Brunch… a fun time to be a little “Extra”

Ever go to brunch with friends a feel like your cheating a little and feel good about it. Like maybe you slept in when you would have gotten up early all the other days of the week. Or maybe skipped breakfast so you could endulge in food that your wouldn’t normally eat but it taste simply delicious. I’ve always thought that having brunch is a chance for me to be a bit “extra” and feel great with friends or family. Take a little extra time for my meal, order a little something different and either entertain or be entertained with food, decor, and overall atmosphere.

I wanted to take a moment and share some easy and fun recipes and ideas that you can do at home if felt like hosting a brunch yourself. Fall is upon us, the weather is changing and this is a great opportunity to set up your sun room or open the windows and turn on those fans to let the air flow nicely through your home. Invite some guests over in the late morning. Set a little light jazz or easy listening in the background. Be sure to either light a fresh scented candle or diffuse some essential oils throughout to have a pleasing aroma in your home as well.

Now for the recipe ideas… I love appetizer size portions personally. You can make plenty and it offers a variety to meet the taste preferences of all your guests. My easy suggestions are as follows:

  1. Individual sized fruit and yogurt parfait – These can be super fun to do. Pop by any party store and get small (dessert serving sized) clear dishes. A layer of vanilla yogurt, a layer of strawberries (sliced and fresh), some granola and repeat. drizzle with a bit of honey if you prefer. You can make several flavors by changing the fruit and/or yogurt flavors. This allows for several options. (Peach, Blueberry, Pineapples, etc.)
  1. Muffin Tin Omelettes – These are a cinch to make and again, can have a variety of flavors. Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, preheat your oven, and get busy with your creations. Ham, cheese, peppers the sky is the limit. One egg per muffin cup. Scramble the egg prior to pouring into the cup and mixture. I highly suggest avoiding adding onions to your omelettes when inviting guests to your social gathering. Onions often times upset sensitive stomachs and can cause people to be concerned about poor breath following a meal.
  1. Biscuits and Jelly – This is a staple! you can serve croissants or muffins or even cornbread, but some type of bread is a must. If you have the time and want to make several bread options that is always fun as well. I like to have various types of jelly available along with butter of course.
  1. Drinks! What brunch is complete without a good beverage. Mimosas are always the go-to for brunches. Depending on what time of year you are hosting your brunch, try to make your drink of choice seasonal. Of course, Coffee, Tea (Both hot and cold for brunch is desirable) and water should be made available.

These are all fun ideas and suggestions. There are so many more out there. Do a little research and plan according to the size of your guest list. The point is, have a veggie (the parfait), have a bread item (it’s breakfast after all), and have a protein (the omelette). Make sure there is variety. Remember to incorporate appropriate serving dishes, place settings and centerpieces that will help facilitate the theme and feel of your brunch. The best ones I have been to use all of the senses to make the guests have the best experience. Sight (presentation), Sound (Music), Smell (essential oils or scented candles), Taste (well prepared food), and Touch (comfortable seating and well maintained temperature). Keep it light, fun and casual. The point of hosting this brunch in your home is so that you and your friends don’t have to “dress” for the occasion. In-home brunches with friends can be Sunday casual. No T-shirts and flip-flops are probably not ideal, but you can set the tone with your invite either verbal or written. The sky is the limit with your planning and preparations.

I hope you plan an amazing event. As the host of your event (vs attending) the satisfaction comes when you sit back once the event is in full swing and you see the smiles on your friends faces, hear the chatter of small talk, and hear the clanking of glasses and your friends toast to each other.

As always my friends, have a happy day (And enjoy your brunch and each other)

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Facing your past to better your future

OK friends, Our pasts are in our past for a reason, but I hate to break it to you…. sometimes it is very necessary to revisit them. Open the history books and re-read a few chapters to be able to digest it properly in order to charge forward. This is NOT always a bad thing. Hear me out.

This is my belief and you do not have to co-sign it or agree. As my dad always said pinions are like butt-holes (not exactly the word he used, but you get the idea). We all have them and they are worth exactly what you pay for them, which is nothing. So here is mine. Take it, or leave it.

First, imagine a car. There is a LARGE windshield and a MUCH smaller rear view mirror. Both are necessary for driving. I will agree, using the rear view mirror is optional, but it does help in many cases. The windshield is your future. The rear view mirror is your past. You always look forward through the windshield and you occasionally glance into the rear view mirror. YOU are the driver and you are the present. The here and now in your life. (WOW, what a metaphor).

Recently, I explored my past to deal with some issues that were holding me back with moving forward with my marriage and being there for my family. In doing so, I now have a much better relationship with my husband and I feel like I am able to be there for my children and grandchildren where I was previously more withdrawn personally (though they may not have been aware). I had not faced things that had occurred in my younger years. I simply swept them under the rug and kept charging forward with life pushing them and the memories attached to them “under the rug” hoping to pile more (and hopefully better) life memories on top of them. My friends, this does not always work. There are triggers in life that let the ugly memories of the past pop right back up.

As life moved on, Other situations have presented themselves. Other people have come into my life and shall remain nameless. These people also have had to face their pasts. In their situations it was to help those they love move forward in similar situations (not exact) to their own. It was to help them understand they are not alone in their situation and also to help them cope and learn. To stop a cycle, to get them to a better place in life, to love them through a transition, to keep them safe and to comfort them.

The moral of this story is to share with you that our pasts are there to learn from. To not only to help us grow, but also to pass on and to help others maybe not make the same mistakes. Our pasts are not a judgements of who we are. The things that “happen to us” as children are not our fault. Children cannot be held responsible for the decisions adults make, do not beat yourself up for anything that has happened to you as a child, that does NOT make you any less of a person. If anything, it makes you stronger because you have survived. The choices that we make as young adults may very well be our fault, but s*#t happens and life MUST go on.

As parents and grandparents, looking at our pasts and sharing the growth we have and the lessons (not the details) from those experiences allow us to be human and real in the eyes of “Tiny Humans” who may see us as super hero parents. Sometimes, these little people need to see that. They struggle too.

It’s ok to have a past that may not have been so perfect. It’s in the past and it cannot hurt us. The past made us the fabulous, strong, resilient people we are today. The past has taught us to survive, taught us to prevail, taught us to fight, to stand up if we have fallen, dust ourselves up and charge forward again.

It is important to remember, the rear view mirror is small for a reason. It is NOT meant to be stared into. It is meant only for a glance. The wind shield is large for a reason as well. It is meant to remind us to see far far into the future. On a country road, you can see for miles. You are only limited to what you set your own limits to.

When life gets in the way of your regularly scheduled program…

We will now return to your regularly scheduled program….. Hi friends and family! It’s me! Mrs. Go To Girl! I know, It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted a blog so here I am being real about life.

My life has gotten in the way of my regularly scheduled program. My kids, my husband, my family and friends will all tell you I am a control freak. Yes, I do live by the seat of my pants when it comes to “ME”. But, when it comes to “them”, I usually plan the day-to-day life stuff down to the wire. The breakfast, lunch, dinner, homework, weekend activities, etc…. all planned. Who is going where? Who will be in town, and who is scheduled to leave? What bills are getting paid? What laundry needs to be done for which uniform or activity? All of it, carefully orchestrated like a magical symphony to keep a busy and active family running smoothly with very few hiccups.

But my life….. HA! Total train wreck on any given day. MY sister has always found this incredibly amusing. In my life and the careers I have had I have very literally planner large scale events to include thousands of people and they have gone off without a hitch, but can’t manage to schedule my own hair appointment and can manage to forget a prescription refill for two weeks past the due date! I am that lady who sees the blinking gas light and passes three gas stations before stopping for gas. Why do we do these things?

So here I am asking for your forgiveness in being remiss on staying on top of my blog posts. I will get back to enlightening you with my little quips and silly tips and tricks and thoughts on the world once again if you wish to read them. We shall return to the “regularly schedule program” as they say.

