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5 Things To Be Thankful For In August

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August is my birthday month and my husband’s birthday month so there are lots to be thankful for in August. Besides our birthdays here are 5 August related things I am grateful for:

1. Thankful for NO snow!

I am not a cold weather person at all so I soak up the heat as much as I can while it lasts. I would rather be sweating then freezing cold plus nothing beats the feeling of the sun shining down on you.

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2. Thankful for living near the shore!

Yes, I am from Jersey so I don’t call the beach the beach but I call it the Shore. Before you even get the image in your mind, I don’t mean the Jersey shore as seen on MTV because families don’t party and get drunk on the beach. We have only had the chance to have one shore trip this summer but we had a great time until our sunblock failed and suffered through a week of sunbun. (Maybe I should do a review of sunblocks that fail for super pale skinned peeps like my family??!)

3. Sunday Family Hiking Days

To help ease my body back into working out, we started a family hiking day almost every Sunday since Father’s Day. In addition to helping my body work out, it is a chance for us to bond as family since we are dealing with the stepdaughter/stepfather resentment situation right now. It has been great to get into nature and explore our surroundings. I always feel at ease being outdoors just hate the bugs and bug bites. Evie loves being in the carrier and looking at everything that passes her by.

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4. Getting Ready For Back To School

This year is even more exciting…. for me at least because Danyella is going back to public school! She is not a happy camper to stop homeschooling but I just can’t do it mentally, physically or emotionally anymore. At least she is going back to a school that she attended in the past (not the school I pulled her from!) and will have her best friend to enjoy her 6th grade year. (This will be a more in-depth post in the future)

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5. Pumpkin Everything is Coming Soon!

Yes! Yes! Yes! I am one of the crazy pumpkin loving people who if the world would let me, I would enjoy pumpkin everything all year round! Typically, the end of August brings back my much-loved Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. My local DD, next the dance studio, will sneak pumpkin flavoring from other locations just for me and “Christina” to enjoy as much as we can. Pumpkin season here I come!!

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What are you thankful for in August?

 

 

 

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My Mental Vacation From Blogging

I can’t tell you how many times I have started and deleted this blog post, both physically on the computer or mentally while I am trying to get my brain to settle down to sleep. When I decided I needed a mental, emotional and physical break from blogging, it was going to be for just a couple of weeks while we got through the end of dance season and recital. Well those couple of weeks turned into over a month and now nearly 2 months…. Even now I am not sure that I am completely ready to come back to blogging at a full-time capacity.

This past couple of months have been overwhelming and exhausting for every part of my life. Physically, I have been dealing with my body reacting to my lack of iron because I need a new set of infusions. In order to get the infusions that I need requires finding a new specialist. Anyone that has dealt with needing a specialist, knows that this is no easy feat and can’t be accomplished overnight. And before you even want to suggest it, no my type of anemia can’t just be cured by taking iron pills or eating more iron rich foods. Those things are like a band-aid that only helps for a few moments of energy. This type of anemia causes my body to literally be so exhausted that it I am weak most of my waking hours. My arms and legs feel heavy and go numb quite often (pins and needles feeling that hurts so bad). No amount of sleep helps to stave off the exhaustion which doesn’t help when you have a teething infant who has trouble sleeping some nights. This will be a future, in-depth post soon. (Which this is the tip of the medical issues going on)

Continuing with the medical issues, my mom was diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease called PBC and will need a liver transplant. After 2 years of testing and misdiagnosis, we finally have answers to why her body has been acting the way it does but at the same time its a bittersweet result. This disease could be genetic which means, my siblings and I should be tested for it. Plus, to see what my mom will need to go through in order live a comfortable life is heartbreaking. We still have a long road ahead of us…

Next on the stress train…

If you have read some of my previous posts from earlier this year, you know that we had moved from the house we called a home for 2 years into an apartment. Our parting with that house was not our choice but one that forced on us because of our previous and then new landlords not following the laws of the state. We have had to go back and forth in court with the new owner/landlord of the old property.  Which the Judge taught him some lessons in breaking the laws and thinking he was above the law. Fingers crossed that the situation is over now because that took a huge mental toll on me. Which contributed to the rise in my anxiety and depression.

