4/11 Meal Solutions: My love/hate relationship with cooking

I never thought I’d be vlogging about meal planning or cooking, because – blah. Boring.

But the fact is that people who don’t like cooking have one of two options, unless there’s someone in their life who will do it for them. The options are, eat at restaurants on a daily basis or grow up and figure out a feasible way to prepare food.

I cook all the time for my family, because they get hungry and I love them and care about their wellbeing. But know what I don’t love? Spending time in the kitchen over a stove and a sink. Don’t love it at all.

The answer for me is buying food in bulk, cooking double or triple batches, and freezing ready-to-reheat dinners for later.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but I only just started doing this recently, after 6 years of cooking dinners every night… I’m admittedly slow in some areas. ūüėČ

I have a Sam’s Club membership, so buying in bulk is easier and cheaper than ever. Rainy days will be spent cooking and freezing, and the sunny days will be spent on the beach and not in the kitchen. Just a bit of advice before the summer gets here. Enjoy your life! ūüôā

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4/10 Smoothies: Nutribullet is great but I still love pizza best

Pizza is our go-to meal option, like many other American families, I’d imagine. When time and convenience isn’t¬†required, I opt for making my own pizzas at home. The whole wheat pizza dough is easy to find at your local bakery or grocery store and it’s so cheap! I’ve made it from scratch using yeast and whole wheat flour but WOWWWW that a process is too involved…

However, I discovered a whole new world of quick and healthy lunch options when I got a Nutribullet last year. The Nutribullet is a hybrid food processor/blender and it’s one of the best smoothie-makers that money can buy. Mine came with a book of recipes, and we got a few books besides that one.

Making quick meal replacements using frozen bananas, fresh fruits, spinach leaves, protein powder and sometimes frozen yogurt is easy. Add water and press the button- voila. It literally liquifies EVERYTHING within seconds.

Watch me demonstrate in this video from last summer.

As a result of the recipe reading, I bought several items from the grocery store that I’d never eaten before, such as Majool figs and ground flaxseed. Admittedly, I’d still take pizza over a smoothie when given the choice, but grabbing smoothies on the go is an awesome and healthy luxury- Especially in the summer, when I want a cold drink and I’m watching what¬†I eat.

I even found a recipe for DIY Shamrock Shakes so last March we consumed several green smoothies made from spinach leaves, frozen yogurt, vanilla extract, mint extract, vanilla almond milk and ice cubes. Sooooooo yummy. Enough to keep me away from the McDonalds Drive-Thru INDEFINITELY.

Bottom line, green smoothies are not pizza, but they are delicious, healthy and quick to make. Win Win Win.

What’s in your favorite smoothie?

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4/9 Education and the S-Word

Education & the S-Word (Private/Public/Charter/Home/Un)

The subject of schools is a complex one. As a¬†parent, you have a choice to make when your child reaches 4 or 5 years old. What are you going to do about school? If your child has been attending preschool or daycare, the transition might not be as major. It’s still not an easy answer, because you can’t be 100% confident that you have¬†the right plan. How can you know whether your child will have a good experience overall? What about safety… Curriculum… Emotional well-being… The other kids… The germs… The teachers… The drills… ¬†If you’ve been the primary caregiver and instructor in your child’s life, the jump to a full-day school program, 5 days a week will be truly be a life change.

I had a conversation with my husband about it¬†last night, which may have been the 40th discussion we’ve had about sending the boys to school. We talked about the pros and cons of private school vs. public school. We talked about the benefits and negative aspects of homeschooling and unschooling. We talked about charter schools and the government and common core and PAARC tests and tutors and and college and just about everything else under the umbrella of formal education. I asked him if I could record our conversation for my blog. He said no.¬†So here I am a day late, with a recap. (Note: my writing style on this post is free flowing, so do not hold the run-on sentences or the fragments against me. I won’t even promise to spell-check myself today, which is ironic given the topic of this post.)

Back to our conversation:

He asked me hypothetically, that if I had all the money in the world, would I hire a tutor in place of sending them to school. I said yes, hands down, but that I wouldn’t stop there. I’d also start a¬†co-op- an alternative to school- which would provide organized field trips, workshops, competitions and team-building exercises, and classes focused on teaching LIFE SKILLS (More on this in the following paragraphs). I feel strongly on the subject of elementary education and high school¬†because my own experience was very eclectic. My mom also felt strongly on the issue of education and school, and struggled with the difficulty of choosing the right plan. As a result, I’ve been sent to a laid back Christian school, to a military-style private school, to a creativity-driven charter school, and I was also homeschooled and for a few years technically unschooled since I was motivated enough for a self-taught method of learning. (The best part is, I made and retained friends from all of these experiences.¬†Network building, to the max!)

