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Deborah Cruz

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Running your own home-based business takes a lot of money, energy, and most importantly, time. You need money to set up your business, investing in equipment and materials and software that you’ll need to create your products or service, but it doesn’t stop there. All businesses have a number of costs that it needs to cover with each working week that passes, and these costs can easily overwhelm especially when life gets quiet. Maybe that’s why I don’t sleep a whole lot. I think way too much.

But rather than let money cripple your home-based business, there’s no time like the present to figure out how to cut your spending to ensure you can thrive no matter what happens. Thankfully these tips and tricks can help you make and save money for your business, and there’s no time like the present to get started!

Build & Maintain Your Own Website

One of the first tasks that most people outsource when they create their own business is the project of creating a website. Every good business needs a website, the face of the business. This isn’t a step that you can skip over, but far too many individuals are under the impression that building a website is too hard to do on their own. That’s simply not true. You can easily teach yourself how to design your own website if you’re willing to learn how to. There are thousands of resources online that you can make the most of to understand website development, including step-by-step guides that walk you through every process to ensure you can make the most of your online opportunity. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by building and maintaining your own website, so now’s the time to learn the ropes of website development. 

Don’t Ship Independently

The big mistake that you can make as a home-based business is to ship your items independently without the help of a professional freight service. Using a basic mail service will be ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re sending larger product’s that are heavy or wide/tall, and you’ll end up paying above and beyond just to get your items to their intended recipient. Customers won’t be happy to pay more for the delivery than they do for their actual product, so there’s no time like the present to save on freight shipping by finding the most affordable transportation service. Do your research and check reviews before you entrust a freight shipping company with your items because you need to make sure your products are in good hands and make it to their destination safely.

Learning how to cut costs within your home-based business has never been easier. Start by developing your own website rather than paying engineers to create and maintain your platform, and don’t be afraid to use commercial freight services to save masses of money without having to forfeit quality assurance. Most importantly, do what you love and put your whole heart into it and even when you’re working hard building your business, you feel content and have the passion to keep working towards your dreams.

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How Sending my Teens to School in a Pandemic is Destroying their Mental Health, Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

My girls have been home sick for almost 2 weeks. We’ve consistently tested negative for CoVid. If we’re being honest, we’ve been sick a lot since the kids have been back in school. We’ve been tested so many times that I’m actually embarrassed to go to our local CVS because they know us by name now. Currently, our school is overrun with Omicron. There are no masks required, no social distancing and they are about to take away the mode 3 learning option for those who are actively sick or quarantined. In essence, they are trying to force everyone to be in person. What am I supposed to do when I know sending my teens to school in a pandemic is destroying their mental health?

Here’s some more truth. I am diabetic. Last year, I kept the girls home, to their detriment. It’s resulted in my efforts to protect our health negatively impacting their mental health and quality of life. For that, I will feel guilt for the rest of my life. Every time they were exposed, I adhered to the testing and quarantine guidelines laid out…while others, from shame, ignored symptoms and even concealed positive results and still attended school. Being of a rational mind, all of this has weighed heavily on me and added to my anxiety. It’s added to our already huge feeling of being unsafe.

Last week, the girls were out for a stomach virus (2 negative tests last week say no CoVid). The principal called to suggest we pull the girls out of their school (the private school I’ve been paying for 3 years/ almost 2 of which my girls were virtual). I won’t lie, I was insulted and I was hurt. They suggested an online academy not associated with the school itself.

I know kids need to be in school. I’ve seen the damage not being there can cause… firsthand. But what about their safety and well-being? “What are you doing to keep them safe?” I asked.

He, literally, changed the subject and asked me if the girls were wearing their masks at school? Switching the onus to them. They do wear their masks but they are in the minority in a school of 1000. They are also a part of the vaccinated and boostered club minority. He did make a point to let me know that soon, he was planning to remove the asynchronous learning option for kids altogether because it is too taxing on the teachers. That was last Friday.

Monday, my girls were still sick. I called the school in tears because my children were obviously still unwell, vomiting, nauseous and having terrible diarrhea but now, I have the threat of expulsion looming. These are good, smart kids who are being threatened with removal because they’ve been heavily sick after almost 2 years of being completely isolated. They catch every virus that comes along now.

I was on the phone in tears asking for permission to let my children stay home from a school overrun with coronavirus. I couldn’t reach the principal so I spoke to the Vice-principal. She said to keep the girls home. She also told me that she had 80 positive cases that morning and was in the process of sending more kids home after she ended our call. Also, the principal that I had spoken with on the previous Friday was now home quarantining because he and his children had been exposed at school and tested positive. As the week has gone on, more and more children and staff have been sent home to isolate themselves after either being exposed or testing positive. My daughters go back today.

Sending my Teens to School in a Pandemic is Destroying their Mental Health

Tomorrow, they are hosting an all-school mass with the Bishop. An all-school mass (for those not in Catholic school) is mass with all 1000 kids together, complete with the Eucharist and the sign of peace (both contact). I think it’s insane for obvious reasons but this is what’s happening. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. I’m going to tell them that my girls are not allowed to attend. The last time I did this, they ignored my email and sent them anyway.

This time, I’m going to call and speak with the vice principal. If need be, I will come to pick them up until the mass is over. Who has an all-school mass during a pandemic surge? Does this make sense to anyone? Am I overreacting? I feel like I’m asking to do an insane thing in a pandemic surge. I’m conflicted because science tells me to be cautious and the school is making me feel like I’m the crazy one.

This morning I woke up and (with my little brother and sister both sick and testing positive for Omicron) thought to myself, is online school really such a bad option? Is my pride worth putting my girl’s health in danger? But can their mental health handle the isolation when everyone else they know is going about their business? I’m watching it happen, Coronavirus is destroying our teens and tweens. It’s too much for their hearts and heads to handle. What do you do when sending your teens to school in a pandemic is destroying their mental health?

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Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Not saying CoVid and this pandemic are issues especially hard for middle class moms with private school kids but not saying it isn’t either. I’ve noticed that, at least from my viewpoint, public schools are doing more to stop the spread. Public schools are funded by the government and are more likely to follow government guidelines and recommendations because they are cognizant that not doing so can end in losing funding. Private schools on the other hand are funded by donors, usually wealthy alumni who gift large sums of money, often with “suggestions.” What I’m saying is that if you think super-rich kids are terrible, well, you’ve never experienced their entitled parents firsthand.

They don’t like to be told what to do. It infringes upon “their freedom” so they will scream white at the top of their lungs while staring directly at a black wall. If you disagree, you are not right, you are obviously blind because you chose to believe your own eyes over what they tell you. This is the situation.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

Science and research show that vaccines, masks and social distancing are the way to end the pandemic. Some people at private schools say none of it exists and refuse to allow their children to follow guidelines for a “political pandemic” created by the liberals to make us all sheeple. After all, this is MURICA! Caught right in the middle of it all, the faculty and administration just trying to do the right thing by humankind without alienating the very people who pay their salaries.

