How to Dress for Early Fall

Summer is officially winding down, and with the start of the school year right around the corner, Fall is on my brain. I’m ready to whip out my boots and sweaters, aren’t you? If your local weather isn’t quite on board yet, there are still ways to incorporate some Fall fashion into your wardrobe!

Booties

If you’re not ready to break out your knee length boots yet, booties are a great early Fall alternative that will last you the entire season. You can even wear them with skirts and dresses if it’s still too warm for jeans or long pants! what to wear early fall work

Vests

Can’t imagine going long-sleeved yet? Vests are a great layering piece that don’t add a lot of weight. Try a cargo vest or a faux leather version!cargo vest with shorts

Neutrals and Browns

Mixing earth tones into your wardrobe is a great way incorporate hints of Fall. Think creams, khaki and brown leather accessories.early fall work wear

Light scarves

A lightweight scarf won’t be too heavy for even the warmest of early Fall days. Look for plaids or moody prints to switch your look up for the new season.

lightweight scarves for fallHow will you incorporate Fall accents into your wardrobe?

 

Tips for Learning a Second Language

Hello everyone!

Can I just say I love being here? I love coming here to write about other cultures and encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something different. While you can usually find me writing about inspiring women to embrace their beautiful, I am also passionate about what I write here!

A few posts ago I wrote about teaching your kids another language – whether or not you speak that language yourself. Unfortunately, America doesn’t start teaching a second language until around age 12 when it is sometimes too late for the mind to ever grasp that language as a first language. I want to encourage families to make a change in their own home and start introducing and learning another language.

So today I am going to talk about adults learning another language and some tips I’ve picked up along the way. In case you’re wondering what kind of credentials I have on the subject, I have lived in France on and off for the last 7 years and now I can finally say that I am fluent in French. And MAN was that a long road! I still wouldn’t consider myself perfect, but enough to to the point that my entire life in France exists in French. No one switches to English for me and that makes me feel good.

Tips for learning a second language

Tips for learning another language

Let me start by saying I do understand if you don’t live in a country that speaks the language you are trying to learn it can be a lot harder. It will take a little bit more effort, but it’s still doable to the point of communication. To be entirely fluent, you might have to spend some legitimate time in that country to really pick it up. Let’s get started on the practical tips you can do to learn another language.

Just start

It’s intimidating, looking down at all these words can appear to be gibberish to you. It can seem overwhelming looking at a whole sentence when you can barely understand one word. I get it, I’ve been there! But just start. Pick up a very simple learning book and start at the beginning. Start by learning one or two words and move onto verbs and then maybe conjugations. You’ll be surprised how fast you progress!

Consistency

Now there’s no set time you should study per day, but you should be doing it daily. Set a time, early in the morning, at night before you go to bed, during kids nap times, or whatever works for you and just do it. It may not seem like a lot or even enough, but when you add it up over the course of the week and then month, you’re getting a lot of language practice in!

CDs

I used these a lot before marrying my husband and moving to France. I had about a 45 minute commute to work and I would listen to Pimsleur French CD’s. I would say this gave me a nice base of the language. I could say simple sentences and I learned some new vocabulary words. I could order a cup of coffee in French. It wasn’t a lot, but when you piece these things all together, it added up!

Find Friends

The best kind of friends are those who speak the language you want to learn. When I was in college and studying Spanish, I actually found a Spanish speaking church to attend. I didn’t get too much out of the service, but I got to chat with a bunch of Spanish speaking people each week. Some would even call me up and chat on the phone to give me a little extra practice. Very helpful!

You can also look into finding others who are wanting to learn the language as well. It won’t be as helpful, as it’s hard to correct other’s mistakes, but we all do better in groups, even if just for encouragement.

Associations

It’s amazing that there are associations for things right under our noses that we didn’t even know existed. I’m speaking to myself here too! There is a group called Alliance Francaise which has chapters all over the world! There is one 45 minutes from my house and I had no idea! Simply do a little Google research for a similar association or alliance in your area for the language you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen French, I’ve already done that research for you. Now just look them up, find a chapter near you, and get involved! They even have language summer camps for kids.

Local University or Junior College

Consider taking a class at the local university or jr. college. You will likely encounter many like-minded people there. Just take a simple summer course and make it your goal to become friends with the professors for teacher’s aids so you can potentially get some help outside of class. Up until this last year I had never taken a French class. I could speak at a pretty high level but didn’t know a ton of grammar and my writing was atrocious! After just one semester I improved so much!

Language Exchange

Guess what — there are people all over the world also wanting to learn another language! And a lot of them are wanting to learn English! Thankfully, there are plenty of sites that bring people together to allow them to teach each other their own language. Try Googling language exchange and you will see quite a few. Some might be in your area, some might just become pen pals and give you a reason to visit another country. Either way, you’ll be learning the real language, not just from a book, but rather from a native speaker and you will be helping someone in return. Oh and it’s free!

