Sunday, July 27, 2014

Date Night on a Budget

I love date nights with my husband...it gives us a chance to spend time together without the kids, and talk for a couple hours without hearing any screaming or whining. Ahhhh bliss.

Date Night can take a chunk out of your budget, though, so here are some ways to save on your next evening out.

1. Consider Sitter Options
With most babysitters getting $10-15 an hour, you've already spent at least $50 for an evening out, before ever even leaving the driveway. If you don't have family nearby to watch your kids, try a sitting swap with friends or neighbors. You go out one evening while they watch your kids, then you return the favor another evening.

If that's not an option, reconsider your definition of Date Night. Can you have a date with your spouse after the kids go to bed? Share a special dessert and watch a movie or play a board game to get some kid free time.

If you really want to leave the house but can't afford a sitter for dinner and a movie, how about getting a sitter for only an hour or two for a coffee or ice cream mini date. Sometimes getting away for an hour makes all the difference.

2. Have a Picnic
Since Date Night is all about the person you're spending the time with and not where you go, a picnic at the beach or a park is cheap and allows you time to really chat and connect with your spouse. If you don't want to tote along a picnic basket, check online reviews for the best local takeout joints and take your food to go.

3. Browse Your Area for Free Events
Many cities and towns frequently have weekend festivals, fairs, or shows. Some are local mainstays (state/county fairs), while others are just fun and quirky (think ethnic festivals complete with food samples and dancing). There are also art shows, craft fairs, and free museum days, that just require some time and an open mind.

4. Use Coupons or Gift Cards
When my husband and I really want to treat ourselves and splurge on a fancy meal (such as our anniversary), we check Costco for reduced rate gift cards. Costco often has nice restaurant offerings, a $100 gift card for $79.99. That's a 20% savings right off the bat. I've seen local burger places, pizza places, and delis all sell gift cards for 20% off at Costco.

Also, check Groupon for restaurant specials. Some local places will sell a credit to their restaurant for up to 50% off.

Besides food, there are also coupons for activities such as bowling, ice skating, or miniature golf that would make for a fun date. You don't have to splurge to have fun!

5. Get Out and Get Active
You may not think of exercise as a traditional date, but hiking local trails, going for a scenic walk, taking a bike ride, or playing tennis are all great bonding experiences that cost very little, if anything. A meal for an exercise date could be as simple as a smoothie. (My Costco also has discounted Jamba Juice gift cards!)

6. Remember What Date Night is All About
Even when you have a tight budget, it doesn't mean you can't have fun or enjoy an evening out with your spouse. Date Night is not about going to the most upscale restaurant, or checking off boxes, it's about spending quality time with your spouse, without the concerns of daily life working their way in. Money shouldn't determine how much fun you have, and sometimes the cheapest dates are the most fun. Start your evening with gratitude, and you'll enjoy your date, no matter how much you spend or don't spend.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kid's Craft...Felt Funny Faces

I love doing art projects with felt. It's cheap, colorful, and you can do just about anything with it. When Stinker was little, I made Felt Cookies for her to decorate, and she still pulls it out to play with on occasion. Since Junior has been learning the body parts in speech therapy, I thought it would be fun to make a felt face game for him to practice naming facial features.

You'll want to get a bunch of different colors of felt...each piece is only about $0.20, and different colors makes it more fun, I think.

Start by cutting a head shape out of a light colored piece of felt...I just free drew it, so it's a little off, but the kids shouldn't notice =) 

Then, cut out a bunch of shapes for the eyes, nose, ears, hair, mouth, and miscellaneous (eyebrows, earrings, mustache, etc). I did a half dozen of each body part in various colors. The mix and match is fun. Divide each type of facial feature into different baggies if you want, or just put them all in one big bag and let the kids design away! The results are fun...and sometimes a little creepy...but I love watching my kids be creative!

After they've designed their face, encourage your child to name his or her character, and tell a story about their character.


Browse my other Kid's Craft Projects

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Get to Know Jesus

As a homeschooling mom, I'm always on the lookout for good books I can use in my curriculum. Zonderkidz Publishers has just come out with a set of historical biographies of Biblical figures that go perfectly with our Bible curriculum. There are biographies about Jesus, Mary, Paul, and King David. I decided to review Jesus.

This book is geared towards children aged 6-10. It's a smaller book (normal kid sized paperback) full color, and includes maps, photos of artifacts, and artists renditions of Jesus' life and ministry. It is 122 pages, and includes a Bibliography and a list of additional reading for kids to learn more about the times of Jesus.

I love how the biography of Jesus starts before he was born...with original sin, the ups and downs of the Jewish people, and our need for a Savior. Then, it goes into the birth of Jesus, followed by His childhood, ministry on earth, His death and resurrection, and finally His role in the Book of Revelation. Each chapter includes Biblical accounts of Jesus' life, as well as historical accounts (ie. Josephus), and scholarly interpretations. There is also a glossary of words that kids might not understand, and other really useful and interesting information about the times of Jesus.

