Sunday, July 9, 2017

Continuing a Cleaner YOU!

Good Morning Everyone,
It's a beautiful summer day on the Coast of Maine. The perfect day to think about feeling your best. Our summer weather season is short here and I don't know about you, but I want to feel my best as I enjoy the sunshine. I have raved about Juice Plus in the past and I am always thankful for this catapult into a healthier lifestyle for myself and my family. Every month or so I work on new ideas to continue making small changes that improve our bodies. After all, you only get one, right?
The large family of health practitioners and athletes that are experts in their fields have developed a program intended to jump start your journey into health living, it is called Shred10. It has some amazing clean guidelines that you follow for 10 days. Almost everyone continues this frame for better choices well past the program closure, as they have learned many things about their bodies.

When clean eating and making a choice to put our health at the top of my priority list, I do a lot of recipe testing, prep work and research on ways to eat clean in a simple way so that we can continue our lifestyle that includes full days and many road trips. 

Some of the ways to prep yourself for success are pretty easy. Cleaning, cutting and portioning out your fruits and veggies make it easy for you to grab and go. Small reusable containers or plastic bags full of healthy snacks make it an easy choice to grab a bag of grapes rather than a bag of chips. When you return home from the grocery store, take an hour or so to clean and prep your produce, boil some eggs, bake off some chicken and get yourself ready for a DELICIOUS week of self love.

Our breakfast plans are usually make ahead crust less quiche, smoothies and our favorite Complete protein shakes. 
Snacks will include veggies & hummus, apples & peanut butter, nuts and unsweetened dried fruit, berries or a hard boiled egg. 
Lunches are typically a delicious protein shake, a combination of the protein I prepped along side the veggies and fruits that are ready, or a salad with everything on hand. 
Dinner is usually made fresh every night, but if we have a night where we are on the go, we can fall back on any of the items that are prepped. Keeping it light and clean we use lean proteins: fish, pork, chicken and turkey. Side dishes are typically roasted or steamed vegetables, salads or quinoa that I make a big batch of while prepping. 
Sweet treats? How about this "ice cream"- blend together, 2 frozen bananas, a handful of frozen cherries, a tablespoon of nut butter, 1/4 C of almond milk and a scoop of chocolate Complete. YUMMM!

Whether we are strictly following a Shred guideline or not, prep is part of my routine. We waste less and make better choices, it's a win, win! 

Below I am sharing some easy meals that can be made ahead and enjoyed for a few days:

If you are entertaining this summer and want to steer away from your typical heavy foods, try these: (I am here to tell you that cashew cream makes a VERY tasty substitute for cheese)

I hope this helps get some new ideas for a summer of clean eating and a clean you! 
Remember to use up all of your ingredients in creative ways and save some dimes. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hello or Good-bye?

Hello Everyone!
I am very excited to share my thoughts with you on the meal subscription company, Hello Fresh. 
I have pondered this type of convenience for quite some time. They have become all the rage with foodies and busy people all over the world. The curiosity was killing me, so after seeing some friends posting drool worthy photos on Facebook, I figured, why not? I was sold when my dear cousin sent me a coupon code for a free box. So, I started doing some research. You can choose from a Classic Plan, Family Plan or Veggie Plan. Their Classic Plan is designed to be foods with a wide variety of flavors, using seafood, meats, grains and produce. The Family Plan was created with a whole family in mind, less spices, but full of nutrition and also containing recipes with meat, seafood, grains and produce. The Veggie Plan, which is what I chose, is seasonal produce and vegetarian proteins. 
I decided that since my husband is a little less adventurous when it comes to food, that I would choose something that I could share with the kids but not waste the food. 

So here is the breakdown that I am going to give you my opinion on: cost, taste, waste, convenience and level of difficulty. 

First, let's talk cost. Hello Fresh charges $9.99 per meal with Free Shipping. I chose The Veggie Plan that would serve two people per meal and that plan includes 3 meals. So, 6 meals for $59.94. Now, in my opinion this is slightly high. I can feed my family for less than $9.99 a meal, way less. So, with the coupon code, I was definitely going to give it a whirl, but may have hesitated a little more without it. You can choose a 4 person plan, and of course that means you will may double. The serving sizes, from what I could tell from my box and are very, no leftovers to make it stretch. BUT you'll see later that there are leftover ingredients some times. 

