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Gadget by The Blog Doctor.
Read more: http://www.blogdoctor.me/2009/01/random-rotating-post-gadget-with.html#ixzz1e5vH9P4O

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Vegas Trip #2


3 years ago, I took my oldest and her friend to Las Vegas for her 16th birthday trip. Here is the post on that trip. We had a great time and saw so many neat things, along with some, well, um, interesting things...lol. Almost two weeks ago I spent 5 days back in Vegas, this time with my youngest daughter for a soccer tournament. 3 of the 5 days were dedicated to exploring and having fun. The other two were focused on soccer and resting up between games. I'm so glad we gave ourselves extra time...the  main reason was if we traveled on Thursday and Tuesday we saved several hundred dollars per ticket which made it worth it, but it was also nice to be able to acclimate and see the sites, and, of course spend time with my girl.




 The tournament ran Saturday-Monday, though we only played Saturday and Sunday (4 games). Our girls did great. They placed 2nd in their bracket and 9th in their age division out of 24 teams. Pretty good for their first showcase tournament, and we were not 100% healthy...we had one girl sick, and a few others nursing injuries, but they pulled together and played great. 
 We stayed in the Circus Circus as a team, though we were so spread out it didn't seem like we were all together...the room was comfortable, but the hotel is older and thus had some issues. Not sure I would stay there again. We spent the first day getting our rental car (we were upgraded to a 2015 Mustang....orange...can we say whoop whoop), getting some groceries for the hotel (no continental breakfast), picking up our tickets to The Blue Man Group (great show), eating lunch at In-N-Out then checking in to our hotel. It was a long day. We spent all of our free days going through the hotels on the strip, checking out the stores, eating yummy food, our favorite being Buddy's Bake Shop in the Venetian. My girl is a huge fan of Cake Boss so we stood in line for quite awhile to enjoy some pastries from the bakery. 
I love spending time with each of my girls individually. As much as I wish our whole family could have went, it was great connecting with my youngest. Laughing, having great conversations and just being together. And while we had a great time and enjoyed the sun and warm weather, we really were glad to be home to our beautiful green Pacific NW. 
 I love that my girls are budget conscious, and while in Vegas we discovered that we could easily share our meals (except one) and have plenty of food. Our last night there we ate at a really good Pizza Place called Metro Pizza. She wanted the BBQ chicken Calzone and I wanted the Spinach and Cheese, so we got our own that night...we did so well with our budget we came home with extra money.

Places we saw this trip:

* NY NY....she did roller coaster and we walked through the Hershey shop, which emanates the smell of chocolate.

* M&M and Coke stores....fun to see all the memorabilia.

* The Venetian....one of my faves..love the atmosphere, the gondolas floating down the middle with singing. Of course Buddy's Bake Shop. 
*Caesars Palace...lots of shops (HUGE H & M store), neat architecture.
* Planet Hollywood...lots of shops (most hotels have tons of shops, some repeats, some unique to the hotel), but we seemed to get turned around in there a lot.

* The Aria...very neat art features...ice towers and acrylic tubes with water spouts in them.

* Cosmopolitan...gorgeous chandeliers and Crystal swags from the ceilings.

* The Bellagio...fountains are awesome and the blown glass display in beautiful.

* The Paris...shops and restaurants are quaint and the ride up the Eiffel Tower is worth it. Go at night because it's beautiful and the Bellagio Fountain show is so neat from up there. 

Where we ate:

* Caesars Palace food court...the seafood place was pretty good. 

* Buddy's Bake Shop....uh, I think our dinner was pastries that night...lol.

* Metro Pizza...amazing pizza's and Calzones and good prices, located on Flamingo Ave.

* Chipotle....split a huge burrito.

* Chili's on the Strip....good food, good prices, and we enjoyed people watching on the patio.

We purchased breakfast and snack items at Walmart and Costco since the hotel didn't provide breakfast and we had a few early games. 

