9 Budgeting Tips for Your Disney Vacation

9 Budgeting Tips for Your Disney Vacation

Well December saw a lot of expenses for us. Aside from spending over $1000 on food at the grocery store, we decided to pony up for a family membership at the YMCA to ring in the new year. That’s another $90/month. Then we finally bit the bullet and bought a new hot tub cover which dinged our bank account for another $400 or so.

But that’s nothing compared to what we spent on our Disneyworld vacation. With adult tickets hovering over $110 for a single day, the cost can add up real quick. A trip to Disney World for a week for a family of four or five can easily match what you’d spend to go to France for the same amount of time.

So how do you save enough to go do Disney? Here are a few tips.

  • Check out a budgeting blog, like this one, or this one. These guys are obsessed with finding ways to save money and help you figure out how to better manage your savings and income streams. Can’t say enough about them and how much they’ve helped us.
  • Look for travel deals on certain websites.
  • Check out http://www.mousesavers.com/ which posts tons of helpful coupons
  • Consider a trip to Disneyland instead of Disney World. The difference? Disneyland is usually frequented by casual visitors who live nearby, while Disney World is much more a destination type place that involves more expensive hotels, plane fares and dining.
  • Check Disney for deals. While they don’t offer the craziest discounts, it’s worth checking http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers for the latest offers.
  • Buy a multi-day pass. If you’re going to be there for 3-5+ days, you can get a multi day pass that considerably drops the price from $89 to a more stomach friendly $50 or so.
  • Go in the off season, between September and January. This is when hotel rooms are less expensive.
  • Make your own meals. Eating out three times per day adds up real fast. Make some quick pb&j sandwiches and pack loads of snacks to fend off the hunger pangs (and dollars).
  • Get the Disney hotel perks. Yes, hotels with “Disney” attached to their name usually have plenty of perks like free/discounted parking, cheaper meals, and free shuttles to get you in and out of the park easily.

I usually get decent customer service in Disney and this last trip was no exception! The first time someone went above and beyond for us was at about 11:30pm on a Sunday evening. We were at Bay Lake Tower so any items we needed had to be bought at the Contemporary. I realized we had no ointment for sores and Olivia had a sore that needed to be tended to. At 11:30 at night, where was I going to get this?

I called the front desk and they actually had a night manager come to the Pepper Market to open it up for us. Since it was late, he could not accept payment so he just gave us the ointment. (Cost was around $7) How is that for awesome customer service?! The next morning we did stop there and pay for it. Hey, karma and all that…

On our last full day there, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening. One of my husband’s favorite rides is The Carousel of Progress so of course we went on it. The bad news? He lost his phone on the ride. He reported the phone missing and they gave him a number to call the next morning. The next morning came and they had not recovered his phone. Unfortunately, we had to go home the next day so he figured it was gone for good. That is when panic set in.

We spent a small fortune in Disney this year because we took extra people so we really had no money to go buy a new phone. We were looking at about $800.00 to get a new iPhone. The first thing that came to mind was raiding the emergency fund but it never got to that.

Fortunately we got a call from? Disney Lost & Found! They located his phone on the ride Monday morning and they were in the process of mailing it back to him for FREE since we already came home!

Read More

Our Frog Project

Our Frog Project

Last month, frogs laid eggs in rainwater on our pool cover. Before draining the cover, we scooped up the eggs in a couple of large plastic cups. The next day we had a couple of cups of tadpoles! We made habitat from a plastic bin and turn it up under a deck canopy to shade from the Sun. The habitat also included large rocks and floating grasses, for our ninety tadpoles.

We fed them flies, mosquitoes, worms, and grubs based on our research of the diet of these tadpoles. During the project (it would have made a great science experiment), we discovered that the tadpoles would eat pill bugs and earthworms, preferring them to decompose a little before eating them. Three weeks into the project, we strained out the tadpoles to remove some mosquito larvae. While this reduced the mosquito population by seventy-five percent when we counted tadpoles there are forty-five left.

In the four-eight weeks that it took for the frogs to mature we continue to feed them every two days. We put the food in the corner by opening the screen to keep mature mosquitoes from escaping. At this point, we were down to twenty-four tadpoles.

What was odd is that although the numbers were down, there were no dead tadpoles floating around. The 25 tadpoles remaining swimming around were getting big and healthy. Apparently, they had eaten the other tadpoles while leaving the mosquito larvae alone.

