Tuesday’s Tip: Diana’s Banana Babies

I know it has been a few weeks since my last Tuesday’s Tip, but I have something new I have found that I just love and wanted to share; Diana’s Banana Babies!

It’s simply half a frozen banana, dipped in dark chocolate, and it is delicious.  When frozen, the banana’s texture becomes very very close to ice cream.  It’s like eating a chocolate-covered banana-flavored ice cream bar.  I had never had a frozen banana before, and I guess I had no idea what I was missing out on.

I got 2 boxes of dark chocolate Banana Babies a few weeks ago when they were BOGO at Publix, but I will now be a loyal customer because they are so good.  They are also available in milk chocolate, and milk chocolate & peanut (which I would love to try, but my Publix didn’t have any available).  The dark chocolate variety are 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 3 Weight Watchers points each.

Check out their website for more info: www.dianasbananas.com.  You can also follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.
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Tuesday’s Tip: Wax Tarts and Tart Warmers!

I know I took a little break from Tuesday’s Tips, but I’m back with another one today!  I’m sure you are beside yourself with excitement…  Heh.

I think I have a slight addiction with home fragrance.  I absolutely love scented candles (especially this time of year!), but those large jar candles can be SO pricey!  And then you have to commit to one scent when you buy them.  No way can I afford to buy several $20 or $30 jar candles.

My solution to this dilemma is this little baby:

My handy-dandy electric tart warmer!

I’m sure most of you know how these work, but if you aren’t familiar with tart warmers, they are designed to melt wax potpourri or tarts, and fragrance the air much like a scented candle would.  But instead of spending $20+ for a large candle, you spend a buck or two for one of these:

So you can spend the same amount or less than your big jar candles, but you get to pick out 10 or more different scents!  I tend to like to pick my scent based on my mood, so this works really well for me.

To use, you just unwrap your wax tart, pop it into your tart warmer and turn it on!  As the wax melts, scent fills your room.  Mmmmmmm…cinnamon!  If you have a regular, non-electric tart warmer, you have to light an unscented tealight underneath the warmer.  But I much prefer the convenience and safety of being able to warm the wax without an open flame.  The electric warmers get warm, but never hot, so it’s a really great option for those with pets and children, although I would still suggest keeping it out of reach, of course.  And there are some really pretty electric warmers out there too.  They have some to match just about every decor.

One great thing I have found to use with the electric warmers are that you can use them to safely melt the wax of smaller candles without having to light them.  In particular, I have been loving those new 1.6 oz mini candles you can get for fairly cheap at Bath & Body Works.  Like this one:

Instead of lighting them, I just pop them on top of my electric tart warmer and the heat melts the wax and releases the fragrance the same way it does for the tarts.  Right now these B&BW mini candles are on sale 3 for $5.  Very economical way to get a variety of scents.  Maybe get yourself a fall collection with pumpkin, cinnamon, and some kind of outdoorsy woodsy fall leaves scent (those are always Tadd’s favorites).  Then you can swap them out based on your mood!  This same trick also works great for any of the smaller glass jar candles (Yankee, Bath & Body Works, any brand).  You can also use a knife to cut up a votive into chunks of wax and put them into the warmer bowl and melt them that way instead of lighting them.  It’s very versatile.

BONUS TIP: People sometimes aske me how I get the melted wax out of the removable bowl on the top of the warmer.  Simple simple simple!  When you are done, turn off your warmer and let the wax fully cool and solidify.  Then put the bowl in your freezer for about 5 minutes.  The freezing temperatures shrink the wax and it will just pop right out in one big chunk!

What are your favorite methods of home fragrance?  What are your favorite types of scents?  I tend to like seasonal scents (like cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin), tropical fruits, and fresh/herbal scents (like mint, sage, etc).

