Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge

I live only hours from Amish country in Ohio, so I love curling up with a good Amish novel. This weekend, with the first snow flurries of the year, I got to savor the three stories in this book... which in itself was a pleasant surprise, because I thought it was one book--then I discovered it was THREE books in one! I had already read "The Christmas Singing", so reading the other two stories put that one more into context (although all three books can be read alone).

Each story shared a glimpse into the lives of the Amish men & women, taking you from moments of laughter to times of relating to heartache. And in story, you got to travel the road of healing and redemption, of course wrapped in a love story. These stories are perfectly paired with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and usually make me want a piece of apple pie somewhere along the way. 

If you enjoy reading Amish fiction, this book(s) would be a great addition to your reading time!

*I received a copy of this book for free as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's "Blogging for Books" program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Target: Box of Pull-Ups $10.49 each!!!

I'll post about my entire Target shopping trip later, but wanted to give y'all the heads up that if you need Pull-Ups, through Saturday (9/8), you can get them for $10.49 a box ($.17 per diaper for size 2T/3T). Here's how:

Buy 2 Boxes of Huggies Pull-Ups: $18.99
- use (1) $3/2 Huggies Pull-Ups Target coupon from here
- use (2) $2/1 Huggies Pull-Ups from the 8/12 SS or here or if you have one from some other insert
Pay $30.98, Get a $10 Target Gift Card back!

So $10.49 a box (I keep "rolling" the gift cards from week to week!)

$3/2 Curious George DVD Coupon: $3.50 @ Target

Head over here to print a coupon for a $3/2 Curious George DVD coupon. Target usually has these in the $5 section, making them only $3.50 after the coupon. These would be great to set aside for birthdays or a Christmas gift... I think I'm going to pick two up to add the "Fort Kits" I'm making for some toddler birthdays this fall.

Thanks, Money Saving Mom!

Target: Circo Crib Sheets $4.49!!!

Yesterday I posted about the $5/1 Circo Bedding coupon available right now on Last night I stopped by my local Target to pick up some of this week's deals, and checked the Circo prices... Here's what I found:
Crib sheets, 2-pk pack-n-play sheets, and 2 pk. bassinet sheets are all on sale for $9.49, regularly $9.99, through Saturday making these only $4.49 off with the $5/1 coupon from here! There were also a quite a few other Circo bedding items on sale (crib bed skirts, soft cuddly blankets, etc...).

Keep an eye out for clearance bedding to make the deal even sweeter...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Target: $5/1 Circo Bedding Coupon!!!

If you are expecting, have an infant/toddler, or are heading to a baby shower this fall, head over here to print a coupon for a $5/1 Circo Bedding coupon (look under "apparel & accessories" for this one... strange place for it, huh?)

Crib sheets, 2-pk pack-n-play sheets, and 2 pk. bassinet sheets are all priced at $9.99 at my local Target, making these 50% off with the coupon! Keep an eye out for clearance bedding to make the deal even sweeter...

"When You Rise" Blog: Great Resources

When You Rise

I just wanted to quickly highlight a blog I have been following this last year, and give any of y'all who like great giveaways a chance to enter "a whole slew" of them today!

When You Rise is a blog dedicated to being "a place where you can get creative ideas to teach children God's Word and find some encouragement along the way as you lead them!" 

To celebrate their one-year blog anniversary, they have been hosting a month long celebration of giveaways, and today is the last day to enter all the giveaways before the "party" tomorrow! So head over here to get involved and sign-up for some fantastic resources for your family. And these giveaways are simple... one entry. And you don't have to "like" a bunch of other blogs, write blog post comments, or even have a Facebook account! Anyone with an email address can enter!

When You Rise has greatly encouraged me personally this last year. Not only have there been some creative ideas for teaching God's Word to younger children (toddler-elementary age), helpful reviews of resources to use, but they have also shared their highs and lows along the parenting/teaching journey. It helps me take a deep breath some days when I know other kids also have meltdowns, other moms have days where battling for a positive attitude is difficult, etc... So often on social media sites like Facebook & Blogs, we get to see each other's life highlights. Then when the messy moments hit between the highlights, we feel like we're the only one who has that happen. So as the writers of this blog have shared their ups and downs, it has challenged and encouraged me to keep on keeping on. I think it will challenge and encourage you, too.

So go sign up for some giveaways... Would love to have some readers win something!*

* When You Rise did not sponsor this post or ask me to do it... I just wanted to share an encouraging blog with my friends so y'all can be encouraged, too! I received nothing in exchange for me posting this.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

LivingSocial: $5 for $10 Starbucks Gift Card

STILL AVAILABLE!!! (expires tonight, 9/5, or whenever it hits the max, how many ever that might be)

LivingSocial is offering the popular "$5 for $10 Starbucks Giftcard"* once again. Act fast, because these sell out quickly!

A fun part about LivingSocial is that, when you buy a voucher and share it with friends, if three friends buy the same voucher (through your link), you get your's FREE! So I included my link above... If this is a voucher you would use, when you buy yours, grab your link to pass on to your friends!

* This is a gift e-card that you can print out and take into a Starbucks store just like a regular gift card. You can even register it with your Starbucks account to work towards your free drinks (I just don't go often enough for that to work).

What's your favorite drink at Starbucks?

Shutterfly: 101 FREE Prints (today only)

Update: It's being reported if you add only 99 prints to your cart, the deal still works, and you pay several dollars less for shipping (more like $5)... I already ordered mine, but if you haven't, you can give it a try! 

If you have a bunch of summer smiles you've captured on camera this summer and want to print them off, today you can get 101 prints for FREE from Shutterfly* (just pay S&H, which is usually about $6 for me) with promo code "LABORDAY101". I love the quality of Shutterfly prints... a sturdy, nice matte finish, not like the flimsy, shiny prints from some other places.


