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Monday, August 31, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Monday ~ Meatball subs and sliced apples
** We had these for dinner tonight. Yum, yum! Huge thumbs up! You can make your own italian meatballs. But, I just bought a bag of them at Aldi for about $3.50 and cooked them in my crockpot with spaghetti sauce for about 4 hours. I sliced the Hoagie buns lengthwise, loaded one side up with meatballs and sauce, topped with mozz cheese and broiled until the cheese was melted and hoagies toasted. Again, I say, Yum, yum!!

Tuesday ~ Fried chicken strips, party potatoes, corn and mandarin oranges
** Party potatoes recipe - Boil 3 c. water, 2 tsp. salt, stick margarine. Take off heat and stir in 4 cups instant potatoes. Add pkg. cream cheese and small tub sour cream. Then stir in two c. milk. Put in baking dish and bake uncovered at 350* for 25 minutes. (I take this to most carry-in dinners. For dinner at home I just cut the recipe in half.)

Wednesday ~ FFY

Thursday ~ Salmon with veggies and rice (Rick and I), Hamburger helper (with puree'd corn added) for kids and grapes

Friday ~ Baked spaghetti (with squash) and blueberries

Saturday ~ Frozen pizza for kids (Rick and I are being pampered with a limo ride to Stillwater to see the OSU/Georgia game with all expenses paid!!)

Sunday ~ Scrambled egg-wiches (with peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach) and homemade applesauce

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Can Do Anything for Four Weeks!

You've heard of the 30-Day Shred or P90X. But, have you heard of Rick and Nic's 4-Week Challenge? I didn't think so! (Also notice there is no link to this!)

As part of our mission to get healthy, Rick has challenged himself and me to a 4 week "hit it hard" workout schedule. We are members of our local Y. I typically work out 2-3 early mornings a week and Rick plays volleyball on Wednesday nights. He has worked out in the gym in the past, just not in a while.

We were admiring pictures of how great we looked on our cruise to Bermuda last summer, or at least I was, and had mentioned it to him. We are going to Hawaii next summer and Rick suggested that, instead of waiting until the month or so before our cruise, that we go ahead and get ripped right now and then maintain it as a lifestyle change for the rest of the year until our cruise (and beyond).

The new Y schedule starts tomorrow, so here is what I am going to do:

Monday ~ 5:30 a.m. boot camp, 6:00 a.m. in the gym
Tuesday ~ 5:30 a.m. cycling, 6:00 a.m. abs and upper body
Wednesday ~ 5:30 a.m. kickboxing, 6:00 a.m. body sculpt
Thursday ~ 5:30 a.m. cycling for a full hour
Friday ~ 5:30 a.m. ultimate conditioning, 6:00 a.m. total body workout

These are all classes. I prefer to do them, as opposed to just working out in the gym on my own.

Rick is not a morning person. We have done that/tried that. So, he's going to go to the Y straight from work and work out for an hour on his own in the gym. He likes to do that more than classes.

This challenge is for the entire month of September, starting tomorrow, August 31st.

He has made a weight goal for me, and I have made a weight goal for him. Honestly, his is likely more attainable because he hasn't really been watching what he eats or working out for a while. I've been doing both, so my weight will come off slower. But, with this plan I will be toned!!

It's going to be difficult, getting up that early every single day of the week for a month. But I can do anything for four weeks! What could you accomplish in 4 weeks? Want to join us?

A Complicated Triangle

Healthy versus Low Fat/Low Calorie versus Frugal.

I'm talking about food.

As I stated in a previous post, Rick and I are getting very serious about our health. But, we are also very serious about losing a few pounds. And, I'm most serious about doing both of those things frugally. Is that possible?

We all know that healthy food doesn't equal cheap food and diet food usually doesn't equal healthy food.


I am on an extreme mission. But I don't want to go all Nazi doing it. And I don't want my family to look at me at every meal or snack time and say, "huh?"

So I'm starting here ...

