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!

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!

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.

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!

Happy Fourth of July, Celebrate safely

Happy Fourth of July! As we gather our families and friends to celebrate our nation’s holiday let’s remember to use caution and be safe. Below are some easy safety tips to follow and share.

  1. Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks. Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  2. A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  3. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  4. Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  5. Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles. Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  6. Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  7. Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  8. Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

And let’s not forget the safety of our pets!

  1. Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one.
  2. If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.
  3. Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
  4. Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets.

Extra tip for pet owners: I personally have two very very small dogs and loud bursts of sound terrify them. During holidays and celebrations that include fireworks, we like to leave the tv or radio on a little louder than normal close to their sleeping quarters. This provides for constant sound, drowns out some of the noise from fireworks, and helps to reduce the stress of the random bursts of noise.

When water is thicker than blood

Many times I have heard the saying blood is thicker than water when it comes to family matters but I have found that this is not always true.  If you have had the pleasure, the HONOR, of living in a blended family than you know that water can be thicker than blood.  Let me give you some beautiful examples from my own experience.

Let’s start with my parents.  Both of my parents re-married when I was young and I was blessed with two step-parents who love me as their own.   My step-mom is my first example.  From the word go, she has treated me as her very own daughter and never waivered.  I have tested her love, tried her patience, and even tried to drive a wedge into her marriage to my father simply because I was a punk kid at times.  (Even into my twenties).  I made some rough choices and she stood by my side, encouraged me, lifted me up and helped dust me off when I fell.  She is one tough lady but has always been there standing next to me and even behind me letting me shine as I found my own light as an adult.  Just as my own biological parents have done.

Next there is my step-father.  This is another example of unconditional love.  He and I have a different relationship than he does with my other siblings.  Though he loves us all very much, he and I have a special bond that I value very much.  This bond is a result of choices I made in my twenties that changed my life and the lives of my family. (I will go into this in a separate blog someday down the road, but trust me, bad choices bring out major changes).  My parents, all four of them stepped in to help me at varying degrees and this opened up many channels of communication that I never thought possible.  It was when I was at my lowest point that I found the most love and tolerance.  I thought I had pushed all of my family to the breaking point, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.  My parents and my step-parents have taught me what real unconditional love is for a child and for another human being.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

This brings us to the present.  I am now married and a step parent to two wonderful grown men.  They of course don’t need a mommy or by any means even a mother, but here I  am and they are stuck with me.  I say that jokingly.  I love these two men as if they were my very own all along.  I now know how my step-parents felt and feel.  I worry about these guys constantly and want the best for them always.  It’s crazy!  They have children of their own and I am beyond blessed to be their “grandma”.  Words cannot describe the feeling I get when the family I married into comes together.  Some live close by and some are out of state, but I assure you they are all as close to me and as important to me as my sister, my niece and nephew, and my own parents.

Each of my sons participates in a blended family as well and I am so proud of the kind of men they are.  They are great husbands / boyfriends and amazing fathers.  Raised by an amazing man, my husband.  Though I didn’t have any part in raising them, I am still just as proud of them as ever.  My cup runneth over!  For the longest time as a child I took my step- parents for granted.  I was so very wrong.  They chose to marry my parents, they chose to be a part of my up-bringing and they choose to still be a part of my everyday life and for that I am so eternally grateful and blessed.  I too choose to be a part of my sons lives and I am so blessed that at this stage in their lives they let me.  As adults they have the opportunity to accept me into their lives, their homes and their new families.

Throughout my life, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that your family is what and who you make it.  It consists of blood relatives, people you marry and friends that are just as important or even more important than family.  Family can be close in proximity or live far away.  You can talk every day or once a month or once a year, but they are still there for you, supporting you, loving you, and in your corner when you need them and you are there for them as well.

When I play those silly games wondering what would you want with you if you were stranded on an island, my answer is always my family.  I can  make it through anything anywhere with them by my side.

My wish for you, my friends, is that you love your family / friends as much as I do.  That you have the opportunity to make amends if they are needed and that you embrace life and love more than “stuff”.  At then end of the day you “can’t take it with you”.  After all…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”

As always, have a happy day.

Easter isn’t just for the little ones… it is a family affair!

Don’t let the fun of Easter fade just because your little ones are growing up.  This season try a new twist on the Easter holiday if you have slightly older kids in your home.  If you are planning an Easter dinner, you are of course going to spend a little on grocery shopping and that will take time.  or maybe you are planning on eating out as a family.   Well, I propose a little something different.  Take that cash you will spend and hide it in the little plastic eggs you can buy at the dollar store.  Send your kids on a fun (potentially long) egg hunt and this one could include a scavenger hunt if you have older kids.  If you prefer not to do the plastic eggs, than just make it a scavenger hunt where each clue leads your kids to a cash prize and closer to the finale where they will find out the location of dinner (and the fact that the cash is what will pay for the dinner!)  That’s right…. dinner is on them this year!

