Monday, January 11, 2016

Fine hair styling

Okay guys, I have seriously found THE ANSWER.  The one I only ever dreamed existed, and I actually found it.  Or really more honestly, my sister found it.  Pretty much most important and helpful beauty tips come from my sisters Savanna and Emma.  I feel like the old mom that doesn't know what's cool, and they're like the young hip daughters trying to teach me, except they're my sisters.  So that's weird, moving on.  My hair is super fine, and while I love that it's very soft, it makes it really hard to get any kind of volume.  I have been an avid The Small Things Blog fan for several years now and learned some amazing things from Kate.  But something was still missing in my quest to properly tease my hair.

Kate has some fabulous suggestions if you can spend money on your hair, but let me just say I don't have that kind of money.  So this is what I've done on my budget that is currently doing the best job for me that I have been able to accomplish.

First off, shampoo and conditioner.  I'm using Aussie Aussome Volume Shampoo
and Aussome Volume Conditioner, which just FYI appears to currently have a coupon on Amazon. I was really surprised at first because I didn't actually expect it to make any difference, but after I'd been using Suave for a couple of years it did seem to change something. I will take it. (As a side note I have been using the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Strong Conditioning Treatment about once a week also, and besides having a fabulous coconutty scent it has helped keep my hair feeling moisturized)

Then moving on to Big & Sexy Hair Root Pump Spray Mousse. This was a game changer for me, people. If I don't use it my hair lays perfectly flat along the contour of my head. No bueno. Apply this to your roots while wet and then blow dry your hair with your head upside down. Another small leap for womankind.

Recently Savanna turned me onto this stuff and it is super duper helpful for adding some texture to your hair as you tease it. Just pick up the section of hair, spray with L'Oreal Advanced High Lift Creation Spray Hair Spray, and then tease. Umm a million times better than teasing without. My soft silky hair just had nothing for the comb to grip and tease and this product creates that texture!

Okay and now for the is this amazing YouTube video right here. I used to never wear my hair straight because blah it was so flat. I needed to curl and give it some texture and volume. Now I can wear it straight using this technique!!

Promise not to laugh.  No seriously.  This was no makeup and in my messy bathroom.  You cannot laugh.  I just need you to see the difference it makes in my hair.

Impressive, right?? Here is the amazing video with the mind boggling technique I was telling you about.

Okay fine haired friends, what is your secret trick to give your hair just a little more oomph?  I feel this is a never ending quest and I know there are more good ideas out there.

Friday, January 8, 2016

DIY Yogurt

When I was a kid, my mom made a ton of stuff from scratch.  She made her own mixes for things like taco seasoning and pancakes, her own cream of mushroom soup, like everything.  I love that she did that because it showed me how easy it is to make your own food from scratch and probably 90% of the time it tastes way better homemade.  Sometimes it's much cheaper also!  One of the things I remember loving was homemade yogurt.  The consistency is a bit runnier than store bought but the taste is just better to me.

Typically the process of making yogurt includes heating the milk to 180°, letting it cool back to 110° and then adding the starter but I have found in the wonderful world that is Pinterest how to do it with my crockpot and a timer!  It's really super easy, just a long process.  You can totally customize it and add your sweetener or leave it plain and mix in whatever you like as you go. My crockpot is not huge so I have to make a smaller batch at a time but you can do a gallon if you like yogurt and your kiddos will eat it all within a week or so.  Everything I saw said it was good for a week and so far we've eaten ours within 7-8 days so I don't know how well it keeps longer than that.Start by pouring 8 cups of milk (or a full gallon but I'm going to give the half recipe amounts) in your crockpot and add 1 1/2 cups of dry milk powder.

This will help thicken the yogurt.  Turn it on low for 2 1/2 hours.  Then turn it off and if you wish to sweeten yours you could add the sugar now and it will help dissolve it better while the milk is hot.  I would use 1/2 cup with the 8 cups of milk to start with and adjust to your tastes the next time around.  You can also add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract if you want your yogurt to be vanilla flavored.
Wait 3 hours for the milk to cool down and then dip out two cups of the milk. Stir 1/2 cup of plain yogurt starter into the warm milk and then add back to the crockpot.  Cover with a towel so it stays nice and dark and helps insulate to keep it warm.  Alternatively you could put it in storage containers and place in your oven with the light on but do not turn the oven on!!  Putting in storage containers ahead will help limit the number of times the yogurt is moved and help keep it thicker.  The more it's stirred the runnier it will be

Let your yogurt sit for 8-12 hours.  The longer it sits the more tangy it will be, and the thicker as well.   I was not letting mine sit longer than 8 hours because I always try to start the process first thing in the morning so I can let it get cold overnight in the fridge, but recently I forgot to put it in the fridge before going to bed and it was sitting in the crockpot for probably 16 hours.   It came out so thick and not too much more tangy to be a problem, especially since I had sweetened that batch.  I do sometimes like to leave mine plain so I can use it for cooking (my favorite blueberry muffin recipe calls for sour cream which I never have around because it molds so fast!) and also to mix with pureed fruit for Maddie when she was first starting on foods.  The baby yogurts are so expensive!   Right now milk is $1.79 for a gallon at my Aldi's which means making my own yogurt with some plain store bought yogurt as starter is vastly cheaper than buying premixed and sweetened.   I have made some up with sugar and blueberries and also mixed with jelly.  My favorite way is to eat it with homemade granola!  My most recent favorite new granola recipes are Buttered Pecan and Gingerbread Granola. Another tasty treat I've done is to slice up some bananas, mix in chocolate chips and toasted pecans.  What is your favorite way to eat yogurt?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Some easy ways to earn money pt 1 -- surveys, grocery cash back

Okay guys, I've been working really hard to find little ways to earn money here and there and I have to share some of the top things that are really working well for me.  Because every little bit adds up right??  I had hoped to be able to take advantage of some of these earnings in time for Christmas but it didn't work out.  Right now we can definitely use all of the little $5 here and there, if nothing else but to earn date night money.