Don’t be afraid to mess up

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something stupid or offensive or that simply didn’t make sense. I’ve made a fool out of myself plenty of times and no, it isn’t fun. No one wants to feel that way. But it’s part of the struggle. Try to remember you’re end goal. Don’t worry about what people think of you in that moment. Just speak. If it comes out wonky, try again. If they don’t understand, use as many hand gestures as you can. You’ll get your point across, eventually. If you let the fear of messing up prevent you from practicing you’ll never improve. I hate to be harsh, but it’s true.

Just speak

This piggy-backs on the last one, but it’s also different. When you have to sit there and translate every word coming out of your mouth, it’s hard, slow, and tiring. My encouragement and advice would to be just spit it out. Don’t worry about the conjugation or word form, just say it. Either you’ll get your point across enough so that they understand and that’s that or if it’s that bad, they’ll correct you and you’ve learned something new. It’s a lot harder to understand someone who’s saying “je me – no wait – je m’appelle – wait, was that wrong? what’s the word again?” You get the idea. Just spit it out, the other stuff will come!

Now one last side note on why I believe you should be learning another language. You might be thinking “I have two young kids at home, it’s all I can do to keep them alive!” I get that, I really do. Here are my reasons you should give it a shot:

  • Something for you – diapers are only so fulfilling. Learning another language is time to yourself to work your mind.
  • Sense of accomplishment – I cannot tell you how good it feels when I can spend the day speaking French. You will start to feel this as you make progress!
  • Keep your mind sharp – As we get older, life gets harder! Learning another language stretches your mind, like a mental work out! It will keep you sharp!
  • Progress in your studies – The more languages, the more opportunities!
  • You never know where it will take you – You really never know where life will take you, speaking another language – even if not fluently – can open up so many doors!

I hope you’re encouraged today to start learning another language! It’s hard, but it’s not as intimidating as you’re thinking. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Baby steps and you’ll be speaking in no time!!

Go get ‘em!

Top 5 Family Friendly Activities in Florida

It’s no secret that Florida is the ultimate family vacation spot. The land of sunshine, beaches and Disney World offers a plethora of fun for families big and small, old and young. I was born in Florida, and though we moved away when I was young, this was the place we always came for vacation. so saltwater runs through my veins. When my husband and I were able to relocate our family here a few years ago, I felt like a small piece of my soul had finally come home.

While Disney World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens are the obvious fun-time reasons to visit Florida, many people miss out on the smaller, hidden gems that the state has to offer. For those of you looking forward to a Florida vacation in the future, I offer you my Top 5 Family Friendly Activities in Floridaand not one of them is affiliated with the giant mouse.

Floridapost

1.) Visit Seaside – Seaside, Florida is a gem of a town. A throwback to the days of yore, Seaside feels like a coastal Mayfield. It is quaint, historic, quiet and peaceful. The streets are built for walking and riding bikes, and the slower pace allows for greater relaxation. Situated on the Gulf Side of the state, Seaside offers the pleasure of a sugar-soft, white sand beach which beautifully compliments the gentile pastel houses and historical buildings.

Seaside is a town that looks and feels as idyllic as it sounds. Don’t miss an opportunity to soak in this serene locale.

2.) Weeki Wachee Springs Park - For almost 60 years, Weeki Wachee Springs Park has mesmerized visitors with its natural Florida beauty and unique attractions. You thought mermaids were a myth, but Weeki Wachee Springs just may change your opinion.

The spring in Weeki Wachee bubbles daily at 74 degrees. With water flowing steadily from subterranean caverns, it’s reported that the bottom of Weeki Wachee Springs has never actually been found. Not only can you enjoy the mermaid shows in the underwater springs, but you can enjoy a variety of Animal Shows, an afternoon ambling through the park, and a full day splashing in Buccaneer Bay, the nation’s only spring-fed water park.

Located an hour north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee Springs is an easy day trip for Gulf Coast vacationers.

My kids enjoying a little dolphin spotting on Clearwater Beach.

My kids enjoying a little dolphin spotting on Clearwater Beach.

3.) Clearwater Beach – Consistently voted one of the nation’s top family-friendly beaches, Clearwater long lives up to it’s name. Stretching for miles down Florida’s Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach is the epitome of Florida beauty. The sand is powdery and soft, the beach wide and pristine.

A large playground is situated right next to Pier 60, where nightly entertainment keeps families occupied with street shows, handmade vendors, and outdoor movies. You can take a ride on Captain Memo’s Pirate Ship, or visit the famous Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Want a little downtime away from the hustle and bustle? Walk a half mile down the beach to the SandPearl Resort and grab a table at Tate’s Grill. You’ll enjoy a glass of wine and an unobstructed view of the sunset while your children play in the sand nearby. (Tip from a local – Give your children a few glow sticks after the sun goes down. This will allow you to continue your relaxation next to the fire pit, which is lit nightly, and you can still keep up with your kiddos in the dark as their glow sticks bounce around the beach.)

tortugas 4278

Photo by Jenni of Avodah Images.com

4.) Dry Tortugas National Park – I’m biased to the Gulf Coast…clearly. But there are some amazing gems to be found on the Atlantic side of the state as well, not the least of which is Dry Tortugas National Park. Now I have, admittedly, never been to this park, but it was placed high on my bucket list a few months ago after seeing a friend’s photos from her family’s visit.