Tuesday’s Tip: Threadless.com T-shirts

Who doesn’t love a good, clever novelty t-shirt?  Even if you are not fond of wearing them yourself, you can at least chuckle a bit when you see someone else wearing one.  And chances are, we are all probably close to at least one person who loves them (which makes them great for gifts!).

Enter Threadless.com, the website where you can order some of the funniest, most creative, and most clever t-shirts on the web.  One of the interesting things about Threadless, is that anyone can submit a design for them to use on their apparel. Users vote on which designs they would like to see printed, and the winning designers get paid for their submissions.   Click here for more info on submitting designs and how it works.

I have used the site in the past to buy shirts as gifts for my husband, brother, and friends, and they have all been much-loved.  Here are some of the ones I have purchased:

"Of The Dead" (for my zombie movie loving husband)

"MP(3)" (for my rockstar brother)

Some of the other ones I have bought are now out of print, but they included a shirt that showed an empty roll of toilet paper with the caption “WHAT WOULD MACGUYVER DO?”, and a shirt done in the style of an Ikea instruction manual showing how to put a viking ship together in pieces, with the word “Vikea” in the Ikea logo font, and a shirt showing Darth Vader pruning a topiary into the shape of the Death Star.  All goofy, but all very clever, cute, and funny.

Since I first became a customer of Threadless.com, they have branched out into hoodies, tote bags, and even baby onesies.  Check out this cute Baby Godzilla onesie currently on clearance for $10, perfect for your adorable “little monster”!:

"Baby Godzilla"

Fans of The Cure (like me!) will love this one which offers a literal word-for-word translation of the lyrics of Friday I’m In Love.  “I don’t care if Monday’s blue, Tuesday’s gray and Wednesday too.  Thursday I don’t care about you, it’s Friday, I’m in love!…”

"Friday, I'm In Love!"

My husband has a thing for squirrels (not sure why, he just likes them…one Christmas I got him a squirrel calendar for his office and he was THRILLED).  How cute is this for fall/football season?:

"All-Conference Squirrel" FRONT

"All-Conference Squirrel" BACK

See what I mean?  Cute/clever/funny/whimsical…Great for gifts, and sometimes they even have sales where they have a ton of designs for $10 each!  I know some of the menfolk in my life will be getting stuff from this site over the holidays!  Maybe one of these days I will finally get one for me too.

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: MiO Liquid Water Enhancer

Sorry I’m getting this posted so late!  Busy, busy, busy getting ready for my trip, both at home and at work.  Why are vacations so stressful!?!  Anyways, better late than never, I suppose.

I like drinking water, because I really like how I feel when I know I am well-hydrated.  But I think most of us can agree that water can get boring after awhile.  Because of that, my water intake tends to fluctuate day-to-day depending on how motivated and focused I am in drinking the 64+ oz recommended by experts.  Anything to make drinking water more interesting is ok with me.  I used to use those Archer Farm (Target brand) powdered water flavoring packets (usually the strawberry lemonade flavor), which were ok, but after awhile I got tired of the chalkiness that you could sometimes taste as you drank it.  Crystal Light has a similar product, which I haven’t tried, but I imagine the same complaints would apply.

I had heard about MiO Liquid Water Enhancers before, but the $4 price kept me away until our trip to the grocery store last Friday.  While Tadd was getting his 2 liters of soda in the drink aisle, I happened to notice that they were on sale for $3.79 and there was a tearpad of $1 off coupons.  I thought $2.79 was a much more reasonable price than $4, so I decided to give it a try.  I chose the Berry Pomegranate flavor.

I have to say that I really like this stuff!  I put two squirts into my 20 oz water bottle, and it is the perfect amount of flavor!  It doesn’t taste like sickly-sweet Kool-Aid, but also not boring like plain water.  And since it’s already liquid, there’s no chalkiness.  And I love anything pomegranate, so this flavor works great for me.  Although I must say that now I am curious about the peach tea flavor.  It makes my water-drinking experience much more enjoyable.  I also love that each squirt is portioned, but if you want more flavor, you can just add another squirt.  Very easy to customize the flavor intensity that you want.

