April 30, 2011


Posted by Ethne and Lori~

As much fun as we've had with the Royal Wedding, we have been thinking a lot about those who've been affected by the huge storms here in the States.  We're thinking of and praying for you!

April 29, 2011

THE BIG DAY: Royal Watching!

Posted by Ethne and Lori~

Ethne’s Story:

As promised, I got up at 3:04 a.m. (yeah, I slept in 4 extra minutes, so sue me) for the BIG EVENT!  Lori didn’t.  She slacked.  But I’ll let her make her excuses.

I premise this story by saying that some of the below pictures are offered in true, brutal honesty in keeping with the integrity of our blog.  I will deny their legitimacy if they are ever used against me.  Consider yourselves warned.

My first move was to turn on the TV – I opted for my fave – Today Show (Meredith and Matt – don’t forget that we expect our loyalty to be repaid with an appearance on your show at some future date).  I didn’t take a pic to dramatically reenact this, but I did take a pic of me watching, prone, from the couch:

I think I look rather refreshed for 3 a.m.

Second order of business, text Thrifty Nana to make sure she was awake. Sure as shootin’ she was!  But where was Whit?  She was supposed to call and make sure I was awake by 3:00, seeing as she only had to get up at 4:00 in Atlanta.  I broke down and called her at 3:20 and it went straight to voicemail. What?!?  No answer to my ‘get up’ text either.

TN and I text-talked for another ½-hour till we decided that we better take quick showers so we didn’t miss the real business.  Who cares about the lower royals filing in from their buses?  Well, me, but I had to make sacrifices.

After showers, it was finally time to have a cup of tea and talk for realsies, so TN called me.  This worked swell till Kate was arriving at Westminster Abbey and we still had no Whit on the line.  Thankfully, she beeped in just as Kate was getting to the front of the church.  Woot!  Her phone had forsaken her and inexplicably died, laying right there on her chest.  Not knowing that she had only missed the aisle-stroll, she said “My life is over”.  That’s a quote, Friends. Thankfully karma was with her and she jolted awake just in time.

I immediately worked my magic and three-way’d TN in on the convo and we watched the whole deal in unison.  It was pretty much brilliant.  Here is a pic of me talking to them, with wet hair, in living color:

Cross-country wedding viewing!

Sweet Baby T-Rex watched with me – my trusty companion.  I’m pretty sure he loved Kate’s dress as much as I did:

Intently tuned to the tube.
This is what was on just then.

At this point, it was time to fulfill my official duties as a Wom-Mom, and I got the girls up and ready.  I let them pick out their clothes since I was in a friendly-type mood.  And also because they were distracted by this task and I could get a little more watching in.  There was a little dallying going on as we were ready to get the kids on their way to daycare with Shaun.  The trusty Today Show kiss countdown told me there were a mere 12 minutes till the big balcony show, so I cracked down and got them on their way.  And I happily watched the two sweet kisses and headed to work.

A whole work-day went by:

Getting some work done.

And now it’s time to re-live the magic – with the girls and TN.  Let’s see how we fared:

I have nothing.  The girls didn't want to wear their Tangled tiaras; they chewed on their pearl necklaces.  They did cheer when the kisses were re-played, so I guess that makes it magical for me.  The little scamps.  Emma told Thrifty Nana that she wanted to go to college and meet Prince Charming.  :)  I won't argue.

Lori’s Story:
I didn’t take the plunge like Ethne (and you know that I am not a morning person), so I was in bed by 11:30 p.m., but not before setting my TIVO to record the royal wedding. 
I knew I had a royal party to attend at 7:30 a.m.

I received this special invite in the mail!

Displayed proudly on my desk next to Steve and Mur-Man!  A-DOR-ABLE!

I got up (just in time to catch the kiss), I quickly got ready, grabbed my royal hat (purchased of course at a thrift store), dressed Mur-Man in his Sunday best (even a pageboy hat for my Mur-Man) and headed to the party. 
Mur-Man and I were greeted by a sign welcoming us to the wedding of William and Kate.

A table was full of yum! 