I have done some research over the past couple of years, and specifically over the past couple of weeks about those "super" foods that are best for men and women. Here's what I found:

Men's Super Foods
cabbage, guava, dried plums, pumpkin seeds, bananas, fish, broccoli, brazil nuts, soy, berries, red/orange veggies, apples

Women's Super Foods
dark chocolate, spinach, tomatoes, garlic, oats, salmon, blueberries, green tea

Additional healthy foods I want to add
whole grains, all natural sugars, a fruit and veggie at dinner every night, sweet potatoes, orange juice, yogurt, raisins (these last four have extra potassium which I need for restless legs)

I want to try to incorporate these things into our diet on a more regular basis, like all the time. There were many other recommended foods. However, I either couldn't pronounce them or kind of gagged when I thought of them.

I am going to really have to use my new extra time to think through our meals to incorporate the things we need in our diet, with low-fat and low-calorie meals, all on a budget.

I made three new things this weekend, keeping some of this in mind.

Super Trail Mix
First, I made homemade granola (In that recipe I substituted honey for the maple syrup and added some cinnamon, I left out the coconut and doubled the recipe. Next time I plan to replace the oil with a 1/2 cup of applesauce).
Then I added the following to the granola: dried cranberries, brazil nuts, more raisins and pumpkin seeds.
This made 4, 3/4 full quart sized bags.
Rick is going to take one bag of this to work each week for snacking, instead of sodium filled sunflower seeds.
I reserved a half quart bag of just the granola for myself to eat over yogurt and on my bran cereal.

Soy Fruit and Soy Chocolate Smoothies
1 cup ice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup soy milk
2 T vanilla
2 T flaxseed
For fruit smoothies, frozen blueberries and strawberries
For chocolate smoothes, melted dark chocolate chips with 1 T melted butter
Blend in blender and serve immediately as smoothies or put in freezer for ice cream

Peach Jam
Click here for the recipe
I'm not crazy about all of the sugar in this recipe, but I'm even less crazy about the preservatives and chemicals in the jam I purchase at the store. I'll take my chances with the sugar, I think.

I have to laugh about this picture, because I was in the living room showing my finished product to Rick and Kyndal came in with the camera to take a picture of it. I have raised my family so well. They know everything is blog worthy and will need a pic!

It was fun to try new things and I got thumbs up on all of them.

Now today I am onto pondering our meals for the week. I'm going to have to do this gradually, so as to educate myself. But, most importantly, I want this to be a lifestyle change for us, not a fad.

If you are inspired to join in, comment and let me know. Maybe we can help each other! My friend Steph is already on board (great minds think alike) and we are bouncing ideas off each other.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Me Day

What the heck is a Me Day?

It's the one day of week I have decided to celebrate, now that school is back in session.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I babysit twin 4-year old girls, and have my 4-year old in the mornings until she goes to Pre-K for 2 1/2 hours. Then two to three days a week I also have another 4-year old girl in the mornings, although those days are different every week. (She's in my daughter's Pre-K class so goes to school with her).

On the average I have one afternoon per week (from 12:30 to 3:15 p.m.) where I don't have any children. Some weeks I get super-lucky and have two afternoons.

I have designated one of those afternoons per week as Me Day .. the day (well, afternoon) that's all about Me!

I have done this in an effort to remind myself that I am important and deserve to celebrate myself.

Yesterday was my first Me Day. I dropped Brynne off at school and headed to get my nails done. When that was over at 1:15 p.m. I thought, "Now what in the heck am I going to do??" I drove to Goodwill to see if I was able to find some trash to turn into treasure, like Kendra and Jen and the undomesticated wife do so often. It was 25% off day there and it was packed! I stared at many objects but couldn't seem to see past them to what they could become, so I bolted out. I was so stressed that I downed the remaining package of Brynne's M&Ms that she left in the car. It was now about 1:24 p.m.

I decided I would just go home and start getting organized for my night of scrapbooking I was doing later. But, a garage sale in a swanky new neighborhood caught my eye. I drove in and scored on several Gymboree outfits for Brynne. (That morning I had scored on many Crazy 8's and Gymboree clothing items for Eli from our neighbor's garage sale.) I took my time, so as to fill it, and then headed home. It was now only 2:30 p.m. I got organized for my scrapbooking evening, left notes for everybody and hit the door to go scrapbook as soon as Kyndal got home from school. My neighbor brought Eli and Brynne home for me, so I was free.

