Jun 132017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

One of the ways we have saved money over the years is by not having cable television.  We found it was not something we watched and would rather spend the money elsewhere.  (For a brief time, our internet was cheaper if we also agreed to have cable … but we forgot we had it and never watched it.)  Instead, we have come to find we prefer watching movies, or streaming televisions shows we are actually interested in seeing.

Recently, my husband added Hulu to our home viewing options.  He was looking to watch a particular show, and I appreciate the variety of option they have available.

If the father in your life is a TV lover, you can get him the gift of a month of Hulu and get paid to do it. Thanks to an offer through Swagbucks, you get $15 (paid in the form of points called SB) for trying Hulu for a month. That will cost you $7.99, so you’re making $7 on the deal!

Hulu has tons of current and classic programming, movies, brilliant original series, and more. Here’s how you do it:

1. Click this link.
2. Create your Swagbucks account (takes 30 seconds)
3. Click “Continue” and sign up for Hulu
4. Enjoy Hulu! You should have your points within 30 minutes.

This is a great time to join because when you sign up through the link above and get your 1500 SB, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB at the beginning of July. So that’s $15 (1500 SB) for trying Hulu plus your $3 (300 SB) bouns, which gets you 1800 SB, which means you make $10 total for giving a cool gift to the Dad in your life (or yourself)!

Haven’t tried Swagbucks yet? They’re a site where you earn points (called SB) for doing things like online shopping, watching videos, taking surveys, and discovering deals and services you might like to try (like Hulu!). You then take those points and turn them into free gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

Jun 112017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

To help make your June a little sweeter, Swagbucks is holding a fun team challenge to help you earn free gift cards!

 

Jack has been asking when the next challenge will take place; he loves seeing the teams’ totals increase and leaders change.  My participation level in the various Team Challenges in the past has depended upon what else is happening in life at that particular moment.  If not a lot else is going on, I am able to earn more points.  When I am called away from the house for hours each day, I am not able to do as much, though there is still a lot you can do in the evenings, mornings, or over your lunch break. 

Two weeks ago, George got out of school for summer break, and started his Summer (home) School routine. Jack started Term 3 for school, as we took off more time during the winter months to move and get established in our new community. Last week, we were gone to see family out of state.  Next week, we will be moving our stuff to our new house.

Currently life has something routine-changing going on every week, which throws my kids off and makes my life more emotionally and energy draining. (They do not do well with routine changes.)  I still have high hopes for the Team Challenge, as there are a variety of activities I can do to help reach the 400 Team Points needed to earn the Swag Up Rebate, as well as the personal goal I have set for myself.

One of the reasons Jack likes these challenges so much is that he gets to watch some of the videos as they play.  (Note: not each challenge has the same activities available to earn team points.)  He also “helps” with other Discover activities and is sometimes asked to participate in Surveys.

Some previous team members I have had were at home sick, making it possible to spend 8+ hours a day finding ways to earn points, called SB, while figuring out the most efficient way to do so.  Other members were parents who also worked full time.  They were only able to contribute a small amount of time each day.  The benefit of having a message board for each team is when other team members share what has worked for them and the fastest ways to earn Team Points (which are different than your personal SB earned).  By working together, everyone learns and is able to earn more.

Currently, I have a particular goal in mind, an item for our new house which I would like to purchase in the next week. I am currently 75% of the way to my goal and hoping this the Sweet Treat Team Challenge will help me get the rest of the way there. I find that having an earning goal in mind helps me stay focused and actually increases the SB I earn, and therefore increases the amount of gift cards I can redeem them for.

For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web! If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes! Their latest, the “Sweet Treat” Team Challenge, begins Monday, June 12th at 8am PT.


Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:  

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. Starting June 12th at 8am PDT, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.   

All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card! 

Not only that, but if you earn 300 SB before July 1st, you’ll get an additional 300 SB bonus (as long as you’ve signed up under me)!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 60 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 40 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 20 SB Swag Up Rebate, and members of the 4th place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate, Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, June 16th and will expire on Friday, June 30th at 11:59pm PT.

Jun 102017
 

In April, my husband and I went to the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati.  It has been an annual event for us these past few years, often combining visits with friends from our college years. Granted, it used to be closer.  At LOT closer.

So why did we go this past year?  My parents offered to watch the kids and my husband was going to take an extra day off.

However, plans changed and my husband had to go into work.

Starting a long trip out at 8 a.m. is a whole lot different than starting it out at 5:30 p.m.  Vastly different.  Especially if bed times are usually 7-7:30 and you rarely leave the house after 6 p.m. due to tired behaviors.

Next year … well, I doubt we will attend a conference at this particular location. 😉

At the end of this past week, we embarked upon a long return trip.  The going out part had taken place last weekend, spread across two days as the end destination contained cousins not seen in months.  We (adults) decided it best to not get there after the bedtime hour had occurred.

Coming back, however, was a different story.  With the lure of our beds awaiting us, we started out at 7 a.m. and arrived home 13+ hours later.  It was a long drive, though not nearly as looooonnnnggg as the shorter drive (distance, but not attitude, wise) we took to the Midwest GHC.