So first one that I've been doing the longest is Swagbucks.  The great thing about Swagbucks is that there are several ways to earn bucks and a million ways to redeem what you earn.  My top favorite ways to earn them are by filling out surveys, using their search engine, and watching for special swag codes that are redeemable for typically around 2-6 swagbucks each.  The best part of this is you can almost do nothing at all, and if you simply change your default search engine to Swagbucks you can slowly but surely earn a few here and there.  Between that and entering swag codes I was earning about $5 worth of Amazon gift cards every 2-3 months.  Since I've stepped up my game and started doing a lot of surveys for them I'm at about $25 in the last 2 months.  I'll probably just redeem this to PayPal this time around which costs about 250 swagbucks more than an Amazon card but it's a lot more universal.  You can also earn bonuses for various seasonal activities and for referring friends.  If a friend starts using Swagbucks from your referral link you'll also earn a few swagbucks based on how much they're earning!  Another great way to earn swagbucks is by using their link to shop online.  You can earn a certain number of swagbucks per dollar you spend at select retailers this way. I earned about 300 swagbucks on a Shutterfly purchase before the holidays when I bought our Christmas cards and some gifts!  There is another site that you can earn actual cash back deposited to your PayPal called eBates which I cover later on.

The second place I've been doing surveys for lately is iPoll.  I only recently discovered this one but I have almost $40 now waiting to transfer to PayPal and I think I joined at the end of October.  Really the same is true for Swagbucks surveys also but the great part about these is sometimes a short survey can open up a bigger opportunity.  One time I was asked to keep a TV diary for a week and got $4.  That's not a ton but it requires nearly no brainwork!  And a couple of other surveys asked me if I would be willing to participate in more research studies in the future.  iPoll pays more for surveys than Swagbucks does.  I usually earn 60-100 Swagbucks for each survey (probably fairly close to $0.60-$1.00) and at iPoll I mostly earn $1-2 each.

One of my newest finds has been an app called Smart Panel that you install on your phone that sends anonymous data usage to a research company and they will pay you $5 a month for being active.  You can also earn an extra $5 bonus for installing on other devices such as a computer but you will still only get the $5 a month.

Now we switch gears a little to how to earn money back on things you are already buying!  First up is Nielsen Consumer Panel.  When I go to the grocery store I bring all my groceries into the kitchen with my receipt, and using a little scanner they provide me I scan all the items I purchased.  It asks me things like if I used a coupon or a sale price, who did I go shopping with and such.  Then I earn points for actively submitting receipts.  I have not yet redeemed any of my points but you can use them for items in their catalog as well as gift cards.

Okay, eBates!  I love eBates and I try to remember to always check there before I buy anything online (and check Swagbucks second if eBates doesn't have them!).  They have a large number of retailers and I find very few places that I can't earn back with eBates, and even fewer that don't do eBates or Swagbucks!  They too have a referral program so you can earn money for referring friends.  They will give you $25 for each referral!  They will automatically transfer any money you have to your Paypal every few months providing you've earned over the minimum limit which was $10 last I checked.  We don't often make big purchases but using it regularly with all of our online shopping will add up.

Shopkick is kind of a cool little app because you can earn kicks for simply walking into some stores like Walmart.  You can also earn them for scanning items in the store and answering questions but I don't often do that.  I just open the app when I walk into the store and I earn my kicks.  Every couple of months or so I earn enough to redeem a $5 gift card.  This is also a place you can earn for referring, you get 2000 kicks for every 3 friends.

Finally there are three different apps I've used to submit receipts.  The biggest one is iBotta.  You have to scroll through their current product listings to see if any are things you want to buy this week.  It's a little bit like a digital coupon but sometimes they are for whatever brand of item you wish to buy, even store brands.  I frequently get cash back for bread, milk, condiments, frozen veggies, shredded cheese and more.  Just scan the barcode of the item to be sure it qualifies, then submit your receipt containing those items.  You can connect to your Facebook and team up with all your other friends on iBotta to get bonuses too and also referrals.  Checkout51 is similar but they don't offer nearly as large a number of items.  There is only one pick your own item each week and the rest are specific products.  I haven't really used this one much at all so I have yet to redeem any money because the minimum to transfer is $20 and I only currently have $6 earned.  I also recently started using ReceiptHog which only requires you to send pictures of your receipts and you earn coins based on how much you spent. If you use my referral code brat5754 you can earn a few spins for a chance to win your grocery trip back.

Edit 3/14/16 -- New survey company I've been with since this post!  Harris Poll Online has proved to be fairly lucrative.  What I like about them is if you don't qualify for the survey they still give you 15 points for trying.  There's nothing more annoying then spending 5-10 minutes just to find out you don't qualify for the survey and you get nothing for your time.  It costs 625 points for a $5 Amazon card and I've already earned more than enough points for $10 in cards doing very quick surveys here and there (or even not qualifying for one!). They have a number of redemption options for your reward points so be sure to check them out.

These are all the things I've been using lately to earn.  In a future post I'll share some of the mystery shopping apps I've been using!