Giving Back This Holiday Season

Whenever the holidays roll around, I get this overwhelming urge to give back. I am a strong believer in supporting charities and giving back to my community year-round. But there’s something about these winter months that makes me want to give a little more.

Just remember that your caring acts can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Want to give back but unsure where to go? From now until December 15, 2014 if you drop off a non-perishable food or toiletry item at Community 1st Credit Union in Cedar Rapids, you will be helping out the less fortunate members of our community.

Items to donate:
Canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, soup, cereal, pasta, baby foods/formula, diapers/wipes, laundry detergent, new bath towels, pillows or twin sheets, Ziploc bags, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, and paper products.

All of these items will be donated to Waypoint Services. Waypoint provides shelter and support for women and families in crisis due to homelessness, poverty, and domestic violence. It also provides quality, affordable child care.

For more ways to help give back this holiday season, check out this article here!

I hope some of those ideas inspire you to give back this season and spread the holiday cheer far and wide.

 

How will you give back during the holidays?

 

Happy holidays!

Jessica M.

Preparing Your Car for Winter Road Conditions

Well, it’s official. The first “real” snowfall of the year is in the forecast. Depressing, I know! If you haven’t already, now is the time to prep your car for winter road conditions. We all know the chances of getting stranded on the highway or in a ditch become way higher once the snow starts falling. The problem is in the extreme cold weather we experienced last year, getting stuck in your car for an hour or so can be a dangerous situation. To better help you prepare for the winter conditions, here are some things that you should do/ keep in your car for the next couple of months:

Preparing Your Car:

  • Take your car to a mechanic and get the following things checked: antifreeze level, battery, oil, thermostat, heater, brakes and defroster.
  • Check to make sure your tires have adequate tread. If the treads are worn, replace them. Better yet, exchange them for a set of snow tires, which have treads that provide better traction and are equipped to handle extreme winter driving conditions.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will reduce condensation, making your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.

Packing Your Car:

  • Blanket: In Iowa, weather can be unpredictable. Temperatures can drop quickly and you’ll need a good blanket to stay warm. Keep an extra pair of gloves and a hat in your trunk as well in case of an emergency.
  • Snow Shovel & Ice Scraper:  Keep a folding snow shovel and ice scraper in your kit in case you need to dig your car out of a ditch or snow bank.
  • Flashlight: Be sure to keep a small but bright flash light in your glove box in case you get stranded at night. You will also want to make sure you have fresh new batteries in your kit as well.
  • Cell Phone Car Charger:  Put an extra cell phone charger in your glove box! Too often do we become overconfident on the roads knowing we are only a phone call away from help…BUT what if it dies? Then what do you do?
  • Emergency Contact Numbers:  If you are relying on your cell phone to be the storage unit for all your emergency info, just think what would happen if your phone dies or if you got in a car accident and your phone is damaged. Just to be safe, write down all of your emergency contact info on a piece of paper and store them in both your glove box and your wallet.
  • Important Documents: Proof of insurance, vehicle registration and owner’s manual. Easy enough right?
  • Non Perishable Snacks: Keep plenty of bottled water and nonperishable, nutritious food items, like energy or protein bars, in your kit to keep you hydrated in case you are stranded or have to wait a long time for assistance. Check expiration dates periodically and replace these items as needed.
  • Sand or Kitty Litter: If you find yourself stuck in snowy slush, non-clumping cat litter can be a lifesaver (or at least a timesaver). Pour it in the path of your wheels to help get traction.
  • Jumper Cable
  • First Aid Kit

Always check the weather forecast before commuting or venturing out on a long drive this winter. Weather and road conditions are often very unpredictable here in Iowa. As important as it is to have your car tuned and have a winter survival kit in your trunk, it’s equally imperative to know how to protect yourself while driving in the snow and ice. Follow these tips and you will feel safer and more prepared this winter!

Stay Warm,

Jessica M.

Why You Should Get Your Holiday Shopping Done Now!

The cold weather is officially here, meaning the holidays are right around the corner! Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Don’t get stuck buying your gifts at the last minute. In fact, you could save money by doing your shopping early!

1. You will avoid breaking your bank all at once. Spending in smaller amounts over time is more manageable. Plus, it doesn’t feel like your wallet is taking such a big hit.

2. It gives you more time to find a thoughtful gift. Shopping early gives you more time to think about what the person you are buying for might really want or need. Instead of rushing around last minute, and coming out with a gift that you feel less-than-pleased with, shop early and find something that you know the person will love!

3. Less stress! Shopping early gives you less stress during the holidays, therefore, more time to actually enjoy yourself! Also, you can avoid getting caught in the holiday chaos. Avoid becoming a mad-person running around the mall in gift-hunt mode.

4. You can save money! If you shop early, that means more time to compare prices and look for sales so that you can get the best deals. If you shop last minute, chances are you will take what you can get. If you are a busy persona and have a hard time making it to the mall, wait until Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving)! Tons of deals online and usually no shipping costs!

