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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Check out these fun Valentine's gag gifts for the kids!

I love fun gifts that don't cost an arm and a leg, don't y'all?  I've mentioned here before that I shop the day after holidays to stock up for the next year or the next holiday.  So the day after Christmas, I grabbed a bag of super-cheap, Christmas (red and green) m&m's - perfect for my Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day celebrations!

For Valentine's Day next week, one of my treats for the kids will be Cupid's Poop.  I'll separate the red and green m&m's, (green will go in a bag til next month!) and the reds will go into 3 baggies - one for David, one for Katie, and one for David's friend Blake - his mom always sends David  the cutest goody-bags for each holiday!  I printed out bag toppers from this site - so cute - to put across the top of each closed bag.  Next month,  I'll do the same with the printable Leprechaun Poop bag toppers. 

I'm also heading to Bojangles on Monday to get some of their heart-shaped bo-berry biscuits, which I'll serve to my kiddos on Tuesday morning.  And Tuesday's after-school snack?  I'll pick up a few heart shaped donuts at Dunkin Donuts.  I hit up Target's Dollar Spot for some cute gifts to give each kiddo too.  But mostly, I'll hug and kiss them, and tell them how much I love them both!! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Need something to do this weekend? Try SNOW MOUNTAIN!!

We visited Snow Mountain at Snow Mountain back before the holidays, but I didn't want to post my review til now.  The holidays keep us all so crazy busy, but around February,  the kids will start that familiar refrain: "I'm bored, Mom"!   So now is the absolute perfect time to head over to Stone Mountain and hit the "slopes" of Snow Mountain! (But hurry - it closes February 20th!)

Stone Mountain is the only place in Atlanta where you can enjoy tons of snow! Being in the South, we don't always get snow days, so this is a great place for fun winter-memory making with your family.  This attraction features more than 20 snow-tubing slides,  located on Stone Mountain's Laser Lawn.  There is a family tube ride, called Avalanche Alley, as well as individual snow tubing.   Guests must be 42 inches or taller to ride the single tube.  For Avalanche Alley, guests must be 36 inches or taller.   My oldest went with her boyfriend, and they had such a great time.  And my little one, who is 8, loved the tubing too.  This is some serious fun for all ages!

Bringing younger kids with you?  They will really enjoy the Snow Zone ~ acres of fun can be found here for everyone in the family.   Little Angels is designed for kids 3 and under - they can try tubing on Snoboggans to experience tubing at their level.  The Snowball Shootin' Gallery is a great place to pack snowballs, then use them to shoot at crazy spinning, flipping targets! Igloo City is the place to build a fort, a tower or even your own city - all out of snow!  There are friendly attendants nearby to help you, too.  Visit Snowman Valley  to create your own snow friend!! My kids loved the snow closet, where you will find scarves, hats and more to decorate your new pal.   Fort Snow is a cool place for kidswho are under 54 inches.  They can explore turrets, tunnels and slides!   And when you have finished exploring all of the fun to be had here in Snow Zone, visit the SnoDeck for a hot chocolate or popcorn!  Still too chilly?  Head to SnoFire Point and roast some delicious ooey-gooey S'mores over a warm bonfire!

We had such a wonderful afternoon at Snow Mountain, and it was nice to have some fluffy white stuff to play in for a change!  Don't forget to dress for snow - you will want a warm hat, coat, mittens and scarf, too! It really is cold out there in the snowy area! And make sure you take your camera - photo opportunities are everywhere, y'all!

Snow Mountain is open through February 20 on weekends and daily during school holidays.  Just two more weekends left to enjoy this family-fun Atlanta tradition!  Visit the website for ticket prices, reservations (strongly recommended!), and full operating schedule.  Check here for special promotions & packages.

For more information, special promotions and giveaways, like Stone Mountain Park on Facebook at  (Don't forget to leave a comment telling them you read about Snow Mountain on!) 

Disclaimer:  The kids & I received 4 passes to visit Stone Mountain/Snow Mountain in order to review it.  All opinions given are my own!  No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The best cookies for Valentine's Day!

Hello sweet bloggy friends!  Are y'all ready for Valentine's Day? Gosh, I can't believe it is almost here!  I love making these cookies all winter long.  I made them for New Year's Eve, but they are perfect for Valentine's Day.  How can you go wrong making rich chocolate cookies with a cherry hidden under a luscious chocolate frosting ~ delicious! : )  This recipe originally came from Ms. Jill, who was the Children's Pastor at the church I worked at from 1998- 2003.  I always think of her when I make these yummy cookies!

Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies
•1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

•1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

•1/4 teaspoon salt

•1/4 teaspoon baking soda

•1/4 teaspoon baking powder

•1/2 cup butter, room temperature

•1 cup granulated sugar

•1 egg

•1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

•1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained, reserve juice

•1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips

•1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and soda, blend well; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter or margarine and sugar on low speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; beat until smooth and well blended. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place on ungreased baking sheet. (I used foil to line my stonewear, but I did spray it with Pam!) Press down the center of each ball with thumb. Drain Maraschino cherries well, reserving juice. Place a cherry in the indention of each cookie.

In small saucepan combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk; heat over low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the topping over each cherry, spreading to cover cherry. If frosting seems too thick, thin with a little more cherry juice.

 Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until done. Cool on wire rack.   Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to save some money on your mortgage, and other home stuff!

Hey ya'll!  It's been a busy week here, as usual!  How did the month of January get away from me?! Did that happen for any of you? Crazy how that happens!  Today's post has some info I heard on the radio about saving money on your mortgage, plus a few other links for homeowners that might save you more money!

I'm in my car for about 2 hours a day driving kiddos to and from their schools, to work, etc., so I listen to the radio quite a bit! One show I like to listen to is Clark Howard's radio show.  He is based here in Atlanta, and loves to help his listeners save money.  Earlier this week I heard him discussing how you could save BIG on your mortgage, so I checked out the site he recommended.  He was, as usual, right on the money!

I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but I know we have 23 years left on our mortgage, and we owe about $144,000.  I know our rate is in the 6.5ish range  (Yes - we NEED to refi, I know!!)  Clark suggested this website, which offers a prepayment calculator to show you how much you can save! I plugged the above info in, guessing at the interest rate, and I was really impressed at the possible savings!  You know that when you pay the mortgage,  you are mostly paying the interest.  My husband pays the mortgage and handles our bills, so I didn't realize just how much of our mortgage payment is only paying on the interest! Eye-opening, to say the least.  So knocking a few (or more) years off the life of your mortgage means big money in your pocket! 

Here's what the calculator showed for paying about $60 a month extra....

For a loan of $144000 at an interest rate of 6.5% for 23 years
The standard payment (principal & interest) : $ 1006.65

You entered $ 1065.00, an extra $ 58.35 each month
You paid it off in 245 months (20.417 years) 
•Expected total interest : $ 133836.26
•Your total interest : $ 115887.85
•Total interest saved : $ 17948.42

See? Paying an extra $60 a month, applied to the principle of our loan, would knock 3 years off. We save almost $18,000!! That is HUGE y'all! And check out what happens if we pay an extra $100 a month....

 For a loan of $144000 at a interest rate of 6.5% for 23 years
The standard payment (principal & interest) : $ 1006.65

You entered $ 1107.00, an extra $ 100.35 each month
You paid it off in 226 months (18.833 years)
•Expected total interest : $ 133836.26
•Your total interest : $ 105892.74
•Total interest saved : $ 27943.52

Now we've knocked off close to 5 years, but saved almost $28,000! WOW!  Isn't that incredible?  Of course, you need to make sure that your loan allows early pay-offs, and you have to specify on your mortgage coupon that you want the extra amount to go directly to the principle.  Check with your bank or mortgage company for all the scoop!  And check out that website to enter your own mortgage details to see how much you can save!  Who couldn't use an extra $15k or $20K in their pocket?

A couple more links to share:

Are you a Veteran looking for a Military VA loan?  This site has so much information about VA benefits, loan information, plus current mortgage rates and more!!   Click here to visit this page.

I also want to tell you about my auto/homeowners insurance company.  They ROCK! This is not a USAA-sponsored post,  I just love them!!  The company is USAA and they insure military personnel, retired military, and their family members.  My PaPa (grandfather!) was a Vet, and I'm thankful to him for using USAA, and therefore passing that benefit onto my Dad, who passed it on to me!  They offer great rates, the best customer service around, and  a variety of other services, including banking, car buying service, etc!  I can't say enough great things about them.  I have had my auto insurance with them for years.  Randy insured our home with his insurance company when we bought the house, so a few years ago, we checked to see if they could save us money on our homeowner's insurance.  Boy, did we ever save! We got more coverage for much less than the company we previously were insured with.  To see if you qualify for membership,  check out their website.  I love knowing that my kids are already members because of my USAA membership, so they will always pay the best rates and get the best benefits around! (In my opinion, of course!)  Another person who loves USAA?  Clark Howard again - he can't say enough how much he loves them too!

Do you have any great homeowner money-saving tips? Have you saved big pre-paying your mortgage?  I would love for you to leave me a comment and share! : )