In my time away from blogging, I thought long and hard about my blogging. I love creating things, like crafts, gifts and food that I can share with others BUT that wasn’t the point of starting my blog. When I started my blog, it was to talk about my life as a mom and everything that goes with it. At that point I was a single mom, so it focused on that but since then I have gotten married and had a baby. My blog became a source of stress as I tried to figure out what I was going to write about each day…. this is not what I wanted in my blog.

Taking this break, has allowed me to assess what I want to see in my blog and social media accounts PLUS refocus my attention on my handmade business. My business and blog are a passion of mine that I love to share with others. Now, I want to get back to sharing things that I love and enhance my readers and customers lives.

With my blog, you are going to see me go back to my roots and talk about life as a mom, an entraprenuer and my family. This is my ideas on my blog schedule without killing myself mentally:

Savings Sunday: Yes, we will be getting back into the swing of savings since I fell off the bandwagon and then got ran over by the wagon…. LOL! I am going to focus on different ways to save money for the upcoming back to school and holidays.

Mom Monday: This is my big post of the week because this is where Moms can know they are not alone with dealing with family situations, babies, tweens and more!

Teach Me Tuesday: I am going to post Teach Me Tuesday posts, focusing on upcoming holidays twice a month (1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month) which will be geared more towards adult crafts rather then kid crafts.

Wednesdays: Take a break from week and have a nice drink or glass of wine!

Thankful Thursday: During this break of mine, I have gotten back into Yoga and practicing my self love techniques. I will be sharing tips on self love, positive living and how to enjoy your life because that is the most important part of living…. enjoying your life.

Feed Me Friday: Don’t fret, you will still see some of my delish recipes because I really do get enjoyment out of it. On the Fridays that I don’t have my own, original recipe then I will share recipes that you, my readers will enjoy.

Saturday: This is dance day in my mom life which starting the end of August, Danyella dances from 9 in the morning until we don’t know when this year…. no time for blogging when dancing is to be done!

I am contemplating starting a series about my handmade business, not so much business tips but featuring some of my creations that will make great gifts for the upcoming holidays. On my Facebook page, I will be featuring a product a day, at a sale price which is a great thing to look forward to!

You will see more interaction on my Facebook page and Instagram page which will feature more of things that I am making like my very first Crochet A Long. I have always missed out on the timing to partcipate in one or didn’t like the project but I made sure to take the time this year. This CAL is going to be creating a textured afgan which is a first for me! Each week (on week 3 now) we get another “clue” or instructions for another section of the pattern. It has been so much fun getting the clue and seeing the afgan take shape which I will update on my Facebook Page each week.

Another fun thing we are doing this summer is a family camping trip. Currently, we are scouting out new locations because our trip to Hershey park got flooded and most of the rides will be closed for the next couple of weeks plus the campground is severly damaged and the rain is expected to continue this week. We are looking at the shore (yes I am from Jersey so I don’t call it a beach) or staying at a local campground.  Wherever we end up going, you know that my social media will be featuring lots of fun photos!

I look forward to a fresh start and look at my blog and to chatting with all of you!

Take the time to give yourself a mental vacation from life. It will recharge your mental, emotional and physical juices for a fresh outlook on life.

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One Pan Baked Ziti Recipe

I found a new obsession… my new cast iron skillet pan!

On Mother’s Day,  my mom and I took the girls shopping at Marshal’s and Home Goods. I was searching for a good cast iron pan but wasn’t a fan of what they had so we went to Walmart and I found a basic 12″ pan which is what I wanted. I won’t lie…. I have been intimidated to actually use the pan but this is my second dish and wow is it easy and delish! (The first dish is my signature Chicken Paprikash which was amazing too!)

This Baked Ziti dish is so easy and yummy that I had to share it with all of you!

One Pan Baked Ziti

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A Great One Pan dinner for the family to enjoy.