It’s funny how life get’s in the way. I suppose that’s a good thing from time to time. I think it means we are alive and living in the moment. I for one, know I do plan too much and need to embrace more adventures. Those who love me do joke about my “Grandma Adventures”, but I love the ones I get to take the kids on and I know one day they will out grow them so I want to soak them up while I still can.

Recently I have been so overwhelmed with life that even my husband noticed and he literally said “let it go”. So this is what I am attempting to do. I hope you will embrace this new choice with me. Yes I want my family to be healthy, make good choices, use good manners, be educated, and go far in life, but not at all costs. I most of all want them to be happy. Live in the moment. I want to lead by example. And this, I need to remember.

Have a happy day!

Need a a little giggle?

I love to send corny jokes to my kids randomly. They are absolutely silly and usually completely random, but I know that they make my kids laugh inside, usually smile and they almost roll they eyes and say “oh mom!”. It’s the best. If nothing else, it makes me smile just to send them. I thought I would share some of these silly little snippets with you in case you find it in your heart to send a random message to your loved ones today…. just because. I promise, making someone “LOL” for no reason at all is the best!

Here are a few….

  1. How do you make a tissue dance? (Put a little boogie in it)
  2. Why is 6 scared of 7? (Because 7 8 9)
  3. Why do some fish live in salt water? (Because pepper would make them sneeze)
  4. Where do bees go to the bathroom? (The BP station)
  5. Why did the picture have to go to prison? (It was framed)
  6. Why is it impossible for your nose to be 12 inches long? (Because then it would be a foot)
  7. Why did the physics teacher break up with the biology teacher? (There was no chemistry)
  8. Why do the French like to eat snails? (They don’t like fast food)
  9. Why is it a bad idea to insult an Octopus? (Because it is well-armed)
  10. Why do cows wear bells? (Their horns don’t work)

I know this post is a bit corny, but who can’t use to be a little silly now and again. In today’s world we could all stand to lighten up and just laugh. Pass these along to someone in need of a smile instead of a frown and in case I haven’t mentioned it lately… Have a Happy day!

Christmas is for the birds…

Christmas is for the birds…. too!  LOL!  It’s cold outside and the birds and animals could use a holiday treat as much as the rest of us.  Here is a great DIY project you can do as a family and enjoy the birds as they come to eat.  

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2.5 cups Birdseed 
  • 2 Packages Unflavoured Gelatin (2 Tablespoons total)
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Water
  • Cookie Cutters (about 12 small ones are perfect.  Using larger ones will cause the ornament to break from the weight)
  • Drinking Straws, cut into 2″ long pieces (Enough to have one in each ornament)
  • Twine

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  1. First, follow the instructions on the packet of Gelatin. If you are going to use two packets of gelatin, add 1/2 cup of cold water into a bowl, then pour the two packets of gelatin on top of the water.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water to the mixture and stirred it until it was dissolved. (Making sure the gelatin is completely dissolved is important.  Use the microwave if needed.
  3. Once the gelatin is dissolved, add the corn syrup and stirred until it is dissolved as well.  
  4. Finally, add the birdseed to the gelatin mixture.
  5. It will be a little watery at first.  Place place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so, or until it firms up enough that the liquid won’t seep out from under the cookie cutters.
  6. Set your cookie cutters out onto a wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Spoon the mixture into each of the cookie cutters, and press it down firmly so that the cookie cutter is completely filled.  Fill the cookie cutters to the very top and press into the shape to ensure a complete fill with no gaps. 
  8. Next, cut your drinking straws into 2″ long pieces. Press a straw into the birdseed (before it’s set) so that you have a nice neat hole for the twine to go through afterwards.  Be sure to place the straw a good distance from the edge to make sure the twine doesn’t break thru from the weight of the ornament.  
  9. Once you’ve added the straws, place the ornaments in the refrigerator overnight to solidify. The next day, gently pull the edges of the cookie cutter away from the shape to help separate things, then gently push out the shape.
  10. Remove the straws, thread some twine through the holes and tie a knot.

When your ornament is complete, hang them in your trees outside and watch the birds gather.  Be sure to hang your ornaments close to other branches so the birds can perch while eating.  

You can refrigerate them or freeze them if not using right away. They last up to 1 years in freezer.  You can also do this fun DIY project at other times of the year.  Instead of Christmas cookie cutter ornaments, use a shamrock for St. Patrick’s day, egg shaped for Easter, Hearts for valentine’s day.  The possibilities are endless! 

A few notes about this a project so you are not disappointed in the outcome:

  1. let the mold dry for at least a day before attempting to hang on the twine.
  2. Be sure to hang these in cooler weather, as the Florida heat will cause the gelatin to melt and your ornament to fall.
  3. If you are doing this project throughout the year, try substituting or adding peanut butter to your recipe.  
  4. Be sure to place the hole for the twine far enough away from the edge so it better disperses the weight and doesn’t break through the edge of the ornament.  

A unique gift idea…. Family Adventures

Last year my husband and I were at a loss as to what to get our youngest son and his wife.  They are very handy and very busy with two kids, jobs, and home projects.  After watching their busy lives all year we came up with a unique gift idea.  

A family adventure album.  We bought a cute little scrapbook and filled that pages with gift certificates to all sorts of places.  The pages were filled with family fun (and date night) ideas.  Once we decided on the plan for the book, we went shopping… on-line and to the gift card aisle.  Yep, it was a book of pre-purchased family adventures.  Everything from a trip to the zoo, movie tickets,  to ice cream nights (gift certificate for Dairy Queen), beach days (complete with gift certs to subway for lunches). On the trips that would take them a distance to get to, we added in gas cards.  After all the point of this gift was not to add financial strain of accomplishing these adventures, but to make these things easy and obtainable for this kids (and gran kids) to do. This book was filled with all sorts of adventures from bowling to mini-golf to go kart racing.  

To come up with ideas we scoured the internet to check out our local city and find fun interesting places to go.  We also googled”date night” ideas to ensure they could enjoy time together without the kids.  If you are thinking of giving a gift such as this, don’t forget the handmade gift certificates that include babysitting.  It was a fun gift to make and a great way to get to know the city we live in.  

I hope you think of a gift like this (or any variation of it) when you are planning your next celebration.  

A twist on this concept is “Your year in review”.  Make a scrapbook for your loved ones of their past year.  This is a great idea for the little ones in your life.  You can give it to them on each birthday as a memory of what they have accomplished in the past year.  On the last page of the album make a list of that child’s goals for next year.  This makes an amazing keepsake and helps each child accomplish things each year.  Have fun!  Happy gift giving!

Give the gift of time…

What do you get your kids as they get older?  What do you give your spouse as the years pass on?  What about grand kids when there are so many?  Start a tradition in your family of giving the gift of time.  

My mother has done this each year with my sister and I.  Every Christmas we get a handmade gift certificate wrapped up that simply states, Good for one day with mom.  The certificate is valid for one day and is to be used sometimes in the next calendar year.  This is one of the best gifts because it ensures you get one full day without other family members, without other distractions, and you get to really enjoy the time with each other.

What do we do on these “Mom Days”?  Good question.  When we were smaller they could be anything from a nice lunch out, a beach day, or even just a fun day playing board games or cards.  As we have gotten older, we have taken advantage of these days by trying new things, getting out of our comfort zones, or just being young again.  My mom and I have taken a seq-way tour through a different city just an hour or two away.  We have gone zip-lining, gone to a hockey game, even gone to see a psychic.  

The point is, these special days can be shared with anyone who could use a break in life throughout the year.  If you have busy schedules, giving this gift to your spouse could be worth its weight in gold.  Take time out of your calendars this year and remember to enjoy the day or days with loved ones.  You only get one chance at this life and you can’t take the “stuff” with you, so make memories together and experience all this wonderful world has to offer.  

Note:  If you decide to give this gift to a special someone this year, make it a tradition and do it every year.  Make a point to try something new, take a trip on a tankful, or spend the day without the distraction of cell phones or electronics.  

Have you heard of the “White Elephant”?

