10 Free (or low cost) Things to Do in Oregon

I love Oregon, don’t you?  Yeah, the rain gets old, but it makes for some really great landscaping.  One of my favorite things about Oregon is how many things there are to do here, many of which are free or very low cost.  My family and I are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and time on the water, both of which are pretty cheap activities.  We don’t stop there though, we love experiencing all of the activities that Oregon has to offer.

If you live in Oregon, or if you are planning to visit soon, check out this list of 10 free (or low cost) things to do in Oregon and find yourself something great to do this spring break or summer vacation.

  1. The Beach.  I have lived in Oregon my entire life (save for a couple of years I lived in Texas when I was young), and I just recently learned that in many other states you have to pay to go to the beach?!  Is this true?  I have never in my life paid to go to the ocean, I’ve never even paid for parking to go on to the beach.  If you live in Oregon and haven’t visited the beach, I implore you to do so at the first opportunity.  We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world here. Bring a sweatshirt though!  It can get windy on these beaches.
  2. Silver Creek Falls.  For just a nominal parking fee, you can check out some of Oregon’s most beautiful waterfalls.  You can complete the 7+ mile hike and view all 10 waterfalls, or you can walk among the shorter, easier trails and view just some of them.  Plus, at the main park, there are plenty of picnic tables available and a great family-friendly swimming hole. This is one of my favorite places in Oregon to visit.
  3. Salem’s Riverfront Carousel.  The Riverfront Carousel in Salem is a non-profit attraction.  It is also very unique to Oregon in that all of the characters on the carousel were handcrafted and made with the theme of symbols important to Oregon.  Additionally, all of the carousel animals have been sponsored by people and companies that are local to the area. The carousel costs just $1.50 per ride.
  4. Mt. Hood.  Yeah, it is going to cost money to ski or snowboard at Mt. Hood, but you can take a drive to visit and see some amazing views of this beautiful mountain.
  5. Water play.  Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are all wildly popular activities in Oregon.  If you already have the equipment, these activities are super cheap and Oregon is full of awesome lakes that you can park at for free and spend your day on the water.
  6. Jamison Square.  Jamison Square is a park in the Pearl District that is located in the middle of high rise condominiums.  There is a fun tiered fountain that runs non-stop that is a blast for the kids to play in, plus there are tables available for picnics or just to relax for us grown-ups.
  7. First Thursdays of Portland.  If you are in the Portland area, First Thursdays of Portland is a great event to attend if you enjoying visiting local artists and vendors.   At this event you will find booths featuring artwork, food, wine and beer tastings and more.  The vendors charge, of course, but you can see a lot of local flair for free just by walking around.  This event happens monthly, on the first Thursday.
  8. Oregon Zoo.  On the second Tuesday of each month, the Oregon Zoo offers discount days.  On these discount days, it costs just $5 for admission to the zoo.  If you have never been before, the Oregon Zoo is amazing.  On our recent visit with a family member from out of town, they commented on how beautiful our zoo is compared to other zoos throughout the country.
  9. Brewery and distillery tours.  Okay, so this one isn’t exactly child-friendly, but this is a fun way to spend a date night or day out with your spouse or friends.  Oregon is a treasure trove of breweries, distilleries and wineries and most tours are free.
  10. Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Tillamook Cheese is well known throughout the country for being among the best cheese and you can actually watch it being made!  The Tillamook Cheese Factory opens their doors for free tours where you can watch cheese and ice cream being made.  They also offers lots of free samples of their cheese varieties.  As of this date of this post (early 2018), their visitor center is closed because they are building a new one that is scheduled to be opened later this year.

What are your favorite things to do in Oregon when you are on a budget?

 

French Fries: Gluten-Free? Or a A Big Gluten-Free No-No?

So, do you remember how I told you all about my decision to go gluten-free and how I am now migraine-free because of it?  Overall, it has gone well and it hasn’t been too hard to go gluten free (except for the occasional sandwich craving…but that’s what gluten-free bread is for, right?).

