Glamping In the Woods

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It all started with a call from my sister asking if we wanted to go camping and then this hat.

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As soon as I saw it I thought, why not glam up our little camping trip. Who says camping means you have to “rough it”.  We’re going glamping!

Glamping is the combination of camping with those little glamorous touches of luxury. Glamping is pretty & cozy. Glamping is delicious food. Glamping is fine wines. Glamping is still spending time in the outdoors. But with style.

I put together some fun glamping essentials to bring with on your next outing and you will feel pampered and fancy no matter where in the wilderness you are.

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  1. Any event is more glamorous with twinkling lights.
  2. When you’re camping to escape the desert heat there’s nothing like a cool cocktail in these adorable Cactus cocktail glasses.
  3. Melamine plates are a must when camping. These make any meal prettier, and Target does not disappoint with their selection (plates, tumblers, set).
  4. Carry your s’mores fixings to the fire in style with a pretty tray.
  5. Lantern lighting with electric candles for a romantic glow in your tent or on your table (cream, gold) .
  6. Throw pillows to cozy up your sleeping arrangements (turquoise, white knitted, lovely day).
  7. Cozy up to the fire in this throw, just keep the tassels out of the flames!
  8. A cute little fireside table to hold your drinks and s’mores fixings.
  9. No campsite is complete without an outdoor rug.

Another thing to think of is the food! Clamping calls for more than just hotdogs and burgers. Our household revolves around food so camping eats must also satisfy this hungry tribe. That requires a little planning and organization before hand so you aren’t stuck out in the wild without anything to eat.

Have fun with it and try to use the most make ahead recipes you can find so you aren’t slaving over a hot fire (literally!) your whole trip.  Whatever you take, don’t forget the S’mores fixings!

Keep it simple and don’t blow your whole budget but have fun with it. It just takes a little planning and organization to have the glamping adventure of your dreams.

Southwest Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

I made the yummiest, creamiest salad dressing ever this weekend and I can’t stop eating eat. I am putting it on everything it is so good!

Southwest Chicken Salad with Creamy Avacado Dressing

I started with this wonderful Southwest Chicken Salad that I made Saturday night and wanted a dressing that was a little more exciting then Ranch and a little more Southwestern than Vinaigrette. I had a bunch of limes and avocados so I knew that was it. I just googled ‘creamy avocado dressing’ and ended up mashing a few of them together with what I had on hand and left out the Cilantro – I really don’t like it at all. I thought about putting a cucumber in to add those beautiful green flecks but didn’t have any on hand so maybe I will try that next time.

And by next time I mean next weekend. It’s almost gone…

Southwest Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Salad:
  • 1 large bunch of lettuce greens, I used romaine, sliced into thin ribbon shreds
  • 1 bag of sweet corn, warmed
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 (leftover in my case) grilled lime chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
Dressing:
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 1/2  cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, drizzled while blending
  • Splash of Champagne Vinegar (or any white vinegar)
  • 1 healthy Tbsp minced garlic
  • S/P to taste

Lay shredded lettuce on platter or plate. Sprinkle corn, tomatoes, beans, chicken and diced avocado down in “stripes” or sprinkle on. Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a blender on high while drizzling in the olive oil. The dressing is thick so you can add water while blending to thin it out our leave it as is like I did and spoon it on the salad!

Would also make a good dip for veggies.

East Valley Events | April 2016

around the east valley

9th:

Queen Creek Olive Mill – Olive Blossom Festival 11am – 3pm

Over the Hill Gang Classic Car Show & Dirt Road Market – Schnepf Farms 8am – 3pm

10th:

Queen Creek Olive Mill – Olive Blossom Festival 11am – 3pm

24th:

San Tan Art Show @ Queen Creek Olive Mill 10am – 3pm

Other Valley events

2nd – 3rd:

Luke Air Force Base Airshow

All month:

Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light @ Desert Botanical Garden – Nightly 6pm – 11pm

Boutiques & Markets

8th & 9th:

Front Porch Pickins Vintage & Handmade Market @ University of Phoenix Stadium 11am – 5pm

21st – 24TH:

Sweet Salvage Market Thurs 10am – 9pm/Fri – Sat 10am-6pm

LOCAL FARMER’S MARKETS

Gilbert | Saturday mornings 7am – 11am

Chandler |  Thursdays 3pm – 7pm

Sole Blessings

This.

