Friday, July 29, 2011

Florida Back to School Tax Holiday 2011!

I am very excited that Florida is doing this again this year!

Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, August 12-14
Florida's back-to-school sales tax holiday will begin at 12:01 a.m., Friday, August 12, 2011, and end at midnight Sunday, August 14, 2011. During this period, no sales tax will be collected on sales of clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $75 or less, or on certain school supplies selling for $15 or less. Find out more at There is a frequently asked questions link and a list of taxable and tax-exempt items.  For example, diaper and diaper bags are exempt, but watches and jewelry are not.  I think I will print a copy of the guidelines to bring with me when I shop that weekend!

No taxes on stuff we need for 3 days - I think I will shop early in the morning to avoid crowds, but it may be worth it!  Family Approved!

National Cheesecake Day 7-30-2011

Today, July 29th, is National Lasagna Day!  We are going to be enjoying some yummy Stouffer's!

But tommorrow is National Cheesecake Day!  My hubby is not a big cheesecake fan, so I am going to make these Ghiradelli Brownie Cheesecake cupcakes

Someone brought them to a function we went to recently and they are AMAZING!  My hubby loved them and the lady told us they are super simple and the recipe was on the box!

Both items are simple and yummy - I'm all about it!  Family Approved!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thrift Store Find! Pink Santa hat

It's July!  Lots of stores do a "Christmas in July" sale.  This includes lots of thrift shops like Goodwill

I found this Victoria's Secret Pink rhinestone Santa hat for $.99 at our local Goodwill!  It's not new with tags (NWT), but in excellent shape.  I came home and checked on e-bay and it is selling for $12 - 14.

I found 12 great thrift shopping tips on the SimpleMom site and even more detailed tips on The Thrifty Chicks site.

But, I've learned thing or two about treasure hunting in the shops from my mom.  She has brought me awesome one of a kind souvenirs from London and Amsterdam by asking locals where the resale shops were!  So, in a nutshell, here are my top tips for thrift and resale shopping:
1) have an idea of what you are looking for but keep an open mind - you never know what you might find!
2) have patience and time to look through the racks - you might not find anything this time, but inventories change every day so don't be discouraged.
3) check everything before you buy it - do the zippers work?, are any buttons missing?, look for stains or defects.

Most thrift or resale shops support a charity like Hospice or Habitat for Humanity.  Goodwill's mission is to "help people who are looking for work or better jobs so they can better provide for their families."  You can find one in your area to support by shopping and donating!

All in all - big time money saving and some really fun finds!  Family Approved!

(check back for future posts on my thrift shop finds!)

Sloppy Jedis

Time for a recipe post! 
This recipe came from my sister-in-law who adapted it from a Paula Deen kids' cookbook.  I wanted to call these "Messy Bessies" but my kids decided to call them "Sloppy Jedis" (my 8 year old son is into Star Wars - what can I say?).  We like them much better than with the canned sauce and they're super easy.

Sloppy Jedis
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
dehydrated onions to taste
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tsp yellow mustard
dash of white sugar
dash of salt
buns (We buy whole wheat slider buns.)
sliced pickles or pickle relish
sliced cheese optional

Brown meat with dehydrated onion and drain well.
Stir in 1/3 cup ketchup.  (Add a little water to the measuring cup just to rinse out the ketchup and add to beef mixture).
Add in 1 tsp yellow mustard.  (Trust me, start small with the mustard.)
Stir really well until all combined and taste.  If desired, add more ketchup, or add more mustard SPARINGLY - the mustard goes very far!
Add in dash of sugar and salt, if desired.

Serve on slider buns with sliced pickles or pickle relish.  We haven't tried these with a slice of cheese yet, but that would be good, too!  Sliders are the perfect size for my kids - she eats one, he usually easts 2.  We add a green veggie and...voila.

(Yes, she's wearing a pink Santa hat in July!
It's my favorite recent thrift store find! She loves it!)

With school starting in 25 days (who's counting, right?), I plan on browning up plain ground beef and freezing in gallon size freezer zipper bags in 1 1/2 lb. batches. 

All in all, yummy hot sliders at home and healthier than the drive thru on busy nights!  Family Approved!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kids eat free at Chili's Monday, July 18th

Thanks to Amy at Who Said Nothing in Life is Free, I found out about a "2 kids eat free with purchase of one adult meal with coupon" promotion on Monday, July 18th!