I’m not claiming to be the authority on education, but I can objectively provide input¬†on the vast array of education styles that I have experienced. The truth is, I loved ALL of them… except for the one military-style private school (although I’m STILL pen pals with the teacher I had in third grade). I loved the family environment of the Christian school where my son now attends Kindergarten. I felt right at home in the charter school with the block scheduling and the theater arts classes. Being homeschooled was amazing because I had the freedom and flexibility to focus on my natural interest and develop my skills as an artist and pursue my interest in legal studies and mock trial, while taking advantage of the outside world in all of its glory. PLUS I still had friends. Don’t¬†buy into the hype.

Now that I’m a mom, I don’t know what to do.

Homeschooling would require so much of me and I’m not sure I’m up to the task, even thought I would love to give my children that luxury. Freeing up the schedule and using a child-led learning style and direction is the biggest draw for me, on behalf of my kids. The six hour days, five times a week, ten months a year schedule¬†is designed for the convenience of working parents. I don’t believe it’s necessary or preferable for elementary grade students, and I’ll just say it: we’re robbing kids of their time. Not cool. It doesn’t get any better for adults.

Private school is expensive, and while I’m blessed with this option right now for Caedyn, I’m not sure if that’s going to work in the long term, especially when my younger child joins the group next year. I also don’t love the concept of teaching Bible as a subject in school. Before I get attacked for saying this, I’ll clarify by saying that I absolutely believe in God and support what’s written in the Bible, and I’ll teach my kids that I believe it and I’ll take them to church where they will learn more. But I don’t think teaching Bible as a subject in school is ideal because it’s not about education it’s about a lifestyle. What I appreciate most¬†about Christian school is that the environment is faith-friendly and that the kids are allowed to pray and talk about God without being discouraged or dismissed.

Charter school was awesome. Still long days, but it provides a more student-guided experience and it doesn’t seem as¬†politically correct as public school- at least that was my observation at the time.

Public school….makes me cringe. (And it’s not because I never want to a standard public school. And it’s not because I think public school is evil.) Years ago, sending my kids to public school¬†was the obvious choice in my mind, but the more I learn and read about public school practices and curriculums,¬†and the more teachers I speak with about their roles in the classroom and the situations they deal with regularly, the more convinced I am that choosing one of the other options would serve my family better. I understand that public school is the most feasible option for many people, quite possibly even myself. Still, something in my mom-intuition makes me hesitate to enroll my sons.¬†It’s my opinion, and I’m speaking in very general terms, that most public school environments are not family-friendly (read: parent-friendly) and the information being pumped into the kids is not presented without bias. On the other hand,¬†I went to a liberal arts college with no hesitation whatsoever, and while taking it all in with a critical eye, there were only two classes I had that were conducted with questionable underlying agenda. The deal-breaker for me and public school system was¬†the¬†brief stint we had at the public preschool down the road.¬†But I’ll save that situation for a different post.

Returning¬†back to the daydream that I’m having about starting a co-op, here is an idea based on what I believe would be ideal for my family. This isn’t some fail-proof plan I’ve spent years developing, but just a collection of¬†thoughts thrown together with a big “WHAT-IF”.

If I could, I would start a co-op elementary classroom that served to instruct students on life skills and to provide a variety of applicable information: basic math, money management, grammar and reading, research and writing, scientific theory, diet/food prep¬†and personal hygiene, geography and maps, nature and animals, and maybe a few others that I’m not thinking¬†of at the moment but you can leave the other important ones in the comments for me.

Envision classes being held 1-2 times a week, for a couple of hours. The learning wouldn’t start and stop in the “classroom” but the co-op would be effectively preparing the students to take the reigns of their own unique learning process. They’d be encouraged to take what they learned in the class and apply it by doing independent projects, visiting galleries, interviewing industry professionals, volunteering, etc.

Co-op for grades 7-12 would be broken up into smaller groups and provide specialized education and training in areas of interest to the particular student (business or biology or journalism or art or healthcare or engineering, etc.) Additionally, the upper grades would provide education on social issues taught without bias and would teach world views and cultures, but instead of reading about it and having a test, they would be taken to museums, travel, volunteer in different cultural fairs. They would be encouraged to volunteer and work as interns to gain real life experience and be laying the foundation for a career path.

I’m sure I’ll have more to add on this but for now, I’m going to close this blog so I can get back to work. Real work in the real world. ūüėČ

What do YOU believe is the best education plan?

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4/8 All things FREE that I could think of

Nobody ever complains that they didn’t pay enough for something. FREE is a friend to all. I’ve heard that the best things in life are free but I’ve also heard that you get what you pay for. My intention is to make a list of FREE THINGS that are valuable to teens and young adults¬†or to families with children.