Shoes

I trip over them, I pick them up. I yell at them to pick them up. I clean up the dusty mess they leave behind.

But there are blessings in each of those soles.

That we have two feet to put into them.

That we are healthy enough to run around in them.

That we have a house to pile them up in.

That we have more than one pair to wear, each. And that we have the money to replace some of them soon.

The fact that they are all piled up at 11:30am on a Wednesday means one thing, the kids are all home on break. Even if I am trying to work. They are here, fighting, sneaking electronic time, playing ball, riding bikes, complaining there’s nothing to eat, laughing, chasing each other with the hose (did I mention fighting). But they are here. With me.

I’ll try to remember this the next time I feel the urge to start shutting the windows so the neighbors don’t hear me yelling.

Good Food for a Good Life | Week One

MG, I’m still reeling after the week I had last week and I know now I have to get serious about my weight health. I thought I ate healthy for the most part but when I really started looking at what I ate during the week I must admit I was a little shocked.

Forget any detox I need a Real Food Reset. Resetting how I think about food and my relationship with it.

Detox just seems so, so drastic. And cold and scary.

I sat down and wrote down some do’s and don’ts. Things I knew I needed to change. I also wrote down foods to eat and foods to avoid. I listed it all out on paper. A sort of manifesto to myself. A  roadmap shall we say, of what I should and shouldn’t be eating – because I’m a geek like that. And a huge list maker.

So for four weeks we (yes, me AND my family) are going to remove sugar, processed foods, fast food, loads of condiments (blah blah blah, basically anything that basically tastes good) from our diets.

We need to reset our taste buds to appreciate the flavor of real food again. We need to get back to the basics of why we eat. To nourish our bodies, not to mindlessly pass time or just to satisfy our hunger.

This is something that is stepped into s-l-o-w-l-y. Baby steps people. You are a better person than myself if you can go cold turkey day one.

So here goes…

Week One:

We are going to remove all pop (or soda for all you Southern folks), juice and carbonated beverages from our diet.

We are only drinking water and low-fat milk. And drinking lots of water. Lots. Like double what I think I need. We live in the desert.

Trust me, it will be a looooooonnnnnngggg week.

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Somethings Gotta Give

Obese.

That one word, shattered my world.

I was sitting there on the exam table yesterday expecting all sorts of praise from my doctor about how great my health was. I have always had very low blood pressure, my HDL (good cholesterol) is high and my LDL (bad cholesterol) is low, I have no medical conditions whatsoever and I have never been on any medications for my health. I figured I was the picture perfect state of health for a busy, overworked 40-something mother of 3.

But obese? That’s the last thing out of her mouth that I expected.

A pit started growing in my stomach.

Wait, I eat vegetables. I cook our meals at home, I don’t choose to go out to eat more than once a week or sometimes only once every two weeks.

I had felt the extra pounds and knew I was overweight, but wait, didn’t I just have a baby….oh, crap, that was 10 years ago now. My hips and knees have been a little achy here and there but my dad has bad knees and I remember my grandmother complaining about her hips aching so isn’t it just hereditary? I don’t have a sweet tooth. One extra helping at supper and then finishing off the pan while I’m doing the dishes is ok, after all I didn’t even have lunch today.

I was beginning to see that these were just excuses. Excuses because I didn’t want to do the hard work. I didn’t want to fight with my family about changing our diet or try to make time in my 28 hour day to try to… Fit. In. Exercise.

But obese, seriously? I have never had a bad self/body image. That word made me see that this has nothing to do with my body image (ok, feeling good and looking good in my clothes would be nice again) but this has more to do with my overall health. The numbers might be good right now but if I keep carrying this extra weight on me another 5 – 10 years it could be detrimental to my health.

I am 43 years old….44 in a few weeks, 5 foot 5.5 inches and I weigh 195.2 lbs and I’m considered obese.

I sit here afraid to push the publish button, afraid of what will happen, what will everyone think, what if I can’t do it…. and I catch myself making excuses.

