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) 😛 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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A Cleaner, Greener, Baby Shower + Earth Mama Giveaway!

(Read the full post here)

In a world where things are built to be broken and replaced, sustainability is a precious feature.

Buying and using items with longer life cycles is also a way to conserve our natural resources.

Be creative in your planning

If you’re planning or hosting a baby shower, here are some green ideas that were given to me by other creative mommas:

Use mason jars and glass straws for beverages— make fresh squeezed juice instead of bottled punch, and fresh fruit bouquets for centerpieces

Give guests a potted plant to take home as a thank you gift

Make centerpieces out of tall glass containers and fill with eco-green baby products and top with flowers in their own container

Wrap gifts with baby blankets & towels, or use containers/baskets she may have registered for

Have a wishing well for guests to fill with small, unwrapped, eco baby products

Throwing a greener, cleaner baby shower is easier and cheaper than you may think! It just takes some brain-storming and dedication on your part. For more tips on how to decorate and cater a sustainable event, and spend less money doing so, read my Resourceful Guide to a  Gender Reveal. Meanwhile, be sure to enter the giveaway and connect with Turnovers and Earth Mama Angel Baby!

(Organic Mama-To-Be-Tea Sampler by Earth Mama Angel Baby)
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A different kind of Valentine’s Day

Here’s the situation… Before kids, we loved to go on extravagant dates. Expensive,delectable restaurants in the center of town. Spontaneous excursions. We had fun. Even on a college budget there was always fun to be had via snowboarding trips to the mountains, game nights with friends, renting out the rink for private ice skating, karaoke, Harlem globetrotters games, open mic night, dance clubs, blah blah blah…

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Hanging out at Dave & Busters Arcade
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Snowboarding in the bitter cold of the Poconos
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At my friend Karen’s wedding

Fast forward to 2014: Having two preschool-aged boys makes it tougher to get away from the homestead, and it’s truly impossible to be spontaneous. Competent babysitters are few and far between, and going to Philadelphia so we can dine at our favorite restaurant is not in the budget.

So- it is time to get creative. How can I make-believe we are having dinner at Tequila’s, and avoid spending hundreds of dollars? How can we get around the challenge of finding an available, trustworthy babysitter for the night? (Where are all the level-headed, interactive teenagers hiding??)

The answer: Steal ideas from the menu, put the kids to bed for the night, and make cooking as a couple part of the experience. The result: AMAZING food, surprisingly good teamwork, and a memory far more special than the usual night out.

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The source of the inspiration. Tequilas Restaurant on 16th & Locust, Philadelphia, PA

Do I feel guilty for stealing the menu of this grand restaurant, and practically replicating their options in my kitchen? A little bit. No. Many people would never take the DIY approach (it’s no good if you’re impatient and hate cooking), and I hardly expect the restaurant’s business will suffer because of my choice. And so, inspired by their Valentine’s Day themed Special Lovers Banquet menu, we agreed to make sangria, a festive salad, rib eye steak in chorizo sauce, chocolate truffles with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet, and our favorite appetizer: queso fundido.

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Queso Fundido is a cheesy dip served with small flour tortillas or corn chips.

Next, I scoured the internet for recipes (links included below) that sounded close enough to our selections. The ingredients list tool on Allrecipes.com was helpful for some of the choices, and I also used Google to search for things by name.

I had a memo on my cellphone with a list of the ingredients needed for our dinner. We went shopping yesterday, and spent $73 at the grocery store, and another $26 at the liquor store (wine & raspberry pucker for sangria, mexican beer for the queso fundido). Spanish/Mexican food is CHEAP when you shop at the grocery stores! You may have to find a Spanish store for chorizo (hot sausage) or chayotes (a Mexican squash) but we found practically everything with no trouble at all.

Chayotes (a type of Mexican squash) look a lot like pears, but the bottom has a really funny shape. The whole family was joking about it looking like an old man's expression when eating something sour.
Chayotes (a type of Mexican squash) look a lot like pears, but the bottom has a really funny shape. The whole family was joking about it looking like an old man’s expression when eating something sour.

I also will admit that some of the prep was done last night. I made the raspberry sorbet (it needed to freeze) and mixed up the sangria (the flavors blend better overnight), and we also made the chocolate truffles and put them in the fridge. It was easy and didn’t take long.

Chocolate Truffles dipped in Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate. I colored the white chocolate pink with strawberry juice to decorate the top, and made taffy hearts. Cute?
Chocolate Truffles dipped in Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate. I colored the white chocolate pink with strawberry juice to decorate the top, and made taffy hearts. Cute?

Today needed to be an early dinner because of a commitment at 7pm. (Although I highly recommend you do this at night if you have young children, and let them watch a movie in bed while you cook. Tuck them in, say goodnight, and you’re ready for your date in the next room!)

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Neither of us are drinkers, and wine doesn’t appeal at all- But thanks to my friend taking us to a Portuguese festival back in 2006, it’s now our occasional beverage of choice.

The sun was shining, it was time to make dinner, and I needed a hat.

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Marques cannot take finding hair in his food, and despite my best efforts, it happens from time to time. I was considerate enough to stuff all of my hair into this pink striped hat that I found in the closet. (My grandmother bought me this when I was ten. True story.)

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At 3:30 this afternoon, we started chopping, grating, and sautéing.