Credit: kaella.net

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 cloves garlic; sliced or chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can/jar tomato sauce
  • 1 16 oz box of pasta (ziti/penne/rigatoni)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Move the oven rack to the middle and Set oven to 450 degrees. Heat cast iron or another oven safe pan with your oil.
  2. Brown your ground meat.
  3. Once the meat is browned, add the garlic, basil and oregano and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Lower the heat to low/medium and simmer for 10 minutes; occasionally stir.
  5. Add the water and pasta. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and leave at a low boil for 15 minutes or until noodles are tender.
  6. Stir in the heavy cream, 1/2 the cheese, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the rest of cheese over the noodles.
  7. Place the pan in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until the cheese is browned.Be cautious that pan is hot when serving the meal to your loved ones.
  8. Enjoy a dinner with the people you love.

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5 Kid Friendly Summer Activities That Won’t Break the Bank

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Don’t break the bank this Summer trying to keep your kids occupied and entertained. Here are 5 activities that will get you and the kids out of the house but won’t cost a lot of money. Bonus points for the air-conditioned activities to keep you cool while the kids are having some fun!

**Please note that I did not receive any compensation or anything in return for the suggestions and links that I provided. This is just helpful information from one parent to another parent or caregiver.

Fly a Kite: Let’s go Fly A Kite, Up To Its Highest Point… yes I totally had to sing that for you! On a more fun note: kids love to accomplish things and feel that wonderful feeling of doing it. Flying a kite can be a challenge that you can both do together because it requires getting that kite up in the air and keeping it up there. On a really windy day, flying a kite is a fun activity and you can find kites at walmart for $5.

Visit Your Library: Another great place to stay cool and keep the kids occupied is your local library. Both our local library and county library hold summer programs for free or a small fee. The local library has a reading program that the kids have different activities that they need to accomplish every week, bring the sheet to the children’s librarian and prove they accomplished these tasks. Then they get a sticker and small prize. They also get entries into a larger weekly prize or the big end of the summer prize (last year was a gift card and a tablet). Our county library holds different crafts and other activities throughout the summer which the kids love to make and take home.

Watch a movie: I mean go to the actual Movie Theater and watch a movie in their air-conditioned facility. The Regal Movie Theater hosts $1 movie days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am throughout the summer which is awesome on the budget. The movies are all kid loved movies and some are from the current year. This summer they have Paddington 2, Despicable Me 2 and 3, Sing, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Trolls, and a bunch of other awesome movies. Here is the link to see the schedule for the one closest to you: Summer Movie Express

Visit a museum: Many museums either allow kids in for a discounted amount or free as an educational encouragement for families. We love to go into New York and visit the Met which has suggested rates but kids under 12 are free and students with an ID can pay what they can which being an adult college student, I qualify for which is great. Check out museums near you and see what they offer for kids/students/families.

Local fairs and events: The town next to ours has a free Music in the Park one night a week. We can take a blanket or chairs and snacks or they sell snacks and ice cream for $1-$2. It’s nice to watch the sun go down while listening to a local band that’s kid friendly plus we support our local bands.

What free or budget friendly activities do you have planned for the Summer?

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Family Day at Adventure Aquarium

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Every Summer, Danyella and I, create a Summer bucket list of things we want to do through the summer. We don’t get through all of the items but it is the fun of making the bucket list and trying to accomplish as many as we can. One of the top things on this year’s bucket list was to go to the aquarium. Yesterday, we surprised Danyella and had a family day at the aquarium!

*This is NOT a sponsored post. I was NOT paid and DID NOT receive free tickets. This is just our family’s experience at the aquarium.

Knowing that we had a day that my husband was off of work and Danyella did not have dance, I had to plan a family day. Having nearly 90 degree weather through the week, I thought that the zoo would be the perfect place to go… until the weather changed and the forecast was calling for rain all day. Having a love of sharks, my husband suggested that we go to the aquarium.

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This was a great idea until I looked at the ticket prices. $30 per adult and $22 per child which was a huge leap from the $13 and $11 for tickets to the zoo near us. I did some research and found a discount on groupon. So instead of spending $91 (with taxes and fees), I purchased the tickets for $62 for the 3 of us. Thankfully the baby was free!

