Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saving Money With Smartphones

When our twin boys were born in 2009, we did not have smartphones. Our phones were with AT&T and while we would have loved to have iPhones, our 2-line shared family plan only cost us around $75 each month and we did not want to almost double our bill by adding $60 plus taxes and fees for two data plans that would rarely be used. The boys were born at 28 weeks (three months early) - J was in the NICU for 6 weeks and it was 4 months before L was able to come home.

The hospital had free wifi Internet access and we also had wifi at home and work. We slept at home and when not working, spent most of our time at the hospital with the boys. We were updating our blog for family and friends, and it would be so much easier to be able to post quick updates and check email while at the hospital. I was close to buying an iPod Touch, which would be a one-time expense and give us access to the web and apps anywhere there was wifi without making any changes to our AT&T wireless bill (we were already out of contract but just did not want to spend more).

My brother had the best solution. The iPhone 3GS had been out a few months. He found a great deal and was able to get a used iPhone 3G for each of us! We put our AT&T SIM cards in the iPhones and did a factory reset using iTunes. This was perfect for us - we had fully-functioning iPhones using our same $75 2-line family calling plan. The iPhones worked anywhere, anytime for phone calls and texts - the only limitation was that we only had Internet access where wifi was available (exactly like an iPod Touch). The iPod Touch would have been my solution, but I really didn't want to carry around my phone and and iPod everywhere.

Yes - the fine print in AT&T service contracts says that you must have an iPhone data plan (or smartphone data plan) when using an iPhone or any other smartphone. This is because they subsidize the cost of the phone in exchange for a contract. You "save" money now by paying around $200 for a top-of-the-line smartphone instead of its actual $600-$700 price. The cost of your data plan throughout your contract more than makes up for the savings you receive... Fortunately this worked for us because we did not buy the iPhones from AT&T or Apple, so we were not required to add data plans or get new contracts. Yes, AT&T could tell that we were using iPhones instead of our old phones, but the only hassle was an occasional text message every few months saying "iPhone 3G requires a data plan. Please call 1-800-... to add data to your plan."

AT&T never did anything and we used those iPhones for two years. Yes, it was a hassle not having Internet while in the car or in places without wifi, but for us it was well worth the savings.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Family Time At The Beach

We've been trying to post every other day, but this week we are spending time visiting family. We are about three hours away from the beach and will take a couple days to see how J and L like their first real trip to the beach.
Last year they cruised the western caribbean with us and sat on the beaches a little, but this time will be much different.  It's been many years since we've been to the ocean and seen some real waves - as nice as the Gulf of Mexico is, this should be a nice change and a lot of fun! We will try to post while we are gone but most likely there won't be anything for a week or so!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - Day 5

Friday! The last day of Teacher Appreciation Week. This gift and Wednesdays' gift were my favorites. The teachers seemed to really like this one too. The gift is a bag of popcorn. We chose unpopped bags due to cost, time, and also size restraints. On Pinterest there were many people that did specialty bags of popcorn like kettle corn or caramel chocolate drizzle all wrapped up in a pretty bag. Ours was easy to take to school and when there are 4 little hands trying to help..simple is always better!

For a Very
     "POP!ular" Teacher

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - Day 4

Thursday was another small gift but who doesn't love some chocolate? This one wasn't my favorite one because the quote was just not right. The choices were "You are worth it" OR "You Are Worth (100 Grand)." Both are good but just I liked the ones specifically directed towards the teachers. Day 5 was top of the list for both me and Ken!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oreo Layer Dessert

I have made this dessert twice now and both times it did not disappoint. The recipe came from blogger House 344. The layers of Oreos, cream cheese, pudding, and Cool Whip are delicious and so easy to make. I think this may be one of my new go-to recipes for potlucks and parties. The first time I made this recipe I used all brand name products and the second time I used the cheaper Kroger brands. While the second time was good, it was a little off. It just had a different taste and it wasn't as delicious as the first time I made it. I didn't know if it was because of first time love, second time disappointment or if there really was something that just wasn't as good as the name brand products. I did some taste investigating and here is what I decided: The Kroger Kid-O's were good. There wasn't much difference between them and Oreos. The same goes with the Cool Whip and Kroger Whipped Topping. It was the chocolate pudding! If you make this don't skimp just to save a couple cents. The Kroger chocolate pudding wasn't as good as Jell-O. I have learned over the years that you can't skimp on some products because the name brand is just better! Here is how the to make this deliciousness:

Gather your groceries: 
1 pack of Oreos
1/2 cup butter
1 large box of instant chocolate pudding
2- 8 ounce tubs of cool whip
8 ounce block of softened cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

Crush the WHOLE package of cookies. I do mine in a zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. Save about a 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top of dessert when it's done. Pour the remaining crumbs in a 13x9 pan. Melt the butter and pour into the crumb mix. Stir it up and press crumbs in bottom of pan to make a crust. Make the chocolate pudding according to package directions and let it set in the fridge. In a mixing bowl blend the softened cream cheese until smooth and then slowly add powdered sugar. After the cream cheese and powdered sugar is completely mixed, fold in 1 of the 8 ounce tub of cool whip.  Top the Oreo crust layer with cream cheese mix. Next add the pudding layer then topped with your last 8 ounce tub of cool whip. Last you sprinkle the remaining Oreos on top. Now cover, refrigerate, and try not to eat it all!

