Friday, May 31, 2019

Frugal Friday: Niagara Falls Edition

Happy Frugal Friday!

Thank you for giving me the week "off" last week as I shared just one post and not our usual Frugal Friday post.

This week I'm sharing how we saved money/spent money wisely on our 10th Anniversary Trip to the Niagara Falls area.

We decided on this vacation and booked our rental house a year ago through VRBO. We had a week in Lewiston, NY in a three bed/one bath house with full kitchen and fenced in yard for just $700. We love staying in houses vs hotels as our kids are young, noisy, and need room to play. They did end up sharing the bunk room and we just used the third bedroom as a dressing room so we could have rented a smaller house/condo BUT we found this to be the most affordable deal by far in the Niagara Falls area. We wanted to be gone over our actual anniversary which happened to fall between Victoria Day (Canada) and Memorial Day Weekend (US) which upped hotel prices by a great deal.

Before leaving for our trip, we made a quick trip to Under the Sun Market and filled a $20 box with most of the breakfast, lunch, and snack options that we would need for our trip. We also made a small Walmart stop once in New York. We ate two meals at the house, or packed from the house, each day.

Day One - Travel Day
- We paid for the first tank of gas with anniversary money (thank you Brian and Kristi!)
- We packed PB&J/fruit/chips for lunch and ate at a quick gas stop in the car
- We ordered pizza in for dinner (NY pizza was high on Annabeth's wishlist of items to have) and we lucked out with an order that took 3 hours to deliver which resulted in us earning 3 FREE pizzas during our stay!

Brother Sister Snuggles.
They LOVE to be together!

Day Two - Lewiston and Niagara Falls
- Annabeth and I explored Lewiston, NY. The village is quite cute and had lots of historical buildings and a peace garden to explore (all free!)
- We had lunch at the house before going out for the day. We packed snacks for the afternoon
- We spent 5+ hours at Niagara Falls State Park (NY) We did have to pay $10 to park but it covered parking until midnight that night.
- Since we were there before tourist season really began the Overlook was free (saved $8) and we did not pay to get into the State Park
- The kids each got their souvenir from the trip here - a t-shirt and we paid around $15 for both of them
- We had dinner out at the Silo Restaurant.

My first, his fifth, time seeing the falls
They are absolutely amazing!

Day Three - Aquarium of Niagara, Artpark, and more Lewiston
- We used our AZA reciprocal pass to save 50% on our admission to the Aquarium of Niagara
- Since they offer free parking, we parked there and walked over to the Nature Center. My information was wrong and they were not open for the season which saved us the $8 admission.
- We had a picnic lunch at the Artpark (free!) in Lewiston. We enjoyed playing in the Percussion Garden and walking around the park
- We had pizza dinner out at Favorite's. I felt a bit guilty just stopping by for our free pizza so we did order a "small" dessert and with the tip it was just $10

It was the kids first time having fried dough. 
It was a way bigger order than we thought and they LOVED it!

Day Four - Our 10th Anniversary, Old Fort Niagara, and Rainforest Cafe 
- We visited Old Fort Niagara. This was just a short fifteen minute stay from our house. It was the priciest adventure of our trip ($35 for the family) but well worth it. Owen was free as they give free admission to children under 5. 
- We packed our lunch since they only have a little snack bar. We were fortunate enough to be at the fort during a huge thunderstorm and when Owen got hungry while waiting out the storm in the French Castle the staff allowed us to eat lunch inside! They offered us several rooms to eat lunch in and we chose the kitchen. It was amazing to eat our lunch inside a 300 year old castle that has been occupied by the French, British, and Americans.

A lunch to remember!
A French Soldier "okayed" our eating here

- We drove home through Youngstown and Lewiston via back roads. The road we chose followed the river and the houses were just beautiful!
- We had dinner out for our anniversary at the Rainforest Cafe. It was Kid's Night so the kids' meals were FREE! They also each got a Rainforest Cafe cup to bring home as a souvenir from their meal. 

We didn't tell the kids where we were having dinner.
We just said it was for our anniversary so Annabeth had guessed 
"some adult place" They were SO happy to find out it was fun for all of us

Day Five - Buffalo, Anchor Bar, exploring Buffalo, and Hotel Henry
- We made the drive into Buffalo via back roads. It is such a neat area that we hated to take the clogged toll bridge on a Friday morning.
- We had lunch at the Anchor Bar (using a gift card that we had gotten Mark for his birthday) This is where the Buffalo Wing was invented. Mark said it was truly the best wings he has ever had!
- We drove through beautiful Delaware Park (designed by Olmstead - designer of NYC's Central Park), explored the Japanese Gardens (free!), and visited the Buffalo Museum of History ($22 as Owen was free) 
- We stayed at Hotel Henry as the second part of Mark's birthday surprise. Hotel Henry is formerly the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. It has recently begun undergoing a transformation and 80 rooms are now available to rent for the night. There is so much work to be done but it was incredible to stay in. There are so many amazing architectural features and there was nothing like turning onto the Richardson Olmstead Campus and seeing the family's faces as they realized "THAT?!" is where we would be staying. Since it is under construction it is still very affordable, I found it just $11 more per night than the chain hotels in the area. 