This time of year we all usually have lots of holiday parties to attend for our places of employment, friends and family.  More than likely you have come to know the “White Elephant” gift exchange.  It is also referred to as the “Yankee Swap” or “Dirty Santa”.  There are tons of versions of this game / gift swap, but here are the simple rules:

  1. Each player brings one wrapped gift to contribute to a common pool – 
    The organizer should provide information on what type of gift people should bring. There can be a theme for the gifts, a monetary limit for the amount or no rules at all.  
  2. Players draw numbers to determine what order they will go in.  
    This can be done by drawing numbers from a hat, order of arrival to the event, or the order can be set by the organizer prior to the event.
  3. Players sit in a circle or line where they can see the gift pile.  
    Everyone should sit in the order in which they will take their turns.
  4. The first player selects a gift from the pool and opens it.  No hiding your gift!  Everyone needs the opportunity to see it.  
  5. The following players can choose to either pick an unwrapped gift from the pool or steal a previous player’s gift. Anyone who gets their gift stolen in this way can do the same – choose a new gift or steal from someone else.  A present can only be stolen once per turn, which means players who have a gift stolen from them have to wait to get it back. This rule doesn’t apply at the end of the game. 
  6. After all players have had a turn, the first player gets a chance to swap the gift he or she is holding for any other opened gift. Anyone whose gift is stolen may steal from someone else (as long as that person hasn’t been stolen from yet). When someone declines to steal a gift, the game comes to an end. NOTE: For this last “extra” turn, the swap rule from step 5 doesn’t apply. Players can keep swapping until someone decides to stand pat, or there are no other eligible people to steal from.

Sound like fun?  It is!  But let’s take a look at what makes a good White Elephant gift? It can meet one or all of the following criteria:  Funny, Weird, or nice.  

For the organizer, here are some tips: 

  1. Communicate – Make sure all guests attending are aware of the gift giving game and make sure they know to wrap their gift prior to arrival
  2. Set limits – Help your guests out by providing a monetary limit such as $5 or $10.  This keeps the game light and fun for all.  
  3. Allow for enough time for the game.  – It’s no fun to be rushed at the end, that’s when the game gets good!

So where did this game originate?  Well, I checked out Wikepedia and here is the answer: The term white elephant refers to an extravagant, but impractical, gift that cannot be easily disposed. The phrase is said to come from the historic practice of the King of Siam (now Thailand) giving rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, so that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs. While the first use of this term remains a matter of contention among historians,[4] one theory suggests that Ezra Cornell brought the term into the popular lexicon through his frequent social gatherings as early as 1828.[5]  

Explanation provided by http://www.secretsanta.com is as follows:
The game derives its name from the term white elephant as defined by something of dubious or limited value or an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others. Thus, in its basic form the game calls for people to bring “gag” gifts or gifts they received that they have no use for.

I hope you all enjoy your holiday celebrations with co-workers, family and friends!  Happy gift giving!

Schedule “Me Time”

It happens to the best of us, life gets busy and as our schedules and “to do” lists get longer and busier, the time we take for ourselves tends to disappear.  We feel like if we take time for ourselves we are neglecting our family, acting selfishly, or neglecting our responsibilities.  This could not be further from the truth. Life is noisy.  Life is busy.  Life takes up so much of our energy.  It’s understandable that every individual has different work situations that are unique to their field, but it important to remember that you don’t live to work. Sometimes, putting aside time for yourself may even prove to be the ideal catalyst to liberating yourself from all the struggles that are suffocating you.  

Let’s take a look at what happens when we don’t take time for ourselves and some suggestions on how to avoid or change this situation:

  1. Mental and Physical Exhaustion: people may experience mental fatigue, insomnia, confusion, poor concentration, depression, anxiety, and increased irritability when they do not take time to take care of themselves. Just like we need sleep, we need time out. 
  2. Resentments and anger build up: 
    The lack of time to yourself can cause you to build up resentments that can harm both you and your relationships. When you spend all your time filling other people’s cups, it’s likely yours will run empty. Sometimes, especially when we’re tired, we may become angry about giving so much. 
  3. Poor self-esteem develops:   
    Self-care and self-love are very much connected.  If we truly love and care about ourselves, we would make the time to care for both our physical health and mental health.  Sometimes a reluctance to make time for self-care can go deeper, to issues of self-worth and self-love.

Here is a quick list of ways to improve your “me time” and take better care of yourself on a daily basis:

  1. Schedule it! – Make a meeting with yourself daily or weekly depending on the content of the meeting.  Do you need a daily reprieve, or do you want to schedule an hour or two for a mani/pedi, exercise, or just to sit by the pool and read?  
  2. Make it count! – Don’t just “schedule” ten minutes a day or quiet time, make it quality time.  Just as you would give your newborn child your undivided attention, you deserve your attention too!
  3. Delegate tasks! – don’t let life get in the way.  Don’t get bogged down with a long list of “to do’s”  
  4. Check your e-mail and social media feeds at delegated times – Are you attached at the hip to your smart phone?  Put it down and schedule times that you will pick it up and review the latest updates.  
  5. Take 5! – Whenever you start to get overwhelmed or feel anxious, take 5 minutes to step outside and take a deep breath.  Walk around your office or work space.  there is no harm in taking 5 minutes to regroup.
  6. Say no with dignity an grace – You do not have to accept every invitation to get together or take on every task given to you.  Do not take on more than you can handle, and really take a long hard look at what you can realistically handle.  Unless you are wearing a cape and tights, I’m pretty sure you are not a super hero.  
  7. Shower time is “your time” – This is one of the few times in your day that you can guarantee peace and quiet.  Take advantage of it.  
    Purchase some aroma therapy products that you love and treat each shower like it is a spa getaway. Take some deep breaths and let the warm water wash away any tension that you were having.
  8. Take the long way home – no matter how you get o and from work or your daily activity, take the scenic route and enjoy a little peace and quiet before switching gears to family and kids and responsibilities.  

Keep in mind that carving out time for yourself is vital for keeping yourself healthy, and that means a happier family and more productive work and school life.

This blog posts was written in honor of my sister.  She takes on the world everyday.  She is strong, beautiful, smart, giving and many times forgets to take care of herself. 

Live happily,   Mrs. Go To Girl

What’s in your Christmas Stocking?

Christmas morning is always the greatest thing ever.  Watching your family gather around the Christmas tree in their adorable holiday PJ’s and seeing the wide eyed kids marvel at all the gifts that appeared under the tree overnight.  Did Santa eat the cookies they left out?  Did they drink the milk?  How did he get here and when?  All the wonderment just minutes before your family rips into the oodles of fun gifts you (and Santa) have carefully wrapped for them this year.  

What about the Christmas stockings?  In our family, we wrap each gift found inside this special stocking.  There is candy, gadgets, pretty hair bows, fun socks and much much more.  In our family, we do stocking stuffers for kids and adults alike.  I wanted to take a second as we are all working diligently on our holiday lists to give you a few fun stocking stuffer ideas for kids of all ages. 

For little girls: Little girls and little boys have different ideas of what a great gift is.  Here is a fun list of ideas for the little girl(s) in your life: Mini-toiletries such as hand lotion, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, etc., A small change purse, A gift card to her favorite store, A personalized mug (for tea or hot cocoa), Zipper pulls for her jackets or backpack, Comb and hairbrush set, Hair accessories such as barrettes, ponytail holders, scrunchies, headbands, ribbons, etc., Perfume samples (you can find these at department stores), Small, magnetic travel games.  This list can go on and on, but be sure to not miss the classic (see below)

For Little boys: Along with the basics, the following are fun thing to drop in your little one’s stocking: Action figures and hot wheels, candy (Their favorite or even new fun candies), batteries (most likely they will need them this time of year and it’s always good to add it to their stocking), Pez Dispensers (This is and oldie but a goodie!), bike wheels LED Lights, prank gifts kids can play on each other (Whoopee cusion, fart boxes, disappearing ink pens). Don’t forget the classic items (see list below).