If you are a softy like me, you will of course have their Easter basket for them at the family dinner or at the final clue location so there are candy and treats to be enjoyed, but the fun can be had for older children as they figure out the clues and race through the yard as they did when they were younger hunting for eggs.  Below are some examples of great clues:

  1. If you’re in a hungry mood, go here first and find some food.
  2. Now you’re on your second clue, these go on before your shoes.
  3. If you want your teeth to shine, pick this up and spend some time.
  4. Take a walk and step outside, this is where you go to ride.
  5. I used to write to send a letter, but now this machine does it better!
  6. Rubber ducky your the one!  You make ______ lots of fun!
  7. Hickory Dickory Dock, The mouse ran up the ________!

There are so many more you can come up with.  You can google “Scavenger Hunt Clues” and the lists are endless or come up with your own to include the fun places in and around your house.  Use a theme, rhyme, or make fun jokes.  Have fun and make it interesting.  This can be a fun tradition your children will look forward to each year.

On a side note, have you ever wondered about the history of the Easter Egg or the Easter Bunny?  What are they and where did they come from?  Well here is a quick history lesson for you as we hop into the holiday and hunt for our eggs.

The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and rebirth. In Christianity it became associated with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.[102] The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion.[103][104] As such, for Christians, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb.[14][15] The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute decorated chocolate, or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans.

The Easter Bunny is a popular legendary anthropomorphic Easter gift-giving character analogous to Santa Claus in American culture. Many Americans follow the tradition of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving baskets of candy. On Easter Monday, the President of the United States holds an annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn for young children.[105] Since the rabbit is a pest in Australia, the Easter Bilby is available as an alternative. Easter eggs are a widely popular symbol of new life in Poland and other Slavic countries’ folk traditions. A batik-like decorating process known as pisanka produces intricate, brilliantly-colored eggs.

The celebrated House of Fabergé workshops created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

I hope you enjoyed the quick little lesson and I certainly hope you plan on trying a scavenger hunt or something fun with your family this Easter.  As always, have a happy day!

Vacationing – “Gypsy Style”

The best vacations are the unplanned ones.  My husband and I have just returned from a whirl wind trip around Florida where in one week we accomplished the following:

  • A weekend trip to a friends wedding where I participated as a bride’s maid.
  • A visit to my dad’s lake house to pick-up a few things for my dad (pre-surgery for him)
  • A few days in the keys (fishing, kayaking, site seeing, etc.)
  • A celebration of life for my Great Aunt who has passed away (at 95 years of age)
  • A visit to my father’s house (post-surgery)
  • A visit with  my son and some house hunting
  • And home to in-pack and do some laundry.

Now, I will admit, some of these little day or multi-day trips were pre-planned, but for the most part, we just jumped in the car and headed out for a road trip and our vacation worked our beautifully.  Stress free and my husband and I laughed harder and longer than we have in so long.  Along the way we made new friends and connected with old ones.  We made side trips to the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs and took a little hike thru the Florida Panther and wildlife preserve down in Alligator Ally (neither of which were even thought of in advance).

If I can offer a few pieces of friendly advice they are the following:

Love often and laugh hard.  Tell jokes!  Sing along to the radio.  And don’t get mad if the other person likes to hum.  That’s right hum.  I have learned that my husband hums when he is happy.  It used to irritate me, now, I listen for it because it lets me know that he is genuinely happy in is heart and then I have done my job.

Hold hands with your best friend just because you can.  I love it when my husband comes up beside me and takes my hand to go for a walk.  There is no reason.  He isn’t “Dragging me somewhere” or “Showing me something”.  He just likes me close to him, and I, he.

Stop and smell the roses, and take a picture too!  Along our trip, we noticed things that had we been in a rush we would have missed.  The Alligators on the shore of the ditch along the road.  The iguana eating lunch in the mangroves as we kayaked in the afternoon.  The beautiful shells along the seashore and the tide changed.  The local food, the music, the smells in the air, all so beautiful if we just slow down and put our electronics away for a moment.

