How to Pick the Perfect Produce

Did you know that June is fresh fruit and veggie month?  I have seen countless photos on my social media timeless of my friends out picking fresh berries and fruits.  Sometimes picking fruit is pretty obvious.  I mean, no one wants a smushed (according to spell check, smushed is not a word.  I’m still going with it 😉 ) strawberry or a bruised apple, but sometimes, it’s hard to know if the produce will taste great when you get home or not.  So how do you know if a particular fruit or vegetable is going to be good? Well, there are some tips that will help us decide if something is ready or not.

Here is a list that you can follow to help you pick the perfect produce:

  • Watermelon –
    • The watermelon should always feel heavy for its size
    • There should be a hollow thud when you thump the melon with your fingers
    • The yellow spot (where they have laid on the ground) should be creamy yellow
  • Cantaloupe
    • Like the watermelon, a cantaloupe should feel heavy for its size.
    • It should smell sweet, yet slightly musky
    • The rind should look raised netting
  • Honeydew
    • A honeydew should be a pale yellow color, avoid green honeydew melons as those are not yet ripe
    • It should also have a dull appearance.  A shiny appearance indicates that it is not yet ripe
  • Pineapple
    • A pineapple should be firm to the touch
    • The leaves on the crown should be green
  • Coconut
    • A Coconut is another fruit that should be heavy for its size
    • Any sign of wetness or mold on the outside are a bad sign
  • Spaghetti Squash
    • Spaghetti squash should again, be heavy for its size
    • Look for a rind that is dry and has no cracks or soft spots
  • Acorn Squash
    • Acorn squash should have a good combination of green and orange color in the rind
    • Should be heavy for its size
    • Rind should be dull without any cracks or soft spots
  • Butternut Squash
    • Butternut squash should be beige in color
    • Avoid butternut squash that has any brown spots or deep cuts
  • Avocado
    • The perfect avocado is dark green
    • Yields to slight pressure
  • Broccoli
    • Broccoli should have bright green heads
    • Stems and stalks should be very firm.  If you hold the broccoli up, the stalks should not droop
    • Look for tight clusters of the florets, if they are more open that means they are past their prime
  • Cauliflower
    • Cauliflower should be a creamy white color
    • Look for tight clusters of the florets
    • No brown spots or wetness
    • Make sure to smell for any musky or moldy odors

$1 Regal Summer Movie Express List!

 

If you are wanting to start planning your Summer outings now, be sure to plan some trips to the $1 Summer movies!!  I take my kids to these every year.

Here is the list of movies that will be playing this Summer!  Don’t forget that this program starts on different dates throughout the country, so be sure to check this link for your area’s start date.

For each week, both movies play on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m.

  • Week 1
    Kung Fu Panda 3
    Ice Age: Collision Course
  • Week 2
    Trolls
    Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
  • Week 3
    Monster Trucks
    Penguins of Madagascar
  • Week 4
    Rio 2
    The Boxtrolls
  • Week 5
    The Secret Life of Pets
    Sing
  • Week 6
    Kubo and the Two Strings
    Ratchet and Clank
  • Week 7
    The Spongebob Square Pants Movie: Sponge Out of Water
    The Adventures of Tin Tin
  • Week 8
    Happy Feet 2
    Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
  • Week 9
    Storks
    The Lego Batman Movie

You can feel good knowing that you didn’t spend a lot, plus what you did spend partially goes to the Will Rodgers Institute.

DIY All Natural Relaxing, Lavendar Massage Oil

We are a very active family and we occasionally have some sore muscles. Okay, that was a lie…it is definitely more than occasionally.

Our big kids are both very active in sports and often have sore muscles.  Plus, as we get older we find that we get sore muscles from the simplest of things.   I am always happy to try and help my family feel better so I was always willing to try and massage out the muscle pain. I’m not big on lotions and oils though because they have countless ingredients that I cannot even pronounce.  I was looking for a good alternative, when I thought why not make my own homemade massage oil?  Because it’s what I had on hand, I decided to use coconut oil and Lavender essential oils to create an oil/paste to use for those sore muscles.  I

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).

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.