For the ladies in your life: Whether she is a wife, mom or grown daughter there are always classic favorites for ‘her’ stocking.  
coffee gift cards from her favorite coffee bar, toiletries (peek in her cabinet to see what brands she likes), her favorite chocolates, candy or snack, portable power for her cell phone, room spray or perfume, cozy socks.  And don’t forget the traditional items that are classics and should be in every stocking.  (see that list below)  

For the men in your life: Once the man in your life ages out of the novelty toys of his youth, it can be hard to know how to fill his stocking with things that are both neat and useful. Here is a quick list of ideas to get you started: Cologne, pocket knife, portable charger, tactical flashlight, money clip, cigars, mini bottles of liquor, funny socks and underwear.  Of course don’t forget the traditional items that are classics…  (see that list below)  

“The Classics” – This is a list of those traditional stocking stuffers that are fun every year.  They make the stocking complete.  Now that you have your list for each indivual stocking in your family, don’t forget these classics….Sweet treats of all kinds, Games and toys (Silly puddy, slinkies, yo-yo’s, bouncy balls and bubbles), the bath basics (a new toothbrush and toothpaste, bathtub soaps and bath toys), a Christmas orange (you read that right!), money (gift cards work to for things like ice cream, etc.).  These things are the basics you almost always find in your stocking.  They can be changed slightly to be age appropriate but they are always useful and fun things to get each year. 

In addition to the above (and they are suggestions, not a comprehensive list to check off).  I highly suggest having one item in each stocking that is a family tradition.  For me personally, I have a tradition each years with my daughter’s stocking.  She is ALWAYS losing her lighters and each year for Christmas she finds lighters (lots of them) individually wrapped in her stocking.  It’s a silly thing, but she can always count on her stocking having these in it to make her giggle Christmas morning (and to use all year).  

Now that you have your list, ever wonder where the tradition of Christmas stockings and stocking stuffers began?  After reading a lot on the subject, I want to share with you what https://people.howstuffworks.com/ has to say on the topic.  

Hanging stockings over the chimney is an integral part of Christmas, and these oversized stockings are reserved for smaller gifts like candy and action figures. But why do we hang stockings anyway, and how did the tradition start?

Although most countries have their own variations on Santa, the oldest reference to St. Nicholas goes as far back as the third century. The ancient town of Myra, located in what is now modern Turkey, is home to a shrine dedicated to Bishop Nicholas. Over several centuries, tales spread detailing the benevolence and generosity of Bishop Nicholas, and this is where the idea of St. Nick as gift-giver began [source: BSU].

One of the stories, it turns out, involves Nicholas passing by the homes of maidens too poor to afford a dowry– money that a bride gives to her groom for their wedding. The bishop would throw gold coins down the chimneys of these maidens, where they would fall into stockings, which were hung over the fire to dry.

Dutch children take part in another tradition — one that may have directly influenced the North American practice of hanging stockings. The children leave wooden shoes out by the fireplace, which are filled with hay for Sinterklaas’s horse (the Dutch version of Santa Claus not only has a different name, but a different mode of transportation). Santa replaces the hay with gifts, and it’s thought that Americans adapted this tradition sometime in the early 19th century [source: BSU].

I wish you all (young and old) a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

Have a happy day, 

Mrs. Go To Girl

The Spirit of Christmas

As little children we are told of Santa Claus and get excited each year to think he is watching and we try our very best to be good little boys and girls.  Seeing a child’s excitement Christmas morning when presents appear under the tree and the cookies they left out the night before are eaten and milk has vanished.  Somewhere along the way as we grow into young adults, the mystery of Santa disappears and we stop believing.  Why is this?  Why do we let this magic of Christmas disappear?  

I was speaking to my Grandson recently and learned he no longer believes in Santa and I was crushed.  What about the Spirit of Christmas?  He looked at me confused.  We talked for a while about what Christmas means and why we give gifts.  In our family, we believe in Jesus Christ and we celebrate his birth on December 25th. (Christmas!).  This my grandson is clear about, but the spirit of Christmas is the magic that as kids, Santa brings.  As adults, there is so much more to it.  This is where “Santa” transitions into the “Spirit of Christmas”.  This young time in our lives and into our adult years is when we learn,  and many times we forget, what all of the little traditions at Christmas are really for.  Why do we do all the things we do this time of year?  Santa is a great way to start telling small children about all of the traditions of Christmas, but let’s not forget to transition this wonderful belief to a more adult understanding as our kids grow.  Don’t let them lose the Spirit of Christmas, instead help them develop it into a magical feeling that they can lean on year round.  

The Colors Red and Green

The color red is used at Christmas to represent the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross.  Green is another popular color at Christmastime signifying everlasting light and life. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year, and the fir tree symbolized life during the winter. There is also a legend that when Jesus was born in the dead of winter all the trees around the world shook off the snow to reveal new shoots of green.

The Bell

Bells are rung during Christmas to proclaim the arrival of the season and to announce the birth of Christ.

The Candy Cane

This treat represents the shape of a shepherd’s crook. Jesus, often referred to as the Good Shepherd, was born on Christmas. His birth was God’s way to bring lost lambs back to the fold. The red stripe represents blood, Christ’s sacrifice, and the white stands for his purity.

The Wreath

The wreath is a circular, never-ending symbol of eternal love and rebirth. Holly also stands for immortality and cedar for strength. Today the wreath symbolizes generosity, giving, and the gathering of family.

Gifts and a Bow

The men who brought their gifts to honor the birth of Jesus inspired the concept of giving gifts during the holiday.   A ribbon is tied around a gift to represent how we should all be tied together in bonds of unity and goodwill during the holiday season.

The Christmas Tree

Regarding the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of John records, “Light has come into the world.” Jesus himself said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” Surely, it is appropriate that our Christmas celebration be filled with light as we celebrate Jesus, the “light of the world.”

And what about Santa Claus himself?  here did the idea of “Santa” come from? 

A Brief history of Santa Claus

Santa Claus was a real man. He lived about 400 years after Jesus. He was the Bishop of a church. He loved Jesus. Bishop Nicholas had a friend that had 3 daughters, but they could not get married because their father did not have the money for their dowries.So late one night, in secret, Bishop Nicholas threw 3 bags of gold into their living room. The bags landed in socks that were drying by the fireplace(thus the tradition of stocking hung by the fireplace). Later the Catholic Church made him a Saint, thus Saint Nicholas. The Santa Claus that we know today in America is a result of Clement Moore’s poem, The Night Before Christmas, written in the mid 1800’s.

Forgive and grow…

So often we hold grudges or let the things that upset us on one day carry over into the next day, week, or even longer.  I have learned a few things in life that are very important lessons:

  1. Forgiveness is for us, not them
  2. Holding onto anger only hurts us, not them
  3. Negativity blocks personal growth

These lessons have helped me in so many ways and I want to take a moment to share them with you.   In life I have learned to make amends with people that I have hurt or wronged and forgive those who hurt me.  In an article written by the Mayo Clinic forgiveness is clearly outlined as to what it is and how to practice this.  

“Forgiveness means different things to different people. Generally, however, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.

The act that hurt or offended you might always be with you, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

There are important things to remember.  Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee reconciliation and it doesn’t guarantee a change in the person you are forgiving.  What it does do is allow you to move forward in your own life.  It keeps this particular issue from creeping into other relationships.  It releases you from the anger and bitterness you hold within when carrying a grudge or resentment.  

So how do you “Forgive” someone?  As defined by the mayo clinic, forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change.”  To do reach this state of mind there are several things you can do: :
  • Recognize the value of forgiveness 
  • Identify what needs healing, who needs to be forgiven and for what
  • Consider seeking outside help to move forward (counseling)
  • Acknowledge your emotions and work to release them
  • Choose to forgive  – it is a choice and a conscious decision
  • Move away from your role as victim – the person who has hurt or offended you does not control you or your emotions. 

I have learned that no one can MAKE me feel sad or angry just as no one can MAKE me feel happy.  These are choices.  When I was a child and became angry or upset or even sad my mother would ask me to make a decision.  She asked me to decide how long I wanted to feel that way.  Maybe I wanted to be angry for an hour or even a day.  Maybe I wanted to be sad for a few days.  Either way, she would help me to set the time limit and at the end of the time limit, she would remind me of my decision to only be upset for the period of time and now I can choose a new feeling.  This process has helped me so often in life.  There are things I WANT to be upset about because I am not ready to process them and let go, but I realize I am only hurting myself. 