Click here to send yourself the coupon, print it out, and enjoy! 

What we did this weekend...

We've been a busy little clan!
Friday, July 15th, we went back to the library, this time for a cool (and free) science presentation by staff from the Orlando Science Center.  The kids helped to make a baking soda volcano and test their play-doh-and-popsicle-stick structures on a table that simulates earthquakes - all very cool. 

Saturday, July 16th, we all went to the local roller skating rink for a Cub Scout event (our son is entering his 3rd year of scouting).  It really brought back memories of the skating rink I went to in middle school!  I was a nervous wreck to see my kids on skates for the first time but, in a half hour or so, they were both doing pretty darn well.  The rink offers cheap beginner's lessons on Saturday mornings and discount skate times on some weekdays so we plan to go back when it's not crowded to let the kids get in some practice. 

Sunday, July 17th, we chilled out at home, watched the free dvd's we checked out from the library, and ate some Breyer's Rocky Road to celebrate National Ice Cream Day! 

Planning for another fun filled week coming up to include Vacation Bible School at our church, maybe some more free bowling, and probably invading a friend's pool - three activities that are always Family Approved!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day

Yes!  This Sunday, July 17th...!

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month. He also established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in the month.   I knew I liked him!

There are so many ways to celebrate....

Breyer's Ice Cream is buy-one-get-one-free at Publix this week. You could invite some friends over for a make-your-own-sundae party - B.Y.O.T. (your fav topping)!

And/or, your family could make your own or visit an ice cream place.  Chain stores like Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins are a safe bet because they are consistent and offer a variety of menu items to make everyone happy.

But, we like to find locally-owned shops.  One easy way to do that is to use Google Maps.  At the top of the screen, type in any address (if you are going to be at Grandma’s, type in her address), then click search.  Once your location is viewable on the map, go back up to the same search field and type in “ice cream” (or “soda fountain”).  You may find a hidden gem like this quaint old pharmacy with soda fountain counter service we found a couple summers back!

All in all – ice cream and fun memories! Family Approved!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taste Testing!

This is random and fun!  Last week, I realized that we had 4 different kinds of peanut butter in the pantry - creamy and crunchy Peter Pan, Skippy, and Jif.   What can I say, I like variety.  I decided to do a blind taste test to find out what the family really liked best. 

Each family member got a paper plate and 4 white plastic spoons I labeled 1 through 4 on the handle with a sharpie.  Then I put a little of each kind of peanut butter on the spoons.  I set the table with the plates and a small glass of water for each person.  I called the fam in and sat them down (I acted all formal and had a little clip board) and told them we were all going to test each butter together and judge them for taste and texture.  We tasted them one by one and commented - cleansing our palates in between.  Only mommy knew which was which.

As a long time crunchy Peter Pan girl, it was interesting to see that 3 out of 4 of us preferred Jif creamy - go figure!

All in all - totally worth our time - fun, free, and informative! You can try this with lots of foods - apple varieties, potato chip flavors, salsas, m&ms - whatever.  Family Approved!

Public Library

Public libraries offer cool programs and lots of great activities... or so I have been told.  Okay, confession time - to my embarrassment (hanging my head), we really haven't visited our llibrary - until now!

I went on our library's website and looked into programs at the 2 branches nearest our home.  They offer different programs on different days, so I chose some I thought my kids would enjoy and marked my calendar.

Today was fire safety day. Firefighter Greene, put on all his equipment in front of the kids, did Q&A, and then invited everyone outside to see the truck.  It was really fun.

Then, the very helpful Miss Wendy, let us know what we can check out and how long we can keep things.  Each kid picked 6 books to take home.  We also chose 3 family dvds (2 classics and the new Yogi Bear movie) and picked up fliers for upcoming events.

We also learned that our library system allows you to order books and dvds online.  So when a new title is being released, you can have it mailed right to your home.

All in all, totally worth it - free library cards, free dvds and books, and cool kids' programs in air conditioning - we highly recommend checking out what is going on at your local branch. Family Approved!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Free Wild Cherry Slurpee 'stache!

Free 7.11 oz Slurpee!  Well worth the sugar high! Family Approved!

Free Bowling!

We tried out the local free bowling program today thanks to!  There are participating bowling alleys all over the U.S. 

The boy, the girl, and I met some friends at the alley and had a great time.  It was not overcrowded and it took 4 kids (ages 5 - 10) about an hour to bowl one game.  