Situated 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas is surrounded by the clear blue waters that define Southern Florida and stretch into the Carribbean. Accessible only by boat or sea plane, Dry Tortugas boasts a brilliant shoreline, ample snorkeling, and is the home of the Fort Jefferson National Monument designed by Franklin D. Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act in 1935.

In short, Dry Tortugas is worth the time and investment it takes to get there.

5.) The Everglades – A unique treasure located in South Florida, the Everglades give visitors a chance to soak in Florida’s spectacular nature. We are more than beaches and sand, my friends. We also boast miles of shallow marshes and swamps, and a variety of wildlife that all come together in the Everglades to form a balanced ecosystem.

You can ride on a airboat, look for gators living in their natural habitats, or simply enjoy the peaceful act of bird watching. There’s plenty for young ones to both enjoy and learn from a day spent in the Everglades, and if you find yourself needing some time out of the direct sunshine, this is the place to visit.

Florida has so much more to offer than theme parks and tourist traps. The land is beautiful and serene, peaceful and wild. So the next time you plan your Florida vacation, I urge you to take some of these lesser known locations into consideration.

Happy vacationing!

Dry Tortugas Photo Credit

Keeping Memories One Day at a Time: The App that Makes it Possible

I sat on her bed and watched her as she brushed her teeth. I found myself staring at her long hair, her coltish legs, wondering if it is really possible that she has grown an inch and a half in the last ten weeks. I was feeling particularly nostalgic, reflecting on the many sweet moments we’ve shared this Summer.

Then quickly she stuck her tongue out at her reflection and followed it up with a good funny face at me and I was reminded she is still my little girl.

Delaney2006Thumbsucking

The moments seem to be flying by at warp speed. I’m not sure how it is she has morphed from the little thumb-sucking girl who’s first word was ‘bit’ – short for blanket, to a young girl obsessed with all things softball, basketball, St. Louis Rams, Harry Potter, and *finally* getting a locker for the very first time at school.

Delaney Mom St. Louis Rams Sidelines

When did she get so tall? So self-confident? So tough and beautiful?

There are these moments when I find myself staring at her, especially now as we are simply one day away from yet another monster milestone – her first day of 5th grade – that my mind becomes a kaleidoscope of memories: her first steps, her love of sports, her freckles and silly faces, her refusal to wear pink, the feel of her hand in mine – then and now, her voice – oh I how adore the singing voice that she keeps hidden from most of the world, and the way she takes care of her little brother – most of the time.

Does it sound a little like I’m having a hard time with my girl growing up? I suppose I am. It is beautiful to watch her as she makes the leap from my baby into a true young girl, so full of her own thoughts, opinions and questions.

I must have thousands of pictures – too many of them still sitting on my computer or on my phone and oh-so-many videos of moments captured here and there, but not enough that show how their personalities have shifted, how their language has modified, how their opinions of the world and themselves have changed as THEY have changed.

Enter One Day.

One Day is an app that allows you to create a video time capsule of your child based on a series of questions in different categories: Your Favorite Things, All About You, Advice for your Parents, Summer Fun, Vacation Memories, Tongue Twisters and so many more. It is amazing. And easy. And in a matter of moments you have a video of your small people – captured. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the process.

One Day App - A Video Time Capsule for Memories

Within each series, there are 10 questions (you can answer 2 or 10 – you choose).

After you record your child answering the first question in the series, you stop recording and are given an option to save (if you loved it) or delete (if you want to start over on that one).


One Day App - A Video Time Capsule for Memories

You then return to your main screen and click on the middle button with the four squares to be taken to all of the different series of clips you’ve started. Choose the category (in this case ‘My Favorite Things’) so you can see the first clip in the series.

One Day App - A Video Time Capsule for Memories

 

Then click on the video camera button to the right – it will then prompt you to answer, record and save the second question and the app will add it to the moments below. You’ll do the same for as many of the ten questions in the series you’d like your child to tackle.

One Day App - A Video Time Capsule for Memories

When you are done, click the upload button in the top right hand corner of your screen. The video will be saved to your One Day account and you can then share it automatically to Facebook or Twitter, or save it to your phone and then share it right to YouTube. That’s what I did here.

Here’s what I love: my small people change so much each month, each year – from their opinions to the way the pronounce certain words to the sound of their sweet voices. This app allows me to capture all of them, in all of their beautiful glory, in only a matter of minutes. I love that a year from now – maybe even within six months, I’ll be able to capture their ‘favorites’ again. Will Delaney still love the Rams AND the Orioles? Will she still favor mac and cheese over all else? Will Coop still tell me that his favorite thing to do is play catch with his dad? (My best is yes.) And will Mike Trout still be his favorite athlete? Now, I have a way of knowing and documenting it all – easily – each step of the way.

