Project Snapshot Week 83

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The goal of this post is to capture a memory from the past week, either with a camera, words, or both.  Time passes in the blink of an eye and this will create a collection of treasured memories from throughout the year.

My Snapshot(s)

We were able to check out a local children's museum for free - thanks to free passes from our library - and while we enjoyed seeing Gv play with all of the interactive exhibits, I was so glad we were getting to see what the place was like without having to pay for it.

It wasn't that the museum was done poorly.  It was just that I thought we could do a much better job finding our own fun.

Even though our budget often limits what we get to do for entertainment, it also forces us to think outside the box to come up with alternatives.  Sure, it often strains the old brain to do this, but after this museum visit, I've realized that's a good thing.  Besides not having to fork over admission fees for some pre-made activity, I think our home-made memories are far superior.

And even better, these home-grown activities obviously have a positive effect on Gv.  A large portion of our time in this kid's museum was spent in a little side room that was filled with books, maps, puzzles, games and toys related to different parts of the world.  We had this little corner all to ourselves and Gv was perfectly content occupying herself for almost an hour:


"I want the camera around my neck.  Gv take pictures!"



Pretty cool composition for a two-year-old, in my opinion!  Maybe I should make her my official blog photographer!

What was your favorite memory from this past week?  I'd love to hear about it!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

5 After 5, Introductory Edition

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As I mentioned in last week's Answer Me This post, I've been working on my own idea for something similar ever since the weekly party ended last year.  After the fun came to a close back then, many readers requested that I just start it up again on my own, but after thinking about it, I came up with my own twist on the concept that I was planning to begin this summer.  

Once Kendra started her party back up for June & July, I put my plans on hold until she ended her Answer Me This run.  Last week was the final installment of this fun "virtual cocktail party" - so here I am to kick off my new endeavor.


Inspired also by 52 Lists and after continuing to get requests to start the Sunday thing up again, I decided to create a fun post for the weekend:  A list of 5 "whatevers" for a topic (not necessarily favorites) that happens every Saturday (after 5 weekdays, get it?)

At the end of each list, I'll post the next week's topic so you can be thinking of your response throughout the week and then show up on Saturday to join in, too.  You can leave your answers in that week's comments - or if you blog your list, you can leave the link to your post there, too.

If there are enough friends here leaving links, I'll turn this feature into a link party!

So what will the first list of 5 be?


List 5 things beside your bed right now

Do you think you'll join in the fun? I sure hope so! 

One of the best parts about participating in Kendra's "virtual cocktail party" was getting to read all the fun answers from everybody else!  If you're a blogger and you know you want to join in already, then tell me in the comments below and I'll go ahead and set up the link party for next week!

And if you're not a blogger, I hope you participate, too. Start thinking of your list!

Should I go ahead and set this weekly post up as a linky party?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Linked up with:  Merry MondayMotivation MondayThoughtful SpotMom 2 Mom MondayWhat'd You Do This WeekendTotally Terrific TuesdayTwo Uses TuesdayDo Tell TuesdayLou Lou Girls Fabulous PartyTell it to Me Tuesday, Good Tips TuesdayTalented Tuesday, Wordless WednesdayA Little Bird Told MeWFMWHit Me With Your Best Shot, The Mommy Club, Summer Family Fun PartyCreative MusterGrandma Ideas, The Ladies CollectiveThis Is How We Roll, Frugal Family LinkyCreative WaysHearts for HomeCreative Exchange,I'm Lovin' It,Kitchen Fun & Crafty, Inspiration SpotlightHome MattersPretty Pintastic PartyFront Porch FridayWeekend PotluckAwesome Life FridayCreative Collection

Simple Homemade Bug Spray

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I've switched out many different household cleaning products for natural versions that I make myself (like odor eliminator, clothes and diaper detergent, dishwasher soap, and hand soap), but this was the first personal product that I actually tried creating on my own.

Finding a better bug spray was definitely a priority for us once Gv was born, because there was no way we wanted to spray scary chemicals all over our little baby.

