Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An American Hero

God Bless You and Your Family

The Cost of Freedom

Last weekend, the Santa Clarita Valley received a reminder of the cost of freedom. PFC Rudy Acosta—a child of Santa Clarita, born and raised here—laid down his life for our freedom. A sacrifice of this magnitude can be little understood. Only a brave few have an understanding of or willingness to undertake such a sacrifice. PFC Acosta was one of those.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kids Bowl Free

Register Here Select bowling centers and schools around the country are participating in the first ever Kids Bowl Free program. This program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure, and fun way for kids to spend time this summer. Children whose age does not exceed a limit by a participating bowling center are eligible to register for 2 free games a day, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Romano's Macaroni Grill Bread Recipe

I love Macaroni Grill mostly for their bread. It is not very often that I go there. Maybe, once a year to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. My strategy - to eat a half a loaf of delicious bread and leave some room for dinner. Then, eat the rest of my dinner for a lunch that I would actually look forward to eating.

You don't need to spend money to eat at Macaroni Grill to have their delicious bread. You can make it at home and have it whenever you want! Be careful. Eat everything in moderation. Slice and dip in olive oil and cracked pepper. Yum-O! Here's the recipe which I give credit to Jo Lager for posting it on

Jo's Rosemary Bread

1 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select white bread cycle. Press Start

Friday, March 18, 2011

$5 for $10 Donation to Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami Fund

Due to Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent after shocks, Japan is suffering from what its prime minister is calling the "worst crisis since WWII." The country's northern coast has been totally devastated, leaving the land and the people in ruins. Just like you, we here at LivingSocial want to lend a hand, so we are going to match your donations. For each $5 donation through this offer, we will also donate $5 to the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy, and hope that by merging our efforts with yours and working directly with the American Red Cross, we can help with immediate aid and long-term recovery plans in Japan.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Eating Green

I'm trying to come up with some green meals, well actually a dinner to help celebrate St. Patty's day and make it a little fun for the girls. So far, we had Lucky Charms for breakfast. No wait, we had the frugal Lucky Charms version - Magic Stars. Tastes and looks about the same.

Lunch, I didn't pack anything special but green grapes.

I am part Irish and my mom used to serve the traditional St. Patty's dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Yuck!! That just made me dread the holiday. So here's MY plan for a green dinner. For my husband and I, I'm planning to have a 3 cheese ravioli dinner with pesto, green salad with broccoli and maybe cucumber if I have it. I also made some bread that tastes just like the one they serve at Romanos Macaroni Grill. It is YUM-O! I'll post the recipe another time. I'm looking forward to eating that the most. It really has nothing to do with green. Although it does have green rosemary inside. So, I guess that counts. I was just craving to eat it with the pasta dinner.

I'm stuck on dinner for the girls. They will not eat pesto, the green part of the dinner. Maybe, pasta mixed with green food coloring. Haven't tried it; so I'll see how it turns out.

For dessert, I might take advantage of the Free green ice cream at Chick-Fil-A.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Free Green Ice Cream @ Chick- Fil -A Valencia

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baskin-Robbins Mini Parfait Giveaway - 3/16/11

Score FREE Mini Soft Serve Parfaits Wednesday 3/16/11 and Friday 3/18/11. Check out their Facebook Page. They already had a giveaway today which sold out in seconds to the first 50 people who clicked on their link and entered an email address. Good Luck!

Family Game Night - Free Pizza & Hasbro

Hasbro and Tombstone® have teamed up to bring your family the perfect Family Game Night solution. For a limited time, get a free (up to $7.01) Tombstone® Pizza when you buy any Hasbro Game. Offer ends 4/30/11. Original cash register receipt required for redemption. Visit for the PDF Offer Form for complete details. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

While you are at, check out their free kid friendly Online Games!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hop to a Loss of Patience

This weekend's free event led us to the Grove where the upcoming movie, Hop was being promoted. The girls enjoyed finger painting on big wooden easels, getting an airbrushed design on their arm, coloring, and taking pictures with the Hop rabbit and chick. They also had a Hop mural where anyone could finger paint using a paint by letter method. My oldest had fun painting a small section of the chick.

The girls earned a reward for having good character at our house. Good character means being nice to each other and share. They picked ice cream for the reward. They were excited to see an icecream place at the farmer's market part of the Grove. We stood in line for about a second while I'm scanning the menu board for prices. The smallest cone was $3.75. Almost $8 for 2 icecreams would be breaking the frugal challenge. Sharing 1 cone would just be asking for trouble; so we quickly left the line.

So, on we go on a hunt for cheaper icecream when we decide to ride the trolley first. We were the only ones there when the trolley stopped. I, the one who has patience at the moment decide to wait and let people get off before I got on. But then, a swarm of people just cut right in front of us and filled up the row. We missed the trolley. What just happened here? I told my husband we should have just pushed the people right of the way and not let them cut in front of us. Thankfully, my 6 year old put me in check from my ranting. She gave ME a lecture on how it is not nice to push people and I should be be kind to others.

