Monday, November 30, 2015 $3 deals for Cyber Monday!

I received a gift card for the purpose of this review. This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

I think I probably do the most baking during the month of November, but that means that I have less time and desire to do the regular meal planning and cooking.

For families that want to avoid some of the hours of cooking and clean-up this holiday season, is offering an amazing deal - $3 for $25 certificates TODAY only with the Promo Code - CYBER.

Find places to eat, meet and be merry from 22,000 restaurants nationwide!

The amazing thing about is that you can easily take it on the road with you while you are traveling! Their mobile app makes a wonderful travel companion! You can search for restaurants by zip code and then easily use the certificate from your phone at the restaurant.

You better act fast, this "Better than the Best" $3 Cyber Monday deal won't last. is the trusted and valued source for connecting diners and restaurants nationwide. This offer ends today, at 11:59pm CT, so don't miss it!

I received a gift card for the purpose of this review. This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Prep!

This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase something through one of my links, I will receive a small commission.  This is at no extra cost to you.  If you want $10 off your first Erin Condren purchase, sign up for an account through this link and they will e-mail you a code!  Thank you for supporting this blog!

Hello everyone!  The next several days it is going to be a bit quieter on the blog.  I, as I am sure many of you are, am spending a lot of time with family, and of course a ton of cooking is to be done!

I wanted to share a few photos of what we are doing right now!  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and start to the Christmas season!  For my friends that are visiting from outside the US, I will be back soon!

Bread baking began yesterday.  Two years ago I made stuffing from my homemade bread.  It was absolutely amazing.  Last year I was recovering from a c-section, so we went with the delicious Pepperidge Farm option. 

The kids are fully enjoying their long homeschooling break by playing board games every morning.  This is one of their favorites, Catan Junior.

My too long list for today - it goes on the back as well.  Ignore the horrible chicken scratch, I have re-written it in my Erin Condren Life Planner in nicer writing so that I have it as a nice little memory, but for the scrap paper, it is write as fast as I possibly can!

I realized after I made the decision to make cranberry bread and pumpkin muffins for breakfast tomorrow, that I wouldn't be able to make them know...since I have to cook a 21 pound turkey!  I'm glad I realized that before lunch time!  So muffins and bread are done.  

If you want to follow along with the rest of my Thanksgiving prep, you can find me over on Instagram where I will be posting more food pictures than I probably should!

Are you baking and cooking a lot today?  I would love to see what you are up to!  Leave a link to your pictures below.

Monday, November 23, 2015

My History with Black Friday and the Strategy for this Year

Is Black Friday a tradition in your home?  It is in mine.  Not one that we always keep to, but one that seems to always be on our minds around Thanksgiving – which is funny since Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have, and Black Friday seems to be about acquiring more stuff.

I think over the past few years, Black Friday has gotten huge.  It now has a Cyber Monday, a Small Business Saturday, in fact, I have been getting e-mails and flyers in the mail about Black Friday deals that are running all of November.

When I was in college that was the first time Black Friday was big to me.  I heard that the Maine Mall was going to be opening at midnight.  It was completely unheard of at that time (I might be showing my age a bit here!).  Some of the stores would be open, and there would be amazing sales. 

We already had a tradition of going to LL Bean on Thanksgiving, to walk off most of the food we had eaten and make room for pie.  So going to the mall wasn’t that far off for us.

I convinced my brother and my mom to drive down to Portland at 11pm.  We got there, and there was a line already around the mall.  It was freezing.  We all had coffee (and at the time, only one of us actually drank coffee – my mom), and were ready to see what this Black Friday thing was all about.

Let me tell you, it was chaos!

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  We walked around that morning, going to the stores that were open, making many trips to Starbucks, and just generally walking around.

It wasn’t about getting a good deal; it wasn’t about buying a bunch of stuff.  It actually was about my family spending time together, walking around in the craziness, laughing when we saw people running for displays.  Yes, we bought a few things, but it wasn’t the primary draw.  We wanted an adventure, and we got one!

As the years have gone on, we have seen our Black Friday change a bit.  The last time that we went out super early was when Emma was just six months old.  After that, there were more children added to the mix, and sleep became the priority, not getting out in the morning.

This year is the first year that I feel that pull to go back out in the craziness.  I’m not sure it will be at midnight, or even 8am, but I can definitely see myself getting out to people watch and see what kind of deals might be available.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my desire to get the paper on Thanksgiving morning.  I go to the little gas station near my house first thing in the morning to get the paper with all of those ads.  Often I don’t see anything of interest, but once in a while I will find something that I want to buy for someone.