We got there and started off with the shark touching exhibit which was fun for Doug and Danyella. Next, we were off to the penguin park. We got outside just as they were feeding the penguins which was fun to watch. Danyella could have sat there all day and watched her precious penguins. There is a play area for younger kids and what looked to be a water play area for nice days. This was a short stop because it was so crowded with strollers that it was hard to maneuver around.

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Our next area to check out was the kid’s touch area. This will be fun to take Evie when she is a little bigger and she can play with the interactive learning tools. It was fun to see the crocodile and frogs in this area.

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Then, we headed to the area with the different exotic fish, jellyfish and other sea creatures. By the time we hit this section, Evie decided she didn’t want to sit in her stroller anymore. I should have known this would happen since she is usually wrapped when I take her out. So, she got her Daddy to hold her as we walked through the rest of this section.

We got to see many cool fish, more penguins just hanging out and the parts of what they call their shipwreck. This is the big tank that extends through different parts of the aquarium that has so many different fist, stingrays, sea turtles and sharks! I wish Evie was a little bigger that we could have sat her up against the glass and gotten some good shots of her with the sharks, stingrays and sea turtles.

The sharks were saved for last since that is my husband’s favorite part and we knew he would want to spend more time watching them. The shark tunnel was really cool to watch them swim all around us. I got a funny photo of Evie crying as one was coming up behind her… just perfect timing for that one. Then, I took a photo of Danyella with this look like she was actually interested and having fun. (Moms of tween girls will understand how hard that is lol). Doug and Dany went across the Shark Bridge which is basically a net walking area across the shark tank! I stayed with the baby since we couldn’t hold her and walk across.

As a mom on a budget, being able to pack our lunch to eat at the aquarium was a huge plus for me. We stopped and bought $5 wawa hoagies plus I picked up chips and drinks at the dollar store the day before. We bought Danyella ice cream which was $5.50 for a small cup of Dippin Dots…. crazy! The money we saved on food was well spent at the gift shop with the girls getting stuffed animals and other cute things.

Overall, the trip was fun for the whole family though in a year or two Evie will really be able to enjoy a visit. The discounted cost through groupon and bringing our own food helped justify the cost of the tickets and parking ($10!!). We were in the aquarium by 10 and left about 2 so it was a short visit and next time I would plan on going when it’s warmer and we can enjoy the outdoor activities. If you want to make a plan the website has lots of information: Adventure Aquarium but I highly suggest looking for a discount on tickets through groupon or local businesses sometimes have discount coupons in the Summer.

Our Day With the Penguins

 

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Cutting the Cable Wire

Cut the Cable out

For the past year and half my family has lived without cable which to some people seems crazy but for our family it was an unnecessary added bill. When I was looking at ways to cut costs in our budget, the cable bill just killed me because we paid over $130 for internet and cable. We didn’t watch a 1/4 of the channels! Oh and our Internet was at the slowest speed so we went through constant buffering and delays.

We live in a day and age where you can’t live without internet. I need internet for blogging and business and Danyella’s homeschooling is half done through an online program. Plus, we stream Netflix and Hulu to fulfill our desire to watch something on TV. Which before we cut the cable, we were mainly streaming our shows on an app instead of watching live tv.

Paying over $130 for cable we barely watch and Internet that moved at snail speed just was not ok for me and for our budget. So me being me, I set out and did research with LOTS of notes. I looked at how much it costs for different scenarios to keep our internet and streaming services.

Since our area is limited (due to a stupid 15 year or some outrageous number contract with a specific company) to only one cable and internet company, our options were meek but doable. To go with just the internet package from our cable company, they offer 4 plans starting with the craptastic $45 Plan that is recommended for less than 3 devices in the home. Then, there are 2 middle plans for $55 and $70. Last is the Queen of the plans at $90 a month for the ultimate gaming experience. We don’t need the gaming experience so we went with the $55 plan that is good for 5 devices at once which is about right between streaming, laptops and phones going at once.

