You Are My Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

My Only Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

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25 June, 2013

Summer - The Inexpensive Way!


 This is my first week having my daughter back at home since the school year ended. We didn't want to waste anytime after spending yesterday at home. I have to tell you, I'm still SUPER apprehensive about this whole staying at home thing. I don't know why, but it's been REALLY hard to shift gears thus far.


I was told this weekend that lots of successful people have made it because they jumped off into the unknown. I'm old enough to know better unfortunately, but apparently still too young to care because I'm at home this week. On the flip side I'm excited for next week as my daughter will spend the week at her father's house and I can go back to work.... Did I mention my two weeks was up two weeks ago??

I spent all of Monday washing and folding laundry while watching day one of the George Zimmerman case, which is big news here in Florida. Well, thanks to Court TV, it's probably big news in a lot of other places as well. So, after a day spent doing laundry (and as proof miracles never cease - I actually put it all away too) and yelling at my tv screen, Monday was like THE. LONGEST. DAY. EVER. I hate to say it, but I was bored. Seriously bored.

Grace played inside most of the day because it was SO hot outside here in Florida. I mean RIDICULOUSLY hot. After folding a load of clothes I checked on her to find her creating a collage on her bedroom wall made of clay. By the end of the evening she had fashioned it into a rabbit, and each splotch of clay has a smiley face carved into it. She's so artsy fartsy and I love it.

I was one of those moms that refused to make my kid color in the lines because I felt it inhibited her freedom of expression. There are times when I wish she'd limit that freedom - mostly when she's disagreeing with me, but it's really let her spread her artistic wings and she comes up with some pretty cool designs, like this one:

It's a RABBIT. Don't you see the orange "eyeball" and the red "nose"???
 Doubly making this project neat is that I thought back to my OWN childhood and I'm pretty sure MY mother would have had a coronary if she'd walked into my room and found clay all over the wall. So, OF COURSE I had to encourage my OWN kid to keep right on going.... Sorry mom. I know you read this blog.

Given that we are now operating on one income, we have to watch the money even closer. That being said, with a little research, it's amazing how many inexpensive activities there are out there.

I came across a free/reduced movie program for kids last summer and we just never took advantage of it. I was working full time and so getting to these movies at 10am was really difficult. So this summer now that I'm NOT working (as much), I've got plenty of time to make it. You can locate the Summer Movie Express for Regal Cinemas here: MOVIE EXPRESS WEBSITE.

If you don't have a Regal Cinemas near you, go to google and put in "free summer movies 2013" and you should find the links you need to theaters in your area.

This weeks movies were "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and "Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked". They are shown on Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:00 am.

Regal Cinemas does not do the "free" movies, but the movies are $1.00 per ticket. You can't beat that! Here's a shot of my receipt as proof:


"Mr. Popper's Penguins" was full, so Grace and I were treated to "Alvin And The Chipmunks". It was great. We REALLY had a good time!

On our way out we came across the movie poster for another movie near and dear to our hearts:


 When the first movie was finally being shown on tv, Gracie's dad and I watched "Monster's Inc." OVER AND OVER... I'm surprised she wasn't quoting the movie by the time she was born, we watched it so many times. That being said, to see her at just shy of ten years old standing next to the poster for the prequel to this awesome movie was really, well, emotional. I have LOTS of wonderful memories of her dad and I and my pregnancy from the summer/fall of 2003 and it's really amazing to see how much wonderful time has passed since then, along with all the changes to our life we've had since then - most for the better if I do say so myself.

We will be going to the movies AGAIN tomorrow to see if we can catch "Mr. Popper's Penguins". I actually haven't seen this one. My daughter says she has seen it, but she refuses to tell me anything about it. That being said, if there's a particular movie you want to see, you might want to go a few minutes early so you aren't locked out due to lack of seating.

Stay tuned because I have OTHER programs and activities that I'll be sharing throughout the summer. If you have any you'd like to recommend, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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24 June, 2013

Off Topic: NKOTB, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees






 I was SUPER blessed to get to go to the tour known as "The Package" last Friday with two awesome ladies and one mini who was getting her introduction to the music of days gone by. Yes, I was there for New Kids On The Block, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees.

I had to come all the way from the west coast to attend this concert. My morning started with a REALLY dark sky and some thunder. Needless to say, I spent the morning trolling Bay News 9 watching radar maps.

I'd also like to point out that the water company has been out here working on our lines for like EVER now running new pipes, blocking the road way, putting out those "boil water" notices that we never seem to get.... Thursday LATE afternoon my husband tells me that the neighbor came over and advised that said water company can't get the pipes under our driveways so all day Friday they'll be busting up concrete.... Needless to say, they were out at 7am getting ready to bust concrete - and I was out right after they woke me up jackhammering - in my pajamas no less - moving my car to the other side of the street! No water company was going to keep me from NKOTB!