I scrapbooked with some friends until midnight. I got 8 full layouts done in one of the kids' school albums, and had the pleasure of taking a break to have dinner at Sonic with my husband.

All in all, it was a good Me Day. What in the world am I going to do on the next one?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rick Rocks ~ Because He Does What it Takes

About 4 months ago we hit that fork in the road .. the one where you have to decide whether you will continue to be married or not. Honestly, I didn't see that fork coming. I always thought we would drive straight and forward. I knew there would be detours and stop signs, definitely yield signs and even the occasional stalled vehicle on the side of the road. But I didn't anticipate the fork.

We had just come out of that season .. the one where we had two children in under two years. They were now out of the baby stage, the diaper stage, the non-sleeping stage. Things were finally getting easier. But, when you have been in that stage for the better part of 3 1/2 years, and you have neglected your marriage out of sheer exhaustion and complacency, you all of a sudden find yourself slamming on the brakes at that fork in the road because you have no choice. You are there.

We made the right turn, and by that I mean the correct one. We chose to not only continue to be married, but to start making real changes to make our marriage better. Neither of those decisions were easy ones. The decisions required us to seek the help of a LifeCoach, to give up things that we each enjoyed in order to give to the other, and to change the way we love each other. I am sure you know that it takes two to make the changes and make it work. I was willing to do whatever it took. But was Rick?

He was.

And he does, everyday.

It hasn't been easy for me, or for him.

But we do it. He does it. I can't, or won't, go into every detail of what Rick has had to do to show me that he loves me and that he is committed to me. It's taken a lot. It continues to take a lot. I have many insecurities, but he meets each one head on even if it means there will be a crash. And I crash a lot. But, he's right there with me, doing what it takes every time.

I'll end with telling you something I appreciate that he does for/with me. Part of what we are trying to be better about is including each other in our day, and ending the night with each other. Now that school is back in session, we work together to get the kids in bed by 8:30, which means they are down and not coming back out by 9:00. We want to be ready to sit together by 9:00 without any further interruptions. He helps me get the kitchen cleaned up, the house picked up and the kids bathed and ready for bed. That is a huge help! And he gets to reap the benefits of having me to himself after that is all done. But, poor guy, that REALLY means he has to sit and watch the insane reality t.v. shows I like and that I have DVR'd. Last night it was "More to Love" (seriously, WHY do we torture ourselves with that show?), "Project Runway" (I think he secretly does like this one) and "Models of the Runway" (we really just want to see who doesn't get picked). There are probably MANY things he would rather be doing from 9-10:30 every night. But, he sits there with me and suffers through, just for the chance to spend time with me.

Rick Rocks ~ Because He Does What it Takes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Could You Help Me into a Jam????

I want to make peach jam/jelly (honestly I don't know the difference between the two.) All I know is that I want to make my own, so that it doesn't contain High Fructose Corn Syrup or other things that don't need to be there. But I want my jam/jelly for my morning english muffin. And wouldn't that make a great teacher gift with gourmet crackers in a cute basket??

I don't have a double broiler, or other expensive equipment, and don't want to buy them.

So, I need the super cheap, super easy recipe.


Also, I found a new "butter spread" at Walmart. It's the Great Value brand called Cardio Choice Buttery Spread with Flax Oil. It's got canola, soybean, palm and flaxseed oil. It's 2 WW points per tablespoon. And, it tastes good!

Thankful Thursday

I'm joining in on Thankful Thursday again this week, because I really just have so much to be thankful for. Last week I did a Thankful Thursday post to will myself into a grateful mood. This week, however, I am just grateful.

1. I am so thankful that my cervical problems are non-cancerous. This time it really was a concern. But, it appears that everything has been brought on by stress and should resolve itself.

2. I am extremely thankful that so many other women are losing their minds in the same way I am. And I mean that with the greatest level of love. This summer I guess I began "the change" and I have been depressed, emotional, "lost". I haven't been myself at all, have been very unsure about who I am, and felt very, very alone, and have not been able to get a grip on it no matter how hard I have tried! But, what I have learned is that so many women either are going through the exact same things or have gone through them recently. So, I'm not losing my mind. I'm just getting old. There is hope and I am thankful.