Let's move to convenience and talk about how the subscription works. You sign up, using your email. (or Facebook account but be careful here, they get your public profile when you do that) You then have a Hello Fresh account. You can also download their app to your smart phone making it even easier to schedule or skip your next shipment. The plan itself is to send you a new box every week. However, it is very easy to skip the next week, and actually you can look ahead and skip the next few if you feel the need. When you are flipping thru the weeks, you will be able to see what recipes would be in that box. That is very good for people who maybe have dietary restrictions or aversions to different cuisines. 
The box came with a BIG frozen ice pack. The ingredients were fresh and looked pretty good, aside from one carrot that seemed a little soft. Each meal has it's own separated ingredients, so it was a pretty good size box and there were lots of little packets. You will want one crisper drawer or a little container in your fridge to organize those until you are ready, at least I did. But aside from your basics, (oil, salt, pepper, butter) everything is included. 

Are you thinking, "what if I am not a great cook?".....this is the easiest thing I have followed. When I cook dinner, I rarely follow recipes. But these are all new flavors and meals. I think even if you are a beginner you will have no problem. Each meal comes with a large recipe card. It lists all of the ingredients, shows pictures of the prep work and what your final product should look like. That is always nice when trying new things, no matter how experienced you are. I think all of mine were done in 30 minutes, too. BONUS!
Each packet is labeled. I gathered the things that I needed for each recipe and laid it out all on the counter when I began to prepare. The little packets are cute. If it calls for a small amount of mayo, you get a teeny, tiny jar of mayo. Most items are pre measured but some things you will have extra of. So....on to Taste and Waste! 

In choosing the veggie plan, I had three recipes. Garden Quesadillas, Crunchy Veggie and Lentil Salad, Mediterranean Tomato and Asparagus Bake. Every one of them was delicious. My planning for my first meal kit was not the best, as I was doing the Shred10 program, but I adapted. I also only had my little girl to share these with, as my son had busy nights and was away when I cooked two of the meals on Sunday. So I have them plated for my lunch and dinner for the next two days. 
The flavors are outstanding. Fresh herbs and produce. A very light menu, making it great to carry on my healthier lifestyle choice. I think the taste is a WIN! Definitely flavors I may not have used on my own. 
The neatest thing about this is the small amount of waste. Almost every thing comes to you in the size you need it. Remember, I mentioned the tiny mayo? They did send me a small bottle of Tobasco sauce, a Cinco de Mayo gift. I had fresh herbs left so I plan to use those this week on chicken and fish. I also rarely eat dairy and so I have some feta left. I will use that in a recipe soon that I can share with the family. A couple of things I already had on hand as well, but the convenience of having the close measurements that the recipe calls for, is very brilliant. 

I did not take pictures of every meal as I got busy and forgot but I was sure to document one, the Mediterranean Tomato and Asparagus Bake. I made the quesadillas for a home party I had on Friday night and those were a hit. The salad was amazing as well and I set that aside for lunches, just waiting on dressing the greens until I was ready to eat it. Those plates are salad size. So that can give you an idea of serving size. verdict. It's worth a shot! If you are a single person with a busy lifestyle, and you are adventurous in the kitchen....DO IT! You would get 6 meals from it and you can easily make a plate and have the leftovers the next day, on most items. If you are a large family on a budget, maybe signing up and trying it is great, but I would say you can make your money stretch a little further by meal planning and prepping. If you are a couple who loves to try new foods, it is definitely less expensive than going to a restaurant three times a week. I must say, this would make a great gift too. You can give gift cards from Hello Fresh and that might just be a relief for a busy family, housewarming gift or a new mom. 
I am going to keep my account for a while. They have improved their website and app, and you can now cancel with ease. I will stick it out, as long as I can remember to keep up with remembering to skip weeks when I am not in need. I really don't want to be charged if I already planned my week and have my groceries purchased. BUT I am sure it is going to come in handy over the busy summer! If I get a chance to review other companies I will update you all!

I hope this has helped you! As always, have a beautiful day and I hope you are saving some dimes! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plan and Prep!

Good Morning All,
It's a rainy Wednesday morning here on the coast of Maine and being the last week of April would we really expect any less? April showers bring May flowers! In our neck of the woods we are just happy it isn't snow.
I wanted to take some time to go over meal planning. In my facebook group, I am tackling Meal Plan May. I will go over easy, quick dinner ideas to keep you on a healthy, budget conscious path. So I wanted to blog about the many ways you can be successful in your efforts.
When I sit down to make a meal plan, sometimes for the entire month but mostly two weeks at a time, I have one important thing in front of me. My calendar. If you don't have a planner of any sort, at least jot down your committments so you know when you have busy mealtimes. For moms, make sure you are writing in all practices, games, meetings, fitness classes, etc.