I took a rural route that I've never taken before to get to Orlando. By rural, I mean heavenly. There ain't nobody out yonder but open pastures and lots of cows in between these itty bitty teensy towns. I LOVE IT! However, the party I was going with changed up our meeting spot. YIKES! This required me to pull over and grab a regular old paper map to figure out where I was going and where I needed to be:


The words "Right And Up" come to mind here. I believe EVERY woman should know how to read a map. Yes, you might have GPS but if the battery dies and you don't have a charger, a gas station map is your new BFF. For all the people that said "You're not going in the military, what is ROTC ever going to do for you?" Here's one of your answers!

I used GPS for my in town travels.... Siri told me go towards Miami...Sure... That seems legit... Except for the fact I'm on the North West side of Orlando!!!



After getting PELTED by rain on the Turnpike, Orlando gave me a GORGEOUS sunset. And I have to tell you, I'll take downtown Atlanta in rush hour over that Turnpike ANY DAY!



I was so tempted to pull out my legwarmers, but I didn't. I did manage to rock a side ponytail through NKOTB though:



 I know... It's hard to be stylish wearing one of these, but I certainly think I pulled it off.

I COULD have looked like these girls a few rows ahead of us:


 I give them props, but that's it. Honestly, I expected to see a lot more of this, but surprisingly, the crowd was mostly thirty something females. Big surprise, I know. Every time the groups would stop to let the crowd sing you'd have an entire stadium of women singing at the top of their lungs.... So different than when I saw Vince Neil from Motley Crue...

Boyz II Men have still got it. They haven't aged one day. I don't know how they EVER stopped making mainstream radio. I was reminded of so many school dances, twister parties, birthday parties, high school boyfriends, and tears shed at all of them! What a GREAT performance!



98 Degrees seemed to be everyone's bathroom break opportunity. I wasn't the biggest 98 Degrees fan. I was more of a Backstreet Boys girl.... I know... I know... I have to tell you though, I watched Nick and Jessica's MTV reality show and of course Nick is a good lookin' guy - I just didn't realize HOW good looking  he was until I saw him in concert. Oh my. That's about all I have to say about that!

Then we were off to NKOTB. These guys are like wine - they just get better with age. Seriously. They put on a FULL TWO HOURS of music, dancing, and crown interaction like no other. I bet that chick that Donnie kissed is still feeling it today. Wow. I didn't shoot too much video of these guys because I was, well, entranced. They were AWESOME!

When little baby Joey started singing in the middle of "Please Don't Go Girl" and said "It's been 25 years", I had to think about it real hard. Yes, yes it HAS been 25 years. I was 9 when NKOTB was making a big splash on the music scene. And it took me to just shy of 35 to make it to a concert. I am making up for lost time!



I admit it.... I watched these videos and I get SO super excited at concerts! You'll have to ignore my commentary, screaming, and singing. This is why I work in the legal field - it was obvious I was never going to have a career as a singer/dancer.

I had an ABSOLUTE blast! I have to send out a HUGE thank you to Miss Stacey for the invite, and to the other girls. It was GREAT! I can't WAIT for them to come back next year. I'll totally go again.

So, if you missed these guys in your hometown, or they haven't made it there yet - here's a sneak peek into the show!
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21 June, 2013

Homemade Mocha Frappes And Veggie Update!

This has been an exciting week! My daughter returned home after spending some time away with her father. I could not be ANY happier that she is home. I would elaborate, but there just aren't words to explain it appropriately. Within 15 minutes of getting in the car after I picked her up she had drawn me a GREAT photo:


We later stopped at the rest area on the bridge for another photo opportunity:


I have to admit, I'm the luckiest mommy ever.... and I'm not even the slightest bit biased. :)

In other news, I've been checking on my tomato plant that currently has 38 celebrity tomatoes growing on it. They just aren't turning red fast enough for me - or my urge to make salsa, spaghetti sauce, and all the other awesome recipes I keep finding on Pinterest. HOWEVER!!! I went out this morning to see THIS:



WOOHOO!!!!!!!! The tomato pictured here is the reddest one so far, but there are several more looking like the tomato in upper right corner. I figure by midweek I'll be out there pulling some fruit off!

And in OTHER and REALLY EXCITING and money SAVING news... I came across a post on Facebook that gave the recipe for mocha frappes. I am convinced that mocha frappes (and Pepsi) are the nectar of the Gods. I LOVE me some mocha frappe. I HATE the price tag that comes with them.