Omicron is here and making my life more difficult than ever. I hate pandemic parenting because I’m terrified to send my kids to school. Let me start by saying that this whole pandemic has been a lesson in versatility, patience and pushing past fear. It’s enough already. I give. I’ve learned my lesson. I wash my hands religiously, I prioritize people and I live like every day could be my last, because it could be but my breaking point seems to be when I live in a world where others are pretending that none of this is real. People are dying and where I live, people are pretending that nothing is wrong. People are dying and nothing is wrong? Is this logical to anyone reading this? If so, please help it make sense because I can’t and it’s literally making me feel insane.

At this point, my family has been vaccinated and boostered, except Gabi who will get hers this week as soon as I can get her an appointment. We rarely go anywhere. With Omicron we are actually reverting to our March 2020 hermit lives. We wear masks in public and we social distance when possible. We wash our hands and change our outside clothes. We disinfect everything. In our state, we are in the minority.

At our daughters’ school, there are no preventative CoVid safety measures in place this year other than CDC guideline quarantining for the minimum 5 days if exposed and showing symptoms. But there is no social distancing or mask policy in place. There is no vaccination requirement. So every day, my rational and intelligent girls who have common sense go to school knowing they are 100% exposed. This is not okay.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

They are under so much stress (as any rational/ thinking person would be) that they have now both developed severe stress and anxiety due to the mishandling of the pandemic. They are kids who should be doing kid things but instead they are worried they are going to die or kill someone else because the adults are dropping the ball. The adults in charge are neither caring or protecting our children from Coronavirus, Delta or Omicron. They’re just seeing how this all plays out and that’s just not working for me anymore.

The other day I was driving to pick my daughters up from school and the truck ahead of me had a bumper sticker that read, “Unmask Our Kids Now.” In my head I heard, “unhand my mother” or “Free Nelson Mandela” only it wasn’t about saving anyone. In fact, quite the opposite. It basically read, “Societal rules don’t apply to me because I’m a selfish toddler who doesn’t care about anyone else but me and it’s my right to do whatever I want.”

You see, all over the country, friends of mine are taking their 5-11-year-olds to get their vaccination. In fact, they went on the very first day of eligibility, some of them drove to neighboring cities and even states, just to do their part to help end this pandemic. I’m elated. We took our girls as soon as they were eligible. Now, we’re getting them boostered because that is what all of us should be doing to end this pandemic. Was I nervous about giving my daughters a brand new vaccination? Yes. But I’m more afraid of CoVid and the long-term effects of Coronavirus.

There are still adults who haven’t gotten 1 shot yet. Y’all should be ashamed. You’d probably jump in the lifeboats ahead of the women and children too, am I right? Come on, this is embarrassing, America. Be a grown-up and do your part. Yes, I know, you don’t believe in CoVid but he believes in you and if you’re just going to live your life like you’re pursuing happiness, Consequences be damned, YOU WILL GET COVID. Regardless if you believe or not.

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

So here we are. My daughter has missed 30 days of in-person school. I’d say at least 20 of those days were mandatory quarantines from exposure or from having “symptoms” like coughing or sore throat. I did it because even though they were vaccinated, the rules are in place to protect all of us. Also, the girls have caught a few viruses this year (as expected when reentering public places after 17 months of isolation) and pre-CoVid if my children were sick, I kept them home to protect others from catching it and to let my girls rest and recuperate. But suddenly, CoVid is the only acceptable reason for an absence.

Here’s where the real frustration comes into play, aside from kids at school chastising those who are vaccinated and/or wearing masks now the administration is questioning whether or not my daughters are “really sick” or just “don’t want to be there” when I call my daughters in sick. This began after we made them aware of the mental health struggles our girls are dealing with (as are most intelligent adults and teens). Talk about minimizing mental health. What else did I expect from a place that literally had a speaker come in and tell the kids that depression is evil and they need to pray away their mental health issues? Look, I’m all for leaning on God for strength when you feel helpless but to make it a character flaw to seek mental health help is something entirely different altogether.

Honestly, I didn’t write this post to complain about my kids’ school, I’m simply frustrated and exhausted from all of this. My daughter’s been vomiting and nauseous for the past 36 hours. Obviously, I can’t send her into a school like that nor would I send a child who is feeling that terrible into school. I called the attendance office and explained and braced myself for the inevitable call from the school nurse telling us we’d need a negative CoVid test to return, even with being vaccinated and boostered. Can I just mention that we’ve had to get so many CoVid tests in the past 2 years that the pharmacy techs at our local CVS know us by name now? It’s embarrassing. All that aside, I did get the call for the nurse but not before I got the call from the Vice Principal telling me that we “need to have a meeting to discuss her attendance”. It’s the first day of the new semester, what is there to talk about? She.Is. SICK. End of the story.   

Middle Class Mom Private School Kid CoVid Problems.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. My first priority is to keep my girls healthy, happy and alive. ALIVE. At this point, I’m getting as afraid of their depression and anxiety as I am of CoVid. No child should have to feel so hopeless and helpless. I spend many nights a week reassuring my daughters that we can get through this. Holding them while they cry about what they’ve lost and the normal teen experience that they simply cannot have right now. They are missing normal human connection and being able to attend school safely. Every day they feel under threat and I don’t blame them. So I advocate for them, reassure them, hold them and love them as much and as unconditionally as I can but it’s hard when I’m just as stressed, anxious and depressed as they are.

Update: Day 2 of vomiting and nausea, they are requiring a doctor’s note or fax saying the doctor doesn’t need to see her in order to excuse the absences. Even the pediatrician is like, it hasn’t even been 48 hours, she’s not dehydrated and she’s not running a fever coming in would be more dangerous than waiting it out. They can’t even do anything for a stomach bug. FML.

What would you do in my situation? What are you doing to not only protect your family from CoVid Omicron but all the long-term side effects of surviving a pandemic in a world where conspiracy theorists and CoVid deniers pretend nothing is wrong and none of this is real?

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New year resolution to manifest your best life

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Good morning and happy new year. Sounds kind of insincere to wish anyone a “happy” anything in the midst of yet another pandemic surge. Thank you Omicron. But I do sincerely wish each and every one of you a magical year filled with happiness; no matter what that may look like. That’s why this year, I’m forgoing the lofty idealistic and mostly unrealistic resolutions of the past in favor of realistic new year resolutions to help you manifest your best life in 2022.

The past 2 years have been hard, like astronomically hard, beyond anything any of us could ever have anticipated at the beginning of this pandemic. Yet here we all are. Certainly worse for the wear; a little humbled, sad and stronger. Yes, we’re surviving. You are stronger because (knock on wood) it hasn’t killed you yet…if you’re reading this. (Sorry about that, my sense of humor has gone a little dark in the past 2 years.)

Anyways, I’m not a self-help guru or someone who’s got all her shit together. I’m struggling but I did have a moment of clarity a few days ago and I came out the other end certain that our life journey is all about the tiny steps (no matter or how hard or easy it is to get to our desired destination in life). You don’t have to run, jump or leap. You just have to step in the direction you want to go. The most important thing is to know where you want to go.