What is my plan for this year?  Well, I will get the paper on Thanksgiving morning, I will sit down with my coffee after we get the turkey in the oven and look through the paper.  I will clip the coupons that are important to me – Michael’s, AC Moore, JoAnn Fabrics – and then I will enjoy my Thanksgiving meal!

I haven’t decided if I will go out, I haven’t decided if I want to drag my kids out for that.  More than likely, my husband will stay home with the kids, and I will make a few quick runs to the stores where I know I need to get some things, and then be home in time to start decorating our Christmas tree.

This obviously isn’t a real Black Friday strategy. 

My real Black Friday strategy is to soak up the extra time I have with my family all together.  To watch my niece and nephew play with my kids, to visit with my brother and sister-in-law, to play Christmas music and decorate our tree, and eat more Thanksgiving leftovers; that is my real strategy.  I’m not chasing a deal, or trying to find the hottest present this year.  I may find something I want to get, but I’m not going to be fighting anyone to get it.

What do you do on Black Friday?  Do you go out in the madness, or do you skip it?  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Top 4 Gifts for the Techie in your Life! #BetterMoments

I am a member of the U.S. Cellular #BetterMoments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post on behalf of U.S. Cellular.  As always, the opinions are all my own!

I think we can all agree that most people own some sort of wireless device these days!  I know that my iPhone is pretty much glued to me all the time.  And I think that most of us know someone who loves technology - or several someones.  I know that in my own family, my brother, mom, husband, and I all love technology.  With the holidays coming (already here?!), what better way to celebrate that giving the techie in your life some amazing tech gifts? 

I think that this Christmas will probably be the first year a lot of kids are getting their own wireless devices.  If that is the case in your family, don’t forget to grab the U.S. Cellular Parent-Child Agreement to talk to your kids about appropriate wireless usage, and setting up boundaries.

Now, here are my Top Four Wireless Accessories for the Holiday Season!

First up is the OtterBox Commuter Case.  Now, this is probably the most important one for me, as a mom.  My phone gets grabbed, dropped, and even thrown sometimes, but these cases are AMAZING!  Retail price $39.99.

With defense against drops, dust and scratches, along with two layers of protection, the OtterBox Commuter Case is sleek enough to fit in your pocket while also protecting against the elements.

Next, the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch.  This one looks awesome!  Connect all of your home electronics to your Wi-Fi network.  It then allows you to turn them off and on from anywhere on your phone or tablet.  It can put your electronics on a schedule, and even track energy usage and send that information back to your phone or tablet.  It is perfect for someone looking to simplify their lives when it comes to their home technology.  Retail Price $59.99

The Parrot Rolling Spider Drone – it seems like drones are all the rage right now.  For the fun-loving adult (or kid!) on your list, this is an ultra-compact drone that is controlled by your smartphone.  It flies indoors and outdoors with speed and stability.  You can use it to take pictures by just pushing the button on the accompanying app.  It also has detachable wheels that make it easy to go from floor to ceiling – this is very cool!  Retail Price $99.99

The last gadget is the Samsung Gear S2.  This little device really does it all.  It is perfect for the health conscious person on your list, tracking all of your daily activities, counts your steps, measure your pulse as well as your water vs. caffeine intake.  It can also take calls and texts, even buy a latte if you want!  The Gear S2 makes it easy to read an e-mail, check out your favorite apps, or listen to music, right from your wrist!  Retail Price $349.99.

I am incredibly excited about the holidays this year!  So much so that I have been talking about it all the time recently here at Townsend House!

I would love to hear what you are hoping to get for Christmas, as well as what you are planning on giving to the loved ones in your life?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

knitting and reading

After I finished my runner from last week, I wasn't sure what to knit next.  I know that I need to make a run to the yarn store to stock up on some new yarn, and I didn't have time to get there this past weekend.  Instead, I decided to go back to my dish cloth knitting.

I really love this chevron pattern, I think it is going to make a really nice set of dish cloths.  I am planning on giving these as a Christmas present, but seeing as how I only have 2.5 done, I know that I need to get working on these to have a nice set.  I mean, how many dish cloths would you expect to get in a set?  Five?  Ten?  I don't know.  They do knit up pretty quickly, when I have time to sit and do them.  

Maybe I will have more time after we finish up school for the year this week - we start our very long holiday break next week, and I am incredibly excited about that!