I learned a few things:
1) go when their little bellies are already full unless you want to buy snack bar or vending machine food;
2) have the kiddos bring a few dollars out of their piggy bank if there is an arcade at your bowling location; 3) go to the website before you go. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Register online (it's quick and easy), and then print out the coupons you need to hand in at the desk to get your 2 free games and free shoe rental for each child.

(the girl got a ball that matched her outfit, of course)

(yes, the boy got a mohawk for his summer-time 'do!)

All in all it was well worth it - free bowling, free shoe rental, fun with friends, not too crowded, really friendly bowling alley staff people - we will certainly be going back again!  Family Approved!

Oh, Thank Heaven!

Happy 7/11/11!  Stop by ANY 7/11 today only for your free 11oz slurpee  7.11 oz Slurpee! (My Bad!  I read this wrong this morning and originally posted that this was an 11oz - it was still enough sugar for my little one!)

Is "free" worth it?  No, not always, but today the kids and I will certainly stop by our nearest 7.11 store - probably after Free Summer Bowling.


Saturday, July 9, 2011


mmmmmmmmmmmm, S'mores!  Who doesn't love 'em?  Gooey marshmellow, melty chocolate, graham crackers - messy goodness. 

While on vacation we found another ice cream spot called S'mores Ice Cream and Coffee Shop at 3600 South Atlantic Ave, in New Smyrna Beach. 

It's a great concept - a walk up shop with two windows and beach sand instead of grass on the front of the property.  They have scattered picnic tables around for seating, and there is plenty of parking. 

Here is where the S'mores come in!  The clever gimic is that they have installed 2 large gas fire pits.  Around each fire pit are several wooden adirondack chairs.  You can order a s'mores kit for about $4 which includes 2 wooden dowels and enough crackers, chocolate, and marshmellows to satisfy my 2 kiddos!  You plant yourself at the fire pit and roast 'em the way you like 'em.  It was fun and yummy!  (of course, you need to watch little ones around the fire pits!) 

It was crowded the night we went and the staff seemed a little stressed.  The menu is extensive offering shakes, smoothies, sundaes, soft serve, hot dogs, and many different coffee drinks. I thought some of the menu items were a little pricey - we stuck with the s'mores.

The BIG draw back and our only real complaint was the bugs!  No-see-ums! That's really  what they are called - tiny biting, flying insects so small they are hard to see.  Once the sun goes down, they come out.  Our legs and feet were all biten up by the time we left.  Our itchy bites took about a week to heal up! 

All in all - cute place, fun atmosphere, yummy s'mores, and definitely memorable, but next time we won't forget the bug spray!  Family Approved!

Frozen Gold

We just got back from our annual vacation to New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  We go every year with some or all of my large family; my mom, my brothers, their wives, their kiddos, our kiddos, etc...  We've been going to New Smyrna Beach (NSB) since I was a kid.  As much as I like to go to new places, it's nice to return to the same beach town because everything is familiar.  We have our favorite places to eat and shop, we have a groove there.

There's this one little ice cream shop, Frozen Gold - it's been in the same spot for 42 years - and we've NEVER GONE - until now!

It's very unassuming.  There are cute picnic tables outside and some seating inside.  The day we went in early July was hot and the line was long!  It was full of locals and tourists alike.  We got a little table inside and Dad ordered small soft-serve cones for everyone for under $8.

The boy and I tried each other's, his was dipped in blue raspberry shell and mine in chocolate.  The girl got rainbow sprinkles, of course!  The scooping staff was friendly and fast.  This was their busiest week of the year and they had their system down pat. 

All in all - cute place, good service, clean bathroom, yummy ice cream at a good price!  Family Approved!

"Well, that's an hour of our lives we'll never get back!"

Ugh - we hate that! There's nothing worse than feeling like we've wasted our time.  Family time is so precious.  This is why I've decided to start blogging our experiences to hopefully save you some of your family's time - not to mention money and energy - while still having fun!

I would say we are a pretty average family of 4: a Dad, a Mom, a boy (almost 8), and a girl (5 going on 15).  We live in the Central Florida area and we like to do lots of stuff and try new things.  And I really like to make the most of our time and money! 

I am going to give you our true opinions on everything from airshows to zoos and everything in-between:  places to eat, crafts to try, date nights, kids' camps, shops, books, products, etc. and let you know what we think!