Mur-Man and my thrifty co-worker (or the Queen Mum?)

The party was perfect complete with Englishmen (or college students from England).

The perfect decor!
Mur-Man getting into the celebration!

My royal wedding day was perfection—I capped off the day with hitting play on the TIVO.  I am catching all the royal action while typing this post.  I love it!  I love William!  I love Kate’s dress.  All is magnificent and already I am scheming.  MISSION:  My Mur-Man WILL MARRY A ROYAL!  DECISION DONE! 


Posted by Ethne~

Well, I am loving everything British this week.  What’s more traditional than a proper cup of tea?  Good thing I have an insider in the fam who keeps me hooked up.

There are several brands the locals (as in across-the-Atlantic locals) use – my fave is PG Tips, which comes in little pyramid-shaped bags.  And guess what?  I can buy it at my local grocery store.  It’s not the thriftiest, but since my Brit brother Rich keeps me stocked, I haven’t had to patronize Cub.

First, you need to boil your water properly.  What, you ask?  Isn’t this elementary?  No.  It’s not.  You must start with cold water.  I have a teakettle (I checked at Macy’s and you can get pricey ones! but mine is from Target), but I also have an electric kettle that works for me.  The second key to boiling water for tea is to not allow it to come to a full rolling boil.  This just takes a practiced ear.  When I can hear it getting close, I pull the plug and the water’s perfect.  You want the water piping hot, but not too hot or you’ll scald the tea leaves.

My stuff - sweet teacup from Rich's Mum
Red teapot from Whit

Next you place the teabag into your cup.  I have no tips for doing this correctly.  You’re gonna have to go with your gut.

PG Tips pyramid bag - for maximum steepage 

Pour the water into the cup, about 4/5ths of the way to the top.  I leave a little room at the top to allow for milk, which I prefer with my tea.

Goin' in hot!

According to Rich, it’s especially proper to steep the water and teabag in a teapot.  I have a lovely red one from Whit and it’s FAB.  But since I usually only make a cup of tea for myself (Shaun’s definitely a coffee guy), I forego this propriety.  NOTE: if you use a teapot, you may need to use extra teabags so it’s strong enough.  Also, when I make tea from loose tea leaves (a la Teavana), my red teapot has a built-in strainer.

One of the trickiest steps is getting the tea steeped just long enough to be strong, but not too long or it becomes bitter and gets cold.  I know what the proper look of the tea is when it’s steeped perfectly and, for me, it looks like black coffee; it’s not black, but a dark chocolate brown.

Perfect color

If I’m not standing over the tea watching it steep (which is never), I use my cheater method, which is to set the clock for 5 minutes.  When it buzzes, it’s done and I take that tea bag out! 

[THRIFTY NOTE:  Some people re-use their tea bags for a 2nd cup, which is a great thrifty idea.  I don’t.  I don’t think the 2nd steeping makes the tea strong enough.]

You can dress your tea however you’d like.  For my PG Tips, I like either 1 teaspoon of regular sugar or 1 Splenda tablet.  Is Splenda proper you ask?  Why yes – I have my pack of Splenda tabs from Rich’s friend and London resident, JS.  Rich says that if you’re really posh, you use a lump or cube of sugar.  One lump, or two?  I’m a one-lumper.

These tabs are from London!

I am not certain how much milk I add.  Probably between 1 and 2 tablespoons.  I basically know it’s right when, as I pour, the milk flushes back up to the top of the tea like a cloud.  Don’t forget – it’s proper to use milk, not cream.  I use 1% because that’s what we buy.

Milk flushing perfectly to the surface

I have a couple other tea favorites.  Earl Grey tea – with honey instead of sugar.  And I take it up another notch with Teavana’s Earl Grey Crème – pretty much the best tea on Earth.  Lipton’s black tea is great and costs a couple bucks for a lot of bags – that’s your thrifty bet.  If I'm looking for caffeine-free herbal tea, I like chamomile, Teavana's Peach Tranquility/Honeybush Vanilla or their Swiss Vervaine Melange/Honeybush Vanilla.