Much like any addition we have, we use our feelings or substitute our feelings for actions such as drinking or something else.  I learned that my addiction only allowed me to hide from my thoughts or feelings, but never made them go away and usually made them worse once the substance I used wore off.  Facing my feelings and the issues I faced head on was much easier in the long run.

Many times our closest family and friends can cause us the most concern or worry.  We love them the most and as humans we “want what we want” but cannot control what others do or say.  So here we are with confused feelings that can lead to hurt relationships with those we love the most. 

With forgiveness also comes acceptance.  Forgiving someone also means you must accept that they are who they are and your forgiveness doesn’t require them to apologize or even change.    That’s ok.  Just remember if the person’s actions or words do not change, you are not required to keep them in your inner circle or even in your life.  

Choosing to allow someone in your “world” is a choice only YOU can make.  Not making a choice to change, walk away, or allow continued behavior is still a choice.  You are responsible for yourself.  

Love, Happiness, Joy, Anger, Hurt, or sadness are all things you have the ability to control and you can choose to feel these things or not.  

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

In the end, you have the ability to forgive.  You have the ability to change yourself and your own actions.  We all deserve good days and happiness in our lives, but these are things we must decide to obtain.  

 

Learning to let go

Learning to let go is a hard lesson to learn but oh so important.  So often we get bogged down with a mile long list of “to do’s” and follow that with a busy schedule, a long list of people (friends and family) that crown our minds with their own issues and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety, stress, and an overall sense of doom if you’re not careful.

It happens to the best of us and far too often.  We let our inbox fill up and sit there staring at it not even sure where to start.  This is where “letting go” comes into play.  I have two thoughts to share with you:

  1. My dad always told me that even after you are dead and gone, people will still put things in your “inbox”, the trick is to focus on what is important and don’t worry about all the small stuff.
  2. There is only one way to eat an elephant and that is one bite at a time.  Even when your lists of things to do and places to be pile up…. in the end you can only be one place at a time and do one thing at a time.  Sure there is the novel idea of multi-tasking, but a task done right deserves your full attention.

So where does this leave us?  Yep….  sorting through our mess and figuring out what to let go of.  We can’t do it all and we can’t be everywhere all the time.  You know I love lists and here is your turn to make your own.  There are two lists that you need:

  1. List of priorities in life
  2. Current list of things to do (this is a daily list)

The first list (Priorities) is the most important and will help you keep perspective when making your daily list.  The priorities list is one that stays fairly constant and only changes when major life events happen.  (The birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, or even a death).  This is a list of who, what and where your personal priorities are.  I will give you an example of my list to kick off your thought process (This is by no means the same list you will have, but you get the idea).

  1. My Sobriety
  2. God
  3. My family
  4. My job
  5. …… this list can go on, but the first four are the most important to me.

The order you make the list is also important.  As you can see from my list, my sobriety is #1 on the list.  I am currently 15 1/2 years sober.  God willing, I will be 16 years sober and counting.  This is a choice I have made in my life and live this choice one day at a time.  It is at the top of the list because without it, I lose sight of my faith, crush and ruin my family and will ultimately lose my job.  #2 on my list is God.  For me a solid faith in a Higher Power comes before my family.  Without my faith in God and the ability to trust in him, I fall to pieces.  Faith can move mountains and my life is proof of that.  #3 is my family.  My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my parents and siblings.  I am blessed with an enormous, loving family.  It is my priority to show up and be present for them.  They are my rock when I waiver in various areas of my life and they keep me grounded.  Finally, my job is on the list.  I work to live, I do not live to work.  I need to place importance on my job in order to provide support to my family and to be an active member of society.

This is just an example of a list (that happens to be mine).  With this list in place, I can build my daily “to do” list.  It is a daily activity because as we all know, life throws us curve-balls all the time.  The order of this list, the contents, and the length of the list changes daily.  It is supposed to.  IF it was always the same, I fear we would lead very boring lives.  Here is an example of my “to do” list:

  1. Exercise – usually done first thing in the morning, but a daily goal for my physical and mental health
  2. Get my grandson ready for school – I have made a commitment to my family to be the best mom / grandma possible and helping this little guy out is very important to me.
  3. Work (Work has it’s own “To Do” list of course, but I try to keep that list confined to the hours spent at the office.)
  4. Spend time with my husband – He and I have completely different schedules when it comes to work and this keeps us missing each other if we aren’t careful.  When I married this man, in my wedding vows I promised to make him a priority in my life.  I keep this promise by making sure he is on my daily list.  Even if it is a simple shared cup of coffee or a walk on the beach holding his hand, that is very special quality time.
  5. ….. this list can go on, but you get he point.

Sometimes there are other task involved.  Do I need to call the doctor and make an appointment?  Do I need to stop by the store on may home and pick up groceries? Do I need to go to a meting in the evening or do I have plans to meet up with a friend?  All of these go on the list and the list is ever changing.

Once my lists are complete, the next thing to do is step back and take a look at the size of my “elephant”.  The only way to get things marked off my list is to put the list in order and then ready set go!  One thing at a time.  One task, one errand, one little tiny goal to be accomplished.

Sometimes life can feels like it is only tiny goals and the milestones are never hit.  When that feeling creeps in and your lists begin to overwhelm you that is when it is time to take a step back.  DO a little inventory of your life over the past month, year, or several years.  See where you have made major progress and take time to celebrate.  The little voices in our heads can so easily get us down on ourselves.  Are you climbing the corporate ladder fast enough? Are you the best mom or dad you can be?  Are you keeping up with bills and chores?  When stepping back to look at life for a brief moment, realize a few things….  your lights are on, your able to keep warm when it’s cold out, you’re able to reach out to your family when you need to, you’re able to eat a good meal or even enjoy a fun time with friends.  This must mean you are doing things right.  Do you have a place to lay your head at night?  You did that (by working, paying bills, and being present in life).  Do you have people who love you?  You did that (by being present in their lives too when they needed you).  I could step back at your life and tell you how wonderful it is, but that isn’t what you need.  You need to give yourself a pat on the back for making the good decisions that got you to the age you are.  A little hug now and then for not giving up. Trust me, giving up may many times seem like the easiest thing to do, but don’t give up before the miracles happen.  You will miss out on the most beautiful thing yet to come.

I will close with this…  When your list is long and life seems overwhelming, break it down.  If the lawn doesn’t get owed today, it will be there tomorrow and maybe then your list will be shorter.  Base your daily list on your priorities list.  For me, it is a gut check on the strength of my sobriety.  It is a moment to pray and thank God for his blessings and ask for his will in my life.  It is a call to my kids and a stolen glance with my husband even on the busiest of days.  These are the top three things on my list.  The rest is just “stuff”.

Written With Love,

Mrs. Go To Girl

 

Homemade Apple Cider, great for fall

Nothing says fall like homemade Apple Cider. It is fun to make your own, tastes great and makes your home smell amazing.  Here is a great recipe to try and share.  Alter it to make it your own.  This is a great beverage to have on hand for cool fall and winter evenings, family gatherings, and of course holiday dinners!

Ingredients:

10 Gala Apples – Quartered

3/4 Cup White Sugar

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Ground all spice

Note: you can float a few whole cinnamon sticks on top for extra flavor or add them at the end for garnish,  also adding extra spices like cloves or the zest of a lemon will spice up your cider depending on your preference.

Instructions:

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture though a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again though a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

Note: I prefer to serve my cider warm.  If you prefer the same you can always make this in advance and set it on warm in a crock pot.  Add some cinnamon sticks or Star of Anise to the once in the crock pot as a great garnish.

