Ben is a HUGE Lego fanatic!  He gets the free Lego Club magazine every other month in the mail (if you want to get a FREE Lego Magazine subscription for your little Lego fan, CLICK HERE to go to Lego.com and sign up).  He also likes to go to the store and drool over the latest huge Lego sets.  Why do they make these Lego sets for kids so HUGE?  There is no way Ben could put those together, let alone keep track of all the pieces.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the solution to Ben’s dilemma:  bagged Lego sets.  The bagged Lego sets can be found anywhere from Walmart to Toys R Us and usually are priced $5 – 10.  Not only are they affordable, they are smaller kits so the child is more likely to finish building the item.  They come in all the different Lego themes like Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. so you are sure to find one that your child would love!

My main reason for buying these little bagged kits is so that Ben can have the fun of playing and building with Legos and I don’t waste money on kits that he will lose pieces to.  If he doesn’t keep all the kit pieces together, it’s not a big deal to just add them to our big box of Legos.  Also, this way, when I see that he is starting to keep the pieces together for each separate kit and is learning to be responsible, then I will start to buy him the larger boxed kits as he matures.

If you would like to see the bagged kits I am talking about, you can click here to see the bagged Lego kits that Amazon offers

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EASY THANKSGIVING DESSERTS FOR KIDS

It seems as if a lot of kids don’t really care for pie and so I was on the lookout for a different dessert idea for the kids that they would enjoy.  A few years ago, I ran across an recipe in a magazine for a sugar cookie that was decorated to look like a pumpkin pie.  I have made that “pie” for my kids every year since then (with a few changes) and it’s always a hit!  Not to mention that it is super simple to make!

YOU WILL NEED:

a large circular baking pan (I use one that is 16 inches across)

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 T water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 can of white frosting

yellow & red food coloring

a handful of chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350

Mix together the cake mix, water, oil and eggs

Stir well (by hand is fine)

Dump all of the dough onto the round pan and spread out evenly

Bake in the oven 10-13 minutes or so (until the top starts to lightly brown)

Remove from oven and let cool

Keep the cookie ON THE PAN

Put the whole can of frosting into a mixing bowl and add red and yellow food coloring and mix well until it is the shade of orange that you want to use.

Dump all the frosting onto the cookie and spread evenly

Trim the edges of the cookie with the chocolate chips (to resemble a “crust”)

When it’s time for dessert, simply cut into wedges and serve!  You can even top it with whipped cream if you like to make it more “authentic”.

From my home to yours, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I needed to come up with an idea to keep the kiddos occupied while everyone is here on turkey day.  Then I remembered:  we have a TON of Play-Doh toys and pieces.  My plan is to make up a few tubs of the stuff so that there is plenty for everyone!

There are is a ton of  playdough recipe information over at: http://www.playdoughrecipe.com/

They even have recipes for edible playdough!  This would also make an awesome DIY gift for the little ones on your list!

Although this is an activity that I am planning for the younger crowd, it has been my experience that EVERYONE likes to play with Play Doh.  So this is going to  be a win-win situation that keeps everyone entertained and having some fun while the food is cooking (waiting is the hardest part!)

 

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The wishlist is a very important part of my family life.  With four children of my own and my first grandchild on the way, holidays and birthdays tend to always function on wish list overload.  Right now there are so many toy catalogs and flyers out and about and Ben seems to find them all!  That sometimes makes it difficult to decide what to purchase when the “i wants” are changing on a daily, if not hourly basis.

I am an active list maker.  I find myself writing down gift ideas all year long.  This includes writing down things that I want.  Of course, most of the things I want are books, movies or cd’s.  Here is how I handle and organize all that information into a FREE and easy to use format that allows me to get the most for my money, no matter who I am buying something for.

  • Family members make their wish lists for birthdays and holidays and we make sure that everyone gets a copy of all the lists (email, facebook, website posting, text, phone call, whatever)
  • I tend to research gift ideas on my childrens wish lists in advance of when I actually am going to purchase them.  This is so I know what the regular price of the larger items are and so that I am able to recognize a good sale when I see it!
  • I go over to Amazon.com and log into my Amazon account.  I keep a wish list over there that I am constantly adding and deleting items from.
  • I will add the larger items to my wishlist so that I can easily look at the wish list and see what all the current prices are with one click of a button.
  • In the case of books, cd’s, movies and video games:  I use a wishlist over at Half.com     If you have never been on Half.com  let me give you a brief intro.  Half.com is owned by Ebay so if you have an Ebay account, you use the same info to log into Half.com  Over at Half.com you are able to get dvd’s, cd’s, video games, books, and even vhs tapes for as little as 75 cents each (plus shipping)!  Half.com is the FIRST site I visit if I am shopping for any of these types of items.
  • Once it is close enough to the actual holiday or birthday I check my online wishlists again to see how the prices are and plan my buying strategy, make my purchases and have them sent to the house. This really eliminates SOOOOO much hassle and overspending and I usually have money left over!
  • If I am just looking for some books or things I want for myself (no holiday or anything) I will pull up my Half.com wish list and then look to see which of those books my library has.  Then I place them on hold at the library and delete them from the wishlist.  That way I can read them for free! If the library doesn’t carry the book that I am looking for then I will compare prices on Half.com and Amazon.com to see which one is the best price.
  • POINT OF INTEREST:  I also tend to sell books, cds, dvds, video games, etc that we are done with on Half.com  it works a little bit different from Ebay but I actually like it better!  There are no “listing fees”.  They just take a commission off the item when it sells.  They also have a set shipping amount that you get credit for, etc.