If you can get your hands on one of those $1 off coupons, this is definitely worth a try!

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: Whole Fruit coconut fruit bars

Ok, this will be a short and sweet Tuesday’s Tip, but a good one!

I am not usually a big fan of Popsicles or Freeze Pops or other fruity-flavored frozen novelties. I would much rather have ice cream or frozen yogurt. However, THESE are a totally different story (sorry the pic is so small, it’s the best one I found):

Whole Fruit Coconut fruit bars

If you like both the flavor and the texture of coconut, then this is the summer treat for you.  They are creamy and taste like pure true coconut – NOT artificial at all, and NOT overly sweet.  And they are full of little bits of coconut as well.  Yes, they may be a little more fattening than the other flavors, but I think it’s worth it for the creamy texture, flavor, and the bits of real coconut.

Here’s a link to their website for more info on this and the other flavors they carry.  The lime and strawberry flavors are good too, and I want to try both the pineapple and peach flavors soon.  Unfortunately, when choosing flavors, it’s hard for me to pass up the coconut because I just love it so much.

What is your favorite frozen novelty or summer treat?

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: No Spend August

I know usually I use Tuesday’s Tip to talk about a product that I love and want to share.  But today I am going to talk about a personal challenge that I have taken on for the month of August.  Maybe you will be inspired to use this tip for yourself!

“No Spend” August!

Basically the challenge is as simple as the name suggests…Don’t spend money!  I have seen monthly message board threads on this for YEARS in the budget section of the DisBoards.com website.  As a matter of fact, HERE is a link to their thread for this month’s challenge.  I also heard a “No Spend” challenge discussed on the 7/15 episode of the Dis Unplugged podcast.  Sarah over at Thrifty Decor Chick did a similar challenge last month where she vowed to not spend any money on DIY or decor items during the month of July.

The “No Spend” challenge can be different things to different people.  You can make up your own rules.  The only unifying rule is that you push yourself to not spend where you would have otherwise spent, and to stop and think before you do spend.  Isn’t it so true that, with debit cards readily available and accepted everywhere, it’s so easy to just spend without thinking?  This challenge will make you stop and think: “Do I REALLY need that thingamabob?” or “Can I wait awhile to get that whatchacallit?”  Mindless daily spending can really add up!

Our goal is that we are going to try not to spend any money on at least 18 out of the 31 days in August.  We are trying to be realistic based on the fact that I am going on a trip during August, and we have a few events that we are scheduled to attend that require spending money.  Plus, of course we need groceries and gas, although we are going to do our best to spend wisely on the days where we do have to spend money.  We have also decided that paying bills and highway tolls do not count as spending for the purpose of this particular challenge.

Lately our biggest culprit has been going to the grocery store too much.  We have been going several times each week with a specific item or set of items in mind, and every single time we end up with way more than we intended on getting.  Spending $30-$50 a few times per week can really add up!  Before we started the challenge, we went on a big grocery shopping trip with the intention of making it last two weeks without having to go back.  I used coupons, purchased carefully, and we ended up with an overflowing cart-full of groceries for $98.95.  Whatever we ended up with is all we are getting for two weeks!

Wish us luck as we embark on this challenge.  I hope we each learn something from it, and save a significant amount of money while we are at it.  If you do a challenge, let me know!  Maybe we can keep each other accountable.

Tuesday’s Tip: Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat

I have always been of the mind that those who claim to not like the taste of beer really just haven’t found and tried the right beer yet.   There are such vast varieties and flavors of beer out there to try, I truly believe there is at least one out there for every person.  For so many beer newbies, their first impressions can often be marred if they end up being turned off by the taste of the more ubiquitous brands like Budweiser or Miller.  Some might think this is how all beers are supposed to taste and give up.  But, really, it’s just the tip of the iceberg in a world of vastly different flavors, brewing techniques, and varieties.

Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat beer (click for image source)

Several of my girlfriends are not big beer drinkers.  They are more the wine & cocktail crowd.  Recently on a girls night out at a pizza restaurant known for their vast beer menu, I convinced the ladies to let me pick out a pitcher of beer for us to share that I thought they might like.  They were game to give it a try, so I ordered us a pitcher of Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat.

The Lost Coast Brewery website has this to say about their Tangerine Wheat:

A refreshing citrus ale, Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat combines our Lost Coast Harvest Wheat with natural tangerine flavors. Brewed with a combination of wheat and crystal malts, and finished with Perle hops.

To me, it’s an extremely refreshing beverage with just the right amount of citrus.  Some fruity beers only give a slight whisper of fruit flavors.  This beer gives a little bit more, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming or sweet.  And, of course, being a wheat beer, it already lends itself well to citrus flavors.  Perfect for a warm day.

All but one of my friends ended up loving it!  We even ordered a second pitcher when we were finished with the first.  It was a hit!  Hopefully one or two of them will become more adventurous with trying new beer as  a result.

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: Restaurant.com

Do you like to dine in restaurants?  Do you like to save money?  Me too!

My tip for this week is something that can allow you to do both at the same time: Restaurant.com!  Perhaps some of you have even tried it before and can attest to its greatness.

The key to using Restaurants.com properly is to understand what it is, and what it is not.  Restaurant.com allows you to purchase and print out “gift certificates” for local restaurants.  These “gift certificates” can’t be used the same way gift cards can be.  I think of them more as high value coupons than true gift certificates.  Each restaurant has different parameters and rules that govern how their certificates can be used.  Before purchasing your certificate, you need to make sure you understand and are okay with these rules, but 9 times out of 10, they are reasonable and easy to follow.  When browsing the restaurants on the site, the rules for each restaurant and certificate are easy to find and very clear.

Just as an example…When Tadd and I went on our mid-week date night to 310 Park South a few weeks back, we purchased and used a $25 certificate from Restaurant.com.  These are the rules we had to abide by in using the certificate:

Minimum purchase of $35. Excludes Fri-Sat. 18% Gratuity added prior to discount. Excludes: Holidays/Special Events, Other Offers/Promotions. VALID ONE CERTIFICATE per party/group/person PER CALENDAR MONTH.

Since there were 2 of us eating, we knew we would surpass the $35 minimum, and we went on a Wednesday night, so the day of the week wasn’t an issue (although I should note that these sorts of day-of-week restrictions are rare for other restaurants featured on the site).  Once we had solidified plans, I purchased the certificate for $10, printed it, and brought it to the restaurant, and just like that we saved $25 off of our bill.  So with very little effort, we netted a $15 savings off of our check.

Even better, if you like Restaurant.com on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, you will be privy to some really great promo codes that they release quite often.  Right now they are doing a 70% discount on certificates when the promo code SWEET is used at checkout.  That means a $25 certificate that would typically cost you $10 would now cost you only $3.  So you would be spending $3 to save $25.  Not too shabby!

I am thinking about snagging a certificate myself with that promo code to use for our anniversary dinner this weekend (Sunday will be 7 years of marriage!).

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love,
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: International Delights Almond Joy coffee creamer

I wouldn’t say that I’m NOT a morning person.  If left to my own devices, I usually wake up fairly early on my own.  I have a difficult time sleeping in on the weekends.  That said, work mornings are no picnic for me either.  I do my fair share of draaaaaaaging for about the first hour or so of my work day.  However, one of the things I really look forward to when I get to work in the morning, is my cup of coffee.

The person in my office who is in charge of buying our coffee and coffee supplies tends to like diverse flavored coffee items.  During fall and winter and occasionally other times throughout the year, we often get seasonal flavored coffee blends, and sometimes it can be kind of fun to get to work to see what he has brewing.  I have tried everything from Pumpkin Spice, Autumn Blend, Santa’s White Christmas, to German Chocolate Cake (my favorite).  Unfortunately, the summer is when we are least likely to have seasonal flavored coffee.  This is when he often makes up for it by buying lots and LOTS of different flavored coffee creamers.