Then, take a look at what you currently have on hand. We have a freezer with meats we bought locally, so those will be on my meal plan for May to try and save some money. I will add in grocery store meats as needed. Always check your pantry staples as well. If you don't you will inevitably end up with 8 boxes of pasta, and nothing to make a sauce. Been there done that.

Once you have an idea of what you have, check the sale flyers for good deals and coupons. (this is more of a meal planning refresher but back in the beginning of my blogging days are posts on strict budgets and ways to stretch your groceries, go check it out)
Is chicken on sale? Is haddock on sale? Well then it's time to get planning.
If you feel like you lack creativity in the cooking department, try sites like or Pinterest. What is great about those is you can enter in almost any ingredient and get dozens of ways to use it. So when you are trying to stay on a budget, use everything you have on hand.
Also, sheet pan dinners are easy, affordable and can easily adjust to the number in your family.
You can add so much variety to something as simple as chicken breasts and veggies.
Write down all of your meal ideas and the ingredients you will need. If you are like me, that list will be according to the layout of the grocery store. (I know, I know)

After you have a list of meal ideas. Plan a trip to the grocery store, pick a budget and stick to it.
If you are a compulsive buyer, take cash. You can only spend what you budgeted for that way. No room for the items you don't need right now. Grab your ingredients, trying to keep fresh and less processed foods in mind.

When you arrive home, take the time to prep! That really is the key to success both on your waistline and your wallet. If you have foods that are ready to cook or better yet, all cooked and ready for you and your family to eat. You will resist the phone call for take out.
I usually prep my veggies on Sunday afternoons or evenings. Little containers for snacking, meal kits and sometimes get the meats for the next day marinading. I will cook off chicken for salads and boil eggs...whatever I can do to set us up for a good week of healthy eating and have less chaos for me at dinnertime is important.

Fail to plan and plan to fail. This is in my head all of the time and I do believe it is a step to success.
Now, go make a list and save some dimes!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Detailing your ride!

Okay so how many of you spring clean your car? I once heard that the inside of your car can tell a lot about a person and how organized the rest of their life is. Part of this rings true to me, however, I could probably squander up a few excuses as to why mine is dirtier than I like. I also will not lie, we do hire out a deep clean on our vehicles a couple of times a year. With two dogs that travel everywhere with us, a professional detailing is much needed occasionally.
How many of us these days are in our cars for a good portion of one week? Eat meals in the car?
Get out your old toothbrush is a great detailing tool!

This is a great article to read about some cleaning hacks....what is a hack? Tips and tricks to use items intended for one use in another way.
While I have not heard of anyone using 1, 10 or 14....I highly recommend #9 for an all natural air freshener.

Washing the car can be a fun chore to do with the kids too! Pick a warm day, grab a bucket, soap and a few sponges or rags and make it sparkle!
This is a great mixture for cleaning fabric, it works great on car seats and booster seats too. Hydrogen peroxide is a great stain remover as well for floor mats and carpeting.

A small squeegee helps remove pet hair from seats and carpet, too. Vacuum everything the best you can before you start scrubbing.

When you deep clean your car, it is my recommendation to take everything out. Everything? Yes, everything! You want to clean all of the surfaces without the clutter in the way and it also gives you a chance to sort and reorganize the items that must stay in the car.

Did you know your car registration and insurance cards are supposed to be with your vehicle and not in your wallet? Do your wheels take a special lug nut key? These items should always be available. Your glove box is the proper place. Keep your vehicle manual too. You never know when you will be traveling and that "strange" light comes on. It's helpful to be able to pass on information if you are in need.

Do your kids watch movies in the car? Get a soft sided CD holder and ditch the movie cases and store them in a more compact way. If you need to keep the cases because you want to resell, store them in a box in your basement.

A first aid kit is a great idea....or at least some band-aids and a cleaner. Baby wipes are a great thing to store in your car even if you are way beyond the diaper changing stage. They can clean up sticky hands, boo boos, spills and are a great cleaning tool when doing a quick detail of your vehicle.

Do you work from your car? Make a small file folder mobile office and keep everything neat and tidy. A small zippered pouch can hold stamps, extra pens and necessities.

Do your kids need to eat on the road? Purchase a small bin at a dollar store to hold their food and keep it from sliding all over your car.

If everything has it's own compartment it is easy to toss those into a tote in your trunk, or a large console, when you need the space for extra passengers or pets. Don't have a tote? A small laundry basket is a great tool. It can also hold your groceries in your trunk so they don't slide around. Don't forget your reusable shopping bags too. Store them right in your trunk after you empty your groceries so you have them every shopping trip.