Stop worrying.  We had so many things to see and do during the week.  A wedding, time for each other, a surgery for my dad, extended family worries, and a funeral of sorts.  But as my dad has always told me….  Even when you leave this world, someone will still pile things into your “inbox” and the world will still turn.  Do what needs to get done and don’t sweat the small stuff because after all, it’s all small stuff.

So with that in mind, we enjoyed the heck out of each day and love each friend and family member as we made it to them.  And all the while, we held hands, sang songs and laughed.

May your next vacation be very soon.  Try to take an evening away, a little weekend getaway or even a few days to get back to what is really important and that is each other.  As always, have a happy day.

Speaking without words – love

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without the words “I love you” or “I’m sorry”?  Without being able to say “I’ll fix it” or “I’ll make it up to you”?  Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we all “spoke” without ever saying a word.  No sign language, because after all, those are still words.  But actually not using those phrases or anything similar to those at all?  Here it comes my friends, another challenge!  Valentine’s day is right around the corner. New Year’s has come and gone, and I suspect some of us may have already fallen short on a few resolutions.  So here is my February Challenge for everyone.  Try speaking without words.  You read that right!

I’m asking you to try to learn all of the different languages of love that are out there.  Try “doing” instead of “saying”.  Is it a smile instead of a frown?  Is it a gesture of making the bed or actually hanging up the towel or folding the laundry that catches your partner’s eye and lets them know you heard them?  Is it showing up maybe five minute early to pick up your child so you can see their face light up that you took time out to put them first instead of being the last to pick them up?  (It does make a difference.)  Is it remembering what a favorite meal is for breakfast or adding a note in a lunch box or writing a note in the mirror from the steam of the shower?  The point is to slow down and not make excuses or high five in the hallway this month with the traditional kiss goodnight and “I love you”.  Please try to figure out what makes your friend and family feel special or make them feel like you heard them and DO THOSE THINGS.  I promise, it comes back ten fold in happiness on all levels.

I will give you a hint (and a glimpse into my life).   Even setting up the coffee in the morning for your spouse so they just have to turn on the machine goes a long way.  My husband does this for me and every morning it starts my day with a huge smile because I know in his morning rush, he took a few minutes to think of me when he didn’t have to.  He measures out the cream and sugar and puts the K-cup inside the Keurig so that all I have to do is press the button.  He even puts the spoon inside the cup to remind me to stir.  Every single morning, he manages to melt my heart without saying a word.

I hope this challenge pays off for you and everyone you try it with.  As always my friends, have a happy day!

 

The Hustle and Bustle

Its that time of year where no matter how hard we try it seems that we can’t slow down the clock and there seems to be more on our “to-do” list than there is time in the day.  It’s crazy how that happens year after year.  I have to share a few phone calls with you that made me just sit back and smile and reminded me that the world will go around no matter what I do and that is really just fine with me.

I spoke to my mother the other day.  She started a business a few years back and this is her busy time of year.  She has yet to put her tree up or trim her house in holiday decorations and I was surprised to hear this.  Her answer was that it will get done next weekend and she didn’t seem that rushed to do it.  It will get done before the holiday and before the family gets there.  That was what mattered.  It made me smile.  Now, I know she loves her decorations and I know she loves her morning coffee in front of the lights, but she reminded me without even knowing it, that everything will get done in due time.  I needed that reminder so very badly.

Around the same time frame, I spoke with my step-mom who had been ill for a few days.  She and my father have company coming for the holidays. Though the company won’t be staying in their home, they will be in and out and they want their home decorated for the holiday.  Due to not feeling well she said she felt like things just wouldn’t get finished in time.  My father and she looked around the house and decided that what was decorated would be great and  once the boxes were put away, what was set-up would be perfect.  Again, another reminder that we get what need to get done in perfect timing.  Another reminder for myself was that sometimes we set the bar higher for ourselves than others do and our friends and families love us just the way we are.

Ironically, for the first time since I can remember, I have my tree up and gifts wrapped and am not stressing over the holidays.  My biggest concern is making sure I am setting traditions and keeping traditions with my family.  I have a goal this season of making the most of the little things and finding the good in the smallest things. Its funny, with parents like mine, ever reminding me that life will go on and not to sweat the small stuff, I have learned to calm down and get the things that really do matter to me done and let the rest fall to the wayside.  I may not have the finest things in the world, but I sure do have the greatest family a girl can ask for.  They are crazy, silly, and full of quirks in all the ways you can think of, but I would not trade one of them for all the gold in the world.  I sure do hope you feel the same about your family.  Large or small, friends and family are the greatest gifts by far.  You can’t take it with you in the end so enjoy the life you are given and make the most of each beautiful day.  As always, have a happy day.

 

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