But we live in Florida, where bugs are just a part of life all year round, and we like to do things outdoors, so we needed to figure out a solution pretty quickly after she arrived.

I'd seen lots of different recipes for DIY bug spray, but most of them seemed more complicated than I was looking for (my lazy self is always looking for a cheap shortcut), so I decided to experiment a little bit and see if I could come up with something simpler that worked.

While I'm still playing around with some stronger (read: stinkier) formulas that use more potent apple cider vinegar and fresh herbs that steep for a month at a time, I have hit upon a good, everyday mixture that doesn't smell bad and is a snap to throw together.


What You Need


1 part white vinegar (just fill half your bottle with it)

1 part distilled water (fill the other half with this and make sure the water is distilled so you don't grow a colony of disgusting mold!)

10 drops each of a variety of essential oils (we use citronella, tea tree, peppermint and sweet orange to help deter bugs, but we also make sure to include this one so that the spray smells good (which actually helps repel bugs, too!)

an empty spray bottle (I got ours at our local $ store, but these look great, too)


What You Do


1.  Dump everything into your spray bottle.

2.  Shake really well before each use.

3.  Start spritzing!

See, I told you it was easy!  And we've found that the scent is so much better than conventional bug sprays, too.  You might notice a little vinegar smell when you first spray it on, but it fades pretty quickly.  And if one of the oils (like citronella) smells too overpowering, just increase the amount of sweet orange and lavender.  You can even add in your favorite scent to tailor the formula to your preferences!


Do you do battle with bugs whenever you step outside your door, but don't want a flurry of nasty chemicals swirling around your head?  Then try this recipe for a homemade version.  Not only is it more natural, but it's cheap, too!  What do you think?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.  

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox. 

Linked up with:  Merry MondayMotivation MondayThoughtful SpotMom 2 Mom MondayWhat'd You Do This WeekendTotally Terrific TuesdayTwo Uses TuesdayDo Tell TuesdayLou Lou Girls Fabulous PartyTell it to Me Tuesday, Good Tips TuesdayTalented Tuesday, Wordless WednesdayA Little Bird Told MeWFMWHit Me With Your Best Shot, The Mommy Club, Summer Family Fun PartyCreative MusterGrandma Ideas, The Ladies CollectiveThis Is How We Roll, Frugal Family LinkyCreative WaysHearts for HomeCreative Exchange,I'm Lovin' It,Kitchen Fun & Crafty, Inspiration SpotlightHome MattersPretty Pintastic PartyFront Porch FridayWeekend PotluckAwesome Life FridayCreative Collection

We Did it Again - Another FREE Family Vacation!

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Last summer, we had a newly-turned one-year-old, a tight budget, and a big desire to get away for a family vacation.  After considering our options, we hit upon an idea that turned out to fulfill pretty much all our wishes.  

This year, we decided to repeat the experience, but for an even longer period of time.

Now we're back from our mountain jaunt - and not only was this year's getaway a success, but we again spent nearly nothing to take it.

You can read all about last year's campout here, but this post will fill you in on how we were able to take what we learned from our previous trip and make improvements.


Campsite


Once again, we headed back up to the same free camping area as last year, but this time, we did it more intelligently.  

Last year, we'd arrived on a Friday evening at dusk and drove around busy forest roads for a couple of hours before finally finding a site that was available.  The site worked fine, but was littered with shards of broken glass, piles of rusty nails, and was located next to the parking area for a popular trailhead.  There were always lots of people in the vicinity - not exactly something you're looking for when you head into the woods for a peaceful getaway.

This year, we arrived on a Monday afternoon and pretty much had our pick of sites in the area.  We had plenty of time to drive around and inspect the various options - this was going to be our home for the next month, after all - before finding the perfect location and getting set up, well before dark.


An earlier site arrangement - we went through four configurations before being satisfied with the layout

Food


I again made lots of snack-type items (like sweet potato crackers, chia crackershomemade granola and protein bites) to have on-hand so that we wouldn't be tempted to buy a bunch of junk - or even healthy snacks - that would break the bank.  That's all we brought up with us, though.  Since we spent so much time last year investigating the grocery and farmer's market options in the area, we knew we'd be able to find everything else we needed without hauling it up and having it commandeer valuable car space.  Also, last year we signed up for discount shopper cards at all the locations, so we just needed to pull those out again and we were all set to save.