 

Positive reinforcement, Structure and Smiles

I am a huge fan of positive thoughts and positive vibes and if you know me, than you know this to be very very true.  It is so very easy to let our heads lead us to negative self-talk and we can let ourselves get down in the dumps, we don’t need help from anyone else.  I wanted to take a minute to talk about Positive reinforcement and then follow it up with the importance of structure for the little people in our lives.    When we are little this is when we are finding our identities and building our self-esteem and figuring out who we are.  We learn how to dress, how to match our clothes, how to get ready in the morning , how to do our chores, learn that we need to go to school, and how to be responsible for ourselves, for our pets, and eventually for others.  These are all very important lessons.  If we as adults are constantly speaking in negative tones or punishing kids rather than building them up, how are we helping them?  Of course there are consequences and of course we need to teach the concept of consequences, but we also need to teach the concept of rewards.  If you go to work, you get a paycheck.  If you work harder and faster, you get bonuses, earn promotions, and get ahead in life.  Why should we not teach our children this part of life in addition to teaching them that if they do not follow thru on their responsibilities, they will not reach their goals (not earn their paychecks i.e., play time).

Positive reinforcement is defined as the process of encouraging or establishing a pattern of behavior by offering reward when the behavior is exhibited.  Rather than saying “If you don’t do “this”, than “this” will happen.  It is just as easier and a positive approach to say; “If you complete “this”, “this” will happen.  It is the exact same approach but rather than enforcing a fearful or negative approach to a child, you encourage a child to work hard to gain reward.  During their work process, they are happier and eager to please rather than scared and unfocused on the task at hand.

It is not always easy to take the higher road and be cheerful and positive.  We all get frustrated and at the end of the day we have all lost out temper.  I think the take away is to remember we are trying to raise little people to big people who will in turn one day  contribute to society.   Looking around in today’s society, there is a lot of negativity.  If we can contribute to the little people of today by enlightening them in a more positive manner to make this world a better place.  By helping hem to make good choices, to make calmer choices, to think things through and not always rule with an iron fist than we have all done our jobs.

When we were children, we did not have to worry about kids bringing guns to school, we were able to play outside safely and ride our bikes without helmets, drink from a garden hose without worry.  We ate dinner together as a family, we watched Saturday morning cartoons,  went on family trips together.  If you are a single mom, blended family, large family or mixed family of all ages, it doesn’t matter.  Love each other and do you very best.  You are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  Be a team.

Do you make every penny count?

As you know by know I am a HUGE advocate for paying it forward AND for making every penny count.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman who likes to shop and loves a bargain so I’m always on the hunt.  I wanted to take a minute and chat about reward programs, opportunities to save and opportunities to pay it forward.

In today’s day and age there are a million ways to cut costs and the majority of us could use a leg up in this area.  Here is a list of reward programs that I have found helpful.

  1. Digital Coupons – many grocery stores and pharmacy stores have a reward program or on-line membership (free of charge) and linked to those programs is a digital coupon option.  If you make it a habit of logging onto those sites once a week and digitally “clip” the coupons to your account, you have an opportunity for potential savings you may have missed.  Here is an example.  I frequently shop at Publix and Walgreens for various items.  Once a week I jump on-line and click on as many coupons as the program allows.  I may or may not use them all, but if they are in my account (linked to my phone number) all I have to do at check out is enter in my phone number and any applicable coupons are applied instantly.
  2. Ebates – If you have not signed up yet, you are missing out!  If you do any on-line shopping this is a great program to be a part of.  It costs nothing to join and you are rewarded with cash back when you shop.  There are tons of stores linked to the program and there is even an option for in-store shopping if you choose to link your credit cards.  To date, I have received over $130 back for shopping I was already planning on doing.
  3. Piggy Bank – This is another app.  As you are browsing on line, if you have signed up for the piggy bank on your phone or computer, it will pop up and let you know if coupons are available or cash back is available.

This brings me to paying it forward.  How many times have had loose change rolling around the bottom of our purses or the floor of our cars?  How many times have you found a couple of bucks in the washer or dryer?  These are all signs that we are not as careful with our money as we think.  Sure, we are penny pinchers when it comes to larger purchases or even something that may be $5 vs $1.  But what about all the unused change?  My point here is that the next time someone at the check out counter asks if you want to “round-up” for a charity, say yes.  Think of all the times you have foolishly spent money and here is an opportunity glaring you in the face to share forty cents with someone in need.

Are you an Amazon shopper?  I am for sure!  I am convinced they have everything!  I am proud to say I am now an Amazon Smile shopper.  What’s the difference?  Well if you log into http://www.amazon.com you are shopping at amazon without the opportunity to help the charity of your choice with proceeds from your purchase.  If you shop at http://www.smile.amazon.com you can create a profile and select the charity of your choice to help.  As you shop you will notice various items are  “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation”.  If you choose these items, The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases. How great is that?  Same shopping, and you are helping the cause of your choice.

There you have it a little saving and a little donating.  Keeping balance in every aspect of our lives is so very important.  A good level headed perspective is what keeps us all moving in a positive direction.  As I have said before.  It is a great place to be when your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your head is happily in the clouds.

First Aid Kits (Home, Travel, Office)

Do you have a first aid kit in your home or car?  When is the last time you opened it?  The aspirin may be expired and the liquid items may be out of date or worse, dried up.  Once a year you should make it a point to update your first aid kits, refresh them, and add any notes about medication changes.  (In Florida or the south, I would suggest doing this in June as that is the start of hurricane season.)

First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase one from the Red Cross Store or your local American Red Cross chapter. Your local drug store may sell them. You can also make your own. Some kits are designed for specific activities, such as hiking, camping or boating.I would suggest having a kit for your home, your office and your car.  You never know when or where an tiny emergency will pop up and you will need some sort of medical supply.  Below are some suggestions to customize your kit to your family or needs:

What a kit should include:

 

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket) 
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches) 
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Additional items to think about:  Include a list of current medications or allergies for each member of your family.  This should be updated annually.  Keep your first aid kit in a known location in your home and car.  Add any emergency equipment that may be required by your family (i.e., epi-pens, etc.)

First Aid Kit Review:

  1. Include personal items such as medications and emergency phone number or other items your doctor may suggest.
  2. Check your kit regularly
  3. Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date items.
  4. Store your kits in a place that is out of reach of children, but easily accessible by adults

Find your tribe, love them hard

I am a huge fan of “Family” quotes.  I wanted to take a moment and share some with you.  To me, family is everything.  It is the foundation that built me, the love that has shaped me and the rock on which I can always fall back on.  Throughout my life I have watched my family evolve into what is the most precious thing I have to date.

  • Family – Where life begins and love never ends
  • The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing
  • Family – We may not have it all together, but we have it all
  • Family is not about blood, it is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most
  • Family is family, whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.

I suggest you take a moment and draw your family tree.  You may be surprised to see the list of parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. that are there.  If your family is small, try adding leaves to your tree that include your complete tribe.  Do you have a family friend that has been like a sister or aunt to you?  Do you have a best friend that has helped you raise your children?  They are all leaves on our trees.

When you get a moment, send a note to your tribe and let them know what they mean to you.  Here are my little notes:

To my parents: “Thank you for teaching me to eat with a fork, to wipe my own butt, to get up when I fell down and to laugh so hard my belly hurts.  Thank you for teaching me that this life is a beautiful gift and then telling me to go live it”

To my sons: “You may not have the same eyes or smile as me, but from the very first moment, you had my heart.”

To my grandchildren: “Trying to explain how much I love my Grandkids is like trying to count the stars”

To my cousins: “God made us all cousins because he knew our parents couldn’t handle us as siblings.”   Thank you for being my first playmates and now my greatest friends.

To my extended family: “Family is much more than a word – It’s a feeling of warmth and love that neither time nor distance can change.”  Thank you for always being on the other end of the phone, a text, or an e-mail.

To my husband: “You are my forever and always”.  God knew what he was doing when our paths crossed.  There is no one more patient, loving, understanding, strong, or crazy than you.

To my friends (Both near and far): “Friends go like waves on the ocean, but the true ones stay like an octopus on your face”  Hahahaha…  and this is why we are friends!