We recently had a super awesome gas station by the name of Wawa go in RIGHT around the corner from us. We are just a little too impressed by the food and beverages that can be found there. Needless to say, I've been ordering without checking the ACTUAL prices (I know, GASP). The other day I was in ordering and I actually DID check the prices. Once I stopped crying I knew I'd be visiting my beloved Wawa less and less from that point on.

When this post for a mocha frappe you could make at home popped up, I was skeptical, but it beat quitting cold turkey. I pinned it and decided I need to buy a blender. I got off work and went straight to Walmart - and I bought myself a blender - with a food processing attachment so I can play with all the salsa and peppers I want while I perfect my sauce making abilities.



I also needed to pick up the ingredients for the frappe. I pulled out my phone, pulled up my Pinterest app, found the posting and was astonished to find that I already had all the ingredients at home, with the exception of whip cream. Then it hit me.... I've been paying $3.99 for a small amount of coffee, ice, sugar, and chocolate sauce?  WHHHAAAAAT???

You can find the link for the recipe HERE - just note: You will want to go ahead and put some coffee on so you can get it chilled before you actually get ready to make one.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cold coffee
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup ice
1 1/2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1/2 to taste whipped cream

Directions:

Add ingredients to blender.
Blend until the ingredients are at a smooth consistency.
Pour.
Enjoy.

THE END!

My review? Delicious! I will never pay for them again! Like EVER! You can vary the coffee or chocolate syrup amounts depending on the flavor you prefer. They are SUPER simple to make. How cost efficient can it be!

I forsee myself making a pot in the morning to have a cup with breakfast. Instead of wasting the leftovers, I can chill my coffee and make a yummy treat for later!

Thank you to the people at Food.com for a GREAT do it yourself frappe recipe!

On that note... I'm off to spend some time with my baby and finish some chores before I head to Orlando for a girls night with some ladies I adore, NKOTB, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees..... Ah yes... I feel my inner teenage girl coming through!!!!!
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18 June, 2013

REVIEW: General Tso's Meatballs (LOW CARB, GLUTEN FREE RECIPE)

I have a special board set up on my Pinterest account that my hubby has access to. I love to cook - and I especially like to cook things that my husband finds yummy. He is an excellent cook himself, so I can always trust that he's picked something good - and if I don't know how to make it, I can usually get him in the kitchen to show me how to do it. Case in point, last night's dinner.



We found this recipe for General Tso's Meatballs and hubby pinned it to his board. I don't fry - and the meatballs are fried in this recipe. You CAN bake them in the oven, but they don't get that yummy crispy exterior if you bake them.

This recipe as it is listed is ALSO gluten free and low carb. If you're in to that, it's perfect. We are not. Yet.

Reading this recipe I actually had to google "xanthan gum". In the gluten free world it's a thickening agent. In MY world that's cornstarch, and since I have used cornstarch in a few of my other Asian inspired recipes, I figured it would be safe to swap those out.

I did not use tamari, for my soy sauce. Apparently tamari is gluten free. For us non gluten people, in case you were wondering, tamari is a dark soy, so if you have a recipe that calls for "dark soy" there you go. I used regular ol' kikkoman.

And that sugar substitute - well, I used regular sugar. No explanation necessary.

You can find the recipe here: General Tso's Meatballs on the blog I Breathe... I'm Hungry....

I should also tell you that we tripled the sauce on this too. I'm not sure if I did it right, because I thought it had a harsh vinegary taste on the back end, but overall it was good. I'd give it a 7 out of 10 spoons.

It's a fairly simple recipe to make. Mix ingredients, make into meatballs, fry.

While meat fries, mix ingredients for sauce, bring to boil, let simmer.

Plate food, enjoy.

No really, it's that simple - especially since hubby taught me to fry meatballs last night.

I also found that my macaw (who's also a big sauce lover) really enjoyed my rice, to the point that he climbed down off his chair, onto MY chair, and stole rice right off of my dinner plate. I'm fairly certain there's a health hazard in there, but I just try not to think about it.


Forgive my appearance... It was a long day, and I was tired.

Overall, this recipe was not my cup of tea. It's not that it was BAD, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Which is unfortunate.

My husband on the other hand really liked it. So, maybe it's more of a man's dish, or for people who aren't as picky as I can be.....

Give it a shot and let me know how YOU liked it! :)

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16 June, 2013

Gardening In Our Neck Of The City.....

It seems like every year of our marriage (all two and a half of them) my husband and I get into something new:

Year One: We were into reptiles.

Year Two: We were into paracord.

To Date: We are into gardening and frugal living - suburban style.