I loved all the color photos and maps. Stinker stayed engaged, and I think as she gets older, these books will help her as she learns more about the context of History, and how Scripture ties into world history. My only complaint is that many of the photos came from Wikimedia, which is part of the Wikipedia chain of websites. Knowing how unreliable Wikipedia can be, I am hesitant about the photos from Wikimedia. However,  I will probably purchase the other books in this series, since I really enjoyed it, and it will be useful for our homeschool journey.

Bottom Line 8.5*/10*

Thank you to ZonderKidz Publishers and BookLook Bloggers for a complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to post a favorable review, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Ways to Save Money on a Family Vacation

Family Vacations should be an exciting time filled with wonderful memories and shared experiences. It should be a time of joy, and not worrying about the financial side of things. To get the most out of your vacation, try some of these money saving tips!

1. Set a Budget and Give Yourself Wiggle Room
-The first thing you'll want to do when planning a vacation is to set a budget. This should be a budget for everything, not just the travel and lodging expenses. You'll want to make sure you plan on the cost of meals, gas, and souvenirs. If you max out your budget on the hotel, you'll stress out every time you go to dinner or have to tip someone.

2. Start Planning Early...and Keep Checking
-For our last vacation, I started planning about 4 months before our travel dates. I kept an eye on airfare and hotels for several weeks before booking anything.  I looked for lodging coupon codes on Retailmenot and looked around for seasonal deals. We purchased a travel package when I was convinced the price was at its lowest, about 3 months before our travel dates, but purchased the additional insurance for our trip in case we found a better deal. I'm glad we did! About 6 weeks before our vacation, I repriced the entire package and it was $500 cheaper. So I canceled and rebooked. It was a bit of a hassle, but we saved $500 that would pay for our meals while traveling.

3. Find a Hotel with Free Breakfast and Pack Lunches
-Whenever we travel, we look for hotels that offer complimentary breakfast, then purchase lunch items--such as lunch meat, bread, chips, and water at Costco when we arrive and store them in the room mini fridge. Then we're only paying for one meal every day. The savings really adds up.

4. Look for Local Coupons and Check Online Reviews
-Before you go, check Groupon or Living Social for any local restaurants or activities you can save on. You can also check Yelp or other review sites for out-of-the-way restaurants that may charge less than touristy areas, and local favorite activities that aren't overpriced.

5. Consider Souvenirs Carefully
-Souvenirs can really eat away at the budget. And usually, these little trinkets end up broken or misplaced, being little more than wasted money. One of my favorite souvenirs is to take lots of pictures, then create a photo book when we get home. It's something the kids can look through over and over again, and we can relive the memories without wasting any money.  

Finally, Enjoy Your Family Time, No Matter Where You End Up
-The point of a family vacation is to enjoy the time together no matter what your budget is. By planning ahead and giving yourself wiggle room in your budget, you can enjoy your time without worrying about how much you're spending, since you've already planned on the expense. And when you've removed the stress, you're free to create wonderful, lifelong memories.

What is your favorite way to save on vacation? Let me know in the comments!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book Review: A Table by the Window

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 
While I love a good Christian fiction book that I can really get into, cookbooks are my second favorite book genre. So, when I had the opportunity to read Hillary Manton Lodge's book that weaves fiction with cooking, A Table by the Window, I immediately took it. 

The novel begins in present day Portland, Oregon, where food writer Juliette D'Alisa and her family are grieving the loss of Juliette's French grandmother. Her grandmother was a highly acclaimed pastry chef, and willed her prep table to Juliette. While looking through the table, Juliette finds an old and interesting photograph--a photo of her grandmother with a man who has a striking family resemblance but isn't her grandfather. She sets out to find the truth behind the photograph and her family history, choosing to keep the photo a secret from her 4 siblings and parents.

While she's on this path to self-realization, Juliette agrees to help her brother Nico open a new restaurant. Juliette's mother, a Frenchwoman and her father, an Italian, have a successful restaurant, but Nico wants to open his own restaurant with his sister. 

Disheartened by the burdens of life, Juliette strikes up a long distance relationship with immunologist Neil, who encourages her to forge her own path through life. What does this mean to Juliette, and how can her grandmother's secrets help her discover her true calling?

A Table by the Window book was a fun read. I really liked the characters, and as someone who is part-French, part-Italian herself, I really related to some of the family gathering scenes. There were about a dozen recipes the author included at the end of select chapters, (some of which look very tasty, though time consuming), and I found myself really invested in Juliette's future. I rooted for her to find herself, and felt sad when she was struggling, as though she was a real person and not a fictional character.

As for critiques, each chapter begins with a quote, and I found this to really mess with the continuity of the book. It distracted me from the story as I had to switch gears between scenes and think about a quote. The book also used the word "cool" way too much. I know people say "cool" in normal conversation, but the characters said it a lot. I'm sure there are plenty of synonyms the author could have used to diversify a bit.

The book ends really suddenly...but luckily, the author provided an excerpt from her next novel in the series, Reservations for Two, which is supposed to be released next year. I plan to read the next book, since I really want to know what happens in Juliette's quest for the truth and her own personal happiness.

Bottom Line: 7*/10*

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Press for my free review copy of this book. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

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