And that, dear readers is where I have been this past week and why I suddenly dropped off the face of the earth … or at least the blog.

Between George starting his summer break from public school and Summer (home) School routine, Jack starting Term 3 of AO’s Year 2, and me getting ready for our trip, I had forgotten to schedule posts to occur while we were gone.  I apologize.

This upcoming week is a bit calmer, though it contains activities to prepare to move the majority of our belongings to our new home the week after.  Gardening wise, I hope to: mow both yards, do some weeding at the new house, and cut down some stray saplings at the rental house.

 

Before we left to visit family, George helped me do some imperfect gardening – we spread magnolia marigold seeds from 2014 in the front beds of the new house, covered them over lightly with the mulch, and hoped for rain while we were gone.  There were still some weeds growing, some sort of grass, but I decided not to wait till it was “perfect” in order to use the seeds I had in my collection.

If some of the flowers grow, that would be great.  If they do not, well, no great loss. As they were gathered 2.5 years ago and stored in standard envelopes in the basement, I would be surprised if any grew.  He had fun helping though, so that was worth it.

The flower boxes pictured in this post were outside a restaurant in Cincinnati in April.  It was unusually warm at that time, though pansies and dusty miller are fairly common early garden plants.  As time goes by, both will increase in size, spilling over the sides and adding great color.  They are not overly picky (this was a fairly shaded spot between buildings), and come in a variety of colors.

Jun 042017
 


Swagbucks is currently offering double cash back or more at a number of stores for Father’s Day. From Best Buy to Lowes, you’ll get cash back (in the form of SB points) for buying your gifts online through Swagbucks.

They also have offers where you can earn SB points towards free gift cards for getting the Dad in your life a subscription to Hulu or Dollar Shave Club! It’s a smart way to buy the gifts you were already going to get, and Swagbucks offers coupons and deals when you shop online to your favorite stores on top of the points you earn.

If you are like me and have a talent for forgetting holidays and other days of remembrance, this is the perfect time to go ahead and take care of this To-do List line item.  It is easy, quick, and no wrapping required.

You can even take advantage of this offer to purchase gift cards for yourself to use on projects around the house.  New garden bed anyone? How about a rain barrel? Garden statue? Water pond?

You can find all of the details here. If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks yet, you can also do that at this page and start earning points towards your first free gift card. As a bonus, if you sign up through me a spend at least $25 shopping online through Swagbucks, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus – that’s $2 in addition to the points you get for each dollar you spend.

These deals will run all the way through Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th.

Jun 022017
 


It’s summertime, and Swagbucks has brought a $5 bonus!

Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $5 bonus!

Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 7/1/17. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least $25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another $2 (200 SB) bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping.

If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)! That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned over $100 in gift cards since the beginning of the year.

I am saving up for a particular item currently.  In the past I have used SB toward gift cards or PayPal to help pay for Christmas gifts, gardening supplies, various household items, fitness items, and treats for ourselves which do not fit into the budget. Earning Tip: having a goal to work toward always helps increase my earnings.

*You must receive your shopping SB before August 1st

May 302017
 

Time spent outside fighting dragons, conquering the great flood threatening your kingdom, surviving the natives who are chasing you, or perhaps soaring so high on the swing that you can almost touch the sun – Summers are for adventure and new experiences.

While this is true, not all adventures need be saved for summer or for disposing of the forces of evil.  Some can take place over a few minutes on the back deck or kitchen counter.  Some of these “forces of evil” turn out to be not so bad, maybe even friends.

We have always tried to expose our kids to a variety of foods.  The words, “I don’t like that” do not come out of our mouths in regards to a food being served.  There are food we may not prefer, but I also point out to the kids that I eat certain things anyway because that is what is being served. (Yes, I am the one making the food, though they  have not thought of that fact yet.)

While I do not like green peas, my husband loves them.  They get served and I quietly do not take any. Sorry, Mom.

My husband does not like fish.  The kids finally picked up on this when we had it one night while my husband was not home, yet he refused to try some of the leftovers the next day.  They now know we only have fish on nights Dad is not home. 😉

As for liver, “Grandma makes great liver.  I think we should wait till we visit and she can make it for us.”  Turns out, the kids like fried liver.  Sorry, I will stick to eating it in Braunschweiger.

Finding Adventure to Fit Your Life Right Now

These past few months have seem time and energy on my part limited.  However, I wanted to keep new things happening for the kids.  One day I realized “adventure” did not have to be synonymous with lots of time and money.  Instead, I added something new to the grocery cart during a routine shopping trip.

That night I make a slightly larger deal of this new item.  We went around tasting it and giving our opinions; describing the taste, how it felt in our mouths, how it smelled, and how we might like it fixed a bit different.  You were allowed to not like the item, but you had to take at least two bites before saying, “No thank you.”

If we had it before and you did not like it then, you still have to take two bites.  Your taste buds may have grown since last time, meaning you might like it now.

A recent adventure contained an item I thought I did not like – sardines.  While I like fish, I had it in my head that I did not like sardines.  My dad likes them, took them to work fairly often, and was teasing me about them recently.  When I saw them in Aldi I figured this would be a great lesson for the kids – to see Mom try something she did not like.