And you do too – One Day is free on iTunes (at least it is for now!)

Fun note, just in time –  a ‘Back to School’ series of questions is coming so very soon. I can’t wait.

If you’d like to connect with the One Day crew on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest - you certainly can – they happily answer questions and are thrilled to be seeing these time capsule moments popping up.

Disclosure: I’m thrilled to have partnered with OneDay to share this app with you – as always, all thoughts and opinions shared are mine and mine alone. (My kids love it EASILY as much as I do!)

 

Best Back to School Items…for Moms!


back-to-school-for-moms

You amazing, awesome mother, you. You are already diligently cataloging whether Charlie needs jeans, if Eve needs a new backpack and where to find the best back-to-school deals for your kids. You will research the best place to snag those sneaks that your son has to have, and look high and low for an Elsa and Anna lunch bag.

You will scour the Internet and trek the mall in order to find those items that will make your children happy and proud when they enter the doors of their school that first day.

But wait! As usual, you are forgetting someone. Yourself! To keep everyone organized and the trains running on time, there are a few items that YOU, Mother of Dragons, can totally use for #backtoschool. You may not need a plaid skirt or number two pencils, but you can use these fabulous, functional items especially for dedicated moms.

momAgenda Desktop Planner $43 Keep all of your work, personal and kids’ appointments organized in this beautiful, intuitive planner developed with you– the over-extended mom — in mind. There is something about keeping track of all family plans in a paper calendar that keeps your commitments, deadlines and just your mind more organized.

Wall Pops Calendar $14.99 A dry-erase calendar in a family common area helps everyone in the house. Train the kids to check what they need to bring with them to school that day (their instrument? gym shoes? art folio?) and what activities are planned for the afternoon and evening. We love how these calendars are constructed on wall decals so not only are they reusable month to month, they are super easy to hang, rehang and are not bulky on the wall.

Ikea Rissla Magazine File  $9.99 Do you live a double life of working woman and M-O-M? Then a two-sided file is perfect for your duality. Keep the PTA handbook and soccer phone tree on one side, and your agenda, work forms, expense sheets, etc. on the other side.

Cozi Family Organizer App Free House your entire family’s to-do lists, digital calendars and shopping lists in one place that syncs and shares all users’ additions. Sending your husband a shopping list or reminding your teen about his orthodontist appointment has never been so painless.

Handbag Handcuff $42 If your car is your command center, then your purse is your co-pilot. Keep that baby safe and from toppling over at red lights with this crazy helpful innovation (invented by a mom…of course!) Just attach one cuff to your bag and the other cuff to your car’s headrest post. Your goods will be secured from spilling all over your passenger seat and car floor.  

Lifeproof Phone Case $59.99 – $89.99 Drops, spills, cracks, dunks and more hazards threaten your precious smart phone daily when you are a busy parent. We love how this case offers optimum screen, device and liquid protection while still remaining sleek enough to slip into a pocket of skinny jeans.

What back to school item for YOU is at the top of your list? Share with us! 

 

Easy DIY Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece

Hi everyone!  Kasey from All Things Mamma here! I’m back this month with an easy and fun craft to do for Labor Day!

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of summer.  But, I’m not ready to hang up my beach towel and sandals just yet! Labor Day is right around the corner and that means picnics and cookouts galore!  I love a good old fashioned back yard cookout with friends, family, hotdogs and hamburgers.  It doesn’t have to be fancy but it does have to be fun! If you know me…you know that I also love to decorate and dress things up a bit.  It just makes things more fun!  So, this month I’m sharing an easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece idea that you can do in just a little time before your family gathering!

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

Mason jars are everywhere right now and I’m loving them!  I love new ones, old ones, blue and green ones.  I can’t get enough!  I also can’t get enough of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint!  That’s a whole blog post in itself – so I’ll just share how I brought the two together for this adorable centerpiece!

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

First you’ll need to gather some supplies.  This really can be a creative project for you to come up with what you like – but I’ll fill you in on how I made it my own!

You’ll need:

Mason jars – any size you’d like.
Red and blue acrylic paint
White chalk paint
foam brushes
stencils in stars and stripes
table cloth or fabric of your choice
twine

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

Enlist some help from your small people and have them paint the jars white with the chalk paint.  I love this stuff.  Really!  It goes on anything without any prep. I’m not kidding!  Just paint it right on.  It will stay put.

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

Next – take a fine grit sanding sponge or paper and sand the jar down to distress it – paying attention to the raised letters and edges.  This just helps to make it look aged and worn.  Love it!

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

You can now add some stars and stripes if you’d like.  I used these cool stick on stencils from JoAnn’s.  They were great AND they had a fun chevron pattern. You can’t go wrong! Once it’s on – remove the stencil while the paint is still wet.  It comes off easier and cleaner that way.  I then used my sanding block again and went over the stenciled area to age it a bit.  You could leave it nice and bright, too.