 

I have also decided that I’m going to be creating this for gifts for this year’s holiday season, so I just ordered these containers to put them in.

 

 

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

 

How We Paid Half Price on Our Home & Paid Off Our Mortgage in Less Than 6 Years

Everyone wants to be debt free, right?  I know we do.  We’ve been in the debt spiral before.  Up to our eyeballs in bills with not enough income coming in.  Sure we did some things to ourselves (spent too much, etc), but we also had some stuff happen to us that was completely unexpected (disability).  Anyway…it took us a long time to climb out of that hole and we were determined to never let that happen again.  So since those days we have been trying to live as simply as possible while working toward being debt free and one of those goals for us was to own a home outright.  That’s right, no mortgage.   Sounds crazy right?  But guess what?  In less than 6 years, we have accomplished that goal!

Here is our mortgage portion of our debt free journey…

Living in a rental was driving us crazy.  We are the type of family that loves to have their own space, if I wanted to paint the walls I wanted to be able to do that.  If I wanted to plant a garden, I wanted to be able to do that too.  The fact is we simply wanted to start paying toward something of our very own that we could create a home with for our family.  The real estate prices in our area during this time were skyrocketing and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay $1000+ per month for a place to live, especially since we had experienced disability before.  We never wanted to be in the position that we couldn’t afford our house payment.

We began discussing the desire to buy a home and started keeping track of the real estate ads in the local newspaper and on Craigslist and I even become a stalker of the local Multiple Listing Service website.  We just weren’t seeing anything in our area in the price range that we were looking for.  So, one day we decided to simply drive around the area and see if we could spot any for sale signs.  We did see several, but we also saw what appeared to be an empty house with an overgrown yard and no signs that anyone had been there for a while.  We decided to keep an eye on the property for a week or so and we drove by daily to see if we could spot anyone there.  When it became apparent that no one lived there, I began to do a little bit of digging to find out who owned the property.  I went on to our county website and researched the tax records to find the owner and I decided to write them a letter.

I initially wrote a letter to the lady listed on the tax records and in my letter I stated that it appeared as though the home was empty and I asked if she was interested in selling it.  I got a response about a week later from that same woman stating that she was about to lose the home in tax foreclosure and it wasn’t in great shape so she didn’t think we would be interested.  In my next correspondence I stated that I was, in fact, interested and asked for permission to go onto the property and check it out.  She was right.  It was not in good shape, but we have never been the type to shy away from hard work.

We decided that we wanted to move forward and we offered her half of the home’s (county appraised) value, but since the house couldn’t be financed due to its condition, she also needed to carry the contract for us.  Again, the home was about to enter Tax Foreclosure, so we set a plan to pay the taxes of $2500, taking that away from the price we offered her.  Also, because of the work that needed to be done on the house we requested the first 8 months to be mortgage free.  Because she didn’t have the money to pay the taxes or do anything with the house, she was more than agreeable to our offer.  Not only was she no longer going to have a tax foreclosure looming, she was able to relax a little bit and now she would now be receiving a monthly check.  She was thrilled and quite thankful that we happened to drive by the house that day.

It is now six years later and guess what?  We just sent in our last payment!  Remember that 8 month delay?  That means that we have actually paid off our home in just 5 years and 4 months!  I don’t know about you, but I know very few people who are mortgage free and this is a goal that I never knew I would reach in my lifetime.   As a mom, I love having the peace of mind in knowing that no matter what, we have a home forever and my children always have a home to come back to.  No worries about what may happen in case of unemployment or disability because my home does not belong to the bank and no one can take it from me now that I have this deed in hand.  Of course we still need to make that property tax payment every year, but believe me, when you compare that with a monthly mortgage or rent payment, it’s nothing.

We aren’t done yet though, hubby and I are looking for a new deal to work on!  And p.s…I still stalk the MLS website.

 

An Easy Trick to Talking to Your Daughter about her Period.

Let me just be clear and say that I am not writing a sponsored post, I am not being paid to say these things at all.  I am just reviewing a product that I bought for my daughter that really opened up our conversation about her body and all that comes with it.