My main problem was how busy we have been.  Both of my kids were in competitive basketball, which meant for the last 3 months, we have been on the road every single weekend for tournaments.  Some days we would be gone from sun up til sundown and some days we would have to rent a hotel and be gone the entire weekend.  This doesn’t leave much time for healthy eating, which meant a lot of trips through the drive-through.

Honestly, I’m still fairly new at this gluten-thing.  I thought as long as I avoided breads, buns and breaded meats I would be doing ok.  I drove through McDonald’s one day and got a chicken breast with guacamole and lettuce and some french fries.  I woke up the next day with an awful migraine.  The kind of migraine that keeps you in bed the entire day and I was so upset. I mean, I have been doing great with my diet have been migraine free for over 3 months.  Once my migraine began to subside a little bit I wrote down everything that I had eaten the day before and knew that it had to have been McDonald’s because the rest of my diet that day consisted of eggs, veggies, fruits and cheese, all of which I have had before with no issues.  So, I started doing a little bit of researched and discovered that, the McDonald’s fries were the culprit.  Yes, that is right.  McDonald’s uses gluten in their fries. 🙁  Some of the things I have read say that they use a coating that is designed to make their fries crunchier, some say that it is in the beef flavoring that they use on their fries (I didn’t even know this was a thing).

I have since learned that many other restaurants use a coating on their fries as well, so it is always important to request gluten free fries when ordering at any restaurant.

Good luck to you my gluten-free friends!  I would love to hear about any other sneaky gluten inclusive foods you have found.

An Exercise for Dealing with “What-If” Anxieties

I know I don’t talk much (or at all) about it, but my daughter suffers from terrible anxiety.  She was diagnosed officially with Anxiety at the age of 11, but the truth is, I have known that she deals with this since she was 6 years old.  She was that student in the 1st grade.  She screamed, cried, kicked, hit and ran every morning when I took her to school.  Every.  Single. Morning.  I know you have all seen kids act like that at school drop off time because I’ve seen them too.  I remember when I was a kid and seeing a girl in my class do it.  I also volunteered with the elementary students my senior year of high school and I witnessed it with a couple of kids.  I also know that you may think that these kids are just being bratty, or misbehaving, but what you may not realize is that these kids are not just misbehaving, they are having full-on anxiety attacks.  They need your support, not your judgment.

Back in the 1st grade, my daughter was having full-on “what-if” anxiety.  Her big thing then was “What if my mommy got in a car crash while I am at school?”  You guys.  She literally fought me to go to school every day because she was afraid I would get in a car crash and die while she was gone.  Can you imagine the anguish that would put on a child every day?  Before I developed postpartum depression, I have never dealt with anxiety from myself, and I am ashamed to admit that I honestly didn’t know how extreme it was.  I was frustrated with her.  I wanted her to just go to school, enjoy learning and have fun with her friends.  “How hard could that be?”  It was only 1st grade after all.  I did not have the right mindset to deal with an anxious child.  I had never dealt with it and didn’t understand how debilitating it could be.  In time though, we learned to get through.  It’s worth noting that for the first several years (through 5th grade for our daughter and through 2nd for our son) our kids went to a small Charter School.  Their school had 200 students with only k-8 in attendance and this school was relatively close to home.  That meant fewer kids and mom could be there to get her in an instant when she was having a hard time.  And let’s be honest here, I picked her up all the time.  It has always been important to me that she knew I was there to support her always.  I may not have understood her feelings, I did know that she needed her mom.  I did let her miss way too much school though.

When she approached middle school we began discussing transferring her to the nearby larger, public school.  We knew that if we waiting until high school, it would be virtually impossible because of her nerves.  Plus, where we live, there are several elementary schools with just one middle school and one high school.  That meant that 6th grade is where all kids come together.  There would be plenty of “new” kids to the school and we figured that this would be a great time to send her and it was.  The change was great.  She discovered new friends and amazing new classes that she fell in love with, but she also discovered that going from 200 students throughout 9 grades to 1000 students in 3 grades was definitely overwhelming.  While she didn’t fight and scream and kick, she often teared up and begged me to let her stay home.  Throughout the 6th grade, I found myself giving in to that over and over again, so I decided it was time to put a stop to it.  At this point, it was time to go to the doctor and get help, which is when she received her officially diagnosis.