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Carmelized Almonds, to top the salad
Carmelized Almonds, to top the salad
Poblano peppers had to be blackened under a broiler, then peeled and diced
Poblano peppers had to be blackened under a broiler, then peeled and diced
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I could easily be a vegetarian, or a pescatarian, since I’m not a fan of cooking meat. I eat steak maybe once a year.
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Searing the Rib Eye Steaks

I branched out of my comfort zone and touched raw steak. Massaged it, actually, with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Not my favorite part of this thing.

I sipped some sangria while the steak was cooking
I sipped some sangria while the steak was cooking

By 5:00pm, we were sitting down to a very Tequilas-esque dinner, all within the comfort of the kitchen.

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It was fun, and really delicious. And I am no chef. Want to try? I dare you to get inspired by your favorite restaurant’s menu, and research some recipes to make with your honey. Make a memory and save money. By the way, the amount of food we made was way more than we would have been served while dining out. We had enough to share with others, plus there is queso fundito and a plate of truffles in my fridge right now.

Going to Philly for dinner at Tequilas would have cost us $303.95

Appetizer (queso fundido) $9.95

2 extra glasses of sangria $16

Valentines Special ($75 per person) $150

20% gratuity fee ($40)

Roundtrip train tickets $38 (to avoid the gas, tolls, & parking garage cost)

5 hours of Babysitting (rate: $10/hr) $50

– darkshot

We spent almost $100 on everything we needed, and our kids were safely at home with us while we enjoyed our dinner for two.

Here are the recipes we followed!

Queso Fundido

Carmelized Almonds (for the salad)

Raspberry Mango Sangria

Rib Eye Steak with Chorizo sauce (the rub wasn’t included with this guide, but I used olive oil, sea salt & black pepper)

Chocolate Truffles

Raspberry Sorbet

Resourceful Guide to a Gender Reveal

GENDER REVEAL is a new trend that has been gaining popularity over the last few years. Before sonogram technology was created, the gender was always a surprise, announced at the time of the birth! When sonograms were invented, parents were given an opportunity to find out sooner. The latest craze is a compromise of those two options. Hosting a gender reveal party means that you won’t need to wait until your baby is born, yet you can still share the surprise in the company of your friends and family.

Depending on how you look at it, you could see benefits or disadvantages to choosing not to find out your baby’s sex before delivery.
Keeping Baby’s Gender a Surprise

Let’s face it! There are pros and cons to each of the two extremes.

You might go the route of finding out ASAP because you can’t take the suspense, feel that you’re pre-planning is limited, or the pressure from family and friends makes you cave.

You might insist on waiting for the birth because you love surprises, found that it simplified the planning process, or because you take the most natural possible approach to things.

  I was inspired to provide some helpful options (See them below) for moms-to-be who want to host an easy to plan, budget-friendly event. There are so many themes and favors and games available through online search, but the common approach isn’t always the best one. I created a list of the typical vs. the resourceful, and included some costs for your comparison. Shipping costs and transportation expenses were not included in the totals. The costs are based on a party of 18 people.

Also note that for Option #2 Resourceful Approach, everything is reusable and there is nothing to throw away after the event is finished. The best part about following this guide: You could save over $300, plus save time and energy on the simplified style, and you will not have bags of garbage to take out with you.

Tips and Ideas for your Gender Reveal
Tips and Ideas for your Gender Reveal Typical

Typical Approach – Grand total $453

Cake

  • Bakery-made gender reveal cake, $75

Surprise Factor

  • Box of helium-filled Balloons, with no lasting value, $24

Snacks

  • Catered Hors D’oeuvres, minimum $180

Tableware  (prices from Party City)

  • Plates in pink & blue, $16
  • Napkins in pink & blue, $8
  • Plastic dining wear, $8
  • Plastic drinking goblets, $20

Store-bought Decorations

  • Paper Decorations, $28
  • Paper table cover, $6

Voting Symbols

24pc Lips/Moustache Awls $26

Invitations

  • Custom Invitations, $54
  • Postage, $8

Resourceful Approach – Grand Total $118

Cake

  • Friend or Relative bakes cupcakes, No direct cost

Surprise Factor

Snacks

  • Potluck-style appetizers, No direct cost

Tableware

  • Reusable Plates, Silverware & Glasses, No added cost
  • Cloth Napkins, No added cost (If you don’t own any, buy 20 for $11)

Homemade Decorations

  • Baby Photos of Mom & Dad, Ultrasound Scans Banner, Flowers from the garden, No cost
  • Tablecloth alternative: 5pk Baby Receiving Blankets, $13

Voting Symbols

Pink & Blue Wooden Clothespins, $4

Invitations

  • Online Invitations, No Charge

Postage, No Charge

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Remember, the object is to intentionally spend money on things that you need/ will use again, and eliminate the unnecessary extras that take up time and add to your never-ending list of things to do. Chances are, you will want to spend more time on prepping the nursery, creating gift registries and getting extra sleep before your bundle of joy arrives. Clean up will be a breeze, too! Just throw the receiving blanket “tablecloth” and the napkins into the washer, and use the dishwasher for the cutlery. You won’t have trash bags full of paper products. Follow our tips and you will enjoy your special day, and feel especially green while you do! (In spite of the pink and blue)

I hope this is useful for you! Please comment with your own helpful tips or questions. I will check back regularly and will do my very best to assist.