When I was young, my mother told me absolutely nothing about my period.  Not One Thing.  When I started my period I was terrified and kept it a secret for almost 4 months because I didn’t know what to say.  Thanks to school, I knew what a period was, but I was too embarrassed to talk about it with my mom or anyone in my family.  Since I became a mother, I knew that I was not going to allow that to happen to my daughter.

I never hid what my tampons or pads were and always answered honestly when she had questions about them as a little girl, but never went into great detail.  For that I waited.  I have been talking to my daughter about her period since she was probably 6 or 7.  I figured that this was too early for her to start her period, but late enough for her to start understanding. We talked about what happens and why and we talked about what she could expect.  Then, we she was 10 I ordered The Dot Girl Period Kit and we check it out together.  It has a fantastic little book of questions and answers and it even comes with supplies.  A reusable heat pack, some pads, some little trash bags as well as a period journal (so she can start keeping track of the dates of her cycle) and it even comes in a cute case!  The case does not announce that it is for your period so my daughter was comfortable putting the pack in her backpack to hold her stuff in case she were to start her period at school.

She is now almost a teenager and she still uses her kit to keep her supplies with her and we still talk often about our bodies and what she can continue to expect.

 

10 Things You Should Expect to Hear if You are Over 35 and Pregnant

My husband and I have been married for almost 19 years.  We had our first child 5 years into the marriage with the second child coming 3 years later.  I won’t go into too much detail, but neither were very easy deliveries and it kind of slowed our decision to have baby number 3.  We never took the discussion off the table though and about 2 years ago we started talking very seriously about it.  I mean, I was in my mid 30s, I wasn’t getting any younger and if we were going to have a baby, it was now or never.  So…after the world’s longest “should we have another baby” discussion, we got pregnant!  I was 36 years old and so excited!  I was a very active 36 year old and I felt young so no worries, right?

Well, the pregnancy itself was relatively smooth other than I puked for 5 months straight and I couldn’t stay awake at all, but baby and I were healthy!  There was one pretty strong negative though and that was some of the things that I heard over and over.

I feel obligated to share with you what that was in case you are trying to decide if you want to get pregnant in your later 30s:

  1.  You are an “older mom.”  Really?  Why can’t we just be Moms?
  2.  You are of “Advanced Maternal Age.”  For real.  I heard this at every single doctor’s appointment.
  3.  “What were you thinking?”  You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked us this.
  4.  “You are older now, you know what causes this”  Yep, I literally had several people say this to me during my pregnancy.
  5.  “Aren’t you afraid someone will think you are the grandma?” hahahaha well, now I am.
  6.  Because of your “special pregnancy circumstances” you have to have lots of extra tests.
  7.  “It’s so risky though.”  Even though this myth has been debunked, we heard it over and over again.
  8.  “Did you wait this long because you now have built in babysitters?”  WTF?!  Seriously?
  9.  “Was it hard for you to conceive at this age?”  Well, that’s not really your business, but nope.  I was pregnant within a month of starting to try.
  10. “Are you going to have the energy to chase after the baby?”  Okay, honestly I am still pretty tired, but I do just fine, thanks for checking. 🙂

 

Are you an over 35 mom?  What kind of things have you dealt with?

8 Tips to Help You Throw an Awesome Summer BBQ

how to throw an awesome bbq, bbq tips

I don’t know about you, but Winter can not end soon enough for me!  I am so beyond ready for the sunshine and flowers of Spring and the warm nights of Summer.  We have big housework plans for this Spring and I fully intend to have some awesome Summer BBQs here at our humble abode.  Because we had project after project to complete and not enough time to do it, the last several years have not been filled with all of the friends and family gatherings that I prefer, but with a new job (yay hubby!) we now have more time and more money to accomplish those projects and throw some parties!

Do you like to throw parties and backyard bbqs?  Do you want to step up your party planning game?  If you are looking for some ideas on how to throw an awesome Summer BBQ, then you have come to the right place my friends!