Now that we are back on the road my list of musts include......
*A case of water, yes it may get warm in the car in the summertime but my dogs won't mind and I almost always have a cooler in tow that I can get a drink cool for a little or big passenger.
*Snacks! We have a preschooler and a teenager, need I say more?
*Dog bones, water bowl and leashes (for my furry travelers)
*Baby Wipes and tissues
*DVD's for long rides
*Books, Toys and Crafts in a small tote for the ride. I can take this right into a restaurant too, if the need arises,
*First Aid Kit
*Mobile office pouch
*Tote for all essentials
*Trash tote - A great trash tote is a dry food storage container. You can add a small trash bag (fold a few extras up and put them in the bottom. All ready for when you empty) Or put a command strip hook somewhere in your car and re-use plastic shopping bags. Tie and toss when they get full.

It's time to get scrubbing! Hey, you might even find some dimes. Gather up that loose change and treat yourself for your efforts. A cup of coffee, ice cream? Or just go for a drive after, a clean car feels soooo good!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fresh Flush!

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

I finally got to dig back into the spring cleaning schedule after many unexpected tasks had cropped up. Today I was able to spring clean the 1/2 bath on the first floor and I wanted to share some tips on cleaning toilets! I don't know of anyone that enjoys cleaning a toilet and I know we all clean our toilets often, but to spring clean them means a little more in depth scrub.

Today, while I scrubbed the walls and floors, I added 1C of baking soda to the bowl and then poured in all purpose vinegar. This mixture bubbles so be careful to add the vinegar slowly. I let this sit in the toilet for about 45 minutes, an hour is better. This will deodorize, remove stains and make the ceramic sparkle.

I am hoping to make some toilet bombs soon using essential oils, you could use these to get powerful foaming action before you do your routine scrubbing.
Here is a recipe:

To get in to the cracks and crevices, I sprayed them down with vinegar, letting it sit for a few minutes. Using the sharp tip of my cleaning brush (a flat head screwdriver works too) with a paper towel (or cloth you can bleach) folded over the end, I ran the tool along the area collecting a lot of grime I could not even see. Where the tank meets the toilet, up under the toilet rim and the ridge where the toilet meets the floor are good spots for this. If you have stubborn stains, try a pumice stone.

I'll have shower/tub tips as soon as I move on to the upstairs.

Happy Cleaning!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Make it FUN for Free!

Good Evening All, 
Happy Spring! I am happy to have seen the calendar flip and look forward to warmer days and green grass. My littlest one is ready to get outside and get moving! I have been putting some lists together of fun activities for her that will get us outside, burning off the craziness of cold days in Maine. 
I always try to have a few rainy day ideas as well that I can pull from my hat when the day is soggy. 

There are so many things to do with your kids that do not cost a dime! 

Here are a few of my favorite outdoor ideas, 
Create an obstacle course with lawn furniture, tape, sporting good equipment. Do time trials. 
Use sidewalk chalk to make a hopscotch game.
Do a nature scavenger hunt. (One of Quinn's favorites!) 
Pack a picnic and head to the playground. 
Grab some mason jars, pick a warm evening and catch fireflies. 
Pick wildflowers and take them to a special someone. 
Take a bike ride. 
Set up a lemonade stand. 
Plant a garden.
Play in a sprinkler. 
Make paper airplanes and have a flying contest. 
Set up an outdoor movie. 
Make mud pies. 
Visit a farm. (you are always welcome at our barn!)
Go letterboxing or geocaching. 
Take a hike. 
Search for birds, keep a journal. 
Wash the car. (fun for them and a task checked off for you!)
Go beachcombing and if it is warm, go for a swim. 
Let them take pictures around town, print out and save for a rainy day activity. 
Visit a farmers market. 
Visit a lighthouse. 
Plan a family cookout and make the menu include something from every color of the rainbow.
Search for free admission to state or national parks. 
Find a waterfall. 

When it rains?? problem!
Make playdough. 
Set up the bathroom like a beach and go "swimming" (suits and all) 
Have a picnic on the living room floor. 
Visit your local library for storytime. 
Go to a Kids Home Depot workshop (Saturday mornings) 
Make homemade popsicles for the next hot day. 
Scrapbook "our town" pictures. 
Have a teddy bear tea party. 
Play hide and seek with an object. 
Mommy & Me Makeovers.
Build a blanket fort. 
Bake cookies and deliver to a nursing home or homeless shelter. 
Volunteer at a animal shelter. 
Let the kids pick and make dinner. 
Make shadow puppets. 
Pajama day, complete with a pillow fight, popcorn and movies. 
Make a time capsule to bury outside on your land. 
Visit a pet store (we call this the free Zoo, lol!) 