Go through your ShopAtHome account to get 12% cashback at Shutterfly right now (or sign-up for a free one and automatically get $5 added to your account the first time you make a purchase through the site).

FREE P&G Coupon Booklet (by mail)

Head over here to sign-up to receive a free Home Made Simple booklet, with $17 in P&G coupons for things like Dawn soap, Mr. Clean products, Swiffer, and more...

Thanks, Passionate Penny Pincher!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Breyers Ice Cream: $.75/1 (Print NOW!)

This coupon never lasts long... head over here to print a coupon for $.75/1 a pint of Breyers ice cream (look under "food".. see, once again, I already printed mine before remembering to snip a picture of it...). Enjoy!

Don't forget you can sign-in (or sign-up) to your Swagbucks* account to print coupons, and you'll earn 10 Swagbucks for every coupon you redeem!

Thanks, For The Mommas!

* This link contains my referral link. One of the ways to earn extra "swagbucks" is to refer friends/blog followers. So if you're a Swagbucks user, make sure to grab your own referral code and share with friends so you can earn even more! Go directly to if you would rather not go through a referral link....

Friday, August 31, 2012

I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But..." Part 4: Ask a store employee

I will confess. Even though I'm a woman, I fall more into the male stereotype when it comes to asking for directions, or in this case, asking for help in a store. My husband on the other hand, is fantastic about asking for clear directions, or finding an employee to ask a question to save time & energy. Many "adventures" (or catastrophes would probably better describe it) have been averted because of his wisdom. I have been known to wander around the aisles looking for an item, determined I will find it, before having to ask a store employee.

Now, though, having a toddler & baby with me on most shopping trips, I don't have limitless amount of time to go solo while trying to find things. If I can't find an item that was advertised on sale or matches my coupon, I have two choices: skip that deal entirely, or ask for help. I'm getting braver (and swallowing my pride) and asking for help. Silly to some of you, I know, but that's a little glimpse of me.

This week though, it paid off. Last night some friends watched our kids, and my husband and I tackled our "energy drainer" errands... things that have been on our minds for weeks or months, but we haven't gotten to accomplish. Even though it wasn't a romantic date in that sense, we were both encouraged getting to take some things off our mental shoulders, and felt refreshed once it was done.

I had tried for THREE DAYS to take advantage of the online 2 for $20 Toys 'R' Us diaper deal, but every time I put the two boxes of diapers in my online shopping cart and tried to check out, it gave me an error (invalid quantity). So I decided to swing by my Toys 'R' Us to see if the deal was possibly in store, or ask them to troubleshoot it for me (we had an errand just a few stores down, so it took very little extra time). Like I had suspected, the boxes were on sale for $15 each, but the 2 for $20 promotion was online only. When a store employee came up and asked if he could help, *gulp*, I explained my dilemma to him. So he grabbed a box of diapers and told us he would be back.

After waiting for probably 10 minutes (we got to browse lots of toys in the diaper area), he came back and verified it wasn't in store, it was only online, BUT he had tried to also do the purchase online and it was giving him the same issue. Since it was advertised free in-store pick up, he honored the online deal for us. Better than that, since the limit was two per customer, they let me purchase two, and my husband purchase two!

That 10 minutes and being brave enough to ask a store employee for help saved us a lot of money. So I will keep on being brave and asking for help! And if you're like me, I encourage you to ask for help at a store sooner rather than later!

Why I Say "No": So I Can Say "Yes" Later!!!

This is just a stand alone post, but I was given an opportunity to see experience why I say "no" so later I can say "yes".

One thing I've discovered the last few years is there are a lots of good deals out there. Whether it's with coupons, hanging on a clearance rack, or tucked at the back of a box at a garage sale. I want to live well, save more, and have money to give to others, but it's the little decisions on regular everyday shopping trips that can deter me sometimes... I'll think, "It's only $3" or "but I'll use it for ... (an event three months down the road)". Stocking up on items while they are at a great price, or buying for the future, are both great things to do, and I do them. But for me, if I don't ask myself more questions before making a purchase on a "great deal", I'll overspend in that budget category, or I will fill my home with things I "like" but don't "love". So I have been trying to make a habit of asking myself questions like:

- "Will I wear this more than twice?"
- "Do I already have an item similar to this at home?"
- "Have I used up most of what I have already?" (like pretty candles, hand soaps, etc...)
- "If I purchase this toy, what toy can I put in the garage sale box instead?"
- "Do I LOVE this? Will I regret NOT purchasing it a week from now?"

A lot of the time, I have to say "no" to something. I put that cute shirt back on the rack, set the toy truck back on the table at the garage sale, or decide I'm going to use up what I have first.

But then, when I hit a garage sale like I did this week, I finally can say "YES!!!" and love it! A certain 2 yr. old boy in my house is a very happy little man. At a garage sale this week, I "previewed" a friend's garage sale the night before, and scored a Fisher Price Little People construction set and fire station set, along with some Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles. He found them before I could stash them away for potty training rewards & Christmas and had to take them to bed with him, lining them up properly...
They have since been put back away for later, because.... (drumroll please)... When I went back the next day to say hi to my friend and see how the garage sale was going, she had added this train table about to her sale... I made a quick call to the hubby and we both were able to say YES!!!
I couldn't wait to get it set up at home and show it to my Levi. Every time I thought about the table, all I could think about was "That's why it's so worth it to say no. Because today I got to say yes!" And I know I will remember this for a long time to come. It will motivate me to keep on saying "no". Because I love getting to say "yes".

Yoplait Yogurt Coupons (print before they're gone!)

It's the end of the month, which means online coupons are about to reset... If your family likes yogurt, make sure to print the following coupons to match with a sale to get a great price on yogurt:

- $.40/1 Simplait Yogurt cup
- $.60/2 Yoplait Greek Yogurt cups
- $.85/2 Yoplait Gogurt, Splitz, Kids, or Trix

Toys 'R' Us: $10 Boxes of Diapers!!! (and NO coupons!)