With various treatments over the last couple of years, her anxiety symptoms have gotten much better but she still has her good days and her bad days and she still needs help.  She has recently been doing a lot of worrying about whether or not her friends like her still.  No reason for her to feel this way other her “what-if” anxieties that she faces (What if they stopped liking me over the weekend?  What if they never liked me to begin with and have just been pretending? These are the kinds of questions she asks herself).  At a recent follow-up visit with her doctor, we learned an amazing trick to dealing with those what-if anxieties that has helped her already!

In this world of non-stop mental illness news, I think we could all use a little bit of help in dealing with our anxieties and panic attack symptoms.  I feel like if the things we have learned can help someone else, I would really, really like to share them.

Okay, so here is a good anxiety exercise that we learned recently for dealing with “what-if” anxieties that has helped tremendously.  I highly suggest doing this activity every single day, even when your anxiety symptoms aren’t that high:

Get out a piece of paper to write on, and think about your “What-If” anxiety trigger.  Now, on your piece of paper, write down 3 reasons why this trigger may not be true.

Here is the example that we used to help my daughter on that first day:

Anxiety trigger: What if my friends don’t like me?

Why this anxiety trigger may not be true (her answers):

  1. They have never said they don’t like me.
  2. They smile and wave at me in the hallways and talk to me in class.
  3. Nothing has happened that would have changed our friendships.

It seems so simple really, but as it was explained to us, when you start doing this every single day and writing it down, you will eventually start to retrain your brain, so that when you start having those anxiety symptoms and “what-if” worries, your initial thoughts will be the reasons why these anxieties may not be true, as opposed to your anxious mind convincing you that they are.

How to Step Away from “Work Mode” When You Work from Home

Do you work from home?  Do you find it hard to stop being in “work mode” while you are at home?  I started working as a Blogger and Virtual Assistant way back in 2012 and for a long time worked all the time, without ever stepping out of work mode.  I would wake up early and work, I would work on road trips, I would work while sitting down watching a movie with my family.  While it is handy to have the ability to work like that, it really is unfair to your family to never really be there with them.  Additionally, you need to be able to create time for yourself in order to be your most productive self.  It took me a long time, but it eventually clicked that I needed to do differently and I am much happier (and more successful) now!

If you want to learn how to step away from “work mode” when you work from home, check out these tips and see how much they can help you!

  • Schedule it.  Honestly, if I don’t put something on my schedule to make it happen, it simply won’t happen.  This goes for everything I do, so that means I schedule my working hours and my non-working hours.  This is beneficial for productivity as well.  Schedule your day as though were driving into a regular job and you are likely to accomplish more.
  • Have a dedicated workspace.  Even if you work on your laptop, make an effort to create a workspace within your home for workspace.  If you make a habit of plopping down on the sofa to work, you are never really out of your workspace, so it becomes harder to step away from work mode.
  • Put your phone down.  This day in age, we are so lucky to have the technical advantages that we do.  We can get an order notification right on our phone via email, phone call or text message.  But in order to be out of work mode, you can’t have your phone going off all the time.  Choose several time blocks throughout the day that you set your phone down.
  • Remember your reasons.  I am willing to bet that one of the reasons you wanted to work from home, to begin with, was because of the flexibility and freedom that comes from being your own boss.  Never allow yourself to forget this, because if you are too focused on work, that freedom really isn’t there, is it?

Do you work from home?  I would love to hear any tips and tricks that you have found useful in your work/life balance.

 

Do you want to learn how to make money from home?  Check out this post I did a while back to get some ideas:

Online Side Hustles, Surveys and Other Money Making Ideas!