 

“Date Night” on a dime

So many times we lose track of what is important and that is ourselves and our relationships.  We focus on the day to day of work, house-keeping, kids schedules and more.  Here are a few fun options for an unscheduled date night on a limited budget.  We all have the excuses of no time, no money,  too busy.  Hopefully you will be able to keep this list handy and stop from time to time to enjoy life.

  1. Movie night – pull out the blankets and pillows.  Pop some popcorn and have a movie night.  Make it fun with a theme and watch a series of movies. As days pass by, build your DVR list with movies that are coming up or pick-up the DVD’s on sale at your local store for date nights like this.
  2. A walk in the park – So many parks have benches, exercise activities, play grounds, and trails.  Make the most of all of them.  If you haven’t tried Geocaching yet, give it a try too.  Fun and free time for the whole family.
  3. Go for a swim – Put on a bathing suit and take a swim.  Find a pool, a beach, a lake or a river.  If you are able, get a tube or float and relax or rent a kayak or paddleboard and get some exercise.
  4. Have a campfire – You can use a fire pit, or find a place for a bonfire (safety first of course).  Make s’mores, tell stories, or just listen to the crackle of the fire under the stars.
  5. Build a snowman – Put on some warm clothes and build a snowman, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight.
  6. Pick fruit at a local farm – Find a local strawberry farm or blueberry farm and spend the day picking fruit.  At the close of the day bake a pie or make a fun dessert together.
  7. Watch a sunset – Take a walk or sit on a porch somewhere and say good bye to the day with a loved one.
  8. Watch a sunrise – Get up early in the morning and fins a beach or great park and enjoy the start of a brand new day.  Take a thermos of coffee with you and some music or maybe a good book.
  9. Have a game night – When is the last time you played yahtzee? Monopoly? Candy Land? Clue? Scrabble?  Pick a night and pull out the games you loved as a kid or even as an adult.  You can do this with just two people or make an evening out of it with friends and family.
  10. Dance together – Get on spotify or youtube music and create a music list together of your favorite songs.  Keep it handy and when the mood strikes, dance with each other.  Dance in a park, in your living room, or in a restaurant.
  11. Go window shopping – Walk thru IKEA, or find a shopping mall.  Take some time to hold hands, people watch, day dream together about a DIY project or a future home.
  12. Get creative….  this list is just the tip of the iceberg.  Make and keep a list of ideas for those times when it is rainy, your broke, or your bored and check items off your list.

Digital memory books (AKA E-mail)

Have a child in your home or one you are responsible for or assist in raising?  Create a digital memory book for them.  You can do this at any time in your child’s life (as a newborn, school age, heading off to college or the military, or as they have children of their own).

Create an e-mail account for them.  (I suggest doing this with a service that is tried and true, dependable).  I am not supporting one outlet over the other, but I prefer g-mail becuase I’m pretty sure Google will be around for a while.

Don’t give them the password for this account until you are ready to share with them the contents.  The purpose of the e-mail is to provide them with bits of advice, stories about themselves or their heritage, and other funny things that happen throughout their lifetime.  Keep this e-mail address to yourself or share it with your family and friends.

Anytime you experience a situation where words of wisdom have helped you, send an e-mail to this new account.  Family recipes, photos, etc. are all great things to share.  So many times we wait until we are older to ask our parents for stories of our childhood or of our heritage.  There will come a day when we leave this world and leave our children behind, this is a great way to create a memory book of sorts for them that they can rely on for years to follow.

Have you personally lost a parent or close relative or friend and later wanted to give them a call to ask a question or are sure that if they were here they would know the solution to a situation?  Take this “digital memory book” and use it to alleviate the pain of not being able to call years down the road.

I have lost my grandparents and a few other friends and relatives.  I wish they were here now to share all of their wisdom and wit with me.  Take advantage of your resources in today’s age and pass on some history wrapped up in love and good intentions.  Your child will cherish it later in life.

SIDE NOTE: Share the password with them at a turning point in their life.  When there are no words at the moment, but so many thoughts have come and gone.  A child heading off to college, or preparing for their own child are perfect times.

 

Snacks for the beach (or a hot day in the sun)

It’s summer time, that means road trips, days in the summer sun and fun!.  It can be expensive to get snacks while you are out and about so here are some easy and fun ideas for treats as you play.  We all work up an appetite and the summer sun can drain us.  Take advantage of a little pre-planning to pack your snacks and enjoy your day without breaking the bank.

Ranch-Seasoned Spice Crackers

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

5 cups oyster crackers ( 9 oz bag)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, ranch seasoning mix, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk everything together and add in the oyster crackers. Toss everything together until the crackers are coated.  Spread the crackers out onto a baking sheet.  Pop the baking sheet of crackers in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Chex-Mix

INGREDIENTS:

3-1/2 cups Rice Chex

3-1/2 cups Corn Chex

2 cups Wheat Chex

1 cup peanuts (you can also use 1 cup of mixed nuts)

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup bite-sized pretzels (I like the pretzel sticks broken in half)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine ingredients for Homemade Seasoned Salt in small dish then set aside.  In a very large bowl combine Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, and nuts. In a small bowl stir together butter, Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture then stir with a spatula to coat. Pour into a 11×17″ or larger baking dish then bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in pretzels when Chex Mix is cool, then serve! Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Salt and Pepper Oven-baked Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/8″ to 1/16″ thick

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (recommended: kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Use convection bake setting if your oven allows.  Place sliced zucchini on paper towels and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot the tops of the zucchini with another paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place the zucchini on the pans in a single layer, making sure not to overlap.  Pour olive oil into a small bowl and lightly brush onto the zucchini.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake for about 2 hours, flipping zucchini after about an hour, until zucchini is crispy and starting to brown. Start checking them at about 1-1/2 hours in as ovens can vary. Any pieces that are crispy and starting to brown should be removed.  Serve immediately!

 

 

 

Chore Charts – They work wonders!

I grew up with two sisters in my mother’s home.  We were all close in age and all very very different.  There were rules to follow of course, but my mom gave us chore charts.  She did this when I was little and again when my sisters and I were teens.  They were very different as they were age appropriate, but looking back they taught us to do our fair share and to take responsibility for ourselves.

As a little girl, my chore chart had the days of the week (I was learning those), and the chores that I was responsible for and capable of doing. (i.e., making my bed, picking up my room, putting my clothes in the dirty laundry hamper, etc.)  My sister and I shared the responsibility of laundry, cleaning our bathroom, dusting and vacuuming as we got older.  The chore chart faded away as the things we did became a habit and generally just expected.

As a teen, the chart came back into effect for dividing up chores and keeping us each accountable as individuals.  We had a calendar hanging in the kitchen with our initials on the days and order.  1, 2, 3, and repeat.  This was our dishes calendar.  If our name fell on the day, then we were responsible for doing dishes that night. (no question or hassle, it was there in black and white). NOTE: If our name fell on a day where we had a pre-planned social activity that kept us away at dinner time, the task of dishes fell to my mom, so she had her fair share of dishes nights too.)

As a young child, there were rewards for accomplishing all of my chores and doing them well.  Gold stars placed on my chart, a prize at the end of the week (this was either being able to stay up 30 minutes past my bedtime, or maybe watching a movie of my choice, or being able to have a friend over).  The consequences for not doing my chores were just as clear (i.e., no TV, no friends coming over, etc.)

These chores taught me to keep my home clean, to respect my property and that of others,  to be responsible for myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I did not have a difficult or challenging childhood, but my parents had rules and they had good reason for them.  Looking back I am so grateful they did.  I am the woman I am today because of them.  Things like washing the towels and sheets on your bed, vacuuming AND dusting, cleaning out your closet occasionally, are all random things we take for granted as an adult but should thank our parents for teaching them to us when we were young.  After all, they taught us to use a spoon, wipe our own tushes, and hopefully to take care of ourselves overall as were grew into successful independent adults.

If you have a little kiddo in your home, I hope you are teaching them to grow into fabulous independent adults.  The joy is equal in succeeding as an individual as it is to watching your child succeed, knowing you did a good job.