If you have a little one still in diapers (or two in my case), here's a great deal on disposable diapers: Toys 'R' Us has included their boxes of Baby Blue Diapers in the 2 for $20 promotion... The boxes are normally $19.99, currently on sale for $15 each. If you add two to your cart (limit of two per customer), the price drops to $20 for BOTH!!! Choose "ship to store" to pick them and not have to pay shipping fees. So here's the price breakdown for the various sizes:

Size 3, 96 ct.: $.10 each
Size 4, 82 ct.: $.12 each
Size 5, 70 ct.: $.14 each
Size 6, 60 ct.: $.17 each

With all the changes to Amazon Mom over the last year, I haven't seen prices that low on diapers without coupons in a LONG time!

If you are having issues with the Toys 'R' Us website letting you complete your order, you can read my post here about how the store honored the deal in-store... So feel free to call your local store to ask if they would (still limit of 2 boxes per customer)

Shop through Ebates to get 2% cashback on your purchase at Toys 'R' Us. Sign-up or Sign-in here* (free to join).

* The above link does contain my Ebates referral link.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

$1/1 Wheat Thins Coupon (Facebook Offer)

Head over to the Wheat Thins Facebook page to get a $1/1 Wheat Thins Bold Flavor crackers. Then, if you "share" the coupon with a friend on Facebook, you can print a coupon for $1/2 Wheat Thins Original crackers (9-16oz).

Thanks, Passionate Penny Pincher!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Part 3, Match Coupons w/ Sales

This might be the shortest blog post in my "I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But..." series. But I had to make sure to include it because probably this one lesson I've learned has saved me the most money in the two years I've been couponing. Here it is:

Match coupons with sales.

That's it. I know, rocket-science... This might seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but when I started realizing how much could be saved by matching coupons with sales, it was like suddenly a light went on for me. I started pouring over the weekly ads that came in my Sunday newspaper or by mail.

I discovered that stores really do mark items down a considerable amount (10%-30%) during their weekly sales. So as I followed various blogs to learn the ropes about using coupons, I realized products I bought on a regularly went on sale on a regular basis (usually a 1-2 month cycle).

Here's an example: 
I like coffee. And over the last couple of years, I like good coffee. I brew my own at home, and have transitioned to preferring brands like Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Gevalia, etc... But these bags run $7-$8 a bag. When I find a coupon for $1.50-$2 off a bag, I stash it away because I KNOW they will go on sale somewhere for around $6 during the lifetime of that coupon. So I patiently wait. 

And it pays off. Without fail, it goes on sale, I use my coupons, and I get my yummy coffee for around $4 a bag (that has become my "target" price to stock up on). So I get my delicious coffee for the same price I would buy generic ground coffee for.

So watch your weekly ads*. Save those coupons. And it WILL pay off!

*If you live near a Walmart, have you tried price-matching products yet? Did you know you can price-match an item AND then use a coupon on it? Yep. You sure can!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Part 2, Coupons Can Be Like Cash

So if you've been wondering if you can really get into couponing as a way to help save some money, the answer is "Yep". This week I'm sharing some of what I've learned over the last few years, and the things that encourage me to stick with couponing (as I get back into it after taking a six month break!).

Yesterday I shared that the first thing is to START SMALL. Look at your own budget, your personal values, and start small by setting a goal or two (like trying to save 15% or $5 on your weekly grocery shopping trips). I know I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing myself to others and the deals they find or the money they are saving... So don't compare yourself to others, make choices for you (and your family)! Whatever you decide WILL make a difference in your financial life!

The second thing you can do is to think of coupons like cash. Imagine walking into your local grocery store and standing there at the entrance was an employee handing out $20 bills to every customer that walked inside. Would you take it? Absolutely.

When you start using coupons, you will be walking out of the store with more cash in your pocket (or in your bank account if you use a debit card or credit card) than you did previously. Because you handed the cashier coupons instead of your own personal money. I LOVE the feeling of seeing my total before coupons, then watching it drop dollar by dollar. Ahhh. Satisfaction. 

Here are a few ways that I "use coupons like cash":
   - I clip coupons for things I buy on a regular basis (like yogurt and cereal).
   - I print coupons at home on my printer from sites like
   - If I have something on my shopping list I don't have a coupon for, I can look that item up on a coupon database (like at Frugal Girls or Money Saving Mom) to see if there is one
   - I don't buy something just because I have a coupon for it... Then I'm still spending money, not saving it!

If you want to see an example of buying everyday grocery & household items with coupons, check out my recent shopping trip here.

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow...

FREE (or cheap!) Gerber Fruit Pouches

Right now you can print $.75/1 coupons for Gerber Graduates Grabbers or Gerber Organic Pouches (yes, I already printed mine, so when I snipped a picture to post here, that's why it says "print limit reached"). You can print a total of FOUR coupons per computer... one of each from here and here (for some reason you can only print one of each instead of the normal two from each site). If your grocery store doubles coupons, you can pick up some FREE or CHEAP fruit pouches!

The Giant Eagle near my house has the "Grabbers" regularly priced at $1.69 each, so only $.19 after the coupon is doubled, and the Organic pouches are regularly $1.50, so FREE after the coupon!

Don't forget, if you go through Swagbucks to print your coupons, you earn 10 Swagbucks for every coupon you print & redeem! Use 45 coupons, and you'll already have the 450 Swagbucks needed to redeem for a $5 Amazon gift card!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Pt. 1, Start Small

Almost every time I use coupons at a store, the cashier or someone in line says, "I should do the coupon thing, but..." TV Shows like "Extreme Couponing" or knowing someone who is a coupon queen, can overwhelm "regular" people. So this week I'm going to share some of the things I've learned along the way about starting the couponing adventure.