**The second time I made this I forgot to save some of the Oreos to sprinkle on top but a little chocolate syrup drizzled on top was almost better!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - Day 3 - Change in plans

Please remember we are new to this whole kids in daycare business and we forget/don't know many things. I am sure some of you will think "duh" but we had the boys at home for the first 2 years of their lives and being the sole caregivers, we are just a little behind the curve!

When thinking about gifts to get for anyone in a school...try to remember that most schools these days are going peanut free. Peanut allergies are serious and can be life threatening. All this to say that as we were driving home Tuesday evening it hit me... we can't give Wednesday's gift as the daycare is a peanut free zone! It was supposed to be a little bag of peanuts (we got a trail mix bag) and the quote was "we are NUTS about you" - cute, huh? Well I get to take trail mix in my lunches for the next couple weeks!

One of my favorite gifts got nixed by my hubby due to price/size of the item. Not that it was a lot but just more them some of the other items. I got to pick it for the replacement for the deadly peanuts. The water and tea added another 10 dollars for a grand total of $37 which is not as impressive as the lower total but  still not bad.
For a TEA-riffic teacher

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - Day 2

Day 2 was the smallest gift for the week. It was a single pack of EXTRA gum. In the previous post I forgot to mention the supplies I already had at home: construction paper, sharpies, ribbon, and glue sticks. I am finding that every crafty mom should have those in stock and I am using them more and more. Those were items that were not added into the final cost so if you don't have those items in your cabinets, find a good sale and get them. You will need them!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - Day 1

This past week was teacher appreciation week. I hope you let your children's teachers know how much you appreciate the time, love, and care they give your child. It was also nurses week and I really appreciate all the hard work my fellow nurses do and understand how exhausting and rewarding it can be! Thanks!

Our household consists of me working a full time job (night shift) and hubby staying home to take care of the house and the boys while I am working/sleeping. Needless to say that living on one income is quite hard these days and just when you think you have a little breathing room...something breaks! We have a very tight budget and we (me) have a hard time sticking to it.

After searching my favorite site (Pinterest), I found multiple ideas for small gifts (and cheesy quotes) we could do for each day of the week. Off to Dollar Tree we went with our list of items in hand. I had picked my top 5 but had at least 4 others to choose from in case they didn't have it or it was going to be too much for the budget. I also wanted to get something small for the boys' school nurse as she spends almost every day with L taking care of his needs and a couple times a week with J's boo-boos. We decided to make 12 gifts for the teachers and administration for the daycare (it is a small daycare) and do 5 days worth of gifts. Below is a picture of everything we got for the week and the total was only $27 which I though was pretty good! If we had remembered/known that teachers appreciation week was coming we would probably have done some couponing and a little more planning. This is the first year the boys have been in school so every event is new to us and we just didn't realize it was coming! I know this post doesn't do you any good now as the week is over but next year we will revisit and have some things planned ahead of time!

These are all the things we bought at the Dollar Tree, including the gifts for the school nurse

Day one: 
GIFT: Highlighter
QUOTE: " Thanks  for  making my school  year "BRIGHT"

All 12 in the basket, ready for delivery. The boys loved passing them out to everyone.
School nurses gift: 
Cupcake post-its
Crystal Light On The Go packs
Hand Sanitizer
Hand Lotion
Girl & Boy ice packs (J calls ours "boo-boo bear") 
Jolly Ranchers  
Blue Basket

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Potty Chairs

Potty training is in full swing in our house. Hubby and I bought our first potty chair at Walmart because:
a. we were there and
b. it was cheap!
  It was a Safety 1st Nature 3-in-1 potty chair. It was a potty, trainer seat, and step stool. Well we got it home and let J and L sit on it. They both did fantastic and went pee the first time! It was at that time we realized we may need to get a different seat. The splashgaurd was very short and didn't guard anything, the seat didn't settle well and pinched their bottoms, and the rubber pieces that prevent it from sliding kept falling off and made the seat uneven. Also the trainer seat was very small so when it got on the real toilet it was wobbly and J felt nervous when sitting on it.

  After seeing a cute frog potty seat (Fisher-Price Precious Planet Potty) at a friend's house we decided to get it and give it a try. It was great! The front was tall and kept all the pee where it should be. The seat itself was a little narrower than the previous one so my boys with short legs had a easier time getting on and off it. The only negative was that instead of only having to buy one seat, now you have to buy a separate trainer seat for the toilet. The boys being comfortable and going potty are well worth a little extra money for a separate seat!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

I am always on the look out for the best enchilada recipe. I tried one today and after I made a few of my own modifications thought it was very GOOD. It was one of the better ones I have tried in a while. Ken said it was "spicy" which meant it had  flavor! I got the recipe off of Pinterest but changed it to my liking and so that Ken would also eat it. It was supposed to have avocado inside the tortilla but since I pushed the limits with the peppers and onions, I left it out (this time). 

Here is how it went:
One chopped red pepper
Couple shakes of garlic powder
1/2 onion, chopped (would have added more but picky eater)
Enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan
8oz Cream Cheese 
(Sliced avocado if you are doing it)

1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can green enchilada sauce
1 jar of your favorite salsa

Place the pan on medium heat with the olive oil, peppers, and onion. Let it simmer until the peppers and onions are soft. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted and well mixed. In separate bowl mix your sauce ingredients up. Next place a layer of sauce on bottom of your 9x13 dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture, roll, and place seam down. Pour rest of sauce over and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (until warm and bubbling).
Place a layer of cheese on top and place back in oven until the cheese is as bubbly and brown as you like it.
**If you want to try it with avocado, add slices in the tortilla with the chicken mix.