We left the Grove to what I thought would be a quick stop at Toys R Us. I ordered something online; so I could just be quickly in and out of the store. They looked up my order and saw it was cancelled. CANCELLED!?? Apparently, the store didn't bother looking at the order to fulfill it, so it got cancelled. I spent about 10-15 min. waiting while they made phone calls to resolve the issue. They told me they credited my account and I would just pay for it again. I gave them my gift card that I used and they told me it has a zero balance. It will take 24 hrs. for my balance to return to the card. Now I have to pay for the item, go back to the store after 24hrs so they can cash out my gift card. What a huge waste of time! So much for ordering online. At this point my patience is wearing thin.

Next stop - The Northrige Mall on a shoe hunt. We go down the escalator where we are convinenlty let off where the Happy Animal Rides are. The girls wanted to ride; so that became their reward instead of icecream. They charged $5 for 1 child/1 animal or 2 kids/1 animal for 6 minutes. There was nobody there to take my money. Afer waiting a few min. someone finally comes. She's on her cell. I'm holding $10 in front of her. Then, someone else comes, hands out money and the lady takes it. Am I just invisible today?? I just got so upset, I put the money literally right up to her eyes to make sure she could see I was trying to pay. Still on the phone. She doesn't give me back change. I put my hand right in front of her face to show her she needs to give me $5 change. My girls picked out the animal to ride. My youngest gets on first. Then, the oldest was trying to get on. Before the oldest gets on, the lady turns on the animal. I said no, not yet. Still on the phone. She doesn't hear. I then yelled at her, TURN IT OFF!! My oldest got on and they happily rode their animal. Still on the phone, she just left to talk in the department store. She was nowhere in sight. She must have been gone for 10 min. She comes back, helps a couple more people that had been waiting then leaves again. This was the worst customer service I had experienced in a long time! I just couldn't believe it. The girls animal just kept going. They must had been riding for about 15-20 min. More people showed up waiting and the girl was not there again! I lost my patience with her and I just started turning on animals for whoever wanted to ride again.

Here's the trick to getting free Happy Animal Rides if you ever get an incompentant employee who's not there doing their job. Find the switch under the belly, turn it on. Then, turn on the switch on the head. Have Fun!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finding Cheaper Gas

Gas prices are climbing higher and higher. Ugg! By shopping around, you can save money everytime you go to the pump. Although, I don't want to pay an arm and a leg at the pump; I also don't waste my gas driving 5 miles out of my way to get to the cheapest station to save a quarter at the pump. I do like to see where I can get the cheapest gas in the areas I drive by the most. The easiest way to find cheaper gas is to look online.
A great site is Find your location and do a seach for your local gas prices. Everyday people enter these prices as an incentive to win prizes such as free gas. If you want to try win prizes too; just sign up and start entering gas prices for points. So far in my area, Sams Club and Costco have the cheapest price at $3.83 per gallon

Sunday, March 6, 2011

7 Tax-Filing Money Savers

Tax filing season can be painful, and not just when you owe the IRS money.

The process of collecting all of your information and figuring out where to get help and how to file forms is fraught, and the amount you spend getting your taxes done can sting.

Here's how to make the whole process less costly:

File for free. The Internal Revenue Service sponsors free filing for anyone who earns less than $58,000, and you can find a list of preparers on its website at Choose one that includes a state return in that offer; not all do.

Use a popular program for free. The major tax software offers, including TurboTax, H&R Block At Home, and CCH's Complete Tax all have different free versions available on the Web. Most will give you free federal filing as long as your return isn't any more complex than a 1040EZ or a 1040A, forms which exclude complexities like self employment, capital gains and rental properties. CompleteTax is offering free prep and filing for anyone who was unemployed during 2010, is switching from a major competitor, or owes money to the IRS. TaxACT offers free federal prep and filing for everyone.

Choose your program carefully. Every one of those free prep offers comes with some kind of financial strings attached. Most charge for state filing, or for versions which allow you to import your information from last year. And most also offer more full-fledged federal programs for a price. So, comparison shop carefully, based on the forms you have to file, and find the final total price for federal and state preparation and filing before you choose which program to use. Then lock it in. CCH claims that some programs raise their prices during the tax season.

Get free advice, too. Folks who earn less than $49,000 can get free advice from IRS-certified volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) by calling 1-800-906-9887 (learn more here). If you're over 60, you can get help from the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program run by AARP and sponsored by the IRS. (Call 1-800-829-1040 or learn more here). H&R Block is offering free preparation and filing of 1040EZ forms in its retail offices for all ages and income levels.