The girls modeling my Teavana tin

With options like these, who needs smelly old coffee?  Actually, it's the smell of coffee I like.  It tastes horrible.

Close call - almost spilled from the ruckus behind me

When I’m up at 3 am to start my wedding-watching, you can bet I’ll be sipping some tea – straight from across the sea – and staring down my lovely sapphire and diamond ring from Shaun (yes, my real one) and the other from Wills.  I’ll almost be there.  Almost.

April 28, 2011


Posted by Ethne~

Just in time for the Royal Wedding - check out the fascinators I had made for the girls - they wore them for Easter and at church, they were superstars!

Easy Mac's a natural model:

Easy Mac posing next to her new bike
Princess material in the making

KD is perfectly comfortable in the limelight:

There was no getting her out of those
too-small 'tappy shoes'
Thanks to Nicole at Sassy Heart Tutus for tailoring my special-order and shipping them off in due haste.

April 27, 2011


Posted by Lori~
That’s right.  The class will take place tomorrow night (April 28) from 6-7 p.m. at Stepping Stones/Trinity Lutheran church in the upstairs fellowship hall.  The class is free!
Also childcare is available for $3.00/family.  RSVP by emailing Sarah at sarahmcbirke@hotmail.com or by calling 701-252-2841. 
Learn the ins and outs of saving “real” money and spending little time doing it.  Real examples and receipts will be provided.
Coupon 101 is sponsored by WOM-MOM and the  http://www.steppingstonesplaycenter.com/.
In preparation for Coupon 101, I decided to do a little “extreme” couponing with my FAB friend Danica! 
Danica buying yogurt without a coupon--SHAME!  SHAME!
Danica did a little coupon-shadow and said she learned a lot.  A few photo highlights from our trip (we will call it a play-by-play of our EXTREME adventure). 

Sorting the coupons by Wal-Mart sections
I plan to do a coupon organization upgrade VERY SOON!

It's like laughing cow cheese and ONLY 1 point and ONLY $1.48 with coupon!

Scott's TP ONLY $1.68 with coupon!
The travel section is stocked full of deals!
(especially when coupons don't have size requirements)



Posted by Lori~
I can’t believe it but the derby is coming to my big city, ND town and I am thrilled! 

Not only that but a WOM-MOM follower and my FAB friend Jen is one of the founders of the Buff City Brawlers Derby Team!  Jen of course has a derby name, but I can’t for the life of me remember it.

Jen all set in her derby gear!
How does WOM-MOM get involved in this derby?  Derby ladies are WOMS too and thanks to the Buff City Brawlers for asking WOM-MOM to create the teams helmet covers.  And of course we said yes.
When first asked, I had to do a little research.  Jen turned me onto a FREE pattern—perfection.  And so we set out to find the perfect fabric.  Lycra was the ticket (neon green, neon pink and black).  We did find a spandex pair of shorts at the local thrift shop, but also picked up fabric at the local fabric store.   
The pattern was great, but unfortunately was European, so this required some conversion (the skills came out and luckily Crafty G-Ma was in town).  Rather than go to town on the new fabric, we opted to road test the pattern using an old t-shirt.  The pattern was small and needed to be blown up and it worked.  So here it goes—in case you ever need a derby helmet cover.  WOMS—YOU CAN DO IT!
Supplies needed:
Four-way stretch fabric
Narrow elastic
Matching thread
1.    Cut out the fabric using the pattern.

Make sure you pin the fabric down--it is slippery!
2.   Sew the side panels to the middle stripe. Keep in mind you are using four-way stretch fabric so fold and pin in order to sew the fabric together effectively.  (Lycra is a tough fabric to sew and requires a very good sewing machine needle.  Also, I would encourage you to use a small zig-zag stitch, which allows for easy stretch).

It is important to fit the fabric to the fabric using this method, especially with a four-way stretch fabric. 
3.    Sew the bottom edge down ¼ inch and then fold again and sew 1 inch (leave an opening for the elastic).
4.   Thread the elastic through the opening (I cut my elastic 18 ½ inches, but you will want to determine your size based on preference).  A safety pin works best for threading.
5.   Sew the two ends of the elastic together.
6.   Complete the seam.
7.   If you are sewing the star helmet covers—attach the stars to the sides of the cover. 