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

I then added some twine around the top of the jar for some more contrast.  I love it!

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

Add some flowers or flags with a fun patterned table cloth or piece of fabric and you’re done! That’s it!  How fun is this? It’s adorable, costs close to nothing and it’s a fun project to do with kids!

Easy Labor Day Picnic Centerpiece DIY

You’ll be the talk of the town with your adorable centerpieces and everyone will be asking you to teach classes after you showcase this fun craft at your picnic!  Well, that may be going a little far. But, you will get compliments! So, enjoy the end of summer and get to painting.

I’ll be back next month to share some back to school tips.  See you then!

Myth: Eating Healthy Will Blow Your Food Budget

This is a post from guest contributor Andrea Rowley.
Healthy Eating on a Budget - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

I am a mom to a 2 year old, so feeding a family of three AND being healthy can be tricky on a tight budget. I am about to tell you how to buy all the food you need for the week without couponing, planning around store sales, and without being restricted to eating rice and beans (organic of course!). I am not sure if people don’t have the time to sit down and really do the math to plan a smart menu, or if they really just buy into the notion that eating healthy is expensive. Sure, you will probably spend a little more on average to make healthier food choices, but the dollar amount is not enough to have me running back to the Oreos and Cheez-Its. When I talk to most families on a food budget (to feed a family of 4), I hear that they like to keep it at $100 per week. I will show you how to eat healthy and buy organic meats for $110. Remember, for every unhealthy food/snack option there is a healthy option of equal value!! You just have to find it!  The trick for me was finding which store had the best prices. It takes a little time (and money) to learn the hard way, but making 3 grocery stops is a small price to pay for saving big when it comes to our grocery bill. *If you are looking to go gluten free or if you have some other special diet, then you may have to spend a little more money than listed in this post. I am not 100% gluten free, but I try to eat most items gluten free and keep my meals as clean-eating friendly as possible. I am going to lay out what my family has on hand at all times (at least when I have made it to the grocery store).  I shop at CostcoTrader Joes and Target (you can pick your local grocery store i.e. Publix, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, BI-LO, Safeway, Giant, etc.) every week. I do not coupon!! I repeat, I do not coupon. BOGO sale, maybe. I have never once clipped or given a coupon at the register. I am no expert in the couponing world, clearly, but I will say, the few times I decided to maybe give it a whirl, I never found coupons for the “healthy” stuff I needed. Target had the best coupons out of anyone I have seen for the “health conscious” mom, however. Here is a week’s menu for our family for each meal: Breakfast:

  • Breakfast bars
  • GF waffles
  • Bananas
  • Cereal (Healthy granola or GF Rice Chex)

Lunch:

  • Peanut butter and jelly (all-natural, no preservatives)
  • Lunch meat sandwich on GF bread or whole grain bread
  • Peanut butter, banana and honey roll up on a whole wheat wrap
  • Stir fry of carrots, broccoli, spinach, potatoes

Dinner:

  • Taco Salad
  • Grilled Chicken- side of asparagus
  • Pasta dish
  • Salmon patties OR zucchini patties- side of fries
  • Hamburgers on the grill- side of Brussel Sprouts

Healthy Eating On a Budget - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

*NOTE- Plan your meals to be simple and within a clean eating regimen. This will cut down on the extra packaged goods you may want to buy. Stick to Meat-Veggies-(Rice/Potato/Pasta)-Fruit Dessert:

  • GF brownies- Costco ($8.99 for a pack of 3 mixes)
  • Ice cream (Breyers 2 for $5 when on sale)

Snack options (throughout the day or for lunch):

  • Watermelon ($3.99) comparable to the box of Cheez-Its ($3.99)
  • Strawberries ($2.99) comparable to the box of fruit snacks ($3)
  • Blueberries ($3.99) (when in season) comparable to Graham crackers ($3.99)
  • Tostitos and salsa (2 for $5 on sale)
  • Potato Chips-baked kind (2 for $5 on sale)
  • Apples and peanut butter($1) comparable to bag of M&Ms ($4)
  • Yogurt

Healthy Eating on a Budget - ExtraordinaryMommy.comDrinks: We drink milk and water. No soda and not even juice (this is a big money saver)!  Since we juice our own stuff, I don’t feel the need to buy juice. Also, I do not feel like alcohol should get added to the food budget. I keep it in the “Entertainment” category of our family budget.  Shopping lists for the week: *All prices may vary by location, but these are accurate based on my local stores.