We also went to Fremont St. which is an "eye-opener"....lol, but the girls had fun..there was a great band playing on one of the stages and the girls all decided it was a good idea to stay in school..haha! Some friends went to the top of the Stratosphere and did the rides up there and loved it. We had pretty much spent all our money so we didn't do this. 

Many people bought a pass that allowed them to see a variety of attractions. We didn't do this because we bought tickets to see The Blue Man group and I didn't know what our free time would be like, but it seems like it was worth it. We really enjoyed The Blue Man Group, but I would wait and purchase tickets there because they were handing out coupons for buy one/get one...grrr...!

One afternoon our hotel lost power so we had to go down 7 flights of stairs but friends of our had to go down 30...thankfully none of us had to walk back up. That was funny searching for the stairwell and trying to decide where the door led to that we were going out of. Not very well marked. It is amazing to me how many people go there with little, little kids, and go out on the town with those little little kids at 11:00 at night. I wanted to ask them where they were going. 

One last story...Our plane left at 6:00 Tuesday morning to come home. We were traveling with 4 other teammates and their families. I had about 5 muffins left so I packed them in a ziploc bag and brought them with us. We left Vegas and landed in San Diego only to learn we were delayed due to a maintenance issue. Kristianna and I and the girl who was traveling with us ate 3 of the muffins. That left two, somewhat smooshed muffins left. I decided to throw them away in a nearby garbage can. 20 minutes later another teammate said "hey, can I have one of those muffins?". I jokingly said "well, I can pull them out of the garbage." She replied "that's tempting." My girl promptly heads to the garbage can, and digs around till she found the bag, hands it to her friend, who promptly eats the muffins. The airport was packed but thankfully the garbage had been recently emptied so there were only some bags from food and coffee cups...oh boy! My girl the dumpster diver. We all got a good laugh at that one. 


It was a great adventure and maybe someday our whole family could go. 




With Joy UNquenchable,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Goin' to the Chapel and She's Gonna Get married


As a parent there are certain milestones in your children's lives that can bring about a variety of different emotions. When they are younger, there are many milestones fairly close together...rolling over, crawling, walking, their first words, their first day of school, riding a two wheel bike. Then the milestones spread out and bring them that much closer to independence, total independence. They turn 13, then 16, then get their drivers license and no longer need mom to drive them everywhere. On to graduation, possibly college and maybe moving out on their own, and then that one day, when they get married. 

This past December my oldest reached a milestone. She became an engaged young lady. WOW! Am I old enough to have a daughter engaged and getting married? She will be 20 when she gets married this December. I realized my mom was 19 when she got married and turned 20, 3 months later. While it's tough to realize that one of our girls will soon be out on her own it is exciting to be experiencing a new kind of relationship. I loved the relationship I had with my mom as a young adult, married woman, and eventually mother myself. I only wish we had more time together. 

I am thankful that my girl has a good head on her shoulder, knows who she is and is such a deep lover of people. She will be an amazing wife and someday mother. 

I am also thankful that she isn't a bride-to-be that is set on making her parents take out 3 mortgages on their house, sell the cars, the dog, the cat and her sister in order to finance this big day. Phew! What a relief. I truly believe you can have an amazingly spectacular wedding on a budget, dare I say, even the wedding of your dreams, because, really, what does that equate? If it equates tangible things that only last a few hours, I'm not convinced one would ever have their "dream" wedding because there's always something more. But if it's a beautiful, stress free day (or evening in our case) with friends and family and knowing you paid for it without debt hanging over your head, then to me that is more of a "dream" than anything else. Does it mean that sometimes on a budget you have to be more creative, maybe not have something you thought of having, or needing to do more searching for things in your budget? Yes, but it can be fun, if you let it be. If you don't stress, if you don't compare or set unrealistic expectations. Will there be times of stress or frustration? Sure, but it'll be worth it. 
I hope over the months ahead (we have 10 months before the wedding) and after the wedding, to share some of our ideas, tips, etc..without giving away too much...lol.