With a can of sardines in mustard sauce and a can in oil, we grabbed a box of crackers and proceeded to go out to the back deck in hopes of keeping the fish smell out of the house. (We failed on that front, by the way.)  Over the next 30-40 mintues we talked, played, watched birds, and found that we all liked sardines, preferably in sauce.

We also found out that while the heads had been cut off, there were soft bones (?) still in, as well as the skin of the fish.  As these are small fish, the skin was thin and the bones were not an issue.  The kids still had fun throwing the bones over the railing “for the birds”.

This Adventure was marked as a success.  Two of us really liked these, while another said they were okay.  Everyone tried it and we all had fun with our impromptu picnic.

May 262017
 


MyGiftCardsPlus is celebrating Memorial Day with huge deals! If you’re not familiar, MyGiftCardsPlus is a site where you earn cash back (in the form of SB points from Swagbucks) for purchasing gift cards to your favorite retailers.

Purchase gift cards now through Monday and you’ll earn an extra 33% cash back on all gift cards! (that’s 33% more SB for your gift card purchases). For example, when you buy a $50 Applebee’s gift card you usually earn 300 SB, but now you’ll earn 399 SB! Use gift cards to stock up on summer essentials, treat your family to dinner, or book flights and hotels for a long weekend getaway. You won’t want to miss these cash back deals, so click here to make advantage of this deal while supplies last!

May 222017
 

Swagbucks is holding their Swago promotion on Monday, May 22nd! Your board is active till May 29th at 12PM PT.

It’s just like bingo, but in this case you’re filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online. If you’re thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it.

The best part is that the points you get can be used to get free gift cards to places like Amazon, or PayPal cash!

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points – if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus!

Click here to sign up and get started! If you sign up through my link and earn 300 SB before June 1st, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB!

May 222017
 

 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

continued from Part 1

No yard is perfect.  Overcoming the challenges can either be viewed in a positive light or as a overwhelming chore.  I am choosing to go the first route, viewing this as a time to grow and use my creative juices to find solutions and help the garden grow.

The first step I took was to address one of the biggest visual and immediate problems.  For me, this meant mowing the grass to help get the weeds under control and to get myself moving.  The Laws of Motion can also apply to our motivation when doing things in life.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.  -Newton’s First Law of Motion

The other force takes the look of our self-doubt, the feeling of being overwhelmed, freezing up by indecision, and so forth.  By doing something, anything, we have begun the motion to reach our goal.

#2 Form A Plan

While this step would ideally come first, something it is best to get moving and do something. 

Have you ever spent time making an awesome, color coordinated, shiny plan, only to then feel so exhausted by it you go take a nap? You never get around to actually doing the plan you spent so much time making?

Or how about researching, and researching, and researching to find the perfect whatever-it-is?  In the end you are so frozen by indecisiveness you give up.

So, we put into motion our goal with a first step which was obtainable and quick.  It was not perfect.  It was not necessarily researched or planned out.  What it was is quick and simple.  The other steps can come later.

We are now in motion.

The first time I mowed, it was nothing fancy or full of thought as to the pattern. I mowed and everything was shorter. It no longer looked like an unloved home. The end.

The second time, I put a bit more thought into it, mowing the other direction.  Not only would this help catch any missed places from the first time, but it would also help the grass keep from being blown onto the exact same spots in the yard each time.  By going a different way, I could also view the yard from a different angle and begin to gain a sense of how the yard worked.

I am not sure there is any great wisdom behind changing direction. I did find various dips and bumps the second time which did not stand out the first.  As for timing, I am thinking mowing parallel with  my house saves a few seconds, as all the major obstacles would be along a particular pass or two, rather than at the end of every row.

While mowing I began to form a plan to address various issues. I also contemplated how to use challenges to our advantage. It was all theoretical, nothing was actually put into action.   The end.

The third time I mowed, I tried to make a concerted effort to actually look closely at the plants making up the yard as I passed them.  Grass is not the only plant growing, and the others may give me an insight into what is going on below ground.
initial front bed planting

During these first three times, though, I was doing something to help the yard.  Others might think I was purely being lazy, but it was an active choice, one I knew would eventually help the lawn.  I left the clippings on the ground.  

Instead of bagging up the grass clippings or composting them, I let the mower blow them straight back onto the ground.  By putting back the organic matter I had just removed, the grass clippings will break down over time, returning nutrients to the soil.

They will also (hopefully) help keep weed seeds from reaching the soil and taking hold as quickly.

Once summer comes in full force, having a layer of organic matter on top of the soil will also help in shading the ground, helping keep moisture loss lower than it might otherwise.

This seemingly little step may not sound like much.  However, over time it will begin to add up.  Any organic material I can add to the lawn will only help improve the soil, and thereby the plants and animals living there.

Another step I plan to take for the next mowing is to raise my mower as high as it will go.  Not only will this allow the grass to have larger leaves by which to absorb energy from the sun, but it will also help continue to shade out any other smaller plants (i.e. weeds) which decide to try to grow.