  • Trader Joes:

Trader Joes has the best price on produce ANYWHERE. And most of the time they have a regular option as well as organic. Their bananas are cheaper than any other store- my accountant husband has made the brutal calculation. Even Costco, who can have great prices on bulk items tends to be pricier for their fruit, unless the berries are in season. Pears, apples, kiwi, celery, oranges, and avocados are the same or cheaper than Costco, but Trader Joes has a more organic selection-SCORE! I prefer organic but it isn’t my hill to die on if they don’t have it. I just give my fruits and veggies a good wash before juicing them or eating them for my snack. Don’t have a Trader Joes? Hit up your local farmers market! They usually have the best deals on produce and it’s LOCAL! I ONLY buy my fresh produce from Trader Joes and the Trader Joes brand of Oreos (that they also have in GF) for $2.99 and GF for $3.99. Okay, and maybe their $3 bottle of wine. I leave the store spending $20 and keep in mind I juice a few times a week so that will hold me over for one week.

  • Costco:

Costco is my biggest expense- SHOCKER! But I am able to get most of my big staple items and really save while doing it. Now I just need to invest in a second freezer.

  • Breakfast Bars-pack of 24 ($8.99),
  • 7lb bag of organic carrots($7.99)
  • 4lb organic beef ($4.49lb),
  • organic chicken breast ($4.99lb)
  • 2 ½-gallons of organic milk ($7.99)
  • 2 loaves GF bread or whole grain bread ($6.49)
  • 15 Chobani yogurt pack ($13.50)
  • 1lb organic salad pack ($4.99)
  • Brussel sprouts ($3.99),
  • Asparagus ($3.99)
  • Broccoli ($3.99)

 I usually spend about $100 when I go into Costco for just food but because this stuff is in bulk and usually organic, it will last me 2 weeks. So that is $50 a week. The meat really racks up the bill, but it’s the price you pay for organic. I feel like the meat is worth the splurges so I just look away from the price tag.

  •  Local grocery store i.e. Target:

Lunch meat, canned goods, GF waffles or regular waffles ($3.99), ice cream (2 for $5 on sale), cheese, pasta, pasta sauce, chips etc… Total at Target is usually $40 for a week Grand Total:  So, between those three stores to feed my family of 3-4, I spend about $110 on food every week for 5 meals. We usually have one night of leftovers, and the other night is reserved for eating out. This is with no coupons and not really keeping up great with the sales. I do not plan my menu around the sales. *Tips for the distracted shopper (hand raised!):

  • Stick to your list - I know this sounds so basic, but really! If you have a good list and know that those items will get you by for the week, don’t spend another $20 on extra items. It is so easy to do, but there goes the “healthy food budget”.
  • Stay to the ends of the aisles - I once read this tip and started paying attention to the stores to see if most items I needed were on the ends. They were!! There is the occasional random spice or mustard that may be mid-aisle, but generally, the staples and sale items are on display on the ends or near the end.
  • Don’t buy every item that is on sale - I sometimes do this. Oh! Worcestershire sauce is 2 for $5!  Well #1, you most likely won’t use 2 bottles anytime soon and you just spent an additional $2.50 that you didn’t HAVE to spend to get that sale. Also, unless you are out of the item completely, don’t buy it until the next trip, when it is planned for on the list.
  • Don’t take your husband - He complains about our expenses the most, but when he gets in the grocery store it’s like open season. I probably spend $20-$50 more when he is with me or if I just send him running to the store “for 2 things”…famous last words.

It is possible to feed your family clean and organic food without draining your wallet. You just have to be smart, find your staple items, and maybe make a few more stops to do it!

BIO:

Andrea Rowley

Andrea Rowley is a work-at-home mom. She is a part-time hairstylist and loves being able to spend her days with her energetic 2 year-old, Graham. She lives in Greenville, SC, but is a mid-westerner at heart, originally from Ohio. Her husband of 3 years is an accountant, so staying on top of the family finances is a priority. For this family of 3, focusing on eating healthy, bike riding on the weekends, and doing Pinterest-inspired projects around the house take up their spare time.  She loves writing on her blog, To Love Beauty which covers topics from beauty, to food, to parenting. You can find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrea.s.rowley and on Twitter: @ToLoveBeauty

 

 

 

Yellow Car! Beating the Kids at their Own Game

Yellow Car!

I’m in the car by myself and I just shouted that silly phrase out loud.

Yellow Car!

Another one zoomed by, and I cannot stop.  It’s like a nervous twitch.

If you’re smiling, laughing or even… like me … crying, you have kids who play this game while riding in the car with you.  If you have no idea of which I’m writing, then good for you.  I’m jealous.

Yellow Car! (I’m not alone now)

Yellow car

No, Cooper, that doesn’t count, the car has to be moving.  You cannot get credit for a “yellow car” if it’s parked in someone’s driveway.  I love that the 8-year old Surfer look-a-like thinks that he can just memorize where all of the yellow cars are located throughout St. Louis and anticipate the next “wave” of yellow cars to get credit.  This is a competition, we need rules.

Yellow Car!

No, that’s a bus.

Yellow Car!

Taxi, doesn’t count.

Yellow Car!

That’s a Land Mover from Caterpillar.  That’s not a car.  Come on, you two.  Very simple concept.  It has to be yellow.  It has to be a car.  It has to have its motor running.