My daughter is an organizer and I tease her that she will have this wedding planned in 3 months and have nothing to do the rest of the year. She might be okay with that since she will be juggling college classes, work and wedding planning. 

Here are a few ways we've saved some money already:


  • We have reserved a venue. Did you know that if you get married during a weekday (mon-thurs) you can save several hundred dollars. We checked out several venues that seemed to be able to seat what we wanted and in our price range. Many venues required you to use their own, or from a list of approved caterers (cha-ching) and did not include any options for other rentals. They were fairly basic and would also require quite a bit in the way of decorations to make them pretty. 
  • She already purchased a dress. While yes, going to the large bridal salons affords you with the latest styles, it also can kill the wallet. We weren't opposed to going to these places, but we found a few bridal shops in the nearby city of Portland, Oregon that were non-profit dress shops. Their proceeds from dress sales (all dresses are donated from larger bridal shops, designers, or brides...often maybe a year or so back in style) go towards a variety of causes. One shop's proceeds went to stopping sex trafficking (which is very prevalent here). Another shop donates 50% of it's sales to the cause Wish Upon a Wedding where it grants wedding and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness or other life altering situations. So while we could've went to a larger, franchise shop, the option of shopping local and helping a cause at the same time was more appealing. We attended an event put on by one of the shops, and let's just say my girl saved 90% on her dress and loves it. She, in no way feels like she settled. 
  •  Join some Wedding FB pages. We haven't purchased anything on these yet, but there are always things brides are selling, great places to find photographers, tips on what works and doesn't work, a place to say "hey where can I find this for a good price".  
I don't believe you have to settle because you are on a budget. I guess in some ways maybe you will. Instead of the 5 course sit down dinner that you would love to have, you may "settle" for a simple buffet, but I believe it's how you decide to feel about every choice you make that makes all the difference in the world. For us the 5 course sit down dinner, while it would be great, is not realistic, but a buffet might be (though not what we are doing). 

I'll share more as time progresses. We are looking forward to this fun journey. 




With Joy UNquenchable,

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mock Buffalo Wild Wings Wing Night

My oldest and her friends love going to Buffalo Wild Wings. If you don't know what that is, check out the link above. In a nutshell it is a restaurant that is especially known for it's "wings" and their variety of rubs and sauces. 


Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar is an American casual dining restaurant and sports bar franchise in the United States, Canada and México that is known for its Buffalo wings and sauces.

A month or so ago,  I came home to my daughter telling me that she and her friend were going to be making wings at home for their group of friends and could I please check her recipe and let her know what she needed to buy. It doesn't happen often, but I love when she decides to cook and even better when she has her friends over. 

She searched the internet for the recipes she wanted to make. In the end she decided to use our own homemade BBQ sauce recipe, a recipe she found online for Parmesan Garlic wings and then she bought a hot wing and teriyaki sauce from the store just to save some time.

Oh my goodness! My faves were the parmesan garlic and we've made them several times since then, along with the BBQ sauce. The recipe for the parmesan garlic came from the website Raining Hot Coupons. I don't know where it originated because I saw similar ones elsewhere on the net, but they get the credit tonight. These were the bomb! Serious competition with the real deal. There is nothing quite as fun as knowing you made a favorite restaurant dish from scratch...and probably with less ingredients. 

We served these with sides of celery and carrot sticks as well as Bleu Cheese and Ranch Dressing. Dipping the wings in the dressing helps to cool the heat (spiciness) of the wings. It makes the flavor pop. The downside of wings is it takes a lot and the ones I bought at Safeway weren't separated so that was a bit time consuming. Yes, I could've just left them together, but that's not how the restaurant does it..lol. My mother in law did find some at the local Winco that were separated. 


These are great for anytime...game time, meal time, snack time, potlucks. I did mine a little different than the recipe, but used all the ingredients. The sauce could also be used on any form of chicken.

NOTE: I doubled this recipe because I wanted it saucy. 