Two done...two more to go!
Enjoy!  Derby girls—ROCK IT!

Not ready to sign-up for the derby, but I thought I would test-drive the helmet cover!

April 26, 2011

TUESDAYS AT NOON: Ethne on the Royal Wedding

Posted by Ethne~

I am loveable.  Really.
Loveable Me


…any of my friends reading this know that when it came to my wedding, I was a teensy weensy bit obnoxious.  I wasn’t bridezilla.  But I loved the idea of my own wedding for years and years, and I was happy to tell every one of my friends about it.  I had a folder of my fave dress (which my real one didn’t look like); I had a tape with my fave wedding songs (which I did use); and I had other snippets of flowers, cakes, etc.  Some ended up being helpful, some not so much.

When Shaun proposed and I got to plan my real actual wedding, I was thrilled.  When my siblings have gotten married, I’ve been thrilled to be involved.  When my friends have gotten married, I’ve always been involved, particularly with making them totally gorgeous (shout out to Whit too).  So they can’t complain about the teensy-bit-obnoxious-wedding-Ethne when they TOTALLY benefited.

So I am totally, completely excited about the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton.  You know this; I’ve mentioned it once or twice.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Thrifty Nana, Whit and I are frothing at the mouth in anticipation. 

It's pretty, huh? 
My caption of Facebook: 'He picked me instead'

I found this a while ago, not even thinking about Kate's ring

This got me wondering – is everyone so excited about the big event? – or are they annoyed with the hoopla and can’t wait for it to be over? – or are they completely indifferent?  Particularly as Americans, why the world are we so excited about it?

First, going back to my own wedding excitement – for many of us, weddings are just plain fun and exciting.  They are, on the whole, a happy affair – worldwide.  So then you add to that the pomp and circumstance of a ROYAL wedding and every little girl’s dream of being a princess, it’s practically magical.  To top it off, these two are actually in love with one another.  You don’t have to be British to love that.

Second, there’s a lot of yucky stuff going on in this world.  That’s not new; it’s historically a part of the human condition just as happy things like weddings are.  But still, there are a lot of reasons to be sad about a lot of stuff.  You don’t need me to tell you this.  So a happy love affair and the wedding that promises giant, hallowed (Princess Diana’s ring and Westminster Abbey, for example) items/places, gorgeous rings, tiaras, dresses, carriages, morning suits, military regalia AND a prince and princess – everyone can use a momentary amnesia of the bad stuff to focus on something like Will and Kate’s wedding.  You don’t have to be British to love that.

As Americans, we’ve got ‘royalty’ like the Kennedys, movie stars, me outstanding good citizens, scientists and the like – but I guess it’s not quite the same as being royal.  Maybe this lack of our own official monarchy (not that I’d trade) makes it more exciting or dramatic for Americans. 

One of my majors at St. Olaf College (UM YA YA!) was American Studies.  It was super interesting.  For example, we studied why people have grass in their yards – it’s totally artificial, not indigenous to the US, and it takes a lot of work to maintain.  [One of my proudest achievements, aside from graduating from such a prestigious liberal arts college, was my American Studies 101 essay on deodorant.  I’m not joking.  I got an A and was even singled out by the professor as an example of who got the essay right on.]  One of the things we studied was weddings.  Weddings are a public presentation of the joining of two families (which historically is a really big deal), they are a public profession of love and they offer the promise of procreating a new generation, among many other things.  Bottom line – weddings go way back in history and have quite an interesting and varied evolution and significance.