Here are 8 tips to throw an awesome Summer BBQ:

 

  1. Stick with the Staples. You want to throw a great BBQ, yes, but you want to enjoy it too right?  Then stick with the staples.  Burgers, dogs, potato salad, etc.  That’s what people go to BBQs for anyway!  Don’t get too stressed out about making a special menu.
  2. Make it a Pot Luck.  Invite your guests and let them know they are more than welcome to bring a side dish!  The more the merrier and the less work for you.  Most people like to contribute too. 🙂
  3. Make Sure to Have Refreshing Drinks to Cool everyone down!  Cold, refreshing beverages can make or break your party!  Especially during the heat of Summer, you need cool drinks on hand.  Try out our favorite Refreshing Blackberry Iced tea, it always gets compliments!
  4. Yard Games to the Rescue.  Break out the yard games to keep everyone having fun.  We like to do frisbee golf and horseshoes, but  you can always go with badminton or volleyball, depending on how much room you have.
  5. Get Your Playlist Ready.  Don’t you just love technology?  Instead of someone having to man the CD player, you can now create an awesome playlist (I do ours on Amazon Prime) and have the perfect playlist.  Hook up your phone or MP3 Player to a great bluetooth speaker and that’s it.  We use the UE Boom and we love it.  It’s waterproof, great for outdoors and it sounds fabulous!  I do recommend getting a darker color though, our white/blue one is pretty stained up from being outside so much.
  6. Simple Decor.  I don’t go crazy decorating, but I do love some strategic yard sting lights and Citronella torches.
  7. Don’t forget Dessert.  You can’t forget dessert!  Maybe go with a great fruit salad or, if you are anything like me…keep the grill out and start grilling those fruits! I love grilled peaches served with vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

 

We are going to have so much fun this Summer!

 

 

The Problem with “Playing Fair”

playing-fair

In writing this post I realize that I may be outing myself as one of “those parents.”  That’s okay though, I am alright with the world knowing that I do not think that sports should be “played fair.”

Here’s the thing, I have three children, 2 of which are of age to play organized sports.  My daughter has been playing basketball and volleyball since the 4th grade and during the younger years all of the kids played equal time and that is great.  Every single kid that wants to play sports should have the ability to learn and develop.  Once your children hit a certain age though, it should be perfectly acceptable for these sports to be more geared toward competition.

Last year, my daughter was in the 6th grade.   When it came time to play volleyball they split 36 girls up evenly into 4 teams and the coaches made sure that each team only had one or two “good” players so that it was fair.  They also substituted a girl out of the court with every single rotation (if you are familiar with volleyball…you know how often that is).  While, this was frustrating for the girls, we understood that it was simply the way things were done at that age so okay, that’s fine.  Our daughter dealt with an entire season of losses last year.  Then came basketball season.  Finally, they were changing it up.  She was put on the “competitive” basketball team as opposed to the “recreational” team.  This meant that her team would be competing in tournaments at the end of the regular season.  At the competitive team level, the kids that had the most skill played more and I don’t recall one instance of kids on her team feeling like they didn’t get their shot.  Her team did great and I can look through at countless pictures of all of the girls smiling at the end of a win.  She did great and her team did great and everyone was happy.

Our only issue was that she she still suffered from a lack of confidence throughout the season and was very easily intimidated by other teams that she considered to be “better” than hers.  To combat this and to build her skills she elected to join a competitive sport club that cost us a lot of money (I am talking about upwards of $1,500 in a matter of 6 months).   If you are reading this, you know that we are a very frugally minded family so this was an expense that was not taken likely and you know what?  It was perhaps one of the best investments we have ever made.   She practiced several times per week and had very competitive tournaments every weekend.  She played against some of the best players in this state and on this club team there was no “playing fair.”  She actually spent quite a bit of time on the bench, which was a new experience for her.  You only got playing time if you were working your butt off in practice and you were good.  That was perfectly okay with us.  We were paying a lot of money for her to be there, she better be working hard while she is there.  She hadn’t been playing at that level for long so it took her time to develop those skills which meant sitting on the bench more and that’s okay.  By the time her club season was over we were very happy.  Yes, my daughter’s basketball skills improved, but more importantly to us, her confidence grew by leaps and bounds.   She was a different child socially too.  She was no longer afraid to talk to other kids, she was no longer afraid to just be herself in front of others.  (For those of you that remember middle school and how hard it was…this is a very big deal).