3. I am thrilled that school is going so well for my children. The girls are no surprise since they are social butterflies. But with Dawson going into the dreaded 7th grade this year, and turning 13, he was not looking forward to it and neither was I. But, he is adjusting just fine so far! And, with Eli's speech and social delays, and typical anxiety issues, I was so concerned that all-day kindergarten would just wipe him out. But every single day he tells me that he had a fun day and the next morning he's up and ready to get to school with a smile on his face! He is so happy and hasn't shown any signs of stress.

4. I am so thankful that my husband works as hard as he does so I can stay home and take care of our family. My absolute favorite time of the day is driving my little guys to school, drinking my cup of coffee, waving at the other blessed moms.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Open Ended Art ~ Crayons

My friend Shannon at Teaching my Little Bookworm is an amazing mother and teacher! She does some of the coolest things with her kids, and is so incredibly organized as she homeschools her preschooler!

She sponsors a weekly art project, in addition to many other things, called Open Ended Art. With this she will give you a medium with which to work, and asks that you cut your kids loose to make art projects with that medium.

Since I have different combinations of 4 year old girls throughout the week, I thought I might try to tag along with her. I may not be able to do it every week, but if we hit a couple of times a month it will be worth it.

This week's Open Ended Art project was to be done with crayons. And that means you could do anything with crayons you wanted!

I planned to do stained glass with crayon shavings, but realized I didn't have any wax paper. Being stumped, and not wanting to copy anything anyone else had already done, I considered skipping this one. But while making Eli's sandwich this morning I saw my ziploc bags and was inspired. Morgan and Makenna were here today, along with my Brynne and her friend Kate. (I was lucky to have little help from Kate's mom). Here is what we did:

1. I grated crayons onto plates. Each girl got the same four colors, and then got to choose a 5th color.

2. I took quart sized ziploc bags and cut the sides to flatten them out into opened rectangles (keeping the bottom intact).

3. The girls sprinkled the grated crayons onto the ziploc in whatever pattern they liked.

4. We closed back up the ziploc (so the shavings were in between the front and back of the ziploc, like it had never been cut), layed a towel over it and ironed it until the crayons were melted.

5. And we ended up with stained glass.

6. Here are all four girls' end products.

This was fun, Shannon! I can't wait to see what everybody else does.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Healthy Diet

Two years ago I went through a round of cervical pre-cancer issues that I thought was resolved. It reared its ugly head again during the last few months. It has been determined that the bad cells are minor, on a benign (non cancerous) track, and just something to watch at this point. With the procedure I had yesterday it's likely that my body will naturally fight the bad cells and we will hopefully not have to deal with it again. On the other hand, it was also determined that stress is what caused this last bought to crop up. So, attempting to keep my stress level to a minimum is a necessity.

Along with a stress decrease, I was told that regular exercise and a healthy diet can do wonders in helping to fight off any future infections. With Rick's mom being diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and the higher risk now to Rick, the topic of a healthy lifestyle is becoming more and more important to me. And let's face it .. we're not exactly spring chickens anymore.

I work out pretty regularly, and over the past couple of years have tried to incorporate more whole grains and fruits and vegetables into my daily diet. Rick plays golf and works out in the yard often, but would like to have a more regimented work out schedule. I can't really help him in that area, but I can certainly help him in how I plan our meals.

I know the basics ... whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, more fish, healthier snacks, less sodas. Knowing these things in my head, and implementing them into our daily lifestyle, are two different things.

Does anybody have any tips? If you have any websites that you have found helpful, please pass those along.

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today ~ August 25, 2009

Outside my window... it is beautiful outside, sunny and unseasonably cool!

I am thinking... about how I really want to start working on feeding my family (especially my husband and I) healthier meals on a budget. I've got my work cut out for me.

I am thankful ... that I didn't get devastating news at my doctor's appointment yesterday.

From the learning rooms... yea for school!! Everybody seems to be doing so well in their new learning rooms, and enjoying it!