How am I watching stuff on my tv without cable? I had previously purchased an Amazon Firestick for the living room tv Danyella’s room plus our bedroom had a roku smart tv so we have streaming devices. ($35 each for the sticks and the tv was $120 at Walmart) In the long run, this was an investment well worth the month. Total out-of-pocket so far is $55 a month and $210 lifetime

Now onto our streaming apps! Netflix is a must have in our lives because I have an obsession with watching Orange is the New Black and Danyella watches Fuller House. When I say obsession… the day either of those shows come out, we get up at 3am and binge ALL DAY until we have watched all the episodes at once. Only breaks are for potty and food. Cost of our obsession is $14 a month to watch on 4 screens (sometimes we are all watching something different and take up 3 screens). An added perk that I only recently discovered is you can download movies onto your tablet or phone for free and watch them without using internet for 2 weeks. New out-of-pocket expenses: monthly $69 lifetime $120

Hulu has become our new way to watch live tv because a little over a year without watching my live sports was killing me slowly. I needed to watch my Eagles on Sundays plus there were some tv shows that I wanted to watch live and not see all the spoilers on Facebook thanks to my friends. Hulu recently came out with a live streaming package with DVR and completely revamped their app which I love! We get all the major channels like ABC, CBS and NBC plus food network, kids channels and a bunch more we don’t watch but sometimes I’ll record movies to watch later. This was worth every penny to watch the recent Superbowl (Fly Eagles Fly) and the Winter Olympics. Oh and I needed to watch the new episodes of Grey’s live before Facebook told me what happened. Only downfall of the live streaming channels is that they don’t stream any of the Hallmark channels (sometimes a girl needs a little girly romance movie binge). The new Hulu live streaming service is $40 per month. The Latest totals: Monthly $109 Lifetime $210

With eliminating our cable, upgrading our internet and using streaming apps our new total a month is $109! This saves us $36 a month which is 2 weeks worth of gas for my car or more than half of my grocery shopping budget a week!! With the Hulu live streaming we can always pause our subscription if the $40 isn’t in our budget one month or we want to use that money towards something else. Saving $36 and upgrading to a better internet package makes the changes feel worth it because we aren’t wasting money or getting frustrated with the internet.

How many of you have cut the cable cord in your homes?

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Jumping Into The World of Couponing

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Let’s be honest for a moment, the cost of food and household necessities are overpriced and most families can’t afford to buy what they need without setting an extreme budget and using different ways to save. For over 18 years, I have tried to get myself into couponing but it never stuck. Time and time again, I would get myself all psyched up to get into the world of couponing. I wanted to become like all the amazing stories I would read about or hear about on tv. Even before the Extreme Couponing tv shows, I wanted to find ways to use these coupons to save my family and I as much money as I could so we can use that extra money to enjoy the fun things in life.

I am not going to lie, the thought of jumping into this couponing world does overwhelm me. I joined a local couponing group to get the heads up on deals in the area. I watch these women purchase $100s of dollars worth of products for just a few dollars. I am in complete awe when they display the pictures of all the products they just brought home and the receipt of how much they paid and saved. Now to get to be like those women and save, save, save!

When I began couponing, the only coupons I knew about were the ones in the Sunday papers but now you can print them off at home as well. One thing I do need to be vigilant about is purchasing the weekly papers for the coupons. In my area, one paper comes out on Saturday and one on Sunday that covers the best coupon inserts. There has been multiple times, I completely forgot what day it was and never purchased my papers only to watch these other women show the great sales they just got from the coupons I missed out on. Now, I set an alert on my phone to remind myself to buy my weekly papers.

In addition to the weekend paper coupons, you can print coupons from various websites including the manufacturer sites which just amazes me because in less than 20 years things have changed so much in the couponing world. Anyway I can get a coupon to save money, I will use those ways and my ink/paper to spend less money at the grocery store.

With a new baby in the house, we will be needing to purchase diapers and other baby items so finding those coupons are going to be a must. Plus, the little shopping trips to Walmart or my grocery store for those items we run out of faster like milk, bread and fresh produce the coupons can come in handy. I love when I find coupons for the halo oranges because Danyella could eat a bag all by herself!

The world of couponing, not even extreme couponing, can be intense and overwhelming to start which is why I am going to do a couple of in-depth posts about couponing to fit around your schedule and some key tips on how to save the most money on those products you need to buy over and over again. Stayed tuned to next week’s post about what essential things you need to get started with couponing.

 

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