Fast forward to 7th grade and volleyball season.  She attended tryouts and made the “A” team along with another 8 girls.  She was very excited to go into this season finally able to win some games.  Her coaches apparently had other plans.  I know and adore her coaches, but they are still in the “playing fair” mindset.  While several of the girls work their hardest, it would make the best sense for them to be sub-in players, but no…..they are put in at every rotation, much to the detriment of the team.  Our girls have been told that they are not to question the coaches and their decisions.  They have now suffered a complete season of losses because of the coaches deciding to play fair and making decisions based upon that and not about the game at all.  Other teams in our league do not do this, and they are playing to the level that they should be playing at.  And our daughter is once again down in confidence and feeling like she cannot win ever.  She has asked to quit 3 times so far this season and for anyone that knows her, knows that this is entirely out of character.  She is a born athlete and has never wanted to quit any sport she has ever played.  This is my problem.  I do not like to see her confidence suffer, because coaches deem it necessary to make sure everyone gets equal time on the court.

“Playing Fair” is great when kids are young and need to develop their skills.  When they are older, please let them be competitive.  Competitive play is great for building confidence, social skills, strength and fitness.  I know it’s not all about winning.  It’s about having fun, giving your all and learning!  You know what?  Us competitive parents know that it is not all about winning.  They won’t always win and that’s okay.  But when they always lose just because it’s “not fair” that some kids had to sit on the bench for a portion of the game, that’s not okay either.  Kids need confidence in themselves and they also need to know that life isn’t always fair.  In order to succeed in life we have to work hard to get there, success is rarely given to us.  A youth sports program is a great time to start teaching this lesson.

And before anyone gets their panties in a bunch over this, just know that in no way am I okay with anyone berated a child or looking down on them for not being a star athlete, etc.  I love that we have recreational and/or “B” teams (for the record…I prefer they be called recreational teams) so that the kids that are interested in sports have an opportunity to build their skills.  I simply believe that competition can be a wonderful thing and really, really good for our kids.

 

Cut Down on Your Fuel Costs with These 6 Tips

fuel costs 6 tips

How often do you drive?  If you are anything like me, it seems like you have to get in the car to drive somewhere daily.  Between being a taxi driver for the kids and commuting to work vehicle expenses can climb quickly.  These expenses vary, but one way that we can save money is by cutting down on our fuel costs.  There are quite a few things than can affect the fuel mileage in your vehicle, so making just a few changes can do the trick.

Here are 6 tips that you can Implement to cut down on your fuel costs:

Keep up on your vehicle’s maintenance

Proper maintenance is key in maximum fuel efficiency.  From keeping it tuned up, to correct fluid levels and keeping your tires properly inflated, all of these maintenance tips help improve your vehicle’s efficiency.

Clean out your car

If you are the type to carry around lots of extra stuff in your car, you should reconsider.  Extra weight decreases your fuel mileage.

Carpool for work and Kids Activities

Carpooling is a great way to save money on fuel and vehicle expenses.  If you have a co worker that lives nearby, approach them with the idea of carpooling.  It would cut your commuting expense literally in half!  The same is true for kids school and after school activities.  Share commuting expenses by teaming up and driving each other’s kids to school or practice.  Not only will this save you money, but it will also save you time!

Drive a fuel Efficient Vehicle

If you commute to work daily, you will certainly save more money driving a fuel efficient car than you will be driving a big truck or SUV.  Fuel efficient vehicles tend to be cheaper to buy too.

Telecommute

If your work offers you the opportunity to telecommute, take it!  Even once or twice a week can help you save big on fuel!

Combine Your Trips

If you have a lot of errands to run, try to combine them into one trip instead of several.  Also, make sure to take care of all errands on one side of town during the same trip so that you are not fighting traffic and going back and forth.

Also, try to make sure to schedule your errands during non high traffic times.  Rush hour traffic means a lot of idling and a lot of stop and go. Not only is this bad for fuel efficiency, it is also hard on your vehicle and cuts down on its life span.