Please click the link to read about it 
and to see pictures that do it justice. It's just incredible!

We had such a wonderful trip!
We spent the week just the four of us, taking life as it came, moving slowly through places to see, and soaking in all of the sweet moments of being a family of four. It's our last trip with a toddler, Owen will be four this weekend, and the whole week was filled with precious time together.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Today marks our ten year anniversary.
I thought it would be fun to share my ten favorite pictures of just the two of us.

August 2006
This was Mark's first trip home to Evansville to meet my family.
I had already called to tell them I had met who I was going to marry
and I think they figured they should probably meet him. 
Bowling at River City Rec. 

September 2006
Our first weekend together at Franklin College.
I drove up north to meet his whole family.
We thought we'd just enjoy some time in Franklin while he was in school there,
never did we imagine we'd move back years later to raise our family.

March 2009
For Mark's last college Spring Break, we went out to South Dakota 
to visit Matt and Jenn. They were newlyweds and we were just a few months away from marriage.
It was the only trip the four of us had before the kids all came.
We were two of four people at Mt. Rushmore the morning after a March blizzard. 

May 23, 2009
Our wedding day.
Old North Chapel. 

May 2009
We honeymooned in Maderia Beach, FL thanks to our friends the Steinmetzs and their
generous wedding gift of their condo for a week. Once I realized we were near a 
place called Honeymoon Island, knew we needed to go! 

 June 2009
This was the night we moved into our first apartment.
It was a huge apartment with low rent in a terrible area.
We lived on Ramen Noodles, no heat, and paid down debt at a frantic pace.

February 14, 2010
Taken the week we moved into our first house.
Mark had decorated the living room for my birthday.
It was such a wonderful feeling to be homeowners!

January 27, 2011
The morning our dream came true - we were expecting!

December 2011
This was our first date out after Annabeth's arrival.
It was also the evening of the scariest working day of our lives.
Mark had been injured that day, we didn't quite realize how seriously at the time,
so we headed out to JCSO's Christmas Party after leaving the hospital.
We are thankful for God's healing hand that day and every day since.

 August 2013
For Father's Day that year we surprised Mark with tickets to see
the Robertson Family from Duck Dynasty speak about faith and love.
It was such an encouraging evening to share worship and fellowship with so
many believers. 

 Over the years, we have lived and laughed and loved and cried and hurt and grown. We have worked daily, sometimes hourly, to fight for our marriage. We have resisted temptations, ignored outside influences, and loved more than we ever knew possible.

 May 2019
We took this picture a few weeks ago on a sunny walk when I thought "I am so blessed."
Owensboro, KY

Happy #10 my Love - you are everything. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Frugal Friday 295

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last Friday and Saturday my friend Jeanette and I did a garage sale. We had each done the Spring Consignment sale and wanted to give everything one more try before we toted it up to donate or for the fall sale. I sold around $55 in housewares and children's items. I was able to get some great books into other homeschoolers hands and parted with some larger items (a mirror, window frame, and dart board) that had just been taking up space. We donated four large boxes of items to The Lord's Cupboard.

- We spent Mother's Day at church and with Mark's family. They fed us both lunch and dinner and we enjoyed visiting with the whole family. His family also kindly sent home pulled pork and chicken which Mark had for the meat in his lunches this week.

Mother's Day 2019
When did I became a Kid Mama?
I feel like this is the first year I don't have a "baby" in my 
Mother's Day picture. 

For weeks Owen has been saying that he wanted to make me a candle holder
for Mother's Day. Apparently on the show Fireman Sam there is a candle holder given as a 
gift and Owen HAD to make me one. Mark helped him decorate this giant candle 
with stickers and Owen was so excited and so proud.  

 Annabeth gifted me a binder of her artwork.
She has been holed up in the school room for a week working
on this secret project. She made drawings and paintings!

- I hosted a Younique makeup party with my friend Amanda Williams. My party didn't quite hit rewards on its own so I purchased an item to put me over. I combined some Ycash with my latest Rackuten check to pay under $20 shipped for that item. I also earned $26 in free items! Shop with Amanda here: Younique: Amanda Jean Williams

- We made a lot of crock-pot dinners this week. I like having them cook all day and the benefit of big leftovers the next day for lunch.

- Wednesday we enjoyed the last Church of God storytime of the school year. The kids love Miss Kelley and her lessons. We all enjoy visiting with this special group of friends. Kelley had extra bananas left over after the lesson and each family was able to take home a bunch of bananas.

- I went to Goodwill twice this week. We have some things coming up that I just wanted "new" clothes for. I scored some new tops and a nice pair of jeans. I also had some great $1 finds for Owen - a UofL shirt and a Cub Scout shirt that he will need in Kindergarten. I used my Goodwill rewards card to save 10%.

- Last night we made homemade donut muffins. Because of Annabeth's allergies, it's difficult for us to have store bought donuts that we can be sure are safe. Three of the four of us loved them and I think they will be our new go-to treat when we want donuts.

I'll see you Frugal Friday Readers back in 2 Weeks for a Frugal Friday Post on May 31!