I'm finding that there are so many ENJOYABLE ways to cut costs and have quality family time. Being frugal no longer means being miserable and solely shopping at Goodwill. Though there is nothing wrong with solely shopping there, but I think a lot of people still think that you have to cut your cable and buy only second hand to live that way.

As I get deeper and deeper into this whole frugal living "craze", and maybe it's my age and some maturity (GASP!) sneaking in there too, I find that most of the things we take for granted really ARE luxuries. For instance, I walk into a mall now and I'm SHOCKED at what we pay for clothing. I am currently in need of some work appropriate clothing, but I REFUSE to shop at the mall for them - unless it's clearance. I have discovered that we have a FABULOUS second hand store here called Clothes Mentor that has all the name brand, high end stuff I could EVER want at some FANTASTIC prices.

I also stalk the Facebook groups that are local to my area. These are basically an ongoing online garage sale where people display items and negotiate prices. See my post HERE on how I scored brand new in the box Air Jordans for my baby girl for WAY below retail just a couple of months ago.

Last month I was able to purchase two beautiful Coach bags from a friend of mine for about $100.00. If you know anything about Coach, that's a STEAL! She was down sizing her collection and posted her bags on one of the Facebook groups. SCORE! SEE! Being frugal doesn't mean just shopping at Goodwill. Sometimes you have to be patient and seek out the deals. Voila! I've got my second Coach, and my daughter gets a Coach bag as well.

I have not geared up into couponing mode again as of yet. I AM however religiously buying my newspapers and getting my stock of coupon flyers built back up. Couponing takes a time investment (at least at the level I do it) that I don't have right now. SOON though, SOON! I will yet again be that annoying lady in front of you that has the stack of coupons and holds up the line forever. Until I get back into couponing mode, I will simply have to be satisfied with crying each and every time the cashier rings up my groceries - like this morning.

Okay, so on to what this post is really about:

The hubby and I decided that we should grow some veggies. We fully intended to it on a very small scale just to see how things went. Then again, we NEVER wind up doing ANYTHING on a small scale. So, needless to say, we have a yard full of all sorts of things, with plans for much much more depending on how the season goes.

We have grown flowers, vegetables, super hot peppers, and anything else we can get our hands on.


My husband has really gotten into the super hot peppers. By hot, I mean things that make jalapenos feel like you are eating a grape. Hot peppers are measured on what is called the Scoville Scale. A jalapeno rates about 3,500 units on the scale. We have peppers that are anywhere from one to two million. NO. I am not eating them. Ever. But I AM tempted to make some ridiculously hot salsa.

If you watch The Food Network the rage has been the Ghost Pepper. I've got some limited knowledge on the subject, but while the Ghost is still ungodly hot, there are several that have surpassed the heat of this pepper.

Here's a shot of some of my hubby's peppers:



I was able to harvest some of the peppers the other day and I am REALLY excited to find some recipes to use them in.




I am ANXIOUSLY waiting for my tomatoes and bell peppers to get a little bigger. I've already been looking for canning recipes. Homemade salsa and spaghetti sauce sounds GREAT!

I am ALSO anxiously waiting for my chickens to start laying. I can't wait for fresh brown eggs. Come on little guys, just a couple more months!

So that's my intro on our garden. I hope to have lots more updates for you as we go through the summer!post signature

02 June, 2013

Keep Calm And Survive On One Income!




 We are continuing our quest to one income. Four weeks ago I turned in my two week notice - and as of yet, I'm still working. Apparently those days of "I don't care if I have a job" are gone.... I really miss being able to have that attitude right about now!

I've been reading book after book, blog after blog, and article after article, that talks about how everyone is able to shop monthly for groceries for families twice as big as ours while spending half as much as I do. I must have a mental block on this because for the life of me I can't figure out how they do it.

This morning I planned our menu and made our grocery list in about an hour. I was pleased that I was able to get two weeks worth of food for around $140. I REALLY  don't think $70.00 a week is all that bad. What I'm not sure on is that I essentially planned a meal for one week - and then doubled the portions. We'll be eating the same meals for two weeks. I'm honestly not so sure I'm happy about that.  Obviously this menu planning thing is going to take some more work.

I have not totally given up on finding some super creative way to generate an income from home. Unfortunately right now I've not had the real time to devote to it. That will be one GOOD part of being at home!

So as of yet, I'm still SUPER apprehensive about leaving my job, but there will come a point where I have no choice but to be at home. I'm sure I'll be working up and to that point knowing me, lol!

In reference to the quote at the top of this page, I think I'm most looking forward to getting to know me and all the things I'm good at (or could be good at). I'm finally going to have the opportunity to see if "housewife" makes the list!