From the kitchen... I perfected my chicken and dumplings that were a disaster a couple of weeks ago. Dawson has raved and raved about his dad's girlfriend's dumplings and wanted me to try them. He gave me the ultimate compliment (coming from someone who is a super picky eater) .. that they were even better than hers! (and I didn't even fish for that compliment!)

I am wearing... brown velour jogging pants, a Cozumel t-shirt, my potato shoes (love them!) and a brown hat.

I am creating... JBF (Just Between Friends) piles, clothes and promo cards.

I am praying ... for Doug, the Berry-Morins family, my kids and their school year.

I am going... to smile and laugh more and start enjoying the little things again.

I am reading... "One Weekend to Change Your Life" by Joan Anderson.

I am hoping... that my cervical problems get taken care of completely this time, or that we are able to move forward with a more radical procedure so I don't have to worry about the possibility of cancer in my future.

I am hearing... Brynne trying to stick a magnet to every surface she comes upon.

Around the house... beds are waiting to be made, laundry is waiting to be finished and bathrooms are waiting to be cleaned. They'll have to wait a little longer.

One of my favorite things... is planning birthday parties. Brynne's was so fun to plan and now I am working on planning Dawson's in October and Eli's in December. No working plans for Kyndal's in November, yet, but she's more at the stage of just hanging out with friends at the mall.

A few plans for the rest of the week... This afternoon I am planning to go volunteer in our new school's library, if I am feeling okay physically following my medical procedure I had yesterday. Tonight is Eli's kindergarten parent meeting. I can't wait to hear what they have to say and to see more of the school! I am back in the full swing of keeping the twins two days a week and have added my neighbor to the mix a few days a week, too. On Friday I am going to get my nails done and then scrapbook all evening. On Saturday we are going to Big Splash for our last time of the summer.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing..

My baby girl and her new "Pup". She has been attached to a chocolate lab Webkinz she named "Pup" for a couple of years now. She sleeps with him, takes him everywhere. When we were in Dallas, she put him at her feet in the car cart we rented at the mall and he fell through and was lost. We looked everywhere! We put in a Lost and Found report. We never found him. She asked me as we were coming home if the police had called and found Pup yet. It was so sad! Kyndal and I were teary over it! He was a member of our family!

For her birthday, her friend Ava gave her another chocolate lab Webkinz. I was worried she might not want him because he was new and just not Pup. By this picture you can see that she was thrilled! She hugged him so hard I thought his stuffing would pop out. She named him "Pup". And they have been inseparable since Saturday.

Get to know other Daybookers at the Simple Woman's Daybook.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This weekend was a blast with Brynne's birthday party! So much so that yesterday we barely got out of our jammies and there certainly was no cooking going on, except for the requested A-B-C soup and macaroni and cheese.

Here are our plans for this week. I'm hoping I might actually stick to them!!

Monday ~ Chicken and dumplings (didn't get to this last week)

Tuesday ~ Asian chicken stirfry (didn't get to this last week)

Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend For Yourself)

Thursday ~ Beef sliders and french fries

Friday ~ Frozen pizza (mommy's scrapbooking, which also means they might end up at Burger King if Eli has his way!)

Saturday ~ A frozen chinese meal ... yum (sarcasm inputted here).

Sunday ~ Fajita casserole (from left over crock pot fajitas from last week)

Have a yummy week!
And check out other menus at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to Throw a Frugal Birthday Party

To me, being frugal is a lifestyle. I thank my mother 100% for that! Some moms teach their children to cook, or sew or be a homemaker, but my mom taught me how to be frugal! She can smell a bargain from a mile away, really without searching, and has passed that talent on to me. I am proud to say I have passed that talent on to my daughter.

One area that I carry my frugality into is in planning birthday parties.

To me, my kids' birthday parties are extremely important. I typically like to do them at home, or at least a portion of them at home. And, I don't like to do the normal "Star Wars" or "Princess" type parties. I want them to be unique. I had told my older two kids that I was done throwing birthday parties after their 10th birthdays, but I didn't last very long at that. Kids are only kids once and, especially, in a home with 4 children, they deserve to have a big day devoted just to them. But, I am not about to let even that sentiment break the bank.