So stop, right now. Stop thinking of where the world has told you that you should want to go or what you should want to be or have or do and ask yourself, “where do I want to go, be, have and do? What makes me happy? Who is worth my time, effort and love?” Then, prioritize.

Here comes the hard part, the people, places, things that don’t make you happy…let them go. I know it’s hard. It can feel almost impossible but hanging on to those things is dead weight around your neck and it’s slowly killing you. Don’t give more weight to people and things that don’t even consider you. Let that shit go.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Give yourself the same grace, love and patience that you afford everyone you love. Be diligent, attentive and proud of yourself. Do your best and be the best version of yourself. That’s it! You don’t owe anyone anything but yourself. You owe yourself happiness, love, laughter, contentment and peace (in whatever form that may be).

Here are my Realistic New Year Resolutions to Help Manifest Your Best Life in 2022

1. Prioritize yourself

For me, I naturally assume the martyr position because I’m a mom. Always putting myself last and everyone else’s needs above mine. They didn’t ask for it. It’s just what I’ve always done. It’s what my mom did. But that doesn’t serve me or my family well. It’s leaving me feeling like a failure as a human because while I’m excelling as a mom, I feel like I’ve lost me in the process. It makes me angry and unfulfilled and, quite frankly, unhappy and a little bitter and that spills over into everything else and taints the joy, bringing down the energy. This year, my family is going to always be the most important thing to me but now, I am going to be as important to myself as I am to them.

2. Move your body for 20 minutes a day

Y’all remember that I was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol a few months before the pandemic hit? Well, I was and it scared the f*ck out of me. I started watching what I was eating, portion controlling and working out. I was overwhelmed. It was a lot. But in 6 months, I had lost 60 pounds and all my numbers were normal. The pandemic hit and between stress and not going anywhere, I gained 25 pounds back and slowly over the past 2 years my numbers have crept back up. They are still normal but if I don’t take control now, for how long will they stay healthy? I don’t want to find out so, I’m committing to myself to get my heart rate up 20 minutes a day to stay healthy. No lofty weight loss goals or black and white/ this or that/ never or always lines drawn in the sand. Just some prioritization and lots of grace and love for myself.

3. Eat whatever you want in moderation

Do NOT cut yourself off from the simple joys. I mean, come on, saying you’re never going to eat sugar or carbs again might sound like the answer to your problem of gaining weight but it’s not sustainable. It’s unrealistic. Worse still, it makes food unenjoyable. Honestly, when you live your life with drastic restrictions, are you living a life at all? You’re getting by. Food is not the enemy but it also doesn’t heal your traumas. Eat whatever you want in moderation while being cognizant of your own health, portion control and reality. If you’re drinking alcohol, drink water. If you’re eating garbage, drink water and move your body. The key is balance. But don’t starve yourself or fanatically restrict every calorie that goes into your body, that’s an actual eating disorder. Take it from me, I know.

4. Chase what makes you happy

This can be different for every single person on the earth. For one it might be traveling the world or becoming a doctor, for others, it might be earning a lot of money and living a lavish life and for some, it might mean creating something beautiful or just living peacefully. Guess what? None of them is wrong. Each of them is right. Happiness is derived from many different things in many different ways. Don’t be afraid to chase your happiness because even if you don’t make it to where you want to go on the first try, you’ll be closer and definitely happier and more fulfilled knowing that you went for it. For me, that means creating content that resonates with others and living my life on my own terms. Starting today, I want to post at least 5 days a week. You are my accountability buddy. Don’t let society tell you what to wear, how to look, who to love, what’s cool and what’s not. Do what makes you happy! Periodt. No one else lives in your body, your mind or your soul. Only you can choose your happiness and that starts by stopping taking other people’s opinions into consideration when deciding what makes your heart happy and full.

5. Travel

Wander the world. A change of scenery is good for your soul. Honestly, whether you are going to a cabin in the woods, hiking in the mountains, laying on a beach, or exploring a metropolis traveling is a way to reboot and gives you just enough distance and distraction to forget your worries for a little while and give you a fresh heart and eyes to tackle your woes when you return. My parents taught me from a very young age that travel is an experience that opens your mind and your heart. It makes you more tolerant, understanding and kind. There is no better gift you can give yourself.  So travel everywhere you can any chance you get. It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 minutes from home or a 24-hour flight; walk where you’ve never walked before and try things you’ve never tried before. You won’t believe how your perspective of humans and the world, in general, will change.

6. Be the you that you want to be

This one can be hard because not all of us have taken the time in our lives to even ask ourselves what we want, who we want to be or what that looks like. Many of us have been swept up in our lives; it almost feels as if it happened to us and in some cases, as circumstances were, it did. But it’s never too late to change until you’re dead. Every single day is a new beginning. Every. Single. Day.  So decide who the you is that YOU want to be and be that. Make a list. For example, I want to be a more attentive wife (pandemic has made me in survival mode but I want more. I want slow dancing in the kitchen, hand-holding on walks and snuggles on the couch) I want to be a strong role model for my girls and I also want to be their best friend, I want to evolve my career to the next level (so I’m working my tail off to complete this Masters in Digital Marketing), I want to actively choose the life I live and I want joy and satisfaction to be the guiding factor.

7. Don’t let other people’s actions steal your joy

Only positive vibes this year. It’s an inside joke in my family that I am eternally optimistic. I’ve always been this way. If I weren’t, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here…or anywhere. I think I just had a hard childhood (like so many of us #generationaltrauma) and I know that worry is a useless emotion and negativity absolutely brings the energy down. If you don’t believe you can, you absolutely won’t so I’m living that MexiCAN (Not MexiCANT) life. All this to say, trust and believe in yourself. You are the master of your own destiny. The only way other people can steal your joy is if you allow them to. Do NOT let those people have that power.

8. Sleep

It sounds super basic. I know. But sleep is the cure-all to life (well, that and water). Sleep is something that has always been a challenge for me (manic bipolar who is clinically diagnosed insomniac) add in some ADHD, perfectionist tendencies and then hit me over the head with the pandemic anxiety. Yes, sleep is absolutely elusive for a lot of adults, especially parents. I am not alone in this but it is a basic need to stay healthy and happy. So do what you need to do to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep. Stop laughing. It is possible. Try relaxing at night, dim the lights, get cozy and turn off the screens. Meditate. Take a warm bath. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bed and rethink those sugar snacks before bed. Get your exercise done earlier in the day so you can benefit from the endorphins without that energy surge at bedtime. Last but not least, make a small to-do list every day in the morning and cross those 5 things off as the day goes and at bedtime, throw it in the garbage. The list could be as simple as drink coffee, pick up kids from school, return books to library, go for a walk and drink water. Then, give yourself permission to rest and forget the rest until tomorrow. Do this every day until it becomes a habit.