No more excuses.

Daily Dinner Dilemma | Menu Plan #2 and My Online Grocery Shopping Experience

LOATHE THAT LATE AFTERNOON QUESTION OF  “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”

Want to feed your family healthier foods and less drive through but struggle with busy evenings and a complete lack of inspiration for dinner ideas? Need healthy and easy dinner options?

SO Do I.

FOR ME HEALTHY MEANS:

  • little to no processed foods
  • lots of veggies
  • more whole grains and less white starches
  • no drive thru!

FOR ME EASIER MEANS:

  • I can have a healthy, delicious meal on the table for my family every night
  • minimal nightly prep, aka less dirty dishes
  • less trips to the store for last minute ingredients
  • I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner

I have another installment of my Simplify the Daily Dinner Dilemma (DDD) Menu Plan but with a twist this time. And an exciting one at that!!

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For the first time ever I ordered my groceries online at Walmart and picked them up at the store. I purchased a weeks worth of groceries without setting foot inside a store. The process was super easy and you want to know a secret….It’s FREE! 

People, this is huge! I don’t know about you but I HATE (and yes, it is a strong word) going grocery shopping because like most of us I only have my evenings or weekends to do it. Evenings are way too busy for us so it’s usually Saturday morning or afternoon (so I have an excuse not to clean the house). But that’s the problem, everyone else is getting groceries at that same time!

I had thought about this option

owever has been sort of overshadowed by how much I loved my online grocery shopping experience at Walmart. Who wants to go wander through a dozen grocery aisles now? I just got back over an hour of my time!

Here is how the TRIP stacked up:

WALMART – $73.09 / Time – 45 mins

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You can even add in your receipt TC# into your Savings Catcher on the Walmart app and save even more!

From the time I left my house to the time I sat back down at my computer to type this up it was just under an hour. Granted if I had scheduled this to be picked up on the way back from running errands it probably would have been even quicker. That hour includes schlepping them inside (no kids around to help), unpacking and putting them away. If I had gone there to pick them up myself it would have added a good hour to an hour and a half to my time. And I got to avoid the craziness of the stores on a Saturday.

I honestly don’t think I will ever buy groceries again in a store. Ok, that may be a little dramatic but this was so easy! And there will always be the occasional gallon of milk or bag of cat food that we run out of here and there, but this is wonderful for those big shopping trips when you want to save time and money.

Grab your Meal Plan, Recipes and Grocery List by clicking the image below…

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I can now say I have my own personal grocery shopper! I just had to show up to pick them up. I saved 1 hour and 45 minutes!!! That is some hard core super savings of time in my book!

East Valley Events | March 2016

Around the East Valley

16th:

Dirt Road Market – Schnepf Farms 8am – 3pm

26th:

Schnepf Farms – Easter Egg-Citement 9am – 4pm

Every Weekend:

Renaissance Festival (Gold Canyon) every Saturday and Sunday 10am – 6pm

Queen Creek Olive Mill – The Pit Bar and Grill, Live Music and Wine Tasting

Other Valley Events

1st:

Spring Training Cactus League Baseball Games begin!

ALL MONTH:

Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light @ Desert Botanical Garden – Nightly 6pm – 11pm

Boutiques & Markets

4th & 5th:

District NinetyFive Spring Boutique 9am – 6pm

17th – 20th:

Sweet Salvage Market Thurs 10am – 9pm/Fri – Sat 10am-6pm

Local Farmer’s Markets

Gilbert | Saturday mornings 8am – 12pm

Chandler | Thursdays 3p – 7p

Why We Take Our Children’s Electronics Away Every Day

We feel our kids get more than enough screen time and have plenty of opportunities to “chat” with their friends everyday so once a day (every night) they lose their electronics and take a break. I feel it is at least the most important time of the day for them to be electronic free and completely rest their brains.

We have instilled in them a policy that applies everyday of the year, no matter where we are. It simply defines when and where they can have access to their electronics and it’s not a free-for-all just because it may be a weekend (or a holiday or break) and we are at home and mom may be buried in the couch with a glass of wine, watching a Downton Abbey marathon. I can’t be everyone at once, people.