 

 

 

Easy Ways to Workout When You are Short on Time & Money

Alright fellow moms, I know what it is like to be short on time and on a budget, it is hard to do anything, let alone work on your fitness.  Even though we know it is important to take care of ourselves, we all know that self-care is one of the first things to go when we are crunched for time and cash. You still need to focus on yourself though, because when mom doesn’t take care of herself, it is hard for her to take care of everyone else (and what would everyone do if mom couldn’t take care of them?).

So, if you are like me and you are finally taking time for yourself and your health, you don’t need a lot of time or money to get a good workout in.  Check out these easy ways to workout when you are short on time and money:

  • Daily Burn – Groupon is currently offering 60 days of Daily Burn for free!  You can make a huge difference in your body and your health in 60 days.  There are lots of levels of workouts starting from easy to difficult and some are just 15 minutes long.  You can spare 15 minutes, right? Once your trial is up, you can cancel it or, you can continue on if your budget is looking better.
  • Workout DVDs.  Workout DVDs can be done in the comfort of your home and they are very cost effective.  Plus, you can buy workouts according to what you want to do and how much time you can spare each day.  This DVD, for example, features 10-minute workouts.  Be sure and scroll down to the middle of the page to see other similar DVDs.
  • Walk around the block.  Grab your kiddos and take a quick stroll around your neighborhood.  As we mentioned, even a few minutes of exercise each day will help you move toward your goal and it’s free to do!
  • Join a gym.  Most gyms offer a free 7 or 14 day trial, why not head in to a couple of your local gyms and sign up for those free trials (one at a time of course)?  Depending on your location, you can likely get several months of working out for free, while figuring out which one you want to to actually sign up for.  Additionally, Groupon has lately been offering significantly reduced gym memberships, so be sure to check that out too!  If you have little kids, many gyms offer daycare for a reasonable price.
  • Local B/S/T or Buy Nothing Challenge groups.  If you are on Facebook, join your local FB For Sale, B/S/T groups as well as Buy Nothing Challenge Groups.  I have joined all of my local groups such as these and I often see workout equipment being given away for free or super cheap.

What has been your favorite budget-friendly workout?

Gluten Free Review: The Essential Baking Company Super Seeded Multi-Grain Gluten Free bread

Since I am fairly new to the gluten-free world, I have decided to go ahead and review some of the GF products on the market.  For the most part, I am trying to go gluten-free by simply taking those types of foods out of my diet, however sometimes you really want a sandwich, am I right?  Since I have little to no room in my kitchen I have no desire to try baking my own gluten-free bread at this point.  So when the family requested sandwich night for dinner the other night, I decided to join them.  I knew that I would need to make sure that I had gluten free bread, so I headed out to my local Safeway store and found this The Essential Baking Company Super Seeded Multi-Grain Gluten Free bread and decided to give it a try.

It was a quite expensive as are most Gluten Free products, but I figured since I rarely eat bread these days, I was willing to spring for the $5.99 loaf.  I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of this bread.  It’s almost like regular bread, the only difference being that it tastes a little dry, but your condiments can make up for that.  I also tried it as toast the next day during breakfast and discovered that one cycle through the toaster was not enough.  It needs to be almost to the burnt level and then you cannot tell that you are eating GF bread at all.

Overall, I am a fan and will buy it again for those sandwich cravings and splurges.  I’m not a fan of the price, but it’s not so bad if it is an occasional treat.

*This is my own personal view, I was not paid or compensated in any way.  I simply wanted to share with others who are learning their own gluten-free ways.

DIY All Natural Relaxing, Lavendar Massage Oil

 

Are you looking for a nice, DIY gift to get for your significant other for Valentine’s day? How about a massage?  Massages are hands down my favorite gifts to receive, whether it’s a massage from my loved ones or if they buy me a gift certificate, I am equally thankful.  Let’s not kid ourselves either, massages can also be quite romantic which makes them perfect for Valentine’s Day.  The romantic part only comes when you provide the massage though…a gift card just isn’t the same. 🙂

There is no need though to go out and spend a bunch of money on massage oils that have God-knows-what chemicals in them. All you have to do is create this 2 ingredient massage oil to save money and not have to guess what ingredients you will find in the oil.