9. Drink water

This is so simple and basic that it sounds almost ridiculous to put it on a list but it is very important. Drink your water. Water really is life. It’s great for your skin, your health and your mind. Set a goal to drink at least 64 ounces of water every single day. Staying hydrated can contribute to a general sense of well-being.

10. Get dressed everyday

I get it, it sounds like common sense but let me tell you, as a stay at home mom during a pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of the last two years wearing loungewear, whether that be fuzzy skims, tie-dyed lounge sets, LuLulemons/joggers and sweatshirts or just changing from my night jammies to my day jammies. I have not been dressing in all the cute clothes that I’ve bought to satisfy my pandemic anxiety shopping. Last week, I went to my in-laws for Christmas and I put on a cute sweater dress with knee-high boots and put makeup on and did my hair. It was a game-changer. I felt cute and sexy and human. Never underestimate the power of dressing for yourself and feeling beautiful in your own skin. It absolutely changed my entire outlook on life and my self-confidence.

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You can’t do everything or be everything to everyone. It’s ok to be vulnerable and fragile, let other’s help. Don’t put off medical, mental or spiritual needs. Needing help is not a shortcoming, it is part of being human. We all need help at some time to survive life. No one is an island. If what you’re doing isn’t working don’t be afraid to pivot or change directions entirely.

12. Live everyday like it’s a special ocassion

You do not need to live like you’re dying but, for the love of God, live and love like every day you are alive is a special occasion. Celebrate you. Eat the macarons. Wear that little black dress from Nordstrom. Take the trip to Paris. Tell the people your heart is crushing on that you love them, that they are special and you are glad they are a part of your life. Stop saving shit for someday when today is yesterday’s someday.

These are my realistic new year resolutions to help you manifest your best life in 2022 and every year after that. Choose your own happiness. Choose your own adventure. We only have one life and the time on earth is not that long, so do what you want. Choose you.

In the end, the goal should be to live your life in such a way that even if you die at 99-years-old (like my abuelito and Betty White did) it’s still too soon.

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How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Anyone else in full-on fun, old-fashioned Christmas mode? The kids are finally on winter break. We’re all fully vaccinated and 3 of the 4 of us are boostered (come on 15-11-year-old age group) and we’ve all been home long enough to relax and be present. I don’t know about you but I’m basking in the glow of some Christmas lights right now, myself.

Christmas doesn’t look like it used to because so many of our traditions and celebrations are tied to getting together with friends and family and as we’re all painfully aware, CoVid has been renewed for yet another season. Omicron is coming in hot this holiday season.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with S.Rosen’s Baking Company. But all opinions and love of fancy cocktails and food are my own.

I knew there would be no “normal” ugly holiday sweater party this year but I was hoping for at least a “new normal”-ish holiday get-together. I was really looking forward to small gatherings with family. I thought that if we were safe and most of us were vaccinated we’d be okay. But last week, my friend lost his father to CoVid and it was a cruel reminder that CoVid is still here and still just as dangerous as it was when this all first started and I’m still terrified of accidentally killing an unvaccinated person (especially one related to me).

Then this surge came and, as anybody with teens knows, it’s almost impossible to be 100% safe when teens are involved. They’re in school and they drive. They’re attached at the hip with friends and, at this point for many, boyfriends and girlfriends have entered the picture so it’s really hard to keep your kid unexposed.  You try your best but know that you can’t be 100% sure they haven’t been exposed, even in the best-case scenarios.

This means we absolutely cannot be around people who are unvaccinated for fear they will pass it to us or worse, we’ll pass it to them and they could die. I can’t take that kind of added pressure to my holiday celebrations so some awkward conversations are going to have to take place and there are some people that I’m not going to get to hug this Christmas.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we can’t still safely celebrate “new normal” style with an intimate gathering of vaccinated and boostered only family. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re celebrating small but make it fancy and fun. I’m thinking tiny sandwiches, fondue and some cocktails a la Madmen pairs nicely with my Masters in marketing that I’m pursuing right now.

Here are a few holiday celebration recipes I’ll be using this holiday season. Perfect for Christmas, New Year’s eve or even those 6 crazy days and nights between when no one knows what day or time it is; where we all exist in our pajamas, nap and eat to our heart and stomach’s content.

How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Merry Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. Frozen meatballs
  • 10 oz. Steak sauce 
  • 1 Can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 tsp. Smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Hot sauce (more to taste) 
  • 1 tsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Smoked paprika

For Serving:

  • Sharp cheddar cheese spread
  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • Diced parsley

Instructions:

1. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a slow cooker. Stir to evenly coat. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.

2. Serve with the party rye and cheddar cheese spread on the side so your guests can build their own sandwiches.

How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Fun with Fondue

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb Gruyere (don’t use pre-shredded)
  • ½ lb Gouda (don’t use pre-shredded)
  • 2½ Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 Cup lager beer
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • ½ tsp. White pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. Rye whiskey
  • 1½ tsp. Dijon mustard

For Serving:

  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • Diced apples
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cured meats

Instructions:

  1. Shred the cheeses and toss with the corn starch, trying to evenly coat.
  2. In nonstick pot over medium heat, bring the beer and lemon juice to a simmer. At this point add the dry seasonings.
  3. Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time, using a whisk to combine.
  4. Once smooth, add the, rye whiskey, mustard, and nutmeg.
  5. Serve in a fondue pot with plenty of options for dipping.

Snowman Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Cream cheese
  • 8 oz. White cheddar, shredded
  • 8 oz. Havarti, shredded
  • 1 tsp. White pepper
  • ½ tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¾ Cup crushed macadamia nuts

Instructions:

  1. Combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, seasonings, Dijon mustard, and 6 Tbsp. of crushed     Macadamia nuts in a large bowl. Mashed the ingredients together. 
  2. When the mixture is well combine, coat your hands in olive oil (to prevent sticking) and form 3 balls on a plate to form a snowman.
  3. 3. Coat with the rest of the crushed macadamia nuts, add nose, eyes, and buttons.
  4. Serve with S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Ryes Bread.
How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipes

Mini Rye Melts

Ingredients:

  • 2 Yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • S.Rosen’s Party Entertainer Rye Bread
  • 14 oz. Package li’l smokies
  • Gouda cheese slices
  • Yellow mustard
  • Diced parsley for topping

Instructions:

  1. To caramelize the onion, start by melting 3 Tbsp. of butter in a small pot, then add the onions. Gently cook over low heat for about 60 minutes, stirring regularly. Raise the temperature slightly toward the end to promote some browning. Take off heat and allow to cool. Can be made the day before.
  2. Assemble the sandwiches on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Start with a spoonful of caramelized onion spread on the bread, top with 2 li’l smokies with each being cut in half to they lay better. Top with a ¼ of a slice of Gouda cheese. This can be done earlier in the day, just cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to heat and serve.   
  3. Heat oven to 350◦F and bake for 8 minutes.
  4. Top with yellow mustard and diced parsley. Enjoy!
How to Throw the Perfect, Quaint Holiday Celebration this CoVid Season , holiday recipes, whiskey recipess

Retro Rye Cocktails

We’re taken some retro cocktails and given them seasonal/modern twists to complement our rockin’ rye appetizers. We use rye whiskey in these drinks, but bourbon works as a substitute.