As far as my reading goes, I am continuing on my magazine theme from last week.  In the past couple of days I have gotten all of my new December magazines.  I'm especially looking forward to the gift guide in Real Simple...I don't often buy things from these lists, but I sure do love to look at them!

What are you working on this week?  What is your favorite magazine to receive around the holidays?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Preparing for a Long Homeschool Break!

Here we are, the week before Thanksgiving!  I don’t know about you, but I am just about ready for a homeschooling break!

Homeschooling is really great because we have the opportunity to make our own schedule.  We don’t need to worry about what anyone else is doing.

Several years ago I read on a homeschool blog about how the family would be taking the entire month of December off from homeschooling.  I was immediately intrigued.  How exactly did they plan to take an entire month off right in the middle of the school year?!

Well, as we have been homeschooling now for a few years (even if we are still in the very beginning, baby stages) I realized how possible it actually is.

First, for us, we homeschool all year; which makes planning a long break quite a bit easier in my mind.  However, I have read about other families that pretty much follow the regular school calendar and still take off a large chunk of time between Thanksgiving and the New Year; so if you do not school all year, please don’t think you can’t also get a nice break during the holiday season.

We start our new curriculum typically in the summer, this allows us time to get back into the swing of things with homeschooling, and also gives us the opportunity to bank some days (we must keep track of how many days we do school in my state) before other kids go back to school.

When I heard about taking time off during the holiday season, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to plan for in my own homeschooling.  It makes so much sense to me, have a large chunk of time when we are typically busy with so many other obligations. 

We actually tried it out two years ago.  Of course Emma was just 5 at that time, and we weren’t doing a ton of school every day (actually, at 7, we are still quite relaxed).  I enjoyed it immensely, and I know that the kids did as well.

It gave us time to do the messy crafts and that the kids always want to do, without me being as concerned about getting things cleared so we can settle for some writing or formal math practice.  It gave us more time to do Christmas crafts, and to bake more. 

It didn’t mean that we completely stopped learning, we instead were learning different things. 

Last year, I knew again that I wanted to take a chunk of time off, but this time it was because I was having a baby.  Again, we started our school year early because of it.  We needed that time as a family to become acclimated to a new baby in the home, and also for this mama to recuperate from a caesarean.

As I started planning this school year last spring, I realized that I would want to continue this wonderful time of taking between Thanksgiving and the New Year off.  But, this year I had to spend a little more time planning because of the fact that we are reporting to the state this year, whereas in past years Emma was not old enough for me to worry about it.

We did start homeschooling the first week in August this year, just getting our feet wet, and for us to get back into the swing of things.

I have my entire school year mapped out in my Erin Condren Teacher Planner.  This helps me to figure out where I need to be, and what I hope to accomplish in the first trimester of our year.  Having that broad plan in front of me allows me to pick and choose what we are doing each day, and it also shows me if we are going to be finished in time for our break. 

It has worked out exceptionally well.  I guess all that time I spent methodically going through everything that I planned to teach really worked!  It is nice when things go the way that you plan them – and it is a rare occurrence for me!

One main factor that has helped me in getting ready for this long homeschooling break is actually Emma.

Each month we create a new monthly calendar.  Emma and Jack both make their own with the days of the week and number it.  Then they write their activities down in it.  Of course I have all of this information in my own calendar, but for them to see it on the fridge, and take the ownership in writing down when they have sports practices and co-op etc., it helps. 

With Thanksgiving on the calendar this month, and Emma knowing that we have the opportunity to have a long homeschool break ahead of us (it isn’t guaranteed, we still need to finish the work before we can take the break), she has been incredibly motivated to move through her school work.  Math that was taking over an hour to do is not taking 20 minutes.  Writing that was bemoaned before is now done before I even start school.  And reading, well, she always does her reading, thankfully she has taken my love for reading and made it her own as well.

Every day Emma knows that she has to complete x number of math pages, do x number of copywork pages.  I am totally fine with her going ahead on her work as long as she is understanding it.  She is. 

With her diligence, and my planning, we will be finished with our first trimester at the end of this week; a few days before I had originally planned!

I am looking forward to having a season of rest, and the ability to get more in depth in planning for our winter term.  It will give us a much needed break from the everyday school, and will give us a little more free time for the activities that are only available to do during the holiday season.