As a college student in Philadelphia, FREE was the best offering the city had. SO much of my hard-earned money ( I worked full-time at a retail store and tutored students in the Academic Achievement Center on campus) went towards the rent for my 1-bedroom apartment, textbooks, supplies and fabric (Fashion Design was my degree program) and of course food from Trader Joe’s… PLUS¬†daily iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts. (I’d skip out of work on occasion to walk two blocks down Chestnut Street and get one. It was considered to be my “smoke break” and it totally worked on the supervisor!) Additionally, utilities were billed separately, and the laundry facility required lots and lots of coins. There are ways I could’ve saved money in college, had I been more invested in frugality at the time, but unfortunately I spent 99% of my¬†earnings, monthly and my boyfriend wasn’t much better than I was. Therefore, our recreational time was limited to free activities. Game nights (Remember Cranium?) with our friends, Visiting the art museum on a Sunday, Taking long walks throughout Center City, Playing catch in Rittenhouse Square Park, Heading to the basketball courts to pick up a few games, ice skating with a guest pass at the hockey rink that he worked¬†and played¬†at – these were just some of the things we did on a regular basis. My degree program was an accelerated, year-round program so I stayed in Philly through the summer. When July came around, I received a pamphlet listing a week’s worth of free events and activities¬†as part of the¬†Welcome America tour, which was then being sponsored by Sunoco but is presented by Wawa this year. The activities included everything from movie nights in the park to a free concert on Independence Day. If you’re a teenager or college kid in the Philly-area, I’d recommend checking it out when they post more info! This morning while scrolling Facebook (ugh) I found the coolest link to a list of FREE THINGS TO DO in PA! Thought I’d share it you with.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and I’m no longer running around Philly, free as a bird. I did return for a day trip when my oldest was a baby, but walking through the Italian Market with a stroller and having to find a clean place to change diapers and such, just wasn’t the same. My financial situation is not much different today… my income comes self-employment and freelance work that I do, and I’m still paying for those educational years of school. Free is still one of my favorite words. I’m now living at the Jersey Shore (summers are even better down here!) and I’ve got two children who are in my care around the clock. I have even less free time than I did when I was in college and working two jobs. (How does that even happen…) With these changes in mind, I’ve made a new list of FREE THINGS available in my corner of the world. The list is unfinished and I will be adding to it as I find more, and I encourage you to post links and ideas and share what you know about free activities and events for¬†young people and¬†families to enjoy. If you know of an event happening in NJ, make sure it’s listed on this awesome calendar of state-wide events¬†on JerseyFamilyFun.com! South Jersey Explorer made their own list of 28 Free Things to Do This Summer (with or without your kids). Definitely check that out.

  • A LIBRARY CARD (total no-brainer…this is your pass to a gazillion free resources besides the obvious access to books and DVDs)
  • Rita’s Water Ice on the first day of spring (March/April)
  • Yoga and Pilates classes (held at the public library) See Calendar of Events¬†Pre-registration is often required
  • Free Business Expo offering job opportunities and workshops (April 18)¬†Click here to reserve your spot
  • Movie Nights at Galloway Patriot Lake (summertime) See Schedule
  • Cape May County Zoo (spring & summer) Click for Hours
  • Storytime (again, at the library) See schedule/locations
  • Rhythm in the Park Outdoor Concerts at Tony Canale Park in EHT (Fridays & Saturdays in the summer) Get More Info

What’s the best thing you ever did that cost you absolutely nothing?

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4/7 My top-secret, styled wedding ceremony

SO I filmed this yesterday (despite the fact my eyes were barely open but yay for the sunny day!) and I didn’t get around to posting it until now… Which means I’m skipping today’s V.E.D.A topic and justing posting about The Wedding that Planned Itself: >>>>>>>>>READ THE FULL POST¬†<<<<<<<<<< Don’t miss this one- Quite possibly the best blog post that I’ve written yet.

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4/5 Easter, springtime, goals this season

Happy Easter guys. It’s starting to feel real, finally, after a long, cold winter. The sun and flowers and birds have got me feeling motivated to GET. STUFF. DONE.

What are your goals this spring? I’m working on decluttering my home in preparation for our big move. Also I’m newly committed to exercising for 30min a day, EVERY day, without exception, unless I’m deathly ill. No turning back.

Are you a parent having trouble finding time to exercise with kids in your care? Check out this handy chart that I made and get some realistic ideas!

Enjoy the new season and have a happy Easter.

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4/4 Bringing back the bartering system

Today is Day 4 of my V.E.D.A Challenge, where I’m posting a 2-3 minute video on the Turnoversbaby¬†Youtube channel daily through the month of April.

The topic is BARTERING= trading and swapping products or services instead of using traditional currency. There are many benefits to bartering which can be a resourceful and eco-efficient practice. Upcycling clothing and household items, locally sourcing baked goods or art, growing your own products and trading with neighbors for other types of food- all of these are budget-friendly practices and can help to unify a community. The act of trading something or swapping services cuts out the middle man. Why pay cash or use a credit card when you can do an even exchange?