5. You can avoid hideous gift-wrapping. Whenever I am crunched for time during the holidays, my gift-wrapping comes last on my list of priorities. I’m not going to lie, there have been times I used newspaper as my gift wrap because I was running late and didn’t have time to stop at the store to pick some up. It’s the thought that counts right? ;)

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Spooky Halloween Recipes

Halloween is now just a week away! Are you prepared for the best holiday of the year? If you are looking to throw a Halloween party with some creepy yet delicious appetizers, check out some of my favorite recipes below! These super simple spook-tacular Halloween recipes will be fun for you and all your party guests no matter what age you are!

1. Mummy Dogs:

2. Mummy Pizzas

3. Halloween Deviled Spider Eggs

Halloween Deviled Spider Eggs on Shockingly Delicious

4. Jalapeño Popper Mummies:

Jalapeno Popper Mummies - a little bit hot, a little bit sweet and a lot of fun. Jalapeno Popper Mummies are the perfect Halloween treat.

5. Oreo Stuffed Spider Cupcakes:Capture

Do you have any favorite Halloween recipes you’d like to share with us? If so, leave a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Halloween Costumes for Girls

Halloween is that time of year where rules do not apply. You can be anyone or anything that you chose. But, the hype of Halloween can get pretty costly. That’s why I always recommend making your own costume! It’s so much more fun than walking into the costume shop and spending between $50-$75 on a costume that you could easily make yourself for under $20! Below is a list of my top 5 favorite DIY Halloween costume ideas for 2014! Check them out!

1. Ninja Turtles

2. Minion

3. Sun Drop Girl

4. Gumball Machine

5. Mario and Luigi

Homemade Mario and Luigi Costumes

If you are looking for more creative DIY Halloween costume ideas, check out the Coolest Homemade Costumes website! There are tons of creative ideas you might be able to use this Halloween! Or get creative and think of your own idea! Whatever it is that you decide to do, have fun and be sure to send me your pictures of your costume!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Watch-It-Wednesday: 10 Best Halloween Movies of All-Time

Sometimes to get in the Halloween spirit you just need a little scare or a childhood memory to remind yourself of why you love the holiday so much. What better way to do that than watching your favorite Halloween movies? Check out this list of my top 10 favorite Halloween movies. Ranging from kid friendly to the scariest movies of all time, these are all worth checking out! Enjoy!

1. Hocus Pocus (1993): Why is this on my list of the best Halloween movies of all time? Because it is by far the best and most important part of Halloween. Three witches (played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy) return 300 years after being hung for their spell work in 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts. To hold onto immortality, they have to take the life of a child, and the three kids who accidentally resurrected them are doing all they can to stop the witches from returning Salem to the way it was when they first lived. This over-the-top comedy has witchcraft, black cats, and lots of laughs, and it’s sure to make your Halloween a blast!

2. Halloweentown (1998): Halloweentown is a Disney Channel Halloween classic in which three siblings who aren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween run away with their Halloween-loving grandmother and discover that she’s a witch from a town called Halloweentown! Sit back, relax and have a Halloweentown marathon this year—it has three sequels!

3. Beetle Juice (1998): Adam and Barbara are a normal couple…who happen to be dead. They have given their precious time to decorate the house and make it their own, but unfortunately a family is moving in, and not quietly. Adam and Barbara try to scare them out, but ends up becoming the main attraction to the money making family. They call upon Beetlejuice to help, but Beetlejuice has more in mind than just helping!

4. Hotel Transylvania (2012): Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count’s teen-aged daughter

5. The Addams Family (1991): They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together ookie … so they’re perfect for Halloween! The Addams Family is another classic to watch this Halloween no matter what age you are!

6. Scream (1996) : The original Scream movie is a Halloween classic. The Ghost face killer that reappears in the subsequent movies makes its first appearance in this movie, killing teenagers living in a small town. A girl and her friends set out to find him, but doesn’t end so well for the majority of the group!

7. Halloween (1978): You might want to keep the lights on when watching Halloween—it’s seriously scary! It’s about a murderer who killed his brother and sister when he was little, so he was institutionalized. But then he escapes and that’s where the horror begins.

8. Disturbia (2007): Shia LaBeouf stars in this thriller about a teen who thinks his neighbor is a total serial killer. Watching the movie, you’ll be trying to figure out the same thing! Great plot with some crazy twists!

9. The Ring (2002): I still believe this is the scariest movie of all time. A young journalist, Rachel Keller, must investigate a mysterious videotape which apparently caused the death of four teenagers. There is an urban legend about this tape: the viewer will die seven days after watching it. If the legend is correct, Rachel will have to run against time to save her son’s and her own life.

10. Paranormal Activity (2007): This is one of those movies you are either terrified of or find extremely comical. Unfortunately for me, this movie haunts me. After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence. If you haven’t seen it but are looking to do so, make sure you watch with someone else or keep a light on just to be safe ;)

What are your favorite Halloween movies? Did your favorites make the list?
Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

How-to-Tuesday: DIY Halloween Decorations on a Budget

Halloween is by far one of the best holidays of the year! It’s a perfect way to channel your inner child and I encourage you all to do so! Get creative, dress up, make spooky recipes and have fun with your friends! Whether you throw a Halloween bash, or just want to impress the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, decorating for Halloween has never been easier! Check out this list of DIY Halloween decorations that are sure to add to the holiday fun while saving you some extra cash!