Happy Highball!
Combine 2 oz rye whiskey and 1oz. cranberry or pomegranate liquor then top with 4 oz. ginger beer.

Apple Manhatten
Combine in a cocktail shaker: 2 oz. Rye whiskey, ½ oz. apple brandy, ½ oz. sweet vermouth & 2 dashes bitters. Shake, strain & serve

A Festive Fig Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • ·2 oz. Rye whiskey
  • ·2 tsp Fig syrup (recipe below)
  • 3 Dashes orange bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish

To Make the Fig Syrup: Combine ½ cup of water, ¼ cup of fig jam and ¼ cup of brown sugar in a small pot, gently simmer until well combined. Remove from heat, strain to remove the seeds and allow to chill.

To Make Drink: Combine the first 3 ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled then strain into an old-fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Garnish the orange peel.

The most important thing to remember this holiday season is to be kind to yourself and enjoy what you can do and don’t linger too long worrying about the things you can’t. It’s all temporary and there is no rule that says we have to celebrate in a certain way. Look at it this way, you’re stepping out of your box and making new traditions. Happy holidays!

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15 Reasons your family needs an emergency fund

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, well, with the exception of a surging pandemic. 2021, you’re so unoriginal. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to always expect the unexpected. No matter how on top of things you think you are in terms of your family finances or life in general, no matter how well you might be doing at the moment, things can always change and you need to be prepared for any unforeseen emergencies that come your way, especially when you have a family.

Building an emergency fund once you have paid for the essentials in life, is a really sensible way of providing your family with some extra financial cushioning should the worst go wrong and if coronavirus has taught us anything it’s that it can. Don’t believe me?

Here are 15 very good reasons why our family really does need an emergency fund:

1. Job loss

None of us like to think that we might lose our jobs one day, but these days, there really is no such thing as a job for life and a job loss is something that can happen to anyone at any time for a whole host of reasons. If you lost your job, how would you cope? If you have an emergency fund that you can dip into when you need it, it is will be a whole lot easier to cover the bills and keep the family afloat until you find a new position, that’s for sure.

2. You need to relocate

Relocating is a lot more common now than it was even just a few years ago and often doing so can lead to better opportunities for your whole family in terms of job and schooling prp[ets, but if you cannot afford the costs of relocation you could miss out, which is why having an emergency fund is imminently sensible.

3. Legal costs

None of us like to think that we or a family member would ever end up on the wrong side of the law, but from DUIs to lawsuits, there are so many things that can happen unexpectedly and when they do, in order to do our best for ourselves or our family members who have gotten into trouble, we will need to find the money for lawyers, bail bonds, and things of that nature, which as you will probably know, can be pretty expensive, so if you do not have a pot of money to fall back on, it could be a very tricky situation to navigate indeed.

4. Tax bills

If you have filed your taxes correctly, this is unlikely to happen to you but it is not uncommon for families across the United States to be hit with unexpected tax bills due to calculating errors and things like that. Owing money to the IRS is never a good experience and it can cause a whole lot of stress and strain on family life, which is why being able to access the cash you need to settle that unexpected tax bill should it arise is always going to be a good thing.

5. Car troubles

How would your family get by without your car? Chances are you would struggle to get everyone to work and school on time not to mention running basic errands like grocery shopping. But, you know that car repairs can be extremely expensive, and sometimes, there’s no amount of repairing that can keep the car in action any longer, which means you will need to find the money for a new one, which means if you don’t have an emergency fund to fall back on, you could end up having to manage without access to a vehicle for quite a while. Is it really worth taking the risk?

6. Veterinary bills

If you have pets, then it is a really good idea to take out an insurance policy that will cover any treatments and medications they may need throughout their life, but even if you have insurance,w you will normally be asked to pay for various deductibles and veterinary treatment can be very expensive. The last thing you want is to feel like you have to get your pet put to sleep because you cannot afford to pay for treatment, hence why an emergency find would be a literal lifesaver.

7. Rent rises

If you rent your home, then there is a good chance that the rent you are paying will rise on a semi-regular basis, and if you are not prepared for that when it happens, it could be difficult to keep a roof over your head. If you have an emergency fund, you can dip into that to make up the shortfall until you find a more affordable home or maybe pick up a few more hours at work. Keeping a roof over your family’s head is probably the most important thing you need to do and having savings available to you when you need them will really help with that.

8. Unexpected bills

Unexpected utility bills are hardly unheard of but they can throw your finances out of whack if you have not budgeted for them and the last thing you need is to risk having the power turned off, for example. Having cash tucked away for just such bills is something that may not seem necessary, but which you will be glad of should the problem of an unexpected bill arise.

9. Health issues

Health issues are also very common, unfortunately, and if you are hit with a nasty illness that leaves you unable to work, you may not be able to bring any money into the home. That, on top of the fact that medical bills can get very expensive, even if you have insurance, means that having a nest egg hidden away for when you get sick is one of the most sensible things you could ever do for your whole family.

10. Pregnancy


Pregnancy is a lot easier to manage financially and emotionally when it is planned by you and your spouse. However, life happens and unexpected pregnancies are as common as sunshine in Florida, so if there is any chance you could end up unexpectedly pregnant at all, it really would be wise to have some money set aside in an emergency fund that will help you to pay for the essentials like diapers and doctor visits, you might have to find other ways of financing the first 18 years of the little bundle’s life though! 

11. Divorce

No one gets married thinking that they will one day get divorced, but around half of all marriages o end up in divorce and that means that it could well be something that you have to deal with one day. Should the worst happen, it will be a whole lot easier to start your life over as a single person if you have some money in the bank to help you get started. It will mean that you don’t have to wait for the divorce settlement to move out and start building a new life and that can be amazing for your mental health, Hopefully, you’ll never need to use, it but you never know what life is going to throw at you!

12. Kids activities

If you have children, you will know that they cost you an absolute fortune in many ways from clothing to college funds, but something a lot of parents do not consider in terms of financiaing their kids are the various extra-curricular activities that they are going to want to try throughout their lives. Many of these activities come right lots of unexpected expenses from the costs of uniforms to trips and tournament entry fees, so having an emergency fund can really help you to support your children with their interests.

13. Weddings

Whether your own or someone else’s weddings can be expensive affairs when you count the cost of outfits, gits, travel, and hotel stays, so when one is sprung on you at the last minute it can be a struggle to find money in the budget to attend. Not when you have an emergency fund though!

14. Death

When you have a family it is really important that you and your spouse have life insurance policies so that if one or both of you were to sadly pass away, the rest of the family would have a financial cushion to take care of them. However, having an emergency fund can also be helpful because it may take the insurance a while to payout and the last thing loved ones need is to be worrying about money when they are mourning an important loss.