 

Here’s how I created this All Natural Massage Oil:

I mix them together into a paste and that’s it.  It’s time to massage.

My husband had a muscle injury last year that I like to massage for him so I figured who better to check out the new massage oil on.  The verdict?  It’s a hit.  Because it is oil based, it helps make it easier to massage.  Plus, it is all organic so I don’t have to worry about the chemicals that are seeping into our bodies.   Lavender is known for its relaxation qualities so we used that to help relax the muscles and ourselves (I find it useful for sleep).

I have also given this massage oil as gifts as part of a spa gift basket to my family members and it was a hit!  If you want to present it as a gift, I used these containers to put them in.

 

 

While it does depend on personal experience, I always end up with 2-3 uses with this amount.

 

A Mom’s Take on Fortnite

Do you ever play video games with your kids?  I have a 10-year-old son that loves to play video games and while I don’t mind that he plays them, I am not a big fan myself.  I just don’t enjoy sitting down and playing a game and my preference was that my son play them in his room or when I was busy with other things and didn’t need to be in the living room.  But I’ve got to be honest with you, I have changed my stance a little bit when it comes to Fornite.  Epic’s wildly popular Battle Royale game.

Until very recently, my son was all about playing Minecraft and Roblox.  Yes, he has plenty of other games, but those were the ones he loved.  I have been relatively strict on the games he plays. Here were my rules for his games:

  • No sexual content whatsoever
  • No bloody violence or gore
  • Shooting games may be allowed depending on the game (I let him play hunting games, for instead and he could play a Navy Seals game, but only with my husband present)

Fortnite is a Battle Royale game where you hop online with 100 other people on a server and battle your way toward number 1.  You sneak through landscapes and into houses, barns and businesses hoping to find “loot” (guns, ammo, med kits, shield juice, wood for building and more).

I am totally and 100% ok with him playing Fornite even though the game does involve shooting people.  The game itself is very animated, there is no blood and the people you shoot disappear instantly, so it’s not as though you see dead bodies.

My husband and my teenaged daughter have gotten in on the fun too and they all take turns playing it.  I will fess up and acknowledge that I have played it a couple of times too.  It’s a lot of fun and the excitement of getting into the top 10 (I’ve done so twice if I may add) or winning the game is incredibly exciting.  My son won his first battle the other day and I could’ve sworn I saw tears of joy.  It’s a huge feat, especially since so many people are playing it right now (last estimate was 45 million players have signed up for it).

I have found this to be a fun, family-friendly game that I am more than happy to have my kids play.  We have had several nights of Fornite battles and it is so much fun!  We look forward to it.

5 Things to Do Before You Go Car Shopping

Sponsored Post: This post is sponsored by Cars.com, but the opinions expressed are my own.

 

Have you bought a new (or new to you) car recently?  What was your experience like?  Let’s face it, buying a car is a big deal!  For most of us, buying a car is the only time (outside of buying a home or getting student loans) that we sign on to spend thousands of dollars at once.  I don’t know about you, but when I spend that kind of money, I want to be prepared and I want the experience to be a pleasant one.

My husband and I bought a car last spring and it was our first time buying from a dealership, getting a car loan, etc.  Always before we would buy decent cars, but ones that would cost just a few thousand dollars that we could pay cash for.  We have reached a point in life though, where we wanted to be able to hop into a car and drive it across the country if we wanted to without worry about its reliability.  Anyway, I have always heard nightmares stories about car shopping and it taking full days and the negotiation process being overwhelming.  I really had no intention of having this kind of experience so I planned in advance.  I took care of several things before we even headed out shopping for a car and that made all the difference in the world and I can honestly say that our car buying experience was a pleasant one.