We don't consider the food we buy while camping to be a separate vacation cost - because we'd have to buy groceries at home anyway - and so we just stay within our normal food budget for the month.

But, we eat a lot different than at home - in many ways, I think better (as in, more fun!)  Sure, lentils and quinoa continue to to make appearances on a regular basis, but campfire cooking also means we eat meat as a treat (we don't usually buy it at home).  Besides the meat and splurging on lots of yummy cheese, we seem to also consume especially large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables - whatever's in season is just so much cheaper up there, where people seem to appreciate the whole slow food movement more than at home.

And like last year, we enjoyed a few eating-out excursions, as well.  This year we signed up to receive Groupons for the area - and that meant getting to eat at two of our favorite farm-to-table restaurants, a round of local BBQ, and several trips to our favorite ice cream and gelato spots.


Scallops
Crab-Stuffed Avocado
The first of many ice cream splurges

Gas


Once again, we pretty much stayed within our normal budget range for this (remember, one car was sitting at home in the garage, so that alone was a huge savings) even though we had a long drive up and back and all sorts of gas-guzzling treks along the way through winding mountain passes.  But we didn't go out every day, and coordinated our away-from-camp sightseeing with trips to town to restock the cooler ice, and since we knew the area so well from last year, we didn't have to do a lot of driving around to investigate things, so our road trip excursions were purely for entertainment purposes.


Sightseeing


We didn't spend a single thing on this - which is easy to do when you're smack dab in the middle of nature's playground - yet still returned home with a long bucket list to save for next time.

We spent most of our time hiking to beautiful spots like this:



And this:



And playing in all the free water parks in the area:



But not all of our excitement was of the primitive sort.  We also had a great time taking part in all sorts of authentic fun that only a small town provides, like some great museums (which can often be free, if you dig around a little bit):



And small town festivals:



And mountain music jams at the senior center:



And quirky rubber duck races down a college stream:





Before we left home, we again turned off our water and unplugged everything except the refrigerators, saving us over $100 on utilities and giving us a cushion for things like food and gas (& allowing us to have a few splurgy treats - like the ice cream runs!)

I realize this type of trip isn't for everyone (the exclusion of indoor plumbing is a pretty big deterrent, I'm sure!), but if you're not afraid to get a little dirty, do a little work, and think outside of the box a bit, then this idea might just be perfect for you!


Have you ever really wanted to to take a family vacation when money is tight, but didn't know what to do?  Try applying some of these ideas to your own getaway preferences - and  then let me know what you come up with, because I'd love to hear all about it!  Leave a comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.  

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox. 

Linked up with:  Merry MondayMotivation MondayThoughtful SpotMom 2 Mom MondayWhat'd You Do This WeekendTotally Terrific TuesdayTwo Uses TuesdayDo Tell TuesdayLou Lou Girls Fabulous PartyTell it to Me Tuesday, Good Tips TuesdayTalented Tuesday, Wordless WednesdayA Little Bird Told MeWFMWHit Me With Your Best Shot, The Mommy Club, Summer Family Fun PartyCreative MusterGrandma Ideas, The Ladies CollectiveThis Is How We Roll, Frugal Family LinkyCreative WaysHearts for HomeCreative Exchange,I'm Lovin' It,Kitchen Fun & Crafty, Inspiration SpotlightHome MattersPretty Pintastic PartyFront Porch FridayWeekend PotluckAwesome Life FridayCreative Collection

Summer Family Fun Party, Week #7

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I've been having so much fun joining a great group of moms this summer for this link party and I can't wait to see what amazing things you will be sharing next!

The party goes live every Tuesday at 8 p.m. and when you link up your awesome summer fun post, it will be shared on 30 different blogs, which means thousands of new readers will have the chance to see all of your amazing ideas!