15. Unexpected opportunities

Sometimes in life, we are thrown an opportunity that is too good to pass up, whether it be a business opportunity or the vacation of a lifetime, but many of us DO have to pass them up because we simply do not have access to the funds that would enable us to take the opportunity that is presented to us, When you have an emergency fund, this is less of a problem and you can truly embrace life and do what you really want instead of being held back by a lack of money.

As you can see, having an emergency fund makes so much sense for pretty much every eventuality in life, so time to start saving!

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elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

It’s that time of the year again. You know the one. The time of the year when the elf on the shelf arrives. Also, coincidentally, when parents have about 5 whimsical, hilarious and creative elf on the shelf ideas and then, we’re out. Even if we’re not out, we forget. Oh, the horror. Why must those little guys need so much assistance? No fear, this mom scoured the internet and below are 20 funny last minute elf on the shelf ideas that parents can remember and kids will love.

Let me tell you a little story about the dumbest parents in the world, that would be the Big Guy and myself, in case there was any confusion. The elf on the shelf started coming when Bella was 2-years-old. We thought, “OMG, it’s so cute every kid should have one of Santa’s adorable elves come to visit them at Christmas.”

READ ALSO: The Elf is Back in Town

Our first elf on the shelf arrived that year, in a box (with little breathing holes in it) from the North Pole (sent from Santa Claus himself, no less) and a letter from the Jolly Big Guy. Did I mention that we do not half-ass anything in this house? We put our whole ass in our hell yeahs…even funny last minute elf in the shelf ideas.

His name was Ed and he was freaking adorable. No, he didn’t look like the other elves. He’s pleasantly plump and has kind eyes and I’m assuming that he is probably Santa’s favorite because he kind of looks like Santa himself (maybe he’s Santa’s illegitimate son? I’m not saying he is but I’m not saying he isn’t either.)

After all, Elf on the shelf can come in all sizes, shapes and colors just like people. #TeachableMoment

Ed was fantastic. Bella loved him and so did we. An elf’s life is pretty sweet when kids are toddlers. Toddlers have the attention span of gnats. Ed could literally move his lazy derriere an inch a night and Bella was perfectly tickled.

By 2008, we had two little girls and, for some reason, Santa thought it would be cool to send 2 elves. One for each girl. Ed and Ana Lee (who’s a little old guy who came with a name tag). So, then there were 2 elves, 2 daughters and the 3-year-old was pretty perceptive. Life gets more complicated when 2 lazy elves have to put on a dog and pony show every night. 2 kids, this mommy was exhausted.

READ ALSO: Elf on the Shelf Run Amuck

Well, if you think things were getting crazy, well, you have no idea. Ended up moving a couple of times and well, let’s just say for argument’s sake, that our elves got confused for a couple of years and we ended up with 3 more different elves, Herbie Hancock, Rick Astley and Darling Nikki. I’m blaming sundowners for Ed and Ana lee’s confusion. Moving is not good for elf consistency. So, for those of you keeping track, now that we have lived in this house for 6 years, all 5 elves have been showing up. It gets chaotic up in here.

Here are 20 Funny Last Minute Elf on the shelf ideas for Parents and Elves who are exhausted and lack imagination or both.

1. The Elf on the Shelf with Proof

Have the elf show up in a box with holes from the North Pole and a letter from Santa. Remember to remove all name tags they bring with themselves, as to allow for a more suitable name to be given to said elf.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze, hostess

Photo Credit: @Frugalmom

2. The Hostess with the Mostest Elf

Has your elf shown up with a welcome breakfast for the whole family? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Maybe you help the little guy out and host your own north pole breakfast. 

3. Paratrooper Elf

Has your Elf on the Shelf parachuted in? It’s different, unexpected and really brings adventure. I mean, if he’s arriving by parachute, what might this little guy (or gal) do next? Who says that last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas have to be boring?

4. Kissing Elf on the Shelf

A bag full of kisses for all the bubs and sisses. Maybe your elf is just not that into boxes maybe he arrives with a note from Santa and a bag full of chocolate kisses.

5. Full of Hot Air Elf on the Shelf

Forget the box altogether, and forget Santa’s predictable sleigh, why not arrive by hot air balloon, zip line or under the Christmas tree locomotive? After all, Danger could be his middle name (check the “name” tag someone forgot to remove).

6. Do you want to build a snowman Elf on the Shelf

If your kids are like mine they are Frozen fanatics and they also love building snowmen, so kids find it pretty cool when their Elf shows up and writes Frozen lyrics all over the bathroom mirror and builds a toilet paper snowman. And hey, if it’s snowing out, parents, you’ll get bonus points for taking those kiddies out and building an actual snowman!

READ ALSO: The Elf on the Shelf Problem

But be careful, our 5 elves have been known to toilet paper our house, the tree and anything else when hopped up on too much peppermint. I’m pretty sure that our elves turn into chain-smoking, drunken frat boy hooligans at night.

7. Loco for Coco Elf on the Shelf

Maybe while you’re outside building the snowman, maybe Rick Astley (that little go-getter that he is) the elf decides to put together a surprise coco bar for the whole family. How thoughtful. Best.elf. ever.

8. Like a Wrecking Ball Elf on the Shelf

Maybe your elf is MacGyver and he likes to live on the edge. So he takes some string, a toilet paper roll and he swings in overnight to make an entrance.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze, smores

Photo Credit: @CameronsCoffee

9. S’mores Elf on the Shelf

I’m not one for advocating that elves play with fire but it sure would be nice to return from a cold day at school to find Smoky the elf carefully making S’mores. That would be a nice treat, right?

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

Photo Credit: @Craftywayout

10. Pump You Up Elf on the Shelf

Schwarzenegger elf really doesn’t like to miss his workouts, especially around the holidays with all the yummy desserts around the joint. Maybe he concocts marshmallow dumbbells to keep in shape and keep those love handles at bay.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

Photo credit: @Juliee_1985

11. An Angel Gets its Wings Elf on the Shelf

Frosty the snow elf really loves playing in the “snow” so beware, he may go to extreme lengths to feel at home and make sugar, rice, powdered sugar or sprinkle angels.

Mischievous Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the elves who want to live on the edge.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

Photo Credit: @Dopedreams_3X

12. Pooping elf on the shelf.

I am not sure what exactly these elves eat on a regular basis, but I can say that we’ve caught them pooping a toilet full of chocolate chips in the Barbie toilet. We’ve also caught them making not so nice toilet humor and playing pranks in the bathroom.

13. Tawanda! Elf on the Shelf

Ever caught your elves mid mischief? Well, one of our elf’s favorite things to do besides swing from chandeliers and cozy up to the Barbies and American Girl Dolls is sledding down the stairs. We’ve caught them doing it in the Barbie car, in toilet paper tubes and even by wrapping themselves in the toilet paper, yelling “Tawanda!” and just rolling. Silly elves, toilet paper is for wiping butts not sliding down the stairs.

