be home when they were getting off the bus. I needed school vacations and summers off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work,” she told a colleague the other night.


Although our paths have differed, our stories are very similar.

Although our paths have differed, our stories are very similar.

Again, as I listened, I realized how similar our journeys as mothers were. When my third daughter was just three, I was volunteering at a school event for my oldest daughter. My middle was in preschool at the time. At that event I was “discovered” taking photos for the school scrapbook by the editor of our local paper. She asked to see my photos, loved them, asked me if I could write (to which I said I could), and offered me a job as the education reporter, right there on the spot. I had not been out looking for a job, I had just been coming in to volunteer my time. I had three very young children, two of whom were not even full-day elementary school aged yet.

I laid out conditions: I would not work full time. If they were sick, I couldn’t work. I needed to be home whenever they needed me, including summers and vacations. I had to be able to put them on the bus and take them off the bus, drop them off at preschool and pick them up at preschool. And because I had one more child than my mother had at the time of her job offer and because my kids were much younger than hers were at the time, I also had to be able to take them all with me any time I had to cover a story and there was no one home to take care of them, since most of them were not school aged yet.


My mom never left her job that was supposed to be temporary. As the years went on, she worked longer days, taking less time off, because we were older. As my children have gotten older I too, have taken on a bigger work load, even taking on writing for an additional newspaper, working longer, fuller days and weeks when I can.

My mother proved to be a valuable asset to the company because of her strong work ethic, her honesty and her Type A personality. She moved up. She went to college for twelve years, earning an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree, ranking first in her class at Providence College when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1999.

I’ll never forget watching her carry the flag into the graduation ceremony, leaning over the railing to see her better. I was 28 and she was 52. I was so proud of her. A woman next to me asked if we were twins.

“No,” I answered. “That’s my mother!”

But I realize now, that oddly enough, although not twins, our stories as mothers are similar. They’ll obviously never be exactly the same, but our core values are the same, our goals as mothers, career women and our work ethic are the same. I can only hope that our paths will continue to be similar as I have learned so much about the type of mother that I insist on being, from her.  I know now more than ever that so many reasons I am the way I am both at home and at work are because of the way she was as a mother and an employee, and because of the things she held dear to her heart.


Jen and Chris on the rocks as kids