I know this all sounds gross and most people simply want to know how to keep frogs OUT of a pool, but we found it fascinating and just ran with it.

By week six we had twenty tadpoles swimming around the habitat none of them had legs yet. At week seven the tadpoles were the size of a pencil eraser. On week 8 one tadpole had grown legs and a long tail. However, the rest were still legless well fed.

Before the end of week eight, one of the tadpoles finished developing into a frog. It was still small nor was it as big as some of the other tadpoles. We removed the screen so that the Frog could get out of the habitat.

However, it made analog we had placed in the habitat for several hours before moving to a location on the habitat lip overshadowed by a potted plant. Or the next morning if I was gone and there were seventeen tadpoles left. Among those left two had grown legs. The first frog left just one day short of two months after hatching from an egg.

By week nine we started off the week by cleaning the habitat. We used an insect net to carefully scoop up each tadpole placing them into a holding container. The mosquito larvae were also scooped-out and put in a separate container. At this point, not only were there still seventeen tadpoles left, but six of them had sprouted legs. The next morning the frogs had moved out of the water.

By week ten, there only ten tadpoles left. Because tree frogs are nocturnal some of them probably left the habitat good night. This morning we photographed one rather agile frog hop onto a branch, still sporting a stub of a tail.

During week eleven we checked the habitat each morning finding frogs on the container sides. Potted plants at the corner of the habitat helped the frogs could mature in the backyard. Because mosquitoes continued to play the rags in the habitat we had to transfer the tadpoles to a clean container.

By week twelve we were only a few days short the three months for our tadpole project. During the last couple of weeks one or two frogs good left the tadpole habitat each day. With no more than one of them staying on a potted plant long enough to be documented.

Because tree frogs are green and brown, they were hard to see on these plants. For three days, we had only one tadpole left that was noticeably smaller than the rest. While this one is not yet growing legs, its appetite is good allowing it to grow to a normal size four its stage of development.


Sadly during week thirteen, the last tadpole died quietly in the habitat. It was interesting to watch these frogs grow from hatchlings to mature frogs. During the three months since I found the tadpole eggs, out of ninety tadpoles, only sixteen survived.

The survival rate in the wild is probably smaller as these tadpoles have a tough life just trying to survive. One thing that shows is why they produce so many eggs, to begin with. That is because the mortality rate among tadpoles is so high.

Read More

10 Easy Rules to Keep Your House Clean and Organized

10 Easy Rules to Keep Your House Clean and Organized

For those of you that know me personally, you know what an organization freak I am. Every now and then, someone asks me how I do it. Instead of spending a couple hours going over every single thing, I decided to make a list of my most important cleaning and organization rules.

When you see something out of place, take the 2 seconds it would take to fix it. For example, each time you put the groceries away is a perfect time to clean out the fridge. Throw away the empty carton of eggs before putting the new one in, pour the last of the ranch dressing into the new bottle you just purchased, wipe the spilled milk crusties off the shelf before replacing the new gallon, throw out the left-overs from last week, etc. Another example: when you’re having the children put their laundry away, teach them how to put the clothes nicely in their drawers in neat piles and fix those clothes that got unfolded in that mornings rush hour!

When ever you buy something new, throw out the old. Simple rule: when you buy a new pair of black pumps, get rid of the old pair. When you buy a new bra, get rid of one old one. When you get new socks, get rid of any with holes. I still remember when we purchased a new silverware set. For some reason we kept the old one. In addition, we inherited an antique set from my grandma. Altogether, we probably had 10 different types of forks in the kitchen. Why?

Never put anything away dirty. This is especially important in the kitchen. Never put your appliances away dirty. After each use wipe off the entire appliance with a clean rag, and don’t forget the cord.

Have a place for your dish rags. There is nothing worse than the smell of a dirty dish rag! Purchase a few hooks for underneath your kitchen sink. After each use: rinse, ring and hang your rag on the hook. This allows you to use the rag for 2-3 days without the stench. Also, keep a set of disinfecting wipes handy for bacteria.