14. The Godfather Elf on the Shelf

Our girls know that touching the elves is strictly forbidden and strips them of their North Pole magical abilities, so they don’t touch them but those elves are sneaky. When the girls have had talkback, push the boundary days, our elves have not been above crawling in the bed with them and sleeping on the pillow next to them. It’s pretty Tony Soprano sleeping with the fishes/ waking up with a horse head in your bed thug like.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze15. Shoe Conga Elf on the Shelf

Elves like to be silly. I once saw our elves do a shoe conga from the living room, through the foyer and into the movie room. They’ve also been known to do this aboard the Polar Express beneath the Christmas tree.

16. Horsing Around Elves

They’re just like us and they get bored. I’ve seen them rally all those stuffies, Polly Pockets and Barbie dolls lying on the floor and let the sack races begin.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level

Photo Credit: @Pittmankid

17. K-Cup Criminal Elf on the Shelf

Did you know that elves love coffee and hot chocolate almost as much as they love peppermint sticks? They do. I’ve caught them on more than one occasion reusing my old K-Cups. I’m cool with it. I’m all about recycling and reusing.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

Photo credit: @elfontheshelf

18. Sick Day Elf on the Shelf

Well, even elves get cooties sometimes, especially during a pandemic. Who says they can’t get quarantined to one spot??  Our kids know all about it now, so if you forget to move Elfie, he was quarantined. That’s your story, now stick to it. In these situations, it is best if they leave a doctor’s note to let the kids know why they’re not moving. Enjoy your sleep and take advantage of those days that you don’t have to chase him down every night. P.S. It’s the worse when the elf catches a cold from your kid but the guilt does buy you a couple extra days of relief but don’t try that with Omicron, too much pandemic stress could blow it all up in your face. Don’t get greedy.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark

Photo Credit: @lips_last_with_Selena

19. Elfy sharks doo doo doo doo doo doo 

We have an entire family of elves, therefore, why wouldn’t they want to get in on the latest craze? You just know they’re going to show up as the family of sharks one day, perhaps with the JAWS music playing softly in the background. Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.

20. Picasso Elf on the Shelf

Our elves seem to get increasingly mischievous the closer we get to Christmas. One of their favorite things to do is climb up our shelves and draw silly mustaches and unibrows on family photos.

There are ( as my teen would say) “literally” 1000 other things your elf can do and mischief they can get into. I can go on for infinity.

If you are looking for some other great ideas check out this awesome elf on the shelf checklist.

I can say that our elves are a bit rambunctious. On their last night at our house, we almost always find them hungover after a night of drunken debauchery; gorged on peppermint and passed out in the middle of their Go Fish game.

They’ve even been known to toilet paper our Christmas tree and fill our house with paper snowflakes while we were at a holiday party. Elves are awesome but they sure love their shenanigans. They also have a penchant for stealing phones while you sleep and leaving random #elfies on our phones.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

What’s your best funny last minute elf on the shelf ideas? What’s the craziest thing your elf has ever done?

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Thanksgiving recipes, thanksgiving dinner, cranberry orange relish, thanksgiving sides

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Growing up, cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner meant a gelatinous cranberry-ish colored substance in the form of a can. Really, it was like eating canned jelly. It was all I knew and I loved it. I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of sweet with my savory, as evidenced by my cranberry and brie bites addiction. I had no idea there was even such a thing as homemade cranberry orange sauce.

However, when I met the Big Guy, on our first Thanksgiving at his mom’s house, I tasted what could only be called cranberry orange heaven. It was absolutely nothing like the canned stuff that I had believed to be cranberry sauce for my entire previous 20-something years. It was like my mouth was tasting cranberries for the first time ever.

READ ALSO: How to Roast the Perfect Turkey

My mother-in-law bought a prepackaged deli style cranberry orange sauce by a company called Indian Trail. The little tub of sweet-tart-citrus deliciousness was magnificent and the flavors were incredibly vibrant. It was like eating color. The texture was jellied but not gelatinous. It was full-bodied compared to the canned stuff. To be honest, it was almost a dessert.

A couple of years later, the Big Guy and I were married and living hundreds of miles away from our families so we decided to host our first ever Thanksgiving dinner. It was all brand new. I was excited and terrified to take on the undertaking but it was time to make our own traditions, he and I. I finally felt like an adult. Just my husband and his wife and no parents around to do all the heavy lifting.

We made a list and made sure to include everything that we wanted in a Thanksgiving dinner. We were able to move away from the stove top stuffing and canned “cranberry sauce”. The one side dish that  I knew that I really wanted to keep from our mothers was the Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce. Only, when we got to the store, we couldn’t find it anywhere. After a frenzied scouring of the internet to save my Thanksgiving dinner ( because I was not above having my MIL overnight me the sauce from home) I found out that Indian Trail went out of business.

NOOOOOOOOO! I was so disappointed. Obviously, our first Thanksgiving was doomed. All I wanted was to host the perfect Thanksgiving for our family. We had gotten too big for our britches and Thanksgiving was ruined. There would be no Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce for us. Or would there?

READ ALSO: How to Make Sweet Potato Casserole

Come on, y’all know me. I’m a Mexican, not a Mexicant. I did a whole lot of research and some trial and error taste testing and guess what I did? I created my own Indian Trail copycat recipe. All the same flavor and texture made at my house in a matter of minutes. And you know what? The homemade, from scratch recipe, is even better than the Indian Trail sold in stores version because it is fresh. All the bursting with flavors I was referring to earlier is timesed by 100%.

Here is my recipe for copycat homemade Indian Trail cranberry orange sauce recipe.

Ingredients

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries

1 whole orange including peel/rind, seeds removed

1-cup sugar

Instructions

Chop all of the ingredients in a food processor or a food grinder and stir to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use. Be sure to let it drain a while to remove the excess liquid before mixing it with Jello. The entire time it takes to process this mixture is about 5 minutes.

Ingredients

2 (3 oz.) pkgs. raspberry Jello

2 1/2 c. boiling water

Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup of finely Chopped Walnuts or pecans

Instructions

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in Cranberry Orange Sauce, pineapple and chopped walnuts. Pour into mold. Refrigerate until firm ( 4 hours). I usually make this the night before Thanksgiving.

READ ALSO: How to make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Serve on Thanksgiving along with all of the traditional sides you love. Your family will thank you for it. This year will be year 15 that we’ve hosted and I just had a hysterectomy and we’re still cooking because I can’t go back to canned cranberry sauce and Stove Top. It’s not just for Thanksgiving. This cranberry orange sauce is great for Christmas or really any dinner ever. Happy dinner!

What’s your Indian Trail Cranberry Orange Sauce side that you MUST have every holiday?

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Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving

Of all the Thanksgiving Recipes I use my Sweet Potato Casserole is the one I’m asked for the most often. As Thanksgiving recipes go, this one is a favorite in our house. It’s based on the sweet potato casserole recipe made famous by the Grandview Lodge in North Carolina. We don’t spend every Thanksgiving in the Smokies but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my family that delicious home-cooked taste they’ve come to love. Below is the easy recipe for how to make sweet potato casserole recipe that has become synonymous with autumn in our house.