Do you take a long winter break?  Why or why not?  Is it something you have considered, but have shied away from due to the length of time?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

6 Ways to Reduce your Heating Costs this Winter

There are affiliate links in this blog post.  If you purchase something after clicking on one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Have you turned your heat on yet?  We live in Maine, and while in years past we would wait until November 1st to turn on the heat, this year the heat came on in early October.  We have had a wonderfully warm November, so you may not be thinking about heating your home yet, but it is something I am constantly thinking about – especially how to save money on heating my home.

Several years back, when oil was over $4/gallon, I knew that we needed to make some changes in order to reduce how much we were spending on oil.  Now that oil is less than half that, I am feeling a little more comfortable about relaxing on keeping the thermostat incredibly low, but I still want to be able to save as much money as I can during the *very* long heating season.

Here are my Top 6 Tips for Reducing your Heating Costs.

Keep your thermostat lower.

It seems like a no-brainer, if you turn your thermostat lower, you will pay less to heat your home.  However, I think that most people forget about this step. 

If you are out of the house all day, do you need to keep your heat on 70?  Absolutely not.  You can turn it down, and save some money.  One thing that has helped us is to get a programmable thermostat.  We have this one and it has served us really well.  Not having to remember to turn the thermostat down when we know we are going to be out of the house is so helpful. 

Turning the thermostat down isn’t just for when you are out of the house.  If you turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees, and put on a sweater, you are going to save money.

The next tip is to use good curtains.

You can buy thermal lined curtains like these ones that are inexpensive, but give you a good amount of cold blocking power.  I know that a lot of houses in New England are old, and that means that windows are sometimes old.  Even if the windows are not old, like in my old house, there still seems to be cold air coming in.  If you are able to shut the curtains, it will help keep some of the heat in your rooms better.  If you have sun streaming through your windows during the day, keep those shades open in the winter and closed in the summer.  Then close the shades when the sun passes over your house in the winter, or vice versa in the summer.

My next tip is to block off your rooms with doors or curtains.

This is something that we have been doing every year for a long time.  It may sound strange to hang blankets to close off rooms in the winter, and it does look a little funny, but it definitely helps us keep our heating costs lower, and the rooms that we are in stay much warmer.

We live in an old New Englander home, and that means there are lots of rooms, and lots of doorways.  By hanging some blankets or curtains up between some of the rooms, our downstairs stays warmer, and since that is where we are most of the time, that makes sense for us.  Of course, it won’t work in every home.  And obviously it changes the esthetic of the home to have blankets hanging in your doorways, but I’m not as concerned about that.

Use a space heater.

Space heaters have come a long way; they aren’t nearly as dangerous as they used to be.  We have one similar to this one which we purchased several years ago, and it works really well.  It isn’t like a typical space heater, but when the room itself is warm, it helps to keep the room warm.  It doesn’t work as well if you start it in a cold room, it still works, but it doesn’t circulate the warm air as well as if the room is warm to begin with.

We run the heater in our downstairs, and it helps our thermostat to not constantly kick on.  The combination of turning the thermostat down a couple degrees, hanging the curtains in the doorways and running the space heater keeps my family incredibly comfortable all day.  Yes, the space heater adds cost to our electric bill, but it is not nearly as much as how much we pay for oil.

My last two tips Drink Tea and Bake.

These two are definitely more fun.  I am a coffee drinker.  I love coffee, but there is no way that I can drink coffee all day long – even though I might want to.  It wouldn’t be healthy to drink that much caffeine, and decaf coffee just isn’t the same.  Herbal tea, however, is something you can drink all day just fine. 

Drinking hot tea warms me up.  It warms up my hands, it warms my body, it is good for you.  I think it is definitely a win-win.  Winter sees me drinking a lot of tea.  And it isn’t just me, my kids will drink it as well.  Not as often, but when they see me drinking tea, they want to as well.  It probably helps that I will put milk and honey in it for them.

Baking.  It is a wonderful way to warm up your house!  We do a lot of baking in the winter; bread, casseroles, cookies, anything that I can make in the oven, I try to during the winter.  While what I am making is baking, the house warms up.  And once the oven has been turned off, I leave the door of the oven open to let the residual heat come into the rest of the house.  It is surprising how warm the house stays when I am baking!  Plus, all those delicious treats, how can you go wrong?!

These are the main ways we keep our heating costs low in the winter.  There are other ways to stay warm in a cooler house as well, sweaters, fingerless mitts, cowls, warm slippers or slippersocks.  All of these are wonderful helps to stay warm in a cooler house.

What tips do you have to keep heating costs low?  Do you see yourself turning up the thermostat a little more with oil prices lower?