Keep cleaning supplies in every bathroom and your kitchen. Keeping paper towels, disinfecting wipes, window cleaner, toilet cleaner under each sink allows you to clean on the spot. This is why: bathroom mirrors get dirty very easily, yet on the way to get the cleaner from the hall closet, you get side track by another project and the mirrors don’t get done. But if you had the cleaner under the sink, how easy would it be to clean the mirror real quick as soon as you splashed toothpaste all over it? By the way, a clean mirror can fool any one in to thinking your bathroom is clean! (I only keep paper towels & disinfecting wipes under my kitchen sink). Make sure to “child proof” those cabinets if you have little children at home.

squeegee-on-showerUse a squeegee on your shower after each use. If each person who uses the shower would take the time to do this, it would cut down on hard water stains. Which means, much less time scrubbing the shower. Plus, your shower can go a little longer between scrubbings.

Never go to bed in a mess and never leave home in a mess. You get home from work, make dinner, and just want to relax. That’s fine. However, don’t go to bed leaving clutter every where. Then you have to wake up to the mess, and you find your day has already started off on the wrong foot. Take the time after dinner to do the dishes. Make the kids help. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and have all family members help straighten up. You will be amazed at how much gets done in 15 minutes with every family member helping! The same rule applies when you leave the house in the morning (it shouldn’t be that bad if your family did the 15 minutes the night before) and before you leave to go out of town.

Make your bed every day! Every bed in the house should be made every day. Even children as small as 3 can help make their own bed. Make it part of the morning routine. As soon as each member of the family rolls out of bed, the first thing they do is make their bed!

Prepare the night before. Check your calendar, then get lunches made, lay out clothes, load the backpacks, etc. Any thing that can be done the night before—do it! Mornings run so much smoother if things are prepared and there is no reason for panic.

Choose a mop cloth that can be washed. Don’t use the traditional sponge or rag mops. Then you have to find a place for them to hang dry, they are very hard to keep sanitary, and you must replace them often. Plus, you have to have a mop bucket or you use your sink…YUK! By choosing a mop cloth that is detachable, you can machine wash and dry the pad. You don’t have to waste money buying disposable or replacement pads.

Bonus Tip!

Relax. Don’t stress about not being the perfectly organized wife. Treat yourself at the spa or salon every now and then. Personally, I’m not in the position to spend a couple hundred dollars at a trendy salon. In fact, I’m a big fan of MasterCuts salons. They’ll do anything from a simple cut to coloring, highlights, and even waxing. You can’t beat MasterCuts prices and I’ve always left happy and feeling like a new woman!

Read More

Our Trip to Maui

Our Trip to Maui

Long time to hear from me and I apologize for that. Lots of things going have been going on. Recently me, my hubby and kids took a trip to Maui, Hawaii. It started like this… last month we were looking for a great vacation spot to unwind and relax, away from the hustle and bustle of every day life in our city. We had several vacation spots in mind, like in Florida, and Colorado– but in the end, after a lot of thinking and planning, me and my husband decided on Maui as our final destination. It seemed like the perfect (read: WARM) spot!

Apart from the beautiful Hawaiian scenery, sun-kissed hills, lovely breath-taking views, and endless dining and sight-seeing options, I think a lot of our decision came from the fact that we both visited Maui as kids and loved it. We wanted this to be a great time for our kids – not just us! So, the time came for us to pack up and leave for our trip.

mauiThe first few days we stayed at a hotel right next to the beach. I took advantage of this time to take my 8 year old daughter for swimming and snorkeling lessons that first day. The life guard even gave a class on beach safety and talked about using a life jacket to keep safe. It was valuable information that we were able to use while at the beach. That said, I did a lot of research on my own before our trip. According to lifejacketadvisor.com, 90% of drownings happen near the shore. That was surprising since I always thought it was out at sea on a boat.

Per a close friend’s recommendation, we went to the local Costco and purchased a couple life jackets for the kids instead of renting them. The best life jacket for a 50 pound child is supposedly the Stohlquist and they happened to have a good deal on it. We picked up two, a smaller size for m. (we ended up reselling them before we went home for only a slight loss… much cheaper than renting for the entire week)

Anyway, our next location to continue our tropical vacation was at an exceptional resort in West Maui. I had the opportunity to spend time at some unique places while there – like the Art Collection Tour, which is home to one of the biggest corporate art displays in all of Hawaii! The lady that showed me around directed me to some ancient artifacts from an old ship that dated back to the early 1700s. Alana, my oldest, was so thrilled to see all the historical items. She loves history!

We were treated like royalty at the Royal Feast Sunset Dinner Cruise. The view was just incredible. We were helped to a meal of grilled carp and tropical rice, and for dessert we had pineapple soufflé.