So, now that the rules are established, we get to the point system.  Each time your family enters the vehicle within close proximity of your residence (Garage, Car Port, Driveway, On Street Parking, etc), the game begins.  One point for each “Yellow Car” exclamation, most points before returning to your residence wins.  Ties go to the driver who is normally ME, so that’s my rule.  I’ve also explored thumb wrestling, but that ended in torn ligaments and a visit to the ER.  Well, that’s what it sounded like happened from the way my kids started bickering, so the conclusion was any “tie” argument is a point for ME.  I love playing the dual role of competitor and umpire.  Awesome Sauce!  The two back-seaters hate it when I say that, which I belt out after I win an official game.

Yellow Car!

Where, Dad?

Right there, at the stoplight.  Jeep.

Come On, Dad.  You’re in the front seat.  You have the advantage.  Double Digit Daughter (10-yr old) growing more agitated.

How do you figure?  I’m driving, focused on the road with your safety in mind as the most important part of my job.  Oh by the way, Yellow Car!

Come on, Dad.  That doesn’t count.  That man just got into his car in the parking lot.  Car wasn’t turned on.   He didn’t have his seat belt on yet.  Son joining daughter and growing more heated while turning up the AC (Agitation Club).

I’m calling for a booth review.  We’re going to go ask him if he puts his seat belt on before or after starting the car.  If before, I’ll forfeit two points.  If after, I get double points.  Deal?

“Deal,” says the son.  “This is embarrassing,” says the daughter.

Man pulls out of his parking spot, inches down the aisle and whoops, I calmly cut him off.  Window rolls down.

Excuse me, sir.  Quick poll we’re taking.  Which act do you perform first?  Start your car or put your seat belt on?  Don’t worry, I’m not a Police Officer although I probably appear to be by my intimidating appearance, the fact I have two kids in the back seat with one hiding her face and the words “ExtraordinaryMommy.com” sprawled across the back window.  So, start the car or put on the seat belt?  Which do you perform first?

Ummm… I start the car first.  Can you move now?  I’m kind of in a hurry.

Sure thing sir, thanks for taking our poll.

I tap the accelerator to clear his path, put the car in park, and scream Awesome Sauce!  2 points for me.  What’s the score?

5 to 2 to 2, Dad, but the game is not over, so you can save your “Awesome Sauce.”

Well, I guess we can go home now.

What???!!! I thought we were running errands, shouts an extremely disheartened pair of sore losers.  We haven’t been inside one store yet.  Mom gave us a list of things to do.

Nope, we’re done now.  We’ll be home in a few minutes.  Oh, and one more thing.

Yellow Car!!!  Right there, just pulled into the parking spot vacated by that other Yellow Car. Awesome Sauce!

Delaney under her breath, “We need a new game.”

“Yah, no kidding” says her kid brother.

Yes! I win.

Sincerely,

A Dad with a Plan

I Suggest You Show Up

It is a strange thing to travel for work when your ‘work’ in this space includes attending conferences that allow you to learn, connect with friends you love, meet people face to face for the first time who you’ve known virtually for months or years and network with potential partners and clients who have a hand in growing your business exponentially.

It is a see-saw of give and take, commitment and reward. Every time you choose to leave your family, the business you are growing, you must weigh the cost, you must assess the potential benefits.

For more than seven years now, I have had this debate with myself multiple times a year – as conference times roll around – should I stay or should I go?

This time it was BlogHer 2014, but it is always an event I want to attend.

BlogherBloggy Boot Camp (now: Women Get Social), TypeAParent, Mom 2.0, Blissdom, EVO (Blissdom was my first ever conference in this space – both it and EVO are no longer)

And then New Media Expo, SXSW, AdTech, WOMMA, SOBCon. All events I’ve attended, but with a different goal in mind.

While at home, sitting in my office, surrounded by stacks of work, a full inbox, a slew of video that must be shot and edited, posts that must be written, clients that need my attention, deadlines that need to be met, children that require feeding, taxiing, uniform cleaning, cheering on at sporting events, hugging, love and attention, my heart urges me to stay put.

The financial commitment is not a marginal one. At first glance you think conference ticket, flight and hotel – all of which can be minimized if you are speaking at most events, live within driving distance or are sharing a room with a friend. But there are also taxi fares from airports, to and from meals, meals themselves that may not be included, and of course the odd coffee or cocktail as you meet up with people.

But before you stack the deck against yourself, feeling overwhelmed by the costs – to your time, your family and your wallet, consider something I firmly believe:

There is no substitute for showing up.

There is no substitute for investing in yourself.

There is no substitute for hugging a long time friend, for looking her in the face and allowing her very specific form of inspiration and kindness to flow from her heart to yours.

Nadia Carriere

Jenny Ingram

There is no substitute for sitting in a room full of your people: the ones who get you – who understand your hours, your workload, your writer’s block, your form of pay structure, your clientele, your insides and your outsides.

Andrea Fellman, Nicole Feliciano, Kristin Swenson, Nadia Carriere, Erika Diamond

There is no substitute for putting a face with a name after three months or three years.