These are just a springboard for ideas. You can also write these down on craft sticks and 
create a "What will we do today" jar, color code them (yellow for sunny days, blue for rainy) 
and let the kids grab one in the morning. (this will be my plan this year) 

Most of all, enjoy! The days slip by faster than you think. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Love and Life

Let's face it. Life is tough. You are trying to juggle so many things and sometimes the one person who has been with you thru thick and thin gets the short end of the stick. It may be your spouse or a special someone, but the truth is it is easy to forget to set tasks and responsibilities aside and tend to one that is the most important. Especially while raising a family.

I am so fortunate to have been dating my best friend for almost 27 years. We have been married for almost 20 of those. We have seen so many highs and lows. We both know how important it is to occasionally take some time and focus on us. We used to put it right on the calendar ~ "Date Night" ~we need to do that again. ♥

Dating, no matter where you are in your relationship does not need to break the bank. You could be a fresh in a relationship, a newlywed or been married for years up on years, put your wallet away and listen to your heart. Don't get me wrong, a date night out at a restaurant or a sweet little getaway is wonderful but these things you can do as often as you wish and some are easy to squeeze in right at home after the kids have gone to bed.

"Always strive to give your spouse the very best of yourself; not what's left over after you have given your best to everyone else."

Indoor ideas:
Stroll thru an art museum
Go to an art opening
Search for free community theatre projects
Have a Netflix marathon
Host a board game night with friends
Volunteer in the community together
Go for a scenic drive
Go to the library, look for books or borrow movies
Re-create your first date at home
Cook a meal together
Make ice cream sundaes together
Plan your dream house
Plan your dream vacation, even if it's years away. (it's always fun to share and dream together!)
Play a board game or card game together
Bake cookies together
Put together a play list of your favorite songs and have a dance party, slow or fast
Go thru old photos and movies together
Have a S'mores night
Make a campout in the living room
Watch each others favorite movies back to back
Get on YouTube and find funny videos
Give each other massages
Learn a new hobby, via resources like your local library, YouTube, Pinterest
Go people watching at the mall or an airport
Write down your bucket lists
Play truth or dare
Complete a DIY project together
Write a list of your favorite things about each other
Create your own city tour
Go on a free tour of a factory
Make a fun list of what you would buy if you had a million dollars to spend
Work on a puzzle together
Listen to an audiobook together
Make homemade pizzas together
Go to a Home Depot workshop
Make a meal for someone in need and drop it at their door

Ideas for outdoor fun:
Go to a free outdoor concert
Walk dogs at your local animal shelter
Host a backyard game night (Pinterest has great ideas)
Be a tourist in your own area and visit a landmark you have never been to
Go stargazing
Pack a picnic and find a quiet spot to eat and relax
Volunteer together at an event together
Go on a hike
Ride bikes...pedal or motorcyles
Visit a flea market
Make a movie under the stars with your laptop
Attend a local garden club event and get ideas for your home
Take selfies all over your city and make a collage/photo board
Pack some homemade treats and go watch a sunrise or sunset
Play frisbee in the park
If there is snow, grab a sled and go sledding.
It it is warm weather, pack up your swim suits and go for a swim
Travel the area to local beaches and start a collection of sea glass
Do a scavenger hunt with or without a group of friends
Go Geo-cashing
Make a campsite in your backyard
Go fishing
Go downtown (in a big city) and watch the street performers
Have a water gun fight on a hot day
Go ice skating/rollerblading depending on the weather
Go to a food festival
Pick a spot on a map and take a road trip to a place you have never been
Go for a walk/run together and then go home and make smoothies
Learn to grill/smoke a new recipe together
Work on DIY landscaping projects
Plant a garden
Go for an ATV ride
Go out in the community and do random acts of kindness

These are just a sampling of things you can do that cost very little or no money at all.
If you have a hard time deciding what to do when you have time to spend together you can write down all kinds of ideas on craft sticks and put them in a jar, making a deal that whatever you pull
out that day/night is what you will do.
You can even color code the sticks to allow for choices that align with your budget for that date.
For example:
Red= Free
Blue= Little cost
Green= More expensive

Making time for one another is the most important thing. Now go make memories with the one you love so that when the kids are grown and it's just you two you can say "Remember when?"