I actually wasn’t even a fan of coffee creamer until I started working here.  Used to be just a little sugar and I was good.  But it has become a little sunny spot in my day to pour my coffee, and then open the fridge to see my selection of creamers.  It’s always a big decision to pick just the right one for my mood.  And sometimes you never know what new flavors might be waiting for you to try.

Recently, I have found my new favorite: International Delight Almond Joy flavored coffee creamer!  This is the creamer with the most distinct flavor out of all the flavors I have tried.  It’s just the right blend of coconut, chocolate, and the faintest hint of…something else, which I can only guess must be the almond note.  Delicious!  The label says this is a limited edition flavor, but I hope it won’t go anywhere anytime soon.

Now I can’t say that having or not having this coffee creamer will make or break my day, but I do feel the slightest bit of warm fuzzies when I open the break room fridge and find a bottle of this stuff waiting for me and my cup of coffee.  I know it sounds silly, but sometimes it’s the simple things in life…

 

Disclaimer: Thoughts are my own.  I am not being paid to make the aforementioned 
statements.  Simply reviewing products and providing tips of items that I love, 
to share with my readers.

Tuesday’s Tip: Ladies’ Swap Meet Parties

One day, I was reading Real Simple magazine and came across an article about a new craze sweeping the nation.  I had never heard of it before, but decided it was a great idea.  I suggested it to my group of girlfriends, and it took off like wildfire!

Click for article.

The idea: have all of your friends go through their closets and gather stuff in good, working condition that they just have no use for.  It could be home decor items, clothing, accessories, small kitchen appliances, shoes, books, DVDs, anything they want to get rid of that they think someone else could find a use for.  Have everyone load up their cars and bring their stuff to one collective house and arrange it in “departments”.  Put the clothing together, books together, shoes together, decor together…you get the idea.  You can really make it festive…serve food and wine, make it fun!

Each person will need to have their own set of markers…something that they can clip onto items to claim them as they “shop”.  I bought tons and tons of wooden clothespins, and bought tiny stickers to put onto the tips; hearts and stars in different colors.  I think I had 12-15 clothespins for each sticker shape/color, and separated them into baggies.  Then each person could pick their set of clothespins to represent them as they shopped (for example, at the last party,I picked the purple stars…so I took the baggie containing 12-15 clothespins that each had a purple star on the tip and whenever I saw something that I wanted, I clipped one of my purple star clothespins to it to claim it).

Next, divide up the room depending on how many items you have.  We typically do 2 or 3 sessions for each party (because otherwise, people can run out of clothespins).  Announce that the first section is open for “shopping”, and let everyone browse and mingle for 20-30 minutes.  People can check out each item and start clipping their clothespins to what they want to take home.  However, they must leave the item where it is until that shopping session is over in case anyone else is interested in it.

At the end of the shopping session, people can take any item that only has their clothespin attached to it.  If any items have more than one clothespin, put the clothespins into a hat and draw one.  Whoever’s clothespin is picked, wins that item.  When all of the desired items from the first session are claimed, move onto the next session.  Continue until all of the sections of items have been shopped and divvied up.  After everything has been picked over once, my group of girlfriends likes to have one last shopping session for whatever might be leftover.  Anything that still has not been claimed at the end of the night can be boxed up and taken to Goodwill or another charity.

My group of girlfriends has done three of these parties and they have always been a huge hit!  It’s a great way to recycle those perfectly good items we all have laying around that we just don’t want or need.  AND it’s also the perfect way to “shop” and get new goodies without spending any money!

Here are some pics of one of our Ladies Swap Meet Parties:

My living room, disguised as a thrift store!

The ladies shopping!