KD (left) and Easy Mac (right) wearing their fascinators
I had made by Sassy Heart Tutus

As Brits, they SHOULD be super excited about this thing.  Things aren’t the greatest over there either, and this is actually their royal family.  Fortunately for me, I was able to take this inquiry directly to the source.  My Brit brother RS is happy to keep me up-to-date on the royal goings-on (including making sure I know what are the best places to catch all the coverage).  And even better, when we got together for Easter last weekend, we called his Mum and Dad on the Isle of Wight and asked them.  What’s their take?  Mum said there are loads of commemorative memorabilia to purchase.  Get me some of that!  And Dad said that things are pretty much at fever pitch right now – on top of the fact that everyone is really excited to have a holiday on Friday.  Not everyone over there is thrilled – he said gas prices are through the roof there, probably about the equivalent of $9-10 over here.  But on the whole, the Brits are pretty excited.

Third, there is always the celebrity factor.  You all know I love me a celebrity trainwreck.  But I love even more a celebrity love story.  I feel a little sorry for Will and Kate that they will be in the spotlight forevermore.  But only a little bit.  They will also get to do really cool things like travel, have really cool things like Crown Jewels, live really cool places and do really important humanitarian things.  And HELLO? they get to be King and Queen someday.

For those of you out there who are with me in being really excited about this wedding, ROCK ON.  (Shaun, stop rolling your eyes.)  For those of you who are indifferent, well, I say you’re missing out.  For those of you with a bad attitude about this whole thing, I say to you – lighten up and shut up.  There are a lot of good and important reasons why this wedding is exciting and perhaps even more, why this young royal couple has a chance to change the face of another generation all across the world.

I’ll do a WOM toast to them on Friday!  Maybe with a mimosa at , maybe not…

April 25, 2011


Posted by Ethne~

So who wants to pay more when there’s a less expensive alternative available?  Naturally I pick the THRIFTY option…sometimes.  I’m talking about name brand products vs. generics/house brands.

So I ask myself – are you getting the same product you expect in a name brand when you buy a generic/house brand (because that’s the idea)?  Or is it a situation where you get what you pay for, and cheaper isn’t as good.  My guess – the answer will be: SOMETIMES.  I set out on a mission to find out.

NOTE: unless the store has their house brand/generic product on sale (which I didn’t find in my shopping examination), you typically can’t use coupons on generic. (Target does have up and up coupons on target.com, which Lori says can make products DIRT CHEAP.  Also, on occasion, Lori has received a Parent's Choice coupon in the mail (Wal-Mart's baby brand). 

Two examples of Up and Up coupons from target.com

But I did find that even using a coupon on a name brand product left it more expensive than the generic product.  If you’re trying out extreme couponing like Lori and me, keep your eye on store sales + coupons and you can, ideally, get it for dirt cheap or free!  So that’s a trap-shoot (and let’s be clear that I prefer the term crap-shoot, but Shaun advises me that trap is the proper term for the terra cotta plates you practice shooting your firearm at a firing range + this is a family friendly blog).

So, let’s see what my Super Target antics drummed up:

VEGGIE:  Frozen Broccoli – KD and Easy Mac’s favorite
Archer Farms (Target high end brand), florets:             $2.29/16 oz. = $0.143/oz.
Market Pantry (Target generic), chopped cuts:             $1.24/16 oz. = $0.078/oz.
Green Giant chopped cuts,            on sale:                             $1.50/12 oz. = $0.125/oz.

Clearly the Market Pantry broccoli is the best buy.  And they are a fine product.  The key difference is that the chopped cuts are florets plus stems, which are not as tasty.  The florets are just the tops, and that is really tasty.  So for my family, I always buy the florets.  This is a situation where you get what you pay for.

FRUIT:  Frozen Blueberries – a super antioxidant

Archer Farms Maine berries:                                                $3.99/16 oz. = $0.25/oz.
Market Pantry berries:                                                            $3.19/12 oz. = $0.27/oz.

This is crazy!  You might think that buying the $3.19 house generic brand is cheaper because the price is lower.  But when it’s calculated, the house high-end brand is $0.02 cents cheaper per ounce.  Friends, this is an example of where you really need to be smart and do the math.  No difference in the quality of the berries in my opinion.