There is no substitute for the partnerships that can be formed in the hallways, the expos, the coffee shops, the lobby bars and the late-night gab sessions over cupcakes and wine.

There is no substitute for meeting someone new, forging a new connection, understanding how someone new operates, owns their space, wins on their platforms.

Riese Bernard - Autostraddle, her girlfriend Abby and Me

My Co-Presentor from Pathfinder Day – Riese Bernard of Autostraddle.com, her girlfriend Abby and Me

There is no substitute for reaching out to new contacts, in person, to showcase the very specific brand of you.

There is no substitute for the energy that exists when a bunch of like minds get together to exchange ideas.

Without fail, every conference I have attended over the course of the last seven years has paid for itself in some capacity. Not in the following week. Not always in the following month, but always within the following year. An introduction will turn into a paying campaign, a hug will become a partnership, someone I meet might send a message months later that turns into a book, an inspired late-night idea will become work that I do for months.

And more than all of this, inspiration.

From each event, from each conference, I walk away better.  Better for the conversations, better for the ideas, better for the willingness of the women who surrounded me to share, to encourage to push and support. They offer nuggets of wisdom as we talk, they happily share.

I return home overwhelmed, but full. It is like being hungover with happy. I’ve learned over the years to allow the energy to settle, to write when I can, to do the work that is necessary and to settle in with my small people.

I know it isn’t possible to attend every event. And I would never recommend you do that either – the see-saw of commitment and reward must be weighed, but find the events that work for you….

And Show Up.

Show up for Inspiration.

Show up for Connections.

Show up for Your People.

Show up for You.

Sangria Tastes Like Summer: A Soiree with Eppa Sangria

85 degrees is the perfect temperature. Blue skies. Sun shining. If the ocean is nearby and I can hear the waves, I am one happy girl.

Now surround me by girlfriends.

This is bliss. This is Summer.

I’ve just described the taste of Sangria.

Sangria tastes like Summer.

Eppa Sangria Soriee - Lucrecer Braxton Photo

Eppa Sangria Soriee – Lucrecer Braxton Photo

Would you believe I had no idea I loved Sangria as much as I do until recently? I’ve tried it before, but there is something remarkable about Eppa Sangria. It is the only organic premium bottled sangria made with real superfruit juices. My favorite is their white: a blend of peach, mango, mangosteen & blood orange. It is both sweet and tangy, yet it was so refreshing. It has three times the antioxidants of white wine – and their red has twice the antioxidants of red wine.

Eppa Sangria Soriee - Lucrecer Braxton Photo

Eppa Sangria Soriee – Lucrecer Braxton Photo

This Sangria is available at Whole Foods stores nationwide and through the month of August, Eppa Sangria will be donating a portion of their sales – up to $25,000 to the Whole Planet Foundation to fund poverty alleviation around the globe. Amazing. Every purchase you make and enjoy benefits someone in need. This is good.

Eppa Sangria Soriee - Lucrecer Braxton Photo

Eppa Sangria Soriee – Lucrecer Braxton Photo

Last week, I was a guest at Eppa’s first ever Sangria Sundown Soiree. A beautiful event co-hosted by the Whole Planet FoundationOne2One Network, and Soybu an active fashion apparel line for every woman. As I was wearing something from the Soybu’s line  – as were many of the women attending – it was so gorgeous to see how comfortable everyone was in their own skin.

EppaSangria Ann Imig and Danielle Smith.jpgSome wore dresses (my good friend Ann Imig and I wore the same dress – the Eden dress in black –  but styled it differently – adding distinct accessories) others wore active wear, and everyone looked so amazing and happy. 

Soybu’s goal is for you and I to feel at peace with our bodies…to transition from the yoga studio to the street and still feel beautiful and stylish. They have active and lifestyle clothing – the most comfortable dresses (you know I LOVE) sweaters, wraps, yoga pants, athletics tops and all kinds of goodness. Two more of my favorites: the dress Jenny Ingram is wearing here:

Jenny Ingram

And look at Ana Flores in the active gear. I cannot get enough.

Ana Flores and Me at Eppa Snagria Soiree

Because I love you (and clearly Soybu does too)… here is a promo code for Soybu for 25% that lasts through September 24, 2014. Enter #NamastEPPA Enjoy!

Can I change the definition of Summer Soiree to ‘event where I spent quality time with people I adore while enjoying Sangria in the most comfy clothing’?

Thank you to one of my favorite people on the planet – Barbara Jones- and her amazing One2One Network (in case you do not know: One2One Network is a leading social influencer network that has been connecting influencers with brands since 2008. They pride themselves on having long-standing, quality relationships with social influencers and matching the right voices with the right brand partners) as well as Eppa Sangria, Soybu and Whole Planet.

One2One, Soybu, Whole Planet

Disclosure: I’m honored to have partnered with Eppa Sangria, One2One Network and Soybu for their Soiree and this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.