Parmesan Garlic Wings
Courtesy of Raining Hot Coupons

Ingredients:

6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1/2 c. mayonnaise or plain yogurt (I used mayonaise)
1 Tbs. corn syrup
2 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. In a small baking dish or a piece of foil, place garlic cloves and drizzle with oil. Cover with foil or fold up foil and bake 20-25 minutes till garlic is tender.
3. While the garlic is baking, combine the rest of the ingredients, whisking until smooth.
4. Let garlic cool, mash and add to ingredients. Adjust ingredients according to taste. 
5. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
6. Toss with your favorite wings for a great saucy dish.

NOTE #2: I didn't refrigerate my sauce. I wasn't sure about tossing my hot wings in a cold sauce. Though it's possible refrigerating it would bring out the flavors more. I placed mine on a stove to warm up or another time, I "basted" my wings with the sauce when they were almost cooked.

NOTE #3: I seasoned my wings with season salt, pepper and some garlic powder. Baked at 350-375 till done. 

NOTE #4: I think next time I will refrigerate the sauce, then warm it up slightly and THEN toss the wings in it and see what that does. 

Really, you can't go wrong, AT. ALL. They are just that yummy! 



With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, February 6, 2015

I LOVE Paper!!!

I absolutely LOVE technology, all things technology...I love my computers, my kindle, my iphone turned ipod, my digital camera. But I still really, REALLY love paper. Yes, I broke down and got a Kindle Fire HD last year and I love it and actually read more books on it now, but there's just something about turning a page in a book, or crossing off something on a to-do list, with an actual pen. Since I got married 23 years ago, I can't think of a time when I haven't had a planner of some sort...I like being organized, I like seeing things on paper. Did I say I Love paper?! 

Last year I decided to try doing all my scheduling, do to, etc..on my Kindle Fire. I took it everywhere with me so why not use it for everything. Right? Wrong! I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't do it. I'd forget things on my to-do and it just wasn't "fun". Not to mention the fact that I didn't want to spend money on some of the apps that are out there even if they are good. Don't ask me why..I'll spend money on a paper planner but not a digital one. I just like paper. 

One of the things I have struggled with as I search for the perfect planner (kind of like looking for the perfect pair of jeans), is finding the perfect fit. Often it seems that many planners are geared toward professionals working in an office, not "professional moms" juggling all of life. OR the ones that are geared toward "moms" were a little too overboard or geared alot towards "school" and my girls were homeschooled. Every now and then I tossed around the idea of creating my own planner, and maybe I will someday but there are so many options out there. 

When I first got married, there was an awesome Christian Womans' Dayplanner and I really liked it, then a friend of mine used a Franklin Covey Planner and I liked it, so I used that for several years. I've used several different ones over the years, so many, that I can't remember what they were. Some were basic, some were a little more detailed. One time I just used a notebook to write all my to do's and lists in. I'm not sure what I did for appointments. 

I thought I would share the last two planners I've used with you. The last one I just received last month so I haven't fully gotten a feel for it. I'll share what I liked and didn't like about each one. 

The first planner that I used last year was the Day Timer Family Life Planner. I loved almost everything about it....almost. 
 I found this planner at Target. I was in desperate need of a new one and while I'm not a fan of the color pink, I liked the inside. When I got it home and took the sticker off the front, it promptly pulled a huge layer of the cover off. No Bueno!!! So I improvised and made my own decoupaged piece to go over the tear. The cover was a weird material and while it was sturdy, the top layer easily separated. This planner was about an 8x10, which is great and has lots of room to write (which I love), but it was bulky to carry with me everywhere. 
 The monthly layout was great. Lined boxes (score for me) with room to write in appointments. I tend to use colored pens and use a different color for each person in my house, the boy I babysit and the lady I work for. It had a side bar for goals, and a section at the bottom for notes. I used those for whatever I felt like at the time. 
The inside was a weekly layout, divided up for individual members of the family. There are not 6 people in my house, so one column was for "school" and the other for my "work". This idea was great because in one glance I could see who had what going on. It could work for a student to put classes there with assignments. Downside was that often it was wasted space. I suppose I could have utilized it better. 
 The top left was for To Do/Errands...not a lot of room for my big writing, but it worked. Then you can see maybe how the layout would look for activities..
 Right side held spots for school and personal as well as an awesome Dinner Menu and a large space for notes. LOVED these sections. 