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Our House electronics policy:

  • No electronics after 8:00pm for the girls (10 & 12) and 9:00pm for our 15 year old.
  • They are not allowed in their bedrooms.
  • All electronics are to be docked downstairs in the charging tray every night.

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We used to have an electronics drawer in our old house (that ended up looking like a tangled mess as well) so in the new house I needed a space to house our electronics,  all of their accessories and all of those cords.

I decided this little area tucked beside the fridge was far enough out of site to not clutter my counters too much, but needed something to corral all this stuff in and thought a tray would be a good idea, because well, it’s a good excuse to buy a cute tray from Target.

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We have been doing this since we first handed them electronics of any kind.

No excuses.

They can use them in common areas in the house but they are not allowed in their bedrooms. At night everyone docks them in “the tray”, where they charge for the night, so also, no excuses for not having a full battery the next day. Nobody is  up late sneaking in screen time, snap chatting who knows what photos or cranky the next day (well, this doesn’t solve all the crankiness).

I am still amazed at how my son would be getting texts and messages throughout the night up until 2am at times! Why are these young minds glued to their electronics that late into the night and not getting their much needed sleep!

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Of course my children aren’t angels. They’ve had a few slips here and there, but overall are generally consistent with following the rules.

We also have a 3 strikes you’re out policy.

You use your smart phone/iPod without using your head (in other words you screw up) and you lose the device for a specified amount of time. You break these rules 3 times you get a good old flip phone. For keeps. The purpose of our children having a device is so WE can contact them and vice versa. It’s for our convenience. Not theirs. Not so that they can send questionable photos on snapchat or have secret conversations with others through apps or even be able to listen to their iTunes. Heck if they want to do that I have a boom box from the 80’s I can lend them – parachute pants not included.

It has simplified any question of having electronics in their bedrooms, using them late at night and having a battery die halfway through the day.

We have a password policy as well – we get their passwords or they don’t get their device.

If we are not able to go into their phones/iPads/Kindles and see what they are doing then they don’t get to use them.

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It may be seem harsh to some and this tray may look like a chaotic mess but at least I can rest at night knowing my kids are cozily tucked into their beds fast asleep.

Part Five – Let’s Build a Snowman

This is Part Five of my five-part, eight-week series on The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting

To build a snowman you must first start with a snowball. You can then start rolling that snowball in the snow to create a much bigger snowball as more and more snow collects. Well, the same goes for money you put towards paying off your debt.

Most snowball theorists will tell you to focus on the smallest debts (easiest targets) first when looking at what debt to pay off. While that might be the fastest towards a feeling of self gratification and a sense of accomplishment I prefer rather focusing on the biggest bully in the bunch.

To me watching that huge number (however so slowly) dwindle every month actually motivates me to find MORE money in our budget to hit it with.

Even if you are one that prefers to take out the smallest debts first however you go about it you are getting ahead!

Our goal with this step is to trim our budget even further and find more income to put towards our debt!

Debt pay down plan:

  1. List out all your debts totals | Decide which one you want to target first.
  2. Find extra money | This is where you re-adjust your spreadsheets and maybe trim out some FLUFF and trim back on some FMEs to create more money that can be earmarked for that bill every month.
  3. Cut up those credit cards | You need to commit to not using them. If you can’t bring yourself to take a scissors to them just yet try freezing them in a baggie of water. And clear out your cookies on your computer!! No auto-filling  your credit card numbers into online shopping carts.
  4. Put any and all extra money towards your debt | Commit to putting that birthday cash, that 2% raise this year or giving up your mani/pedis for awhile and lopping off your debt. I can guarantee it will feel so much better to not be bound to your debtors than a shiny new coat of nail polish on your little piggies.
  5. Snowball your money into the next debt | When you have paid off a debt (regardless of how large or small) put that extra cash now towards the next one on the list and continue to do that as your debts are paid off and the amount going towards the next one gets bigger and bigger.

This whole process will obviously be a work in progress and will need to be re-evaluted time and again as your income changes, debts change (hopefully go down) and life happens.

By having a great budget in place and committing to tackling your debt you will not only reduce your money worries but you will be the boss of your bank account.