Until then, watch next week for a post about marriage and Happy Savings to All!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Frugal Friday 294

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last Friday, our friends Ann and Max stopped by. They brought a very sweet Get-Well-Soon gift for Owen (and even a special gift for Annabeth as well) and also brought two backpack carriers to help us get Owen around this spring with his broken foot. Thank you so much!

- Saturday we drove down to Owensboro, KY for my family's annual Derby Party. We place small bets just among the family and I walked away the days big winner with $100 in winnings! Annabeth and I had a great fun making out own Derby Hats. She won for "Most Colorful"

We borrowed Annabeth's pink hat from my Mama.
We bought the rainbow feathers, white ribbon, and unicorn from Walmart for under $5. 

 I reused the same brown hat I've been decorating for a decade. 
I added blue and white ribbon from Walmart - around $3 for the blue ribbon and the white
was the same from Annabeth's. The horseshoe shirt was $4.99 last summer on Old Navy clearance.
I thought it would do double duty for Derby and for Colts games! 

- My parents treated our family of four to a hotel stay while in Owensboro as an early anniversary gift. We stayed right on the river and the kids loved staying up on the 6th floor with a river view! Mark and Owen took a long river walk on Sunday morning and Annabeth and I hit the pool. It was a great getaway that made the weekend feel a week long! It was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of real life.

- Sunday we spent the day at Momaw's to celebrate her 89th birthday. There were quite a few tears when we had to say Good-Bye. I am so thankful for precious time with our family!

- On our trip, I collected all of the recyclable items and brought them home to be recycled. We came home with nearly 20 items that we would have had to throw away where we were staying. I was more than happy to bring them home to recycle.

- Tuesday evening after dinner we went out front to play. Our neighbors were out and so we spent an hour visiting on their porch. The kids rode bikes, blew bubbles, and I loved visiting with Ed and Gloria.

- Tuesday we enjoyed a Police Officer Storytime complete with a K9 unit. Owen now would like to be a K9 Officer. On Wednesday, we enjoyed a Llama Llama party at the library. Owen was recognized for finishing the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. He finished last year but we did not make it to a party then. We made four library trips in two days! We love our libraries!

- Yesterday was the first rainy day of the week. The kids spent 5+ hours building and playing in blanket forts. I love how much fun they can create with just each other and some imagination!

- After Derby, we were sent home with some leftovers. I was able to modify our grocery plan for the week and had enough from last night's dinner to also provide lunch for company today.

Today and tomorrow we are garage sale-ing with friends! Come see us for some great deals!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Frugal Friday 293

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last Saturday, we drove down to New Albany for a special guy's 6th birthday. The kids had SO much fun at his party and came home with an entire gift bag per child of candy and prizes! We also enjoyed an afternoon of play at their house afterward. Thank you Eblings for being the very best party people.

Check out those awesome pinata prizes!

- Monday morning Owen broke his foot. We were able to get seen right away for x-rays and a cast done the same morning. We used our local immediate care instead of the ER since I wasn't sure it was broken/it was a clean, inner break. This should save us hundreds of dollars. He was so brave and tough. He was very well behaved at the doctor's office and all he asked for was a Spiderman toy (we don't do comics like that but his friend has a Spiderman and he wanted one too) Mark made it happen and used a $6 coupon on the way home to get his wish item.

Owen's new happy place complete with his favorite blanket,
sippy, and new Spiderman toy. 

- Since Owen will be in a cast for the next 6-10 weeks, we'll know more in a few weeks when they re-x-ray, he will miss the rest of the year of gymnastics. We had already paid and our studio owner was kind enough to transfer that payment to Annabeth's summer punch-card fee. That means I don't have to plan ahead for that payment at the end of May.

- We had a few busy days of running all over and packed meals for each of them. It was extremely temping to eat out but I resisted and packed lunches and dinners.

- Monday night we had about 20 minutes between dance and 4H. Annabeth and I had so much fun eating lunchables in the back of the car. I love how little it takes to make our kids so happy!

- We've been borrowing books and movies from the library to help with end of the school year learning and to entertain while he's been in the early recovery.

- After he broke his foot, I looked on Facebook Garage Sale sites for a jogging stroller. They were pretty pricey, especially since we just need it for a couple of months. I then asked on my personal page if anyone had one we could borrow. A friend did and we picked it up last night. Thank you Trevva!! It worked out well as her boys are getting a new animal soon and needed a fish tank which we had on hand. I was so happy to get that out of our garage.

- In February, I hosted a Color Street/Usborne Books & More mash-up. There was a Color Street party booked from mine and in turn this past week I earned an extra $25 in FREE product! I have been loving my Color Street nails this spring and am excited to try two more colors! I love looking for styling ideas on Pinterest and then shopping with my Color Street Stylist De'Shea. Shop with here here: Color Street - De'Shea

A HUGE HUGE THANK YOU to our Franklin Friends! This week our friends loved on us so well - calling to check in on Owen, leaving handmade cards in our mailbox, helping me figure out our first cast, letting us borrow items to help Owen, bring him balloons, and more. Thank you all! We are so thankful to have friends that are like family!

Happy Savings to All!