In case you missed it, here's what I've been up to lately:

It would be great if you showed a little love to all of the other wonderful party co hosts:     

Barb of A Life in Balance Mitzi of Written Reality Jen of Making Our Life Matter Candi of A Day in Candiland Steph of A Grande Life Laina of The Art of Living Fabulously Reesa of Momma Lew Bethany of The Southern Couture Paris of My Big Fat Happy Life Brenda of Schooling a Monkey Stefanie of Making of a Mom Katie of A Mother Thing Heather of Divas Run for Bling Stephanie of Stuck in Your Rut Laci of Sequins in the South Kristia of Family Balance Sheet Wendy of The Art Of "Why Not?" Nichole of Sweet October Angie of Joyful Journey Lux of About Life And Love Nikki of Tikkido Shirley of Intelligent Domestications Rhonda of MultiTaskingMaven Holly of While I'm Waiting... Lisa of Syncopated Mama Tina of Mom Is Forever Vicki of Five Spot Green Living Kim of Life in a House of Testosterone Liz of Motherhood Muse Sofia of FUN WITH A MESSAGE

Project Snapshot Week 82

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and purchase something, I'll receive a small affiliate
commission at no cost to you. Thanks so much for supporting my efforts with this blog!


The goal of this post is to capture a memory from the past week, either with a camera, words, or both.  Time passes in the blink of an eye and this will create a collection of treasured memories from throughout the year.

My Snapshot(s)


Most of our excitement this past week has involved unpacking a car full of camping gear and washing still-damp clothes that never managed to dry out, despite being hung on a clothesline continuously for a month.

However, we finally got a new (to us) lawnmower a few days ago, so that means all of our neighbors are probably driving our house cheering after staring at our overgrown weed patch for so long.

Gv thinks it's just the right size for her to "drive," too.

What was your favorite memory from this past week?  I'd love to hear about it!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Answer Me This, Final Edition

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Ever since Answer Me This ended last year, I've had many readers request that I just start it up again on my own.  I'd thought about it, but recently came up with my own twist on the concept that I was planning to begin in the summer.  

Once Kendra started her party back up for June & July, I put my plans on hold until she ended her Answer Me This run.  Today is the last installment of this fun "virtual cocktail party" - so make a note to come back here this coming Saturday (or sign up as a subscriber & get free update so you don't forget!) to join me in my new endeavor.

I'd love to have all my wonderful Answer Me This friends join me!

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge?

I was first going to say cheese, because we love cheese so much around here, but then I realized that this is a "splurge" we've purposefully worked into our budget on a regular basis, so it probably doesn't count.  So I'll go with meat, because we never have it at home and fix it only for special occasions or when we encounter a crazy-good sale while we're shopping with our $15-off coupon at Whole Foods.

Mmmm...dead animal products roasting away on the grill...
2. How's your penmanship?

That depends.  If I'm writing for others, I'd say it's pretty good (I was an elementary teacher, after all!), but if I'm just scribbling something down for myself, then pretty awful:

Notes I scribbled from a recent book I read - script that would make any doctor proud!
Our current errands list - after all, G needs to read it, too

3. Do you have a "Summer Bucket List?"

I kind of feel like summer is over for us already, because we've just returned from our month spent camping in the woods and now G is already getting back in the school-year groove with trainings for the upcoming year, but I'm still hoping to use our free teacher's passes to a nearby theme park before they expire... and get some house projects done...

This is our shower.  Be jealous...

...be very jealous...

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now?

I usually only play the radio when I'm in the car and I'm not really in it so much now that I'm not driving a couple hours to and from work every day, but I still love my local Christian station and especially the morning show they have.  However, since we've just returned from a month in the mountains, all we've heard lately are various channels of bluegrass music and so I have no clue what's even on the radio right now...

5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt?


Gelato all the way, although since we're not living in Italy, I guess I'll go with ice cream.

Mmmm...homemade rosemary gelato at a farm-to-table restaurant in NC

6. Have you had that baby NOW? (Again, you can skip this one if you want.)

Hahaha - this one cracked me up.  I guess Kendra's pretty over being pregnant, by this point!