  1. Floating ghosts: Blow up a balloon and drape a white sheet over it. If you place the tied end of the balloon at the top, you can insert a safety-pin through the sheet and the tied end of the balloon to suspend the ghost from the ceiling or from a tree using ribbon, string, etc. Once the sheet is on, secure the bottom with a rubber band to make the shape of the head. Use a black sharpie to draw the face.
  2. Tombstones: Use Styrofoam to shape gravestones. Color the tombstone with gray spray paint. Use a black marker or paint to write on the front of it. Hang your tombstone on a door, or to stake it in the ground, by inserting long dowel rods through the bottom of the gravestone.
    Capture
  3. Spider Webs: Hang fake spider webs and plastic spiders to spook up a hall, corner, or chandelier.
  4. Window Silhouettes: This is more of an indoor/outdoor decoration. Cut out popular Halloween shapes in black paper and stick them to your windows. When the indoor lights are on, the shapes will come to life!Window Stencils
  5. Glowing Eyes: These spooky eyes are super easy to make. Cut the eye shapes out of cardboard tubes and place a plastic glow stick inside the tube. Once they are finished, tuck a few sets of eyes in bushes around your front yard to give the trick-or-treaters a little fright.Eyes Glowing Eyes
  6. Specimen Jars: Fill old glass jars with plastic rats, toy bugs and doll heads or whatever you have lying around the house, then add a little colored water. Stick a label on the jar with the name of your specimen – shrunken heads, poisonous tarantulas, baby rats, human brain, etc.

 

What are your favorite Halloween decorations to make? Share with us in a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Boost That Credit Score!

Are you totally confused about your credit score, good vs. bad credit, and what affects your credit score? Then check out the infographic below I found on Young and Free Maine! For more information about how your credit score is calculated, watch our video here!

 

04_B_Infographic.pdf

Watch-It-Wednesday: Gone Girl

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All I can say is that I had been waiting for this movie for what seemed like forever, and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint.

A friend of mine suggested reading the book because I am someone who loves suspenseful/mysterious things. I am that person who would sometimes rather stay in on a Friday night and watch 48 hours, hence the recommendation. If you are anything like me, then this is a must read!

GONE GIRL [R]– directed by David Fincher and based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn – unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

If you haven’t seen the movie and are looking to do so, check out the $5 Movie Tuesdays promotion at any Marcus Theatre. Click here to find a theatre near you!

$5 Tuesdays

 

Without giving away too many details, what were your thoughts on the book/movie? Share with us in a comment below!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Five Easy Green Beauty Tips

Let’s face it, keeping up with the latest beauty trends can be super pricey! Getting pampered, getting your hair done frequently, buying top branded beauty products…. it all adds up! However making quick changes to your beauty cabinet can save time, money and your carbon footprint by choosing items you have around your kitchen. Eliminate questions about some of your favorite commercial beauty products by switching to natural alternatives for your beauty routine. Check out these five easy green beauty swaps.

1. Reduce eye puffiness with cucumber slices
Cucumbers have been proven to help with the swelling and puffiness of eyes. Because cucumbers are usually cool, the cold from the cucumbers can help reduce puffiness of the skin. Ingredients within cucumbers may also help reduce skin irritation. Slice two thick pieces of cucumber and place each piece over eyes for at least 10 minutes. Choose cucumbers over your typical eye cream, and you have a natural product that costs only pennies and can be thrown in the compost pile for recycling after your mini spa treatment.

2. Treat acne with strawberries
Struggling with skin breakouts? Clear your skin with strawberries. Mix a half cup of diced strawberries with a spoonful of sour cream. Rub gently onto your face and leave as a mask for at least 10 minutes. The strawberries will help remove dead skin cells, tighten pores and give your skin a healthy glow.

3. Use teabags to highlight hair
Before picking up a box of hair brightener at the drug store, consider soaking your hair in black tea. The tannic acid in black tea can highlight your hair if you soak your hair regularly over time. Start by making several servings of very strong black tea. Pour the tea carefully over your hair and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing.

4. Combine corn meal and banana for a foot cream
Soften your feet naturally with items from your pantry. Begin by mashing a ripe banana in a bowl Add several tablespoons of corn meal, until the banana has a gritty consistency. Spread liberally on feet and allow to sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Wipe off the mixture and rinse well with water.

5. Reduce frizz with banana and avocado
Does humidity make your hair a frizzy mess? Before buying a bottle of anti-frizz hair product, make your own in just a few minutes by mixing banana and avocado. Begin by mashing one ripe banana with a fork. Cut an avocado in half, remove the seed, and scoop out the green fruit. Mash the avocado with the banana. Apply to hair and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, and then rinse hair thoroughly.

Some beauty items are a little more difficult to swap with natural items (like makeup or hairspray). Check the eco-rating of your beauty products at GoodGuide.com found here!

With these easy changes, you can reduce the cost of your beauty routine while making choices that are better for your skin and hair, as well as the environment!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

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