They made a smaller version of this planner but I didn't care for the layout. The only two downsides I would say about this one are the size (if you want to take it with you places), and my lack of utilizing the individual columns. NOW, if my kids went to public school and were younger, I could see these being utilized more. I would absolutely go back to this planner again. I actually tried to find it, but it was sold out online and I couldn't find it in the stores. 

Next up is the one I was blessed to get this year. Some friends gave me birthday money towards a new planner and this is the one I chose. It is by Erin Condren. Now, I had come across it and watched her video on the website and thought hmmmm..this looks pretty neat...then I saw this CRAZE going on that I didn't know existed. People "scrapbooking" their planners. Really!?! Seriously?!? Were my thoughts. So I watched video after video after video of how people decorate their planners. My thought was "they just spent $50 on a planner only to scrapbook in it?". To be fair, yes, they had practical life in there, but they did it often with stickers, etc..and that actually somewhat is what attracted me to this. Sometimes in the midst of planning, I forget things, or it's there but I somehow miss it. These gals were using stickers to make their planners "pop". There are some that go waaayy overboard, and others who are more simplistic..I lean towards simplistic. I haven't had it long and haven't had the extra money to buy "goodies" to adorn my planner, so we'll see what happens. 

 All purchases come with a personalized cover (see their website). However, if you want a quick ship, you will get a generic cover. I was ordering mine at the tail end of December and wanted a new one ASAP, so opted for the quick ship. I love the cover and the quote on the front of it, but I was very excited to create my own. This was everything that was in the package. 
Fun gift tags, notes, etc...it truly was a fun package to unwrap. It came in a pretty box, wrapped in purple tissue paper. 
I did pick up some goodies from the store, but not much. A few of the items I already had at home.  Below is the planner cover I chose.
This planner is spendy. $50.00, but I did get a $10 off coupon so that helped. This thing is sturdy. The cover is heavy and laminated, and totally personalized...and can be removed and replaced....LOVED THAT. Go to Erin Condren to check it out and also do a search on youtube for the many ways people use their planners...There are even FB pages...yes, you heard right...FB pages for planner scrapbooking...who woulda thought! So while mine hasn't been "stickerized" quite yet..maybe after I pay off a few things I'll get a few things. Here's the gist of it. So, cover..super sturdy, which I love.
The monthly boxes are a reasonable size. The coil binding is so sturdy, and every page has a reinforced edge. There's a section for notes. Each month is a different color scheme and every monthly layout has an encouraging quote.
Here is my January month..plenty of room to write. No room for extra decorations in mine, though I have seen some creativity out there that I might try. My #1 goal is it is a PLANNER, first and foremost. #2 if I can pretty it up or make it more useful through stickers, then awesome! Otherwise, it is what it is. I still have 10 1/2 months to go..lol
 Here is the monthly "weekly" pages. The three sections are "morning, day, night". I'm not quite sure how I feel about these yet. Many people replace those with other things like "to do, to call, work", etc..there are etsy shops out there that sell stickers for this or others use stamps...it's amazing what people do..I feel like I've been living in the dark ages. I just do whatever. I find I categorize by the three given ones, but sometimes they flow over (I don't usually have as much going on in the evening). I don't put my "scheduled" things here, mostly the to-do's.

There is a section on the side for goals and notes..again people change these..I did get a chuckle thinking "why did they buy this planner when all they do is change everything about it?" The pages are thicker which is nice. There is also the bottom of the page which I usually use for meal ideas and I started putting exercising on there. 
 Here is one of my weeks in January...the first one after I got it. People love to use washi tape so I bought a few rolls. Mine looked crooked. I tried. I also like that because it is spiral bound I can flip it over on itself, which makes it easy to work with. 