As far as Thanksgiving recipes go, this is the one must have ( aside from my Thanksgiving turkey recipe) that our family always wants me to bake. It also happens to be one of the side dish casseroles that people will ask me to bring to their assorted holiday functions. It is truly that good. I’ve even had family tell me that they would forgo the mashed potato recipes and Thanksgiving gravy for this sweet potato casserole.  It’s truly a Thanksgiving recipe favorite that your family will be asking for for years to come.

READ ALSO: Thanksgiving Recipes for the Perfect Holiday 

This is a bit of a Thanksgiving recipe secret so shhhh! It’s simple and delicious and people will think you were working in a hot kitchen all day. If you’re like me, you can even put it all together the night before ( to reduce the amount of kitchen time on Thanksgiving Day) and then just pop it in the oven for the last 45 minutes of your turkey baking time.

Best Thanksgiving Recipes: Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients –   How to make Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk

Ingredients – Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch or two 9 x 9-inch baking pans.

In a food processor fitted with a steel knife, combine ingredients for topping until crumbly or use a pastry blender to cut butter into brown sugar and flour until crumbly.

Mix in the chopped pecans.

Sprinkle topping mixture over the sweet potatoes.

At this point, the dish can be refrigerated (covered).

Thanksgiving recipes, How to make sweet potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, Holiday recipes, turkey recipes, Thanksgiving                                Photo: Pinch of  Yum

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

READ ALSO: How to Make an Easy, Elegant Thanksgiving Tablescape

Let cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy with your other favorite Thanksgiving Recipes. This sweet potato casserole recipe will surely be a Thanksgiving recipe that you will come back to year after year.

Thanksgiving Recipes are the best. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

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How to Stop Your House from Becoming a Money Pit, home maintenance

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As a homeowner, you find out pretty quickly that there are always unexpected issues and costs. Surprise, the central air isn’t working! Surprise, the house isn’t level! Surprise, an opossum is living in your attic and it smells like he died! Staying on top of your home’s many unexpected issues and covering the costs of them can not only be stressful but costly, as well. But there are ways to cut those costs with a little diligence and maintenance (which is less effective than fixing something that has already broken). It’ll take some awareness, planning, diligence and elbow grease but it’s cheaper than the alternative. Let’s talk about how to stop your house from becoming a money pit.

Sure Money Pit was a funny movie but no one actually wants to live that life. So if you feel like your home has become a huge financial drain on your family, now is the time to do something about it. Below are tips and ideas to help you to start making small positive changes that will save you money.

How to stop your house from becoming a money pit

Clean Everything Regularly

One of the first and most important things you can do with your home is make sure that it’s kept properly clean and in good shape at all times. By doing the basic things like this, you can make sure that no bigger issues arise later on because that’s not what anyone wants. When you clean the home inside and out on a regular basis, you can make things like mold issues less likely. It’ll help avoid problems later. I’m not saying anything crazy like dusting every week, making the bed daily or even putting away that folded laundry, I’m saying basic upkeep so you’ll notice when things aren’t right.

Create a Savings Fund for Home Maintenance

The fat is not lost on me that this is easier said than done. But if you want to make sure that you don’t get hit financially upside the head by the cost of looking after your home, creating a savings account that allows you to cover those costs without having to forgo eating and obliterating your finances in the meantime. Putting just a little money aside each month that can go towards maintaining your home and making sure all of those costs are covered is a good idea. And any savings that aren’t used can be put to use when a bigger repair needs to be made in the future or a family vacation.

Get an Energy Audit

Getting an energy audit carried out by a professional is a good idea if you want to reduce the running costs of your home. From day to day, we all use energy in the home. And it makes sense to use less of it, both from a green and eco-friendly point of view, and a money saving point of view. When you have an energy audit carried out, you’ll get to see how and where you’re currently wasting energy and what kinds of changes you can make in order to improve things.

Ensure the Ground Slopes Away from the Home

One of the problems that many homeowners face relates to water and how it impacts the foundations of the home. If you have lots of standing water around the home, that’s not going to be good for you. Make sure that the ground around your property slopes away from the house. By doing that, you can make sure that any rainwater flows away from your home and not towards it. It might sound like a small thing but it’s massively important especially if you got a “great deal” in a flood zone.

Inspect the Roof Every 6 Months

Inspecting the roof is something that you should try to do at least once every 6 months or so. You never know when a problem might arise, and when it does, you want to get it checked out as soon as possible. The truth is lots of roof problems go unnoticed for a long time, and when they are finally noticed, it costs a lot of money to get them fixed. So be sure to consider that and think about having your home’s roof inspected at least a couple of times a year.

Put a Home Warranty in Place

Putting as many measures in place as possible to ensure that home repairs don’t end up costing you a fortune is a good idea. And that’s one of the key reasons why you should think about putting a home warranty in place if you haven’t done so already. This will mean that if you do suffer any issues in your home, some of the costs will be covered for you by the warranty. It’s the kind of security measure that you definitely need to have in place if you want to avoid big financial impacts in the event of something going wrong.

Create a Maintenance Schedule

Having a regular maintenance schedule in place is something that can help a lot when it comes to taking care of all the things that need to be taken care of regarding your home. It’s so easy to overlook or forget about certain things when you don’t have a schedule in place that you can follow and fall back on. That schedule can be followed week after week, month after month, ensuring your home stays in the best condition possible.

Make Sure the Carry Water Away from Your Home

We’ve already talked a bit about the impact water can have on your home and its integrity. If you want to go further in making sure that standing water around the base of your home doesn’t become a big problem for you, you should think about the role your gutters might play in that. If the gutters are dumping water next to your home, you have a problem. Ensuring the drainage system is doing everything it should do and that water is being carried away from the home safely is going to be key.

Replace Heating and Cooling Filters Every Few Months

Your heating and cooling system is something you won’t want to overlook when it comes to avoiding financial disasters. When something goes wrong with it, it can be very expensive to fix. That’s why you should take extra care to maintain the system well and have someone look at it for you regularly if you’re not sure how to do it yourself. One of the most important things you can do is replace the filters every few months, or even monthly if you want to be extra cautious.

Fix Gaps and Damage to the Home’s Exterior Right Away

If you notice any gaps in the exterior of your home or holes that simply shouldn’t be there, it’s a good idea to have these filled and fixed right away. Any damage to the exterior should be dealt with sooner rather than later and that’s something that you can take care of yourself in most cases. The first task, however, is to check the exterior on a regular basis and make sure that you’re noticing these issues sooner rather than later.

Install Stronger Locks on Doors and Windows

Installing the strongest possible locks on the doors and windows of your property is another thing that you might want to consider. If you don’t do this, you’ll always run the risk of these entry points causing you security problems. Stronger locks and doors will avoid damage being done via a break-in and, most importantly, avoid the break-in from happening in the first place. So that’s definitely something to think about.

As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to stop your home feeling like such a financial burden for your family, so be sure to make the most of each of the tips and ideas discussed above. By making the right changes in the right areas, there’s no reason why you can’t save yourself a lot of money.

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