If you want to have the same kind of experience, here are 5 Things to Do Before You Go Car Shopping:

  1. Determine what kind of car you want.  Honestly, we had no intention of wandering through car lots looking at different cars for days on end.  We have children and frankly, that just doesn’t sound fun to me.  We decided in advance what kind of car we wanted by doing research on reliability, space, fuel economy and whether or not we liked the look of it.  We decided to go with a Camry.
  2. Get pre-approved.  Whether you go through your bank or credit union or another finance company, I cannot tell you enough how important it is to get pre-approved for your vehicle before you even shop for one.  First of all, you want to know you can afford it.  Second, the finance part is a breeze if you walk in with your financing paperwork in hand rather than having the dealership do it for you.  *Always tell the dealership that you have pre-approval and you DO NOT want them to run your credit.  (Car dealers are notorious for putting several hard inquiry hits on your credit report.)
  3. Shop online. Cars.com is an awesome website for car shopping online.  You can search for the year, make and model of the vehicle you are looking for and you can also dictate price and mileage caps.   We ended up finding the car we were going to buy this way.
  4. Negotiate over the phone or email.  Before we ever went to the dealership, I spent a little bit of time on the phone with the salesperson negotiating our price.  I then moved the conversation to text messages so that I had our final number in writing.
  5. Test Drive.  Although we were confident we were going to buy the car we had been negotiating on (2016 Camry), we had still never driven one, so my husband and I both spent time behind the wheel during a test drive so that we knew we liked it before we signed on the dotted line.

 

I really did follow these tips to a T and we were in and out of that dealership within 35 minutes.  The car buying process wasn’t so bad after all.

 

How I Got Rid of My Migraines for Good!

I have been a migraine sufferer for 20+ years.  I was a teenager the first time I experienced the excruciating pain that is a migraine headache and man did it hurt.  It never got better either, as I got older I got them more and more often and more painful all the time.  I have ended up in the ER several times just so I could get through the pain.

Over the years I have had quite a few migraine prescriptions, including all of the common ones.  I used them in nasal spray form and in pills and none of them really helped me.  Yeah, the dulled the pain a little bit, but beyond that, they did not make the pain go away.  I was dealing with 2-3 debilitating migraines weekly.  That meant 3 out of 7 days per week I was stuck laying in bed, not being a good mom or wife. Living with migraines is an awful, awful thing and I honestly would never wish it on my worst enemy.

I tried the pills, I tried chiropractic care, I tried massage, I tried herbs and oils, nothing worked and I began to think that I was never going to find a way to live without the constant migraines.  Then last summer, my husband was at work and having a conversation with a co-worker about the fact that I was sick with a migraine again.  This particular co-worker was an M.D. and suggested that I go gluten-free.  He said he thought that going gluten-free was a fad thing and he didn’t really fall for it until his wife did it and she became migraine-free after several months.  My husband casually mentioned this conversation to me, but I didn’t put much stock in it because I eat healthy (lots of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grain) and I have never had any other celiac disease type symptoms, so I figured no way could I be having an allergy to gluten.

After several more months of non-stop migraines, I decided “what the hell” and I went for it.  What did I have to lose, other than migraines (and maybe a couple of pounds), right?  As crazy as it seems, I chose the week before Thanksgiving to make the switch and while it is taking some getting used to, I am happy to say IT IS WORKING!! Since the week before Thankgiving, I have had 2 Migraines.

  • One migraine was two days after Thanksgiving and I will admit that I slipped up a bit and had a piece of pie, thinking that just a little bit of crust wouldn’t hurt.
  • The second migraine was the morning after my husband had brought me lunch from our favorite hamburger joint.  I happily scarfed the whole thing down without even thinking about the fact that I was eating the bun.  He and I both just chatted away while we were eating.

Other than that, I have had no migraine headaches at all.  For real, I am now 2 months into my gluten-free journey and I can officially call it a success.  I am sure that this will be a lifetime change for me and I am okay with that.  Other than my incessant craving for a brownie, it really isn’t that hard.  Knowing that I will get a migraine from choosing the wrong food keeps me from doing it.

Since this lifestyle is new to me, I am still learning new tricks, new products and new recipes that I will be sure to share with you!