 Here's another week..again...plenty of room to write. It's just deciding how to best utilize it. 
In the bag are two pages of pre-printed stickers....ummm...that's a lot of birthdays! The other ones consist of "game", "day off", "hair appt.", "doc appt", "mani/pedi", "party" "vacation"and way too many of each of those...lol. there are 12 vacation stickers...uh...that should last me, oh, say, TEN YEARS. 6 Mani/Pedi stickers...um...I've had two in my entire life...I'm 46. So, those I felt were a bit overkill! For $50 I would love the option of customizing them. 
 Then there are two pages of blank ones, which are awesome. However, it would have been great if they weren't attached in the book but loosely in there so maybe they could be run through a printer. But still, it's great and the colors coordinate with the months. I've only used a few of these so far. 

Finally there is a pocket in the back and a zipper pouch for storing other things. I purchased some Pilot Frixion Pens to use with my planner and I love them. Easy to erase and they don't bleed through. 

I really like both of these planners. The second is still too new to say I "LOVE" it...there are things I LOVE about it, but certainly things I'd change, we'll see as the year progresses. 

When it comes to planning, organizing and scheduling our lives, there are so many options out there. I've seen many printable options on the internet that I've considered and maybe will try this next year. I just know for me...I need paper, I need to see it all in front of me...and even then, I still forget. 

What do you use for planning, organizing and scheduling your life?

With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, January 26, 2015

SRC Recipe: Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I love finding new recipes. Yes, sometimes I stick with tried and true and sometimes can get into a rut, but being a part of The Secret Recipe Club helps me get out of said rut, at least once a month. I love receiving a different blog each month, browsing through, reading about the blog author and then going through her many, many recipes to choose one to make for my reveal day. I have been in Group D for a few years and in March will move to a different group. Looking forward to new recipes and new blogs to check out. 


This month I was assigned the blog Fried Ice and Donut Holes. What a great name! Melissa is the blogs author and she is a teacher who loves cooking and baking. The name of her blog came from a story she shares about her grandpa. He would tell them if they didn't behave they'd be having Fried Ice and Donut Holes (AKA nothing). Check out her blog and read more about her and her awesome recipes. 

I had pinned one recipe but then every time I went back to find more recipes I couldn't open them...not sure what the problem was with my computer. Thankfully, the one recipe I pinned was one I really wanted to make so I stuck with that one. Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls were calling my name. I have always wanted to try lasagna rolls but for some really dumb reason I thought it would be too complicated. Uh, yah, NOT! They were so easy. Add in all the other ingredients and it was a sure winner! I love that portion control is easy with these..make just enough for each person to have two, maybe three rolls. I will be making these more often. 

I did a few things different with the sauce when it came to mixing it up.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SPINACH LASAGNA ROLLS

For the Sauce:

1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the squash and cook until soft. Drain squash reserving one cup of the water. Set aside. In a skillet over med-low heat, add olive oil, shallots and garlic. Sautee until soft and golden about 4-5 minutes. At this point I placed the squash, shallots and garlic in my food processor (I don't have an immersion blender). Turn processor on and add water until you have the consistency you desire...I wanted a more saucy consistency so I used the whole cup. I should have added more salt and pepper so we did that afterwards on top of the finished product. Ladle 1/2 cup or so to the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
For the Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles, cooked (I made a few more)
10 oz. of frozen spinach (I used fresh chopped fine)
15 oz. of ricotta
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
3 oz. italian cheese blend or just mozzarella
In a large bowl combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg and salt and pepper. *NOTE: If you use frozen spinach you will need to thaw and squeeze out all liquid. Lay the lasagna noodles on a flat service, making sure they are dry (I patted mine dry with a paper towel). Spread about 1/3 c. of mixture on each lasagna roll. Carefully roll the noodle up and lay seam side down in your 9 x 13 pan. Continue with remaining noodles. Spoon remainder of sauce on top of noodles, then top each roll with cheese (I put a slice of mozzarella on each one). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Devour!
Check out other great recipes from other bloggers.  


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