CEREAL:  KD and Easy Mac don’t eat much for sugar cereal but I <3 Lucky Charms
         Lucky Charms (name brand), on sale:                        $2.99/16 oz. = $0.187/oz.
            Lucky Charms:                                                            $3.69/24 oz. = $0.154/oz.
            Marshmallow Mateys (generic), on sale:                        $4.59/28 oz. = $0.163/oz.        
         MP Marshmallow Treasures (house brand):            $1.89/11.5 oz. = $0.143/oz.

Shop smart Friends, and you’ll find the best deal.  I’ve found that the taste of all of these generics is great.

Wal-Mart's generic cereal

Name brand at Wal-Mart
         Market Pantry:                                                            $2.69/gallon
            Kemps Select (no hormones):                                    $3.69/gallon

Friends, there is no difference in taste here.  And the MP is fine and a buck THRIFTIER for your budget.  Shaun and I purchase the hormone-free, which means that the cows are not given hormones to increase their milk production.  I read an article that a study found that these same hormones were found to cause girls to start puberty early.  True or not, I really would rather not take the chance until I learn otherwise.

Generic skim milk at Wal-Mart in small city, ND!  $4.12/gallon!  WOW!
Lori says she ALWAYS BUYS the generic milk! 
JARRED/CANNED GOODS: Spaghetti sauce -all equivalent size jars
         Market Pantry:                                                            $1.32
            Prego:                                                                                    $1.87
            Ragu:                                                                                    $1.87

Shaun and I buy the Market Pantry house brand.  We really like the taste and the price is THRIFTIER!

ORANGE JUICE:  Equivalent size cartons
         Tropicana, not from concentrate on sale:                        $2.99
            Market Pantry, from concentrate:                                    $2.64

Either of these OJs taste great.  I prefer the not from concentrate option.  It’s freshly squeezed (hello Lois Lane!)

Great Value OJ (Wal-Mart's generic brand)
SNACKS:  Yum-o
         Doritos, on sale:                                                            $3.50/17oz. = $0.21/oz.
            Doritos:                                                                        $3.00/12oz. = $0.25/oz.
            Market Pantry:                                                            $1.74/13oz. = $0.13/oz.

In this case, I’ve found that the MP brand does not taste the same as Doritos.  I prefer Doritos.  I eat them sparingly these days because they are not Quantum Leap friendly.  Boo hiss.

BEAUTY PRODUCT: Contact solution – equivalent size
         Opti-free no-rub saline:                                                $15.89/2-pack
            Up & Up (Target house brand):                                    $4.34/2-pack

This difference I couldn’t believe.  I use the house brand and am perfectly satisfied.

LAUNDRY PRODUCT:  Fabric softener sheets
         Snuggle                                                                        $4.69/60 loads = $0.08/load
Up & Up, on sale:                                                            $3.79/60 loads = $0.06/load
Vinegar, 1 T./load:                                                            $1.17/bottle

I am trying out vinegar in my wash cycle right now as a natural option (at the suggestion of a blog we follow, Sutton Grace).  It DOES NOT make the clothes smell like vinegar.  We also use Rainbow grocery house brand of dryer sheets, which I didn’t price out for this post.  Since I have been using this combination with my homemade detergent, I’ve noticed our clothes are really soft.  J

BABY PRODUCT We still use wipes for the girls when necessary
         Huggies, unscented:                                                $5.49/184 wipes = $0.03/wipe
            Up & Up, unscented:                                                $4.69/264 wipes = $0.02/wipe

We’ve liked the Huggies wipes.  They are thicker and sturdier than the generic wipes.  The generic wipes are perfectly acceptable, and we’ve used these too.

Parent's Choice wipes from Wal-Mart

MISSION SUMMARY – Friends, when it comes to generics vs. name brands, you have to shop smart.  Sometimes stores try to trick you and it would appear that the same volume of a product in generic is cheaper than the name brand, but what is often the case is that the box sizes are misleading – so measure price to ounce.

Also, it is often the case that when priced out, the name brand can be cheaper or equivalent.  And, you must be mindful of your preference on taste and quality.  Sometimes you can’t tell the difference, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Bring your coupons, bring a calculator, and you’ll be able to find the best loot for your galleons.