Brynne's party was yesterday and we had it at the zoo. You can see my previous post.

How did I pull it off and what did it specifically entail?

I'm glad you asked !!

1. I started planning this party in about December of last year. I was at Target, having coffee with some girlfriends at Starbucks, and came across some resin plates and other goodies with a zoo theme on them in the $1 bins. I called my husband and said, "How about a zoo theme for Brynne this year?" Knowing I'm a planning freak, he spared me the "honey, that's 9 months away" speech and just said, "Sure, that sounds fun!" So, I bought 8 plates, 8 plastic cups with lids and straws, paper napkins and bowls, treat bags and 8 ice packs with the same zoo theme (since the party was going to be in August and the temps can sometimes be 100* plus at that time, I thought those might come in handy). So I spent about $20 at that time.

2. Then later in the spring I found some little vinyl diaper bags at The Dollar Tree with zoo characters on them. I purchased 6 of them for $1 each. So, I spent about $6 at that time.

3. Next, I had to start thinking about the admission fee for all of our guests into the zoo. The zoo admission price is about $8 per adult and $6 per child. And we were inviting the parents and siblings of our guests to come along. That was going to cost us! We just happened to be needing to renew our family zoo membership and considered the options. I found that it would be cheaper if I upgraded our membership one level. It would give us 4 free guest admissions every time we went to the zoo and 10 free guest passes to use throughout the year. That would take care of 14 guests for an additional $65. (That saved me $25 off what I would have paid by just paying regular admission.)

As you can see, I spread the cost of the party out over several months. Planning far in advance allows you to do that. It allows you to have your ears perked during those several months for inexpensive ideas!

It was now time to get serious about planning the party.

1. I prepared an electronic invitation from a website online (there are thousands of them) and had the invitations printed at our local Walgreens. The total cost was about $8. (I can't for the life of me remember which website I used so I could give them credit!)

2. While at the zoo previously, I purchased 20 tokens for riding the train to include in the invitations. The total cost was $20.

3. I found some zoo chicken nuggets at Aldi the week before the party for $3.99 a bag. (I was planning on serving lunchables, but these were more economical and went with my zoo theme perfectly!) Then we served individual bags of chips. Since there were parents there, I purchased two foot-long sub sandwiches (one turkey, one ham) from Wal-mart at $4.98 each. (They were so yummy ... even better than Subway, in my opinion). I made a two-gallon jug of sugar free cherry koolaid and had bottled water for the adults. So, the total cost of the food was about $25. (btw ... I cooked the nuggets at home before the party and took them to the zoo in my travel Pyrex dish with the microwavable warmer. If you don't have one, invest in one!)

4. We arrived at the zoo an hour before our guests and pulled in all of our party supplies on a wagon. We found the perfect shady spot (that I had picked out on a previous trip) and set up.

5. For the table decorations I used green plastic tableclothes and added stuffed animals you would find at the zoo. I placed the tableware on the table. And, voila, a cute table setting.

6. For activities at the party we took advantage of the free activities at the zoo .. the playground, the free elephant show and the free viewing of the tortoise feeding.

7. The kiddos and adults enjoyed lunch.

8. Then we had cupcakes. Okay, seriously .. I used to spend $25+ on a professional themed cake at our local bakery, or even Wal-mart. But, what I have found, is that rarely people eat it. So now I have gone to just baking a couple dozen cupcakes and trying to decorate them to the theme somewhat. For her party, I just made some Funfetti cupcakes with sprinkles and put some Animal Crackers on top. The kids totally didn't care, and Brynne was happy with it. The total cost for this was about $3.00.

9. After she opened her gifts, some of the families had to leave and the others spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the zoo.

10. We gave each family a "diaper" bag from above. Included were the party favors ~ a resin plate, a cup, an ice pack, a zoo-themed activity pad and a goodie bag with a package of animal crackers and two packages of zoo-themed fruit snacks that I found at Aldi a couple of weeks ago. The total cost for the goodie bags was about $4, and most of the things in it had been reused in the party somewhere. (I do this a lot! I try to buy cute plates and/or cups and such that the kids can take home as party favors!)