And as a later edition to this post, it turns out that she had the baby yesterday - a "surprise" home birth - so I'm sure that will be a great story, when she gets the chance!

What are your answers?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com - and leave your answers here, if you aren't adding a link to Kendra's site!

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox

17 Pounds of Blueberries & What Do You Do? 10 Sweet & Savory Recipes for You to Make

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Way back, over a year ago, we went blueberry picking.  I froze a ton of the berries to use in recipes and slowly began using them up and posting the recipes here.


Since I knew there was no way we could consume all 17 pounds of berries before they went bad, I vacuum-sealed them (love my gizmo for this), all measured out and labeled for each recipe before sticking them in the freezer.

Then lightning struck our happy home.

And our freezer got zapped.

And I suddenly had to make everything that was in the freezer, because I didn't want to lose all that food.

I actually managed to save all the food and even cooked and baked up all the dishes I'd planned to use the frozen blueberries in, but with all the hubbub and craziness, I only had time to snap quick, sub par photos and scribble down a few notes as quick drafts for the recipe posts.

Well, it's blueberry season again here and while we decided not to engage in any picking ourselves this year, I did discover all those blueberry recipes just sitting and gathering dust in my drafts folder - and while the photos leave a lot to be desired (maybe next year we'll go pick berries again and I can update them all), the recipes are still just as tasty.

So, here are ten creative mouth-watering dishes for you to try that will help you out after your own blueberry picking adventure (click on the titles to get the recipes): 


















Would you believe we gobbled this up so fast, I didn't even manage to get a photo of it?  Yeah, it's that good.  Click on over and try it out.


















Bewitching Blueberry Crumb Bars



I just realized that I'd never written the post for these bars or the cobbler that follows, so I'll include their recipes here:

What You Need:

1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking powder (are you making your own yet?)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest & juice from one lemon
4 cups blueberries
4 teaspoons arrowroot

What You Do:

1.  Mix honey, baking powder and flour together in a medium bowl.  Then add in the salt and lemon zest.

2.  Cut the butter and egg into that mixture (it will be crumbly) and smoosh half of it into a 9 x 13 pan.

3.  Stir together the berries and arrowroot in another bowl (if you like things sweet, you might want to add some sugar, but we think the berries are sweet enough) and then pour that over the crust.

4.  Crumble the rest of the flour mixture over the berries and bake for 60 minutes at 375 degrees. 

Brash Blueberry Cobbler



What You Need:

5 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (are you making your own yet?)
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What You Do:

1.  Toss the berries with the sugar and pour into an 8-inch baking dish.

2.  Pulse the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined, then add the butter and pulse again until the mixture is crumbly.

3.  Beat in the egg and vanilla by hand and then drop onto the berry mixture.

4.  Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. 



Believe it or not, many of these ideas came from some I'd already tried after we went strawberry picking.  Read all about great sweet & savory strawberry suggestions here.

Have you ever picked more blueberries than you'd planned and don't know what to do with them, besides make muffins and pancakes?  Which idea intrigues you the most?  Can you think of any others to try?  I'd love to hear!  Leave a comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.  

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox. 

Linked up with:  Merry MondayMotivation MondayThoughtful SpotMom 2 Mom MondayWhat'd You Do This WeekendTotally Terrific TuesdayTwo Uses TuesdayDo Tell TuesdayLou Lou Girls Fabulous PartyTell it to Me Tuesday, Good Tips TuesdayTalented Tuesday, Wordless WednesdayA Little Bird Told MeWFMWHit Me With Your Best Shot, The Mommy Club, Summer Family Fun PartyCreative MusterGrandma Ideas, The Ladies CollectiveThis Is How We Roll, Frugal Family LinkyCreative WaysHearts for HomeCreative Exchange,I'm Lovin' It,Kitchen Fun & Crafty, Inspiration SpotlightHome MattersPretty Pintastic PartyFront Porch FridayWeekend Potluck, Awesome Life Friday, Creative Collection,