Bartering is fantastic at the business level, too, because it doesn’t hinder¬†the cash flow. If there are products or services you have that another business needs, negotiate a deal so that both of you can benefit from a trade.

How can you incorporate this old-school style of commerce into your routine? Do you have a neighbor who sells eggs from her chicken farm ? Do you know someone who has a housecleaning service? What do YOU have to give or offer? Brainstorm and develop a few ways you can implement this approach.

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4/3 Clutter, Cash, and Charity

Today’s Topic: An Overabundance of THINGS and How to Streamline

Do you have a lot of material things in your home? You probably have far more than you THINK and 500% more than you NEED. I say that balance is the way to go, but minimalism can work too for those especially committed to freeing up space in their lives.

The key to determining whether something is a keeper vs. clutter is to answer yes to one of two questions. 1. Does this serve a functional purpose in my life? 2. Does this hold aesthetic beauty that I find valuable? If not- DITCH IT!

The best three ways I de-clutter my home are

  • yard sales (both online and physical)
  • charity/second-hand (if it’s worth giving to someone else)
  • trash/recycling can (last resort!)

The inspiration behind the mindset I currently have was a presentation I heard last year at my mom’s group meeting, by Becky Banks of Organizing Essentials- Residential Organizing for Women. Becky has¬†a compelling story of her experience working at a mission, and¬†she advocates for homeless women who need essentials like socks, bras, and sanitary products. ¬†Becky has a knack for organizing and for creating order in chaos. I actually met her during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (a destructively swept through our beach towns in 2012), where Becky was organizing hundreds of cans into an overflowing food pantry.

I hope you feel encouraged to purge your closets and find new homes for clothing, toys, CDs, DVDs, craft supplies and electronics that you don’t need any longer.¬†The spring weather is FINALLY here and the windows are begging to be opened. Free up space in your home and fill it up with fresh air, so that you can sit back and enjoy the wellbeing that comes with clean space and organization.

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4/2 My Community

I know, I know. Only Day 2 and I’m already jumping around in the order of topics. Today I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the dentist when the community and economy is so heavy on my heart. SO- I’m using #19 today. (My blog, my challenge, my rules) ūüėõ This post/video is about Main Street in Mays Landing, New Jersey. This section of my town has such amazing potential with being centrally located and home to two major intersections, plus the beauty and charm of its parks and buildings. However, the main strip is struggling to attract and maintain the interest of tourists and residents alike. Inspired by a presentation I heard at the Mays Landing Merchants Association (MLMA) on revitalizing Main Street, I feel strongly about being part of the solution. The advice given by Joe Molineaux of Stockton University’s New Jersey Small Business Development Center (public community service for entrepreneurs) was to decide as a group what types of businesses we need to incorporate into the mix. He challenged us to work¬†together and create a draw by hosting different event nights once a month, to start. The president of the MLMA, Fred Kneble of Knebles Auto Service Center, expressed his willingness to form a committee that will create an carry out an action plan. Meanwhile, I’m working with a team of people in business and ministry, to plan and host a FREE COMMUNITY business expo/networking event, Saturday, April 18th which will include workshops and seminars to educate and empower the people of Atlantic County. Register for free and Get More Info here:¬†http://www.christianbusinessworkforce.com¬†(Accepting vendors now! $30/table) Are you local to Atlantic County, NJ and interested in becoming part of the solution? Comment below with your feedback and get in touch with me.

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4/1 Kid-Friendly Jokes (April Fools)

Happy First of April. Hope you’re ready for Easter and springtime weather. I’m still racking my brain trying to think of a good prank to play on someone tomorrow. Meanwhile I was looking for FUNNY (not lame) JOKES for KIDS. If you know any, post them in the comments because the good, clean jokes are few and far between.

My silly boys love to laugh which means I tickle them daily, and every once in awhile I’ll break out in dance, unexpectedly, which throws them into fits of giggles every single time. After all, LAUGHTER is the best medicine, and we took turns with the stomach virus last week. So briinnnnnng it on.

There are a few fun pranks mentioned on this fellow momma’s blog that I may borrow from at the last minute!

I hope you watched my video above. This is my FIRST of the 30-day Vlog Every Day in April challenge and I’m double-dipping by incorporating my youtube channel and my wordpress blog. (I still have my¬†business¬†blog but I didn’t want to slow down my website with¬†embedded videos!)I’m trying a scientific approach to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which means I have to be very careful and can’t have any duplicate info. Plus I need to write a text file for everything I said in my video. Tricky stuff. If I say¬†UMMM¬†and SOOO¬†more than 5x per video, I’m going to lose it!

Enjoy! Play Nice. And please avoid the Knock-Knock jokes unless they’re groundbreaking. Happy April!

Photo on 5-22-14 at 1.31 PM #5

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