Whew! I'm exhausted, are you?

Here's the lowdown.

I checked the zoo website to find out how much it would have cost to put on this party through their birthday party service. I won't go into great detail, but without the full lunch or train ride, it would have cost right at $300 for 10 total guests. (Heck, that's almost just our family).

I was able to do all I did above, for 21 total guests (including adults) for about $160. And the cost wasn't too shocking because I had spread it out over 9 months.

And the kids had a blast!

Like I said, I have done cheaper parties than this, but I was able to do a really nice party for so much cheaper than just having the zoo do it through their service. Yes, it took more work on my part and a whole lot more planning, but I wouldn't have changed this for the world.

My general advice about planning parties ...

1. Plan way in advance. I already have Eli's party mapped out for December and a good working idea for Brynne's party next August, as well as some ideas for future parties for her.

2. Utilize cheap or free local fun events for kids. For Eli's party last year we had a construction theme. We started the party at our local Lowe's and built gingerbread houses. The kids got to do a project, receive free aprons and safety goggles (aka free party favors) and it was all FREE! Then we finished the party at our house. You can see all the details here. For his party this year, instead of paying $175 plus for a generic party at our local Putt 'N Jump, we are going to take advantage of one of their monthly Open Houses where you can do unlimited jumping/playing for $6 per child. He wants a Mario Bros. party, so we are going to start at our house making Mario and Luigi caps, having our snacks and such, opening gifts and then going to the Putt 'N Jump to play. The boys will wear their caps, and mustaches, and will run a planned obstacle course to save Princess Peach (aka Brynne). Sounds fun, and much cheaper, to me!

3. Have parties at your house. Last year for Brynne's party we had a Backyard Beach Party. You can see all the details here. The kids loved it and still talk about it!

3. As you find cheap things, buy them! Think about snacks, party favors, etc.

So, there you have my very lengthy advice.

If you ever need help in planning a party, shoot me a comment, or an email to I love to plan parties and I'd be more than happy to give you some ideas for yours.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Brynne, Oh My!!!

What a WILD day at the zoo today!

We decided to have Brynne's 4th birthday party at the Tulsa Zoo and 6 of her friends and their families were invited.

We mailed these invitations to her friends, and included tokens for them to ride the train from the front of the zoo to the playground which is at the back of the zoo.

The kids and their families all arrived by 10:30 a.m. They played on the playground for about 20 minutes. I got pictures of all of her guests except for the one boy .. he was just too busy playing to be bothered with pictures with a bunch of girls!

Then we all walked to the Elephant Encounter demonstration.

On the way back to the playground we stopped to watch the tortoises get fed. "Big Al" is estimated to be about 125 years old. These tortoises live to be an average of 200 years old. Amazing!!

Once back at the playground we ate lunch of zoo shaped chicken nuggets, chips, koolaid and cupcakes.

Then Brynne opened her gifts.

She got some great gifts! She got a Hannah Montana outfit, some books, some crafts, some barrettes, a 'Tom and Jerry' dvd and a new chocolate lab Webkinz. (**Last week when we were at the mall in Dallas she lost her beloved "Pup" who was a chocolate lab Webkinz. She was very sad! Pup went everywhere with her and she slept with him every night. One of her friends found her a new one and she hasn't put him down.)

After gifts the kids just played some more until a couple of the families had to leave.

Our family and two of the other families took off together to see the rest of the zoo. We had a really great time with the Gores and Masons!!

We rode the carousel. And for a special birthday treat we paid for our kids to ride the camels. That was a highlight!

We finished the zoo tour back at the playground and rode the train back to the front of the zoo.

It was a really fun party!

And this is how I felt the rest of the day ...

Tomorrow I plan to post about all of the specifics of the party. It wasn't as frugal a party as I might normally do for one of my kids, but I was able to do it a lot cheaper than if I would have just organized it straight through the zoo. And, it was very personalized and special, instead of generic. It took lots and lots of planning, but it was so worth it! Come back tomorrow for some fun ideas!