Next, was the West Maui Molokai Helicopter Tour. Myself, and my hubby and 2 kids got to see all kinds of breath-taking views from the helicopter. We must have taken a ton of photos of the water, the hills, trees, and beautiful tropical leaves that sprinkled the land.

I can’t forget about the trip to Hot Island Glass, where we got a tour of the glass blowing facility, and got to see many of the beautiful finished products. There were so many different kinds of vases, decorative glasses and fancy plates to admire. I even got to pick one out to display in my home!

Although my 2 year old, is a bit young to appreciate the entire experience, she did enjoy herself. And our family is sure to share the memories for years to come.

Read More

Tips to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better

Tips to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better

As a parent who has had a difficult time with this, getting your baby to sleep well at night is a very common problem for most parents. Every baby is different and will have a different sleep pattern. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several different techniques that you can try to help your baby sleep better and more comfortably which will also mean a better night’s rest for the entire household.

Consider being consistent with the baby’s bedtime putting the baby down at the same time each night. You might also choose to make sure that the routine that you use prior to bedtime is consistent as well such as feeding time, bath time and even some rocking or coddling time to help the baby feel relaxed and secure.

merino-sleep-sackFor bath time, you might consider a warm bath making use of some of the night time bath products that are available for babies that offer relaxation such as lavender and chamomile type products. You also want to make sure that your baby is dressed comfortably so that the night time clothing that you put on the baby isn’t binding or doesn’t leave the baby too hot or too cold. Don’t put too many blankets on the baby in the crib which can make him hot and uncomfortable yet do not cover the baby and allow him to get a chill. A sleep sack is a fantastic alternative to traditional blankets and many hospitals have switched over to using them for newborns. Whatever you dress them in, you’ll learn the things that work well for your baby and what your baby’s preference is for sleeping comfortably in no time.

Be consistent about feeding your baby during the day in order to make sure that you are teaching that eating if for the daytime hours and the night time hours are for sleeping. You may choose to give your baby a bit more formula in the bottle prior to his bed time than you do in his day time bottles to allow him a full tummy and a longer and more peaceful sleep without waking.

Play with your baby in the day hours and spend time making sure the baby is entertained during the day as well, this will help the baby to nap less and possibly sleep better at night. You might choose wind up toys, busy boxes, or just a pallet on the floor with toys that make noises or that provide movement to keep your baby entertained.

Another great consideration may be to lay your baby down at night in the crib with soothing music playing quietly or with relaxation noises such as a waterfall or rain sounds playing to help the baby to relax and to drift off to sleep and to say asleep. Use a crib soother or an old iPod you may have laying around.

baby-sleep-tipsCreate a nursery atmosphere that is comforting and soothing for your baby. When it’s time for sleep, darken the room by using shades or blinds that help keep out any disturbing light that my shine in. Also make sure the temperature in the room as well as the humidity are set at a comfortable level. If your baby sweats a lot, you should consider an all-season sleeping sack such as the Merino Kids (review here). Make sure that the baby’s room is quiet and that the rest of the house is quiet as well. Once the baby is down for the night, you don’t want to disturb him with loud noises such as vacuuming, loud television noises or the commotion of other siblings that may still be awake. That said, some babies do not let any noise disrupt their sleep. Consider yourself lucky if your little one is like that.

Finally, teach your baby early that night time is for sleeping and day time is for being awake in order to help keep your baby and yourself happy and healthy. You’ll enjoy parenthood so much more when you have a baby that sleeps well at night and wakes feeling refreshed and ready for the day without being cranky and disgruntled.

Read More

Need a Good Baby Gift?

Need a Good Baby Gift?

I can’t count how many different toys we have around the house made by Playskool. With the Playskool Busy Ball Popper, babies will get silly with poppin’ and droppin’ colored balls! Pump the plunger and then drop the balls onto the bright spiral track. When the balls reach the bottom, watch out! The balls then pop out of the top! Eight lively songs are guaranteed to supply plenty of laughs and giggles and keep the fun rollin’ along. When your baby’s a little older, they can have even more fun by chasing after the fun brightly colored balls. Ages 9 months to 3 years.

Read More

30 Fun Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

30 Fun Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

Once school is out, “I’m bored!” are the two words almost every parent is guaranteed to hear at some point. Fortunately, fun AND frugal do go together when it comes to activities you can do with the kids this summer. Here is a list of 30 activity ideas to get you through the summer without breaking the budget. All they require is some extra quality time with your children, which is always a good thing.

Read More