Skip the extras. You already know you should run screaming from anything that looks like a refund anticipation loan, right? These "deals" give you instant access to your refund, but at a cost that can equal annualized interest rates well above 100 percent. If you've done without that extra cash this long, you can wait a few more weeks for your money. Have the IRS direct-deposit it to your checking account, file electronically and it should show up in 3 weeks or less. Don't pay your software or preparation fee out of your refund, either: That's a messy process that puts your preparer between your refund and you. TurboTax charges $30 for that; other firms may offer that "service" for a fee as well.

Squeeze more into your retirement account. It's the only way to turn the clock back to 2010. You can feed your traditional or Roth IRA until April 18 this year and count it as last year's contribution. Even if you don't get an immediate tax break, you'll save down the road with a Roth. The limit for 2010 contributions is $5,000, plus an extra $1,000 if you are 50 or older. If you have a high-deductible health plan, you have until April 18 to stash money in your health savings account, too. The money you put into that account is tax deductible, and it comes out tax free if you spend it on healthcare, so it's even a better deal than an IRA.

Get a review. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, and that's true when it comes to good tax advice. Even if you like doing your taxes yourself, it's worth running your forms past a pro every few years, to see if they find deductions you might be missing. But, wait until after tax season to do that; they'll have more time to focus. H&R Block offers a "Second Look" program in which it will review up to the past three years of returns; the $30 price on that drops to free at participating locations starting Monday, February 14, the company said. If they find anything great, you can always file an amended return.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Riding on the Metro

Riding on the Metro...reminds me of a great 80's Berlin song.
I really don't use public transportation to get around; but was looking for an excuse to take the girls on the Metro or Metrolink just for a fun and different experience. My problem had been finding a destination with a short walking distance from the Metro station.

This weekend, I found my destination at the Chinese Lantern Festival in L.A; which had free admission. By taking the Metro, we didn't have to bother with finding parking at the festival or paying the $5 and up parking fees. Our tickets were $6 roundrip for all of us; so I'm sure I saved at least some money on gas and the girls had fun on their 1st Metro ride.

Does everyone just go on the honor system when they buy Metro tickets? Not once did we have to give or show our tickets to anyone one. We could have just got a free ride each way. I also didn't understand the TAP button. I waived the tickets, tapped the button, nothing happened. Luckily, no one was there watching this newbie Metro rider. Later, I read that they do random ticket checks; but I wonder how many people get free rides.

The Lantern Festival was fun. We watched a magic show and the girls made lots of crafts and listened to a story. I also turned in a survey to get a free gift which was a box with a tiger bank inside. Now, I have to find a place for this bank. I think the Goodwill pile is a great place for it :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hands-Free Toothpaste Dispenser

I was so tired of cleaning bathroom sinks with toothpaste all over the place from messy toothpaste tubes. I think 1/4 of the tube got all over the sink. Just a waste of money and a big mess. My oldest actually wanted the Hands free dispenser for Christmas cuz it looked like fun to use and TV commercials can sell kids anything. That was actually going to be a gift for both of us. We have been using it for about 2 months and it works great. She uses the WHOLE tube of toothpaste without all the mess and wasted toothpaste.

I still have another issue. My youngest doesn't like the same flavor as my oldest; so their bathroom sink is still a mess. Well, I guess it's not double the mess. Need to work on finding flavors that both will like.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Results of IHOP's National Pancake Day

So, I got home from work and half joking asked my husband, "Want a free pancake dinner from IHOP?" His ears perked up as well as my daughter who accidentally overheard. I still had my doubts about going because of the anticipated long wait.

My husband called to see how long the wait was. There wasn't much of a wait. Then, I started going into frugal thinking mode. In order to get free pancakes for everyone, we would still have to pay for drinks unless we ordered water. My husband thought that would be a bit embarrassing though. Then, we would need to leave a tip for the waitress and make a donation to the Kid's Network. We were lookin' at $20 for a free pancake dinner. Even though it was for a good cause, I didn't want to part with my $20.

My daughter was looking forward to a possible pancake dinner. The solution was to just make pancakes at home. We pretended the kitchen was IHOP, had the girls place their order and we were their waiters. The girls enjoyed their pancakes complete with whipped cream, bananas, and chocolate chips to make a funny face. I saved $20.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Free Pancake Day at IHOP

IHOP is giving a FREE shortstack of pancakes to each guest today from 7:00am-10pm.
Make sure you leave a donation for the Children's Miracle Network hospitals and other designated local charities. The goal is to raise $2.3 million

National Pancake Day normally takes place on Shrove Tuesday; but they wanted to create some buzz and excitement prior to Shrove Tuesday.
What is Shrove Tuesday? It is a day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fast and prayer called Lent. It is also known as pancake day because it was considered to be a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, eggs, fat which was restricted during fasting.

My kids would love to eat pancakes for dinner; but don't think I want to be waiting forever in a line that I'm anticipating will be very long. Enjoy the free pancakes for those who take advantage of this good deal and good cause.