SIDE NOTE: I was an argumentative child at times.  I hated to be told no.  I would accept a choice or a reason, but the word “no” sent me through the roof many times.  These chore charts outlined exactly what was expected of me and decreased the arguments over all.  As I grew older I appreciated conversations with reasons and purpose rather than being “told what to do”.  Today as a result, I have a pretty solid foundation and open line of communication between myself and all of my parents.  (As I mentioned before, I have two step-parents that also raised me and I respect them as much as I respect my biological parents.)

Summer fun on a budget

We all love the roller coasters, concerts, and road trips during the summer, but those activities can end up costing a fortune if you aren’t careful and if you have a family of four or more that cost gets higher faster.  Tickets, Food, Gas, Souvenirs, yikes!

I wanted to take a minute and offer a few ways to save some pennies this summer and still make great memories.  We all know I love to make lists, so not to disappoint below is a list of inexpensive summer plans and additional ways to save some cash while having a blast.

  1. Summer Concerts in the park: Many cities offer free or nearly free shows in parks (especially if you live near a college town). Bring a blanket and a picnic and kick off your sandals while you enjoy the music. Bonus fun if you get up and dance with your kids!
  2. Camping: If well managed, this doesn’t have to be an expensive adventure. For starters, you can camp in your own back yard and have just as much family fun outside under the stars there as you can in a campground.  Second, plan ahead and weekday campsites are typically less expensive.  Plan food ahead and don’t forget to bring some fun (free) activities like outdoor games and challenges to keep kids having a great time. Simple meals like sandwiches don’t require cooking so no charcoal or grill supplies are required.
  3. A Day at the beach: Find your nearest waterway. It might be a river or a pond, but chances are you can find a body of water close to home that offers a chance to try out some water activities. Many water locations have recreation areas where you can rent kayaks or canoes very inexpensively. (They may even offer free usage for locals and students.) There’s plenty of fun to be had on the banks of a river. Make it a daytrip, don’t forget to pre-pack your snacks and enjoy!
  4. Get a National Park Pass: If you live near a National Park, then it’s a great idea to buy a membership pass that you can use all year. Don’t want to splurge on one? Most National Parks have very affordable one-visit passes, and some even have discount days.
  5. Free Pool Play Dates: Be sure to take advantage of your neighborhood pool, and set up play dates with friends and family. Don’t have a neighborhood pool? Set up a play date with someone who does!
  6. Free Outdoor Concerts or Movies: There are many free outdoor performances over the summer. Check your area for any, and see if you can pack a picnic to take with you. Hint: if you’re looking for a summertime date without the kids, swap a night of babysitting with a friend, and bring along a blanket with some wine and cheese. Kick back and enjoy your free performance under the stars!
  7. Free and Cheap Store Events: Several national chain stores offer free kids’ activities throughout the year, such as building wooden projects in Lowe’s Free Build and Grow program, Home Depot’s free weekly workshops, $2 Michael’s Kids Crafting Classes, Lakeshore Learning Free Crafts for Kids, Disney Store’s Free Summer Play Days …and the list goes on and on.
  8. Be a hometown tourist: You don’t have to leave town to go on a vacation: Get to know the town you live in. Look into local landmarks, call the local historical society for some fun hometown trivia, and ask a neighbor for her favorite restaurant recommendation to try somewhere new.
  9. Volunteer your time: Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility—it also keeps kids busy. Little ones can do plenty, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods.
  10. Geocaching: This is a fun activity for all ages. There is an app to download (free).  This is a real life treasure hunt for trinkets.  Move the trinkets from location to location and log your finds and trinket status.  Add a trinket (once logged) and keep an eye on it via the website to see if your trinket is able to move across the state or country.

Extra ideas: Splash Parks, Free Bowling Nights, Free Skating Nights, Playgrounds and Parks, Local classes at Home Depot or Michaels Craft store, Storytime at a local library or bookstore, Game Nights, Bicycle Rides, the options are endless!

What to do with cook-out leftovers?

Did you have a recent cookout or party at your house? Is your fridge filled with leftover meat, veggies, and other yummy goodness? From chicken tacos to pan-fried sausage, here’s how to use up all the leftovers from your cookout and make sure they don’t go to waste.

Grilled Chicken Tacos:

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion,

cut into wedges,

keeping root intact 2 garlic cloves,

finely chopped 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 corn tortillas, warmed (for serving)

Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde (click for recipe; for serving) Cilantro sprigs, sliced radishes, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toss onion, garlic, chicken, cumin, oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Grill onion and chicken until cooked through and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with tortillas, Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde, cilantro, radishes, and/or lime wedges.

Grilled Sausage and left over grilled veggies = Fritatta You can chop up leftover sausage and add it to an egg scramble, omelet, or frittata.

INGREDIENTS

6 large eggs

6 ounces leftover roasted vegetables, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

½ cup leftover cooked grains or crumbled leftover sausage

1 ounce coarsely grated or crumbled cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped tender herbs, such as thyme, basil, and/or chives Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

RECIPE PREPARATION

1. Vigorously whisk 6 eggs in a medium bowl until streak-free.

2. Add 5 oz. vegetables, ½ cup grains (you can use left over sausage too), 1 oz. grated cheese, and 1 Tbsp. herbs; season with salt and pepper. Mix with a rubber spatula to combine.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium; swirl skillet to coat with oil.

4. Add egg mixture and cook until edges are set, about 30 seconds.

5. Using spatula, agitate eggs by scraping bottom of skillet in a small circular motion and bringing edges toward center of pan to form large curds, then let mixture sit undisturbed until edges are set again, about 1 minute.

6. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tilting skillet and lifting edges up with spatula to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath and around sides, until surface is wet but center is mostly set when you shake the pan, about 5 minutes.

7. Shake skillet to loosen frittata. Place a large plate over skillet and invert frittata onto plate.

8. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet over medium, swirling to coat. Slide frittata back into skillet; reduce heat to low. Cook until set all the way through, about 3 minutes.

9. Let frittata cool in skillet 5 minutes, then invert onto a cutting board.

10. Season frittata with salt and pepper. Cut into wedges to serve.

SIDE NOTE: This Fritatta can be prepared in advance covered and chilled. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Great to have on hand for the morning after and any visitors that may have stayed the night.

Other left over ideas can be the following:

1. Hot Dogs can be turned into beans and franks

2. Grilled steak can be converted to street tacos (use caution when re-heating so you don’t dry out your meat or over cook it.

3. Left over condiments like olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc can be made into a fun pasta salad (use rotini and an italian dressing seasoning packet for great flavor)

Do you have a bucket list and are you ticking things off?

When my mom turned 60, my sister and I asked her to create a “Bucket List”.  She laughed and responded, “I’m not dying!”  On the contrary, my mother is in impeccable health and will probably live well into her 90’s.

Our point in asking her was that she spent the majority of her life raising my sisters and I and now that we are grown doing well on our own with families of our own, we want to ensure she has and is ticking off items from her own “Bucket List”.  When tasked to make a list, she started small.  We went to a painting class, we took a segway tour around a city a few hours away, we went to a hockey game, and even zip-lining.  As she tried more of the things she had yet to explore we found that her list grew longer and more adventurous.  We have learned a lot about our mom, been able to experience great things with her and grown closer as adults.

In the past few years she has experienced her first concert and for this our cousins and husbands joined in the fun.  It was an amazing time.  This past year my sister and I had the pleasure of accompanying our mom on her first cruise.  The three of us traveled to Mexico where we ate authentic Mexican cuisine and went snorkeling in an underground river.

As she has added to her list and our adventures have grown, so has my personal bucket list.  I’ve discovered more of what I would like to do and where I would like to go along the way.

I challenge you to create your own bucket list and ask your family to do the same.  By writing it down and posting it you will not only discover your family’s dreams but also have a visual reminder of the things you can plan for and do.

This Saturday I will be skydiving for the first time in my life.  I’m terrified and excited all at once but as they say “You only life once” and I truly want to experience it all on my trip through life.

Enjoy your family, experience the world around you, and make memories everywhere you go.  Have a Happy Day!

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