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Deborah Cruz

Farmer's Market Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Spring is here. We’re a month out from the end of the longest virtual school year ever. The girls and I have all been working hard to make it off this struggle bus of pandemic living.  We’re in full survival mode and right now, survival means adding something to look forward to each and every day, even if that just means something as simple as a facial mask or some new recipes.

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We should have never left the house for spring break. What should have been a welcome reprieve from our pandemic isolation ended up with us catching a severe case of senioritis. If you know, you know. Think the last 2 months of pregnancy…get out. The worst part is that I have to be the adult and encourage my girls to just hang in there, it’s “almost over” when all I want to do is quit. Talk about mom faking it until we make it.

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

To break up the monotony, I’ve been trying to get us safely out of the house more often. With the nice weather, that means more trips to outdoor venues, even if it’s just walking around the neighborhood pathways or the local Farmer’s market. But in doing so, that means not just fresh air but tiny, new adventures. Baby step adventures in travel, exploration and food and that feels just the littlest bit “normal” and I am here for it. Life feels new, fresh and exciting right now (just because it feels like normalcy may be possible again in the near future) and it hasn’t felt that way in a long time. I feel hopeful.

Delicious Farmer's Market Sandwich Recipes for the Whole Family, grilled cheese

Since we’re spending more time at the local Farmer’s market anyway, why not try some new recipes Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheeses?

Springtime is here and we’re craving something fresh. While all those fresh veggies can be absolutely delicious, they may not be everyone’s favorite food at the table. Though growing up, my mom’s grilled cheese was my favorite thing to eat. In fact, I couldn’t eat anything else during the first 6 months of my 1st pregnancy. Thankfully, my mom was happy to oblige and I’m happy to oblige my girls when they ask for my grilled cheese sandwiches.

But what about those fresh veggies you just bought at the Farmer’s market? Enter a unique mashup of grilled cheese and fresh veggies. These modular recipes bring together everyone’s favorite comfort food, grilled cheese with garden fresh veggies in easy to modify recipes. You can easily and quickly leave out select ingredients and customize each sandwich as needed for certain family members. Though we’d suggest NOT leaving out the bread and cheese – that could be a bit difficult.

Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

Fresh Asparagus and Spring Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ever feel like poor asparagus only gets used one way? Thrown on the grill and that’s about it, but we think this springtime veg is far more versatile than that! The key is cutting it up into bite size pieces to make this grilled cheese a fun, seasonal creation.
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Spring Pesto:

  • 2 Tbsp Toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp Grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Tsp Roasted garlic
  • 1 oz Fresh Chives

Per Sandwich

  • 2-3 Stalks Asparagus ends snapped off and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 Slice Prosciutto torn into bite size pieces
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pesto (this can be done the day before). Combine the pesto ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Sauté asparagus pieces for 3 minutes on high heat, until you see it begin to brown. Take off heat and transfer to a separate bowl, stirring in 1-2 Tbsp. of the pesto (depending on how strong you want it). 
  • Heat skillet or panini maker to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not, use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Havarti, top with the prosciutto, then the pesto coated asparagus, and more slices of cheese. Top with the second slice of bread after spreading a thin layer of mayo on it. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

For the sweet and savory Farmer’s market sandwich lover

Arugula Blueberry Grilled Cheese

Fresh Arugula and Local Jam Grilled Cheese

Maybe one of the most fun items to pick up at the farmers market is local jam, and with family favorite cheese Muenster, this combination creates a tasty and easy-to-make grilled cheese.  The arugula adds a nice peppery counter balance to the jam and makes this a more sophisticated sandwich for adults. As for the jam, we recommend the following flavors: blueberry, blackberry and apricot, but we encourage you to try your favorites! 
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

Per Sandwich

  • High quality jam of your choice
  • 3 Slices Muenster cheese
  • Arugula Handful
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan)
  • Assemble the sandwich: One and a half slices of Muenster (rip the half slice into pieces and spread around the slice), spread jam over cheese, and add a handful of arugula. Top with the second slice of bread. 
  • Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, first assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet.  Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat. Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

Farmer’s Market Sandwich that will fill you up

Bacon Chard Grilled Cheese

Chard, Apple and Bacon Grilled Cheese with Red Pepper Sauce

Chard always feels like that vegetable you should eat, but exactly how seems to be an issue. The answer is a grilled cheese! We also realize that chard might be a tough sell for some members of the family, but if you omit the chard, the resulting bacon and apple is still a classic grilled cheese combo.

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 4 oz. Jarred roasted red pepper 
  • 2 oz. Toasted slivered almonds 
  • 4 oz. Tomatoes (we used fire roasted from a can to keep it easy)
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley
  • 1 Tsp Roasted garlic

For the Chard

  • 1 Bunch Chard (rainbow or swiss)
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Neutral oil such as canola

For the Sandwich

  • 2 Slices Bacon cooked until crisp
  • 3 Slices Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 Apple thinly sliced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the red pepper sauce (this can be done the day before).  Combine the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Prepare the chard in a medium sauce pan with a lid.  Heat pan to medium and add oil.  Once heated, add chard by the handful. It will cook down A LOT.  Stir the chard, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Take off heat and set aside.
  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Gouda first, top with bacon, then the apple, two spoonfuls of sautéed chard, and finally, more sliced of cheese.  Top with the second slice of bread.  Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple sandwiches, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook three minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly cook times.  
  • Serve with red pepper sauce for dunking.

Just remember, life might feel a little weird and different right now but you can still do some things that are “normal” like a picnic in the backyard with the people who live in the house with you or just take a delicious sandwich to the deck and eat by yourself, if you’ve had too much “together time” this pandemic. Either way, what’s your favorite fresh, Farmer’s Market sandwich recipe?

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How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever considered moving to another country? I know I have, especially over the past 4 years. Being that my father is from another country and I spent my childhood summer’s in another country, living in another country has always been an exciting and viable option. In fact, I’ve spent my life learning languages and experiencing other cultures with my parents and now, traveling with the Big Guy and our girls, for just such an occasion. But how do you make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

While the thought of moving to another country is exciting it can also be quite a scary thing to do; leaving behind friends, family and everything you’ve known.  But be brave, it will be worth it. Inevitably, when you first arrive in a new country, you will feel overwhelmed and it’s common for people to feel homesick. Before you start worrying that you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life, you need to give yourself time to adjust. Everyone goes through this. 