Hopefully the wish list tips I have shared will allow you to get organized and get more for your money this holiday season!

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Alright, by all accounts I consider myself quite good at finding the BEST deals but I have to confess:  I do not shop Black Friday deals. Yes, it’s true.  I will not be shopping on Black Friday 2012.

I have only shopped on Black Friday two times in my life.  Once with my now ex-mother-in-law (over 20 years ago) and just last year.  I did not plan to shop on Black Friday either of those times, it just turned out that way.  Here is how I found out how to make sure that I am getting the BEST prices on the items I am going to buy:

The time I went Black Friday shopping with my ex-mother-in-law, I bought one item and then saw it on sale for a LOWER price the following week!  I was determined not to fall for that trick again!  Every year since that event, I look at the Black Friday sales fliers and circle and save the ones with items I want and sure enough, a week or so later, I find the same item for a LOWER price than the one that was in effect on Black Friday!

Last year, my kiddos were at their Dad’s house and I happened to look at the Walmart flier and saw literally two things that I thought were good deals that I could use.  So, I leisurely drove over to my local Walmart at about 3 pm to see if the stuff I wanted was still available. The parking lot was only half-full (I guess everyone else was already done shopping !) so I found a spot and walked in.  No crowds. I found the items I was looking for (a cell phone for my daughter and some tee shirts for Ben) and went to check out.  No lines! I was in and out of there in less than 1 hour.  And I got some really good prices!

For some reason most people think that the best prices are during Black Friday but every retailer will tell you that it is not true.  Even Consumer Reports says that the Black Friday 2012 deals “don’t seem so special.”  Even if the deals were good, is it really worth going out on Thanksgiving or waking at 3 a.m. to go to the store to deal with mobs of people to try to get an item that is just $5 less than it will be two days from now?  In my opinion, no.  I value my family and sleep more than $5.

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Today I had an interesting experience and the chance to teach Ben a little more about right from wrong.  Ben is Autistic and has a hard time dealing with social issues so any time I get the chance, I try to explain in detail what happened, why it happened, and why I am responding the way I am.  Anything I can do to make Right From Wrong clearer for him helps a lot in the long run.

This afternoon we went to the McDonald’s drive thru.  I ordered a few things off the dollar menu and our total came to $6.36.  We pulled up and I handed the cashier a $20 bill.  He gave me my change.  I pulled up again and got our food, checked the food in the bag to make sure we had everything and headed home.

Once we got home and ate, I dug into my purse to get the change out and put it in my wallet.  After unfolding the money I realized that the cashier had given me an extra $5.  He gave me $18 change instead of $13 change.  I have been a cashier many times and I know that if the drawer shows up short, you get in a lot of trouble.  I felt horrible for the guy!  Thankfully the McDonald’s was only 5 minutes up the road and we still had to get Shelby from band practice.

We left the house a few minutes early so we could go by the McDonald’s first.  I explained to Ben that the cashier gave us too much money back and it is not right to keep money that is not yours.  I further explained that the cashier could get in trouble because he would not have all the money in his drawer that he is supposed to have. He would be missing money!

Once we got to the McDonald’s, we went inside and asked to speak to the manager.  I showed him my receipt and explained what had happened and what our cashier looked like. He knew right away which employee it was.  Both he and the cashier and all the other employees were thankful but also in shock that I brought the money back.  Apparently this is just not that common anymore.  Honesty is not common?  How sad is that? I understand if you find $5 in an empty parking lot on the ground and there is no one around but to KNOW that you got money back that isn’t yours and just keep it?   Something just isn’t right with that!

By the way, Ben loved the fact that we helped that cashier out by being honest.  He learned a little about telling right from wrong  and he was thrilled to be a part of that.  It’s helping him understand the kind of man I want him to grow up to be (even if he isn’t aware of it yet).

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