Just like my little girl (10 months old now!) little-by-little is learning important life skills like crawling, walking, feeding herself... the best way to start your own personal coupon adventure (or get back on the bandwagon) is to START SMALL.

Here are some "baby steps" you can take to Start Small...

1. Set a "goal" for yourself, either a percentage (like 15% of your weekly grocery/household budget) or dollar amount ("I'm going to try and use $5 or more in coupons every week). While that might not sound like a lot at first, it quickly adds up. For example, if you have a grocery budget of $200 a month, you could free up $20-$30 a month to be used somewhere else in your budget. Sometimes you'll go over the goal, sometimes under, but it gives you something to aim at!

2. Learn from the "coupon pros"... follow a couple of coupon veterans by email, blog, or Facebook. Pick 2 or 3 to follow (more than that and you can get overwhelmed, or spend too much time watching deals!). Some of my favorites are Money Saving Mom, Frugal Girls, and Passionate Penny Pincher. They let you know what coupons are available and set up "scenarios" of step-by-step how to use your coupons to get the best deal at different stores. They help take the guesswork out of things!

That's it for now... Start Small by setting a goal for yourself, and learn from the pros! 

And for those of you coupon veterans who might be reading this, what is something that helped you when you started your couponing adventure?

I Named This Blog "Saving With A Smile" Because...

This summer marked two years since I started this blog. Most of you who follow this blog might not have been there at the very beginning. So I wanted to briefly share with you why I named it "Saving With A Smile"...

My husband and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage this November (whoo-hoo!). One of the things we were advised to do early on in our marriage was take a financial class together (Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University"-- we highly recommend it for couples, singles, college students, etc...) to get on the same page about budgeting and how we saved/spent our money. My husband worked full-time, and I worked part-time until we had our kids. 

As we started figuring out a budget (and we still have to tweak it every few months as life changes), we established some family values that helped us make money decisions:

- We wanted to be debt free (other than a mortgage payment when we decide to buy a home)
- We want to save for future expenses (emergencies, house & auto repairs, traveling, clothing, etc...)
- We want to enjoy everyday life (budget for dates, "fun" things, personal hobbies, etc...)
- We want to be able to give to others (local families in need, our church, missionaries overseas, and sponsoring a child in other country)

Things have continually changed in the last few years, the biggest (financially) being moving from a two-income family to a one-income, and me personally transitioning from working outside the home to being a stay-at-home mom of two. But those four values haven't changed. We have re-worked our budget numerous times, but those have kept us focusing on our life, not just our money.

But having those values is why I named this blog "Saving With A Smile". I don't try to live as frugally as possible just to save money (I don't want to live life like Scrooge!). We live frugally and live on a budget so we can live well and enjoy life.

Do I wonder (aka "freak out") sometimes where money is going to come from for something? Yep.

Do I sometimes wish we had a little more wiggle room in the budget to allow for "------"? Yep.

Do I ever "blow" the budget in one area? Yeah, it happens.

We are by no means perfect in our financial decision, but we're working at it and learning as we go. Trying to stick to a budget has given us freedom in so many areas. All the "saving" we do enables us to "smile" a lot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And I'm Back... Giant Eagle Couponing Trip

If you could see me behind the camera, you would see me smiling. This month, I CONQUERED. I have now completed at least four grocery shopping trips with BOTH kids and I used COUPONS! (yes, I have been weekly grocery shopping, I didn't give it up or anything... we still aren't eating out much, but I haven't been brave enough to regularly coupon since I'm still learning how to balance young kids and shopping)

If you've ever used coupons at a store, you know one of three things always happens: either the item you want is out of stock, there are more items to choose from than you anticipated, or a coupon isn't ringing up at the register. Or all three happen in the same trip...

Add in two squirming kids in the shopping cart, and it quickly becomes a full-blown adventure (ha-ha-ha). Let's just say I have had the jitters about trying to attempt grocery shopping with both kids and trying to coupon at the same time. And this summer I have finally worked up my nerve. Hence my smile... after all, I started this blog to share with others that you can save money, live on a budget, and live well.

So here's a glimpse at HUGE success (for me!)... I'm not saving 90%, but my goal has been to try and slim these kind of trips by 30% if I can...


(3) Dawn Dish Soap- $1 (rain check from previous week's sale)
   - used (3) $.50/1 Dawn soap coupon (P&G 7/29)
Final Cost: FREE

(3) Crest Toothpaste- 2/$3
   - used (3) $.75/1 crest toothpaste coupon (P&G 7/29)
Final Cost: FREE

(2) International Delight Creamers- 3/$5
   - used (2) $.55/1 coupons from here
Final Cost: $.56 each

(4) Yoplait Kids Packs- $2.29
   - used (2) $.75/2 coupons from here
Final Cost: $1.54 each

(10) Yoplait Yogurt cups- (20/$10)
   - used (2) $.40/1 Yoplait Simplait coupons from here
   - used (1) $.60/8 Yoplait yogurt coupon from here
Final Cost: $.23 each (the $.40/1 coupons fully doubled to give $.60 overage)

(2) Yoplait Greek Yogurts cups- $1
   - used (1) $.60/2 coupons from here
Final Cost: $.40 each

(2) Gerber Organic Pouches- 2/$3
   - used (2) $.75/1 Gerber Organic pouches from here
Final Cost: FREE

(2) Gerber Pouches- $1.69
   - used (2) $.75/1 Gerber fruit pouches from here
Final Cost: $.19 each

Baby Goldfish- $2
   - used NO coupons :-)
Final Cost: $2

BBQ Sauce- $2.50
   - again, no coupon... but needed it for a recipe tonight
Final Cost: $2.50 each

Oscar Meyer lunch meat- $5.19
   - used (1) Free Oscar Meyer Selects coupon from Facebook promotional (no longer valid)
Final Cost: FREE

Total Before Coupons: $43.07 +tax
Total AFTER Coupons: $14.98 +tax 
Percent Saved: 65% (went WAY over my aim of 30% this trip!)

And yes, they were out of a few items I was looking for (that I had rain checks for) and the lunch meat coupon wasn't scanning so I had to wait for a manager to manually enter the discount. But both my kids got chocolate chip cookies at the bakery (part of Giant Eagle's cookie program) and we took the time to watch the live lobster's, so they did well this trip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

B1G1 FREE Crayola Products @ Toys 'R' Us!!!

I wanted to give y'all the heads up that through this Saturday (Aug. 11th) ALL Crayola products (crayons, markers, Color Wonder, dry erase, etc...) are B1G1 FREE... I love the Crayola summer sales at Toys 'R' Us because when it comes to coloring & art supplies, other brands just don't have the same quality (unless you mean name brand art supplies, but I mean crayons & markers for kids...). Here are some of my Crayola fav's I have bought in the past and recommend (and I included prices for my local store in Ohio, just to give you an idea of what the sale would look like--prices may differ at your store!):

- "Color Wonder" markers/coloring books, which only color on Color Wonder paper/coloring books. A set is usually $8.99 at my store, so only $4.50 each with the sale.. also you can look for the travel kits that are $9.99, which come with a hard case, book, and markers... makes them only $5 each with sale!
- washable "Pipsqueak" markers... short and stubby, perfect for little hands! $4.99 at my store, so only $2.50 each with sale (and I've discovered washable markers are worth every penny than the less expensive markers!)
- dry erase crayons, double-sided dry erase boards, preschool workbooks, etc... the crayons are usually $4.99 a pack, and the workbooks range from $4-$6 regular price. The dry erase board sets range from $10-$12. So with sale, items will be anywhere from $2.50-$6.50 each  (My two-year old loves dry erase because he gets to make the picture "clean" again--he loves cleaning!)

This is a great time to grab some inexpensive & fun gifts for little toddlers for birthdays this fall and even Christmas! Nothing like walking out of the store having already checked birthday and Christmas gifts off your list months beforehand! Last summer I stocked up on crayons, markers, scissors, tape, typing paper, etc... during the back to school sales, then put together "craft baskets" for my creative nieces who love to make masterpieces! Stocking up during sales helped me fill overflowing baskets (that I got at the dollar store!) with fun craft supplies for only about $5 a basket!

* Neither Toys 'R' Us nor Crayola endorsed anything in this blog post... I received nothing for this post, I just wanted to share with fellow deal-seekers some great sales on craft supplies! I will confess, I am addicted to good markers & crayons. Sigh. ;-p

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: "Simply Jesus" by Joe Stowell

Simply Jesus (LifeChange Books)
"Simply Jesus" by Joe Stowell was an incredible book to read that really challenged and encouraged by heart all at the same time. Stowell kept the book simple, gave short stories/examples with each chapter, and really just wrote in a way that made me feel like I was sitting in his living room, drinking coffee and listening to truths he has learned (and continues to learn) in life.

The short description of the book captures the heart of it well:
"Simply Jesus. What would it mean to fix our attention fully on the Person of Christ? To approach Him apart from systems, formulas, religion, and well-meaning Christian culture? To see Jesus Himself? And how would that change us? Moody Bible College President Joseph Stowell ponders these probing questions -- showing through dramatic stories and surprising insights how believers can experience significant life-change as they encounter Christ -- our model of understanding, love, and courage, today. Simply Jesus identifies experiences that can awaken the realization of our basic need to focus on Him ... like temptation, trouble, and surrender. A book intended for both spiritual seekers and Christians who are ready for a fresh, personal encounter with the Savior their heart searches for. Clear, stylish typeset, with user-friendly links to referenced Scripture."

While the description of the book sounded great, and I have enjoyed hearing Joe Stowell speak in the past, I also had reservations about how simple the book would actually stay... As a busy mom with a toddler & baby, I crave to read a book that continues to challenge me in life, but in reality I don't have time to read really long books right now (oh how I miss those days!). "Simply Jesus" was a perfect match for me in my season of life because the author truly kept it simple, keeps directing the reader to Jesus, included Scripture verses in the book so I didn't have to go look up the passage mentioned, and kept the ten chapters short & sweet. I could read a chapter in a few minutes, then ponder what I had read all day long. Several of the chapters gave me enough food for thought that I asked my husband to read them so we could discuss it.

I would definitely say this was a time when the description of the book was spot on. Through interacting with what I was reading, my heart was encouraged in new ways to focus on Jesus in the midst of whatever my day might hold (and as the mom of two small kids, I NEVER know what's coming next! :-p) 

If you're looking for a simple, refreshing book that encouraged your heart as it longs for God, I highly recommend "Simply Jesus". You won't regret it, and most likely will find yourself turning back to re-read a chapter. I already have.

Don't forget, if you rank my review in the little box below, you will be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of "Simply Jesus". So take a moment and click some stars!

* I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review, as part of their Blogging for Books program. All views expressed are strictly my own.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: Tender Warrior

Tender Warrior: Every Man's Purpose, Every Woman's Dream, Every Child's Hope
I grew up the oldest of four daughters, with no brothers. Five years into marriage with my best friend and husband, I know I have only gotten a taste of how men and women are created so different. We are definitely wonderfully and uniquely made! God has blessed us with an adorable son, who is now two years old. As we have watched him grow and develop, I know I have so much to learn about parenting a little boy who is day by day moving towards manhood!

Stu Weber's book "Tender Warrior: Every Man's Purpose, Every Woman's Dream, Every Child's Hope" looked interesting, and I wondered what kind of insights I might gain into raising my little man into one day being a strong, tender warrior. This book has sat on my shelf for months because of the busyness of life, but I have gotten to skim different chapters, and realized it is really written more towards men. My husband has read the book before and said it was really good. I finally knew I couldn't progress through the book because I have other things claiming my time. But what I read is really good. I have recognized in so many ways the battle that goes on in our culture for men to try and be masculine, strong, compassionate, etc... The balance is hard to find. And who can young men look up to as they try to figure this out? Not all young men have positive older role models to follow.

So this book could help fill that thirst for men as their try to seek God and live as men of integrity in this world. If you're a man (and I'm not), this might be a book you should check out. Stu Weber really lays out well that a "tender warrior" can impact his workplace, home, marriage, children, etc...

Feel free to rank my review here... it only takes a few seconds!

* I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review, as part of their Blogging for Books program. All views expressed are strictly my own.

Book Review: "Love in Disguise"

Love in Disguise
When I discovered the book "Love in Disguise" was about a young woman who used her theatrical skills to become a Pinkerton detective in the 1880's and travel West to investigate some silver mines in a small town that have had their silver shipments hijacked, I laughed and knew I had to give it a try.

This book was a first read for me by the author Carol Cox, and now I want to read some of her other books. Here's the book description:

When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona.

Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is about to lose his business after the theft of several bullion shipments--until hope arrives in the unlikely form of Lavinia Stewart, who offers to invest in Steven's mine. In his wildest dreams, Steven never expected to be rescued by an inquisitive gray-haired widow...or to fall head over heels for Lavinia's captivating niece, Jessie.

But then the thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays! Will she be forced to reveal her true identity before the criminals are caught? What will Steven do when he discovers the woman he loves doesn't exist?

If you enjoy historical fiction, mystery, humor, and romance, you might want to give this book a try. It's definitely a different plot, and one that kept me laughing and turning the pages, while also trying to figure out who the culprit was! Ellie's character, and in this book, characters, just kept me grinning as she acted out her different roles, trying to keep each person straight, balance out friendships with the townspeople, and of course battle her own heart regarding the mine owner Steven, who doesn't even know who she really is!

Just writing this review is side-tracking me while I remember various parts of the book. So yep, it's a good read and I recommend it! Have fun!

* I received a copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review. This review is completely my own, and all the opinions expressed in it are mine and not Bethany House!

Book Review: "Submerged"

Submerged (Alaskan Courage)
I knew I was running a risk when I requested a copy of "Submerged" by Dani Pettrey, a new author on the Christian fiction scene. But the synopsis of the book captured my interest...

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers. 

One single clue.

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey, Alaska, again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a town that doesn't forget. She's returned only to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash, but then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can face dangerous rescue dives. He can face the fear a murderer may be threatening his town. But facing the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart...but doesn't seem to be the same girl who left Yancey ten years ago. And he's not the same guy she left behind. 

Racing against the clock and a rising body count, Bailey and Cole must move beyond the hurts of their pasts to work together until the truth of what is hidden in the depths finally surfaces.

Mystery. Suspense. Adventure. Rugged nature. A little bit of romance. All wound together with faith. So I decided to try it. And I couldn't put it down. Battling a severe ear infection this weekend, I struggled to get comfortable enough to sleep, so I decided to read to get my mind off the pain as my meds started working. And I was hooked within the first few chapters. 

Bailey has started a new life through the power of God's redemption, but no one in her hometown knows that, and she doesn't want to stir back up the pain of her past. When her aunt suddenly passes away, she has to return, but plans on it being for as short of a time as possible. Once back, other events start happening, and Bailey is drawn into finding out what is really going on behind the crime and rising body count in a normally calm tourist town. One of the other main characters, Cole, had been a quality guy she'd known in high school before she had gone off the deep end into the partying life, and now they both aren't sure how to rebuild a friendship. But they start working together, and of course in the midst of solving the mysteries surrounding the events in town, they start talking more. Their conversations were pretty realistic and honest, and I was encouraged by the forgiveness, hope, and health that came about through their developing relationship... Especially the Christian faith aspect of the book was refreshing to read because it wasn't the often-used pat church answers you find in some Christian fiction, it was woven throughout in a non-preachy way, while also being real and not just the "insert name of God here so this can be a Christian book" type either.

I just loved this book. Writing a review without giving away too much of the story line is hard. This book was quality, had different elements than a lot of other Christian fiction books, intriguing historical twists about Russian-Alaskan history, and was just plain good. So if you see it at your library, have Amazon gift cards, or live local to me :-), take a chance and read it, and let me know what you think! This is a book I don't think you will regret! My only disappointment is that the second book isn't coming out until February 2013!!!

* I received a copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review. This review is completely my own, and all the opinions expressed in it are mine and not Bethany House!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Chasing the Sun

Chasing the Sun (Land of the Lone Star)
Author Tracie Peterson is well-known for writing historical Christian fiction, and I've enjoyed several of her other books. So I was excited to get to read "Chasing the Sun" because the story-line is based in my home state, Texas, shortly after the Civil War.

The two main characters, Hannah and William, come from two different backgrounds... Hannah's family moved west to Texas during the War to get away from the conflict. William and his brothers & father left their ranch in Texas to join the fighting on the Union side. Being viewed at traitors, William's ranch is given to Hannah's father as a reward for Confederacy loyalty. When Hannah's father leaves to visit a sick relative back in Mississippi, she is left with her younger siblings in charge of the ranch. William returns home as the only survivor of the family after the fighting, he finds that the ranch no longer belongs to him and wants to do everything he can to regain it. A variety of situations (deceptive business partner, indians, sickness, etc...) throw together the main two characters, and following very predictable romance fiction, they fight falling in love and don't have real conversations until the end. Two minutes of talking could have solved a lot of problems. But both characters fight pride and independence.

The various situations in this book honestly made it hard to swallow all in one story. Yes, a lot of those things happened back in that time period, but for them to all happen in just a few months, and to the same young woman (she's only 19), and everything to always turn out in her favor, just wasn't realistic. I also felt like the author was trying to impose current viewpoints on slavery, prejudices, male-female roles, etc... all into one character that didn't give the story an authentic fit to be 1860's Texas. Basically, too much history and flavor was packed into one story, and it would have been more enjoyable if it was kept simpler.

I think this is the first book I've read by Tracie Peterson that I would honestly say to a friend, "Skip it. Don't bother." I had a hard time sticking to the story, and often thought to myself "Seriously? That's where this is going? She just said this? She did what?" and I finished it only because I needed to as part of the book review program by Bethany House. Check out some of her other books, because she is a skilled historical fiction author, but this book didn't meet my expectations.

* I received a copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for an honest review. This review is completely my own, and all the opinions expressed in it are mine and not Bethany House!

It's about to rain book reviews... :-)

As a wise woman shared with me a few weeks ago: "You know, I think every season on life is crazy, just in different ways." Well-meaning friends often say something along the lines, "If you think you're busy right now, wait until you reach ---insert life season---, then it really gets crazy!"

I'm sure that's true, but in the midst of learning a new season in life (in my specific instance, a stay-at-home mom of two kiddos 21 months apart), thinking of it getting crazier doesn't help me catch my breath in the moment! Letting myself acknowledge that right now, in this particular adventure in my life, there are days that DO feel crazy, somehow gives me breathing room to face the next moment. It relieves some pressure.

One area I've been able to start catching up on this summer has been reading... I have enjoyed being part of both Waterbrook Multnomah's "Blogging for Books" and Bethany House Book Reviewers programs, but have gotten behind on reading the books and writing my reviews. So get ready for a slew of reviews coming the next few days! Feel free to skip them, skim them, or whatever else you want to do. But I need to hold up my end of the deal with writing honest reviews for receiving these books*!

And if you, too, are sometimes overwhelmed with a "crazy" season or adventure in your life, take a deep breath. Don't fear life getting crazier. Embrace today (but you don't always have to enjoy every single moment), capture the great moments, and let go of the hard ones when you can. And let yourself smile! I know the connection isn't really clear between book reviews and life being crazy, but for me it was a tangible example of how something as small as writing a review can feel like pressure, when it really doesn't have to be!

* If you are a blogger (of any size blog) and like reading, sign-up to be part of either of those programs! I personally recommend them. Both publishing companies send you a free copy of the book you choose, which you read, and then write an honest review for them. A great way to read good books without having to spend extra money! And no, neither company is paying me anything to promote their programs! :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blog Under Construction!!!

After taking some time off to focus on finding the balance of being a mommy of two, I'm now getting back on the wagon of blogging, and the first thing being done to this blog is a new design! So over the next few days/weeks, you may see various designs going on as Saving With A Smile gets a makeover.

Thanks in advance for your patience, and I look forward to once again sharing a little bit of life with y'all as we all learn how to save more, give more, and enjoy life together!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Disney Princess Play Set: $14.24 SHIPPED (today only)

 One of Target's Daily Deals today is the Disney Princess Royal Accessories set for $28.49 (normally $49.99). All Daily Deals ship FREE. This set includes a stroller, high chair, and play pen. Combine this deal with Target promo code "TGTRRS2U" to get an additional 50% off the price, bringing it down to $14.24 (+tax). Crazy good deal!!! HURRY!!! Because this one will not stay in stock long...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: "As Silver Refined"

I have been putting off writing the review for Kay Arthur's book "As Silver Refined". Why? Because I have slowly fought my way through the book, and finally have come to the point where I have to say I can't finish it right now. I'm halfway through, and just can't read another chapter. Here are the ups & downs of this book for me (and I am totally honest that my being a mom of two kids ages 2 years & 5 months affect my reading habits!):

I appreciate Kay Arthur's commitment to take people to the Bible directly, sharing passages that relate to the topic of each chapter. She is not just stating her opinion, but sharing her stance based on God's Word. This is an important factor for me when I read a Christian Living book! The book is laid out well, and has a constant direction. It definitely addresses the biblical (and difficult!) concept of life disappointment and feeling overwhelmed when things happen that are out of our control! I also love beautiful image of silver being refined into something beautiful! I chose to read and review this book because I am trying to alternate "fun" books, with books that help me grow more as a woman of God.

The reason I finally had to quit reading the book was because it is too detailed and prolongs the various points the author is trying to make. God has already been revealing to me personally different areas in my life that I need to be working on, and when I was reading some of the first couple chapters, it affirmed that I'm on the right track. That was exciting! But since I had already started seeing those truths & needs in my life, I felt bogged down as a I read by all the details, stories, and scripture verses added into it. I just wanted to move on to the next step since I personally recognized that part in my life! When I barely get 10 minutes at any point in the day by myself, reading 20-30 pages on one point is rather difficult and discouraging. So I ended up moving on to another book that keeps the truths short and simple, so I can read them and have time to ponder them throughout my day.

This book would probably be a better fit for someone who has much more time to read and process. I know the truths it contains can truly be like refreshing water to a thirsty soul!

* I received a copy of this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review as part of their "Blogging for Books" program.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Picaboo: $30 for a $100 Voucher (Today Only, 3/8)

Picaboo is offering a $100 voucher for $30 (today only, 3/8). This voucher can be used on photo books, calendars, and cards, and can be used across multiple orders (but not towards taxes or shipping). If you have been thinking about making a photo book, I LOVE Picaboo. It has the most freedom of any photo book site I've worked with in the last few years... Thousands of backgrounds, fonts, photo placements, etc... If you do digital scrapbooking, it's really easy to just upload your completed pages into the book.

Here's how to get the deal:
- Sign-in or sign up here (new members get a $10 credit towards their first photo purchase, not valid on gift card though).*
- Then go to through this direct link to get the deal (Picaboo emailed me about this offer, I can't find it directly on their website).
- Have fun creating!!!

* This post contains my referral links. Picaboo offers a $10 credit to current and new members when someone is referred. Feel free to go directly to if you feel uncomfortable with that! If you like Picaboo, make sure to grab your own referral link and share with friends so you can earn some extra credit! You and your friend each earn the $10 when your friend installs the Picaboo program, so no purchase is necessary for you to earn your credit, and your friend gets their credit so they can use it on their first pruchase! :-)

Monday, February 27, 2012 Leg Warmers, Tights, & Socks ALL $4 (through Feb. 29th)

To celebrate leap year, Baby Legs is offering ALL their leg warmers, tights, and socks for $4 each, with shipping only $4, too! (no promo code needed!) Baby Legs is the only brand I have bought (when they had a fantastic sale a few months ago), and I recommend them (although I'm sure other companies make good leg warmers, too)

I love using leg warmers on my daughter, and wish I had known about them when my son was born two years ago! They make diaper changes so much easier, while still keeping socks on the feet and my little girl warm! They work well under her dresses and full-body sleepers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinterest: Baby Owl Hat

Pinterest is definitely addicting. I have been trying to keep mine simple and using it for things I want to try making myself, or at least to give me ideas when I start a new project for the house.

This weekend I was laid up with a sinus infection & cold, so I finally got around to crocheting one of the animal hats I've been drooling over... I chose to make my daughter a baby owl hat. And I LOVE it!

And I got one of the things from Pinterest checked off my list!

If you haven't gotten on Pinterest yet, but would like to see what all the hype is about, just email me at texasmama10 at gmail dot com and I'll send you an invite!

(Sorry, I didn't follow directions of any sort... I love crocheting and I just winged it, so I can't help you out with how to make one! I'm sure there are directions somewhere that would simplify the process, but I just played around with the size until it fit my daughter)

"Re-Purposing": A T-Shirt into a Kitchen Dish Rag

You know how I mentioned that I want to start tackling the clutter around my house and either re-purposing it or getting rid of it? I love to crochet, so at long last I have gotten around to trying out some ideas I've seen on Pinterest. One idea I've wanted to try was cutting t-shirts into "yarn" and crocheting them into different things. I had several men's undershirts that needed to be thrown out, and I need some new dish rags, so I tried my hand at it this weekend. And I loved the results. Two undershirts has produced four nicely textured rags for me to wipe up messes in my kitchen (or off my toddler...). Here's what I did:

- One old shirt (I used a ribbed undershirt)
- Sewing scissors (or any sharp scissors)
- Large crochet hook (I used a size K)

Making the "Yarn": (20 minutes, but time may vary)
- Start cutting at the bottom. If there is a bulky seam/hem, cut it off.
- I cut the "yarn" about 1/4" wide... With this material, I wouldn't go any skinnier. You can experiment and make it thicker if you want.
- Continue cutting around and around to keep the "yarn" continuous.
- When you get up under the armpits, you can decide if you want to stop there, or use the front & back, too. If you do, cut it like a "z" so it's still continuous.
- Roll your "yarn" into a ball.

Crocheting the Dish Rag (appr. 8"x8" for mine, about 20-30 minutes):
Row 1: Chain(ch) 19.
Row 2: Turn and single crochet(sc) in the 2nd chain from hook, all the way across (18 stitches total). Ch 3 and turn.
Row 3: Double crochet (dc) in second stitch from hook all the way across (18 stitches total when you count the first  ch. 3 as a dc). Ch 1 and turn.
Row 4: Sc in 1st stitch from hook, all the way across (again, your total should be 18... I keep counting when I crochet so I make sure I don't lose a stitch along the way and then have intended square become a fan-shape). Chain 3 and turn.
Rows 5-14: Repeat rows 3 & 4. Cut your yarn about 2" and tie off, then weave the dishcloth into some of your stitches. (one shirt made two washclothes for me)

If you used a shirt that is 100% cotton and white, you should have no problems bleaching it! And it won't scratch your pots & pans, and should provide some great texture for those stubborn spots of dried food on the counters!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, just let me know, and I will try to get back with you as soon as possible!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Valentine's Day Giveaway winner is...

The winner of the beautiful Peony Headband in honor of Valentine's Day is...

Amy V.

Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway, and don't forget that Baby Sprout Boutique is offering a 10% discount off any purchase with the promo code "SavingWithASmile" through Tuesday, February 21st over in her Etsy shop! And remember, Baby Sprout Boutique also does custom orders, so if you don't see something exactly in the colors you want, contact them about working with you to make something you will love!

Recyclebank: $2/1 Kashi Product coupon (available again)

So excited to see that Recyclebank is once again offering the popular $2/1 Kashi product printable coupon for 100 points! It was gone for a few weeks, and I started getting worried :-). I LOVE Kashi breakfast cereals. Kashi cereal and snack bars often go on sale for $3 in my area, making for some very cheap organic products with this coupon!

There are also lots of new opportunities to earn more points. If you're new to Recyclebank, you can sign-up for free, then start earning points by watching short videos, answering questions, etc... which you can redeem for coupons and other products. This is my favorite coupon they offer.

* The above contains my affiliate links to earn extra Recycle Bank points, since they offer referral credit when you invite friends!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sheetz Freebie: Bag of M&M's

If you live near a Sheetz gas station, do you have a MySheetz card (completely free), and have you signed up to get their emails? Every month Sheetz loads a special freebie to your card... Look at the current freebie: a bag of M&M's*. Yummy!

Along with regular freebies, there are other savings like $.03 off per gallon of gas, special prices on drinks, and for every 10 drinks you buy, you get one free... 

* The bag of M&M's offer is loaded to current cardholders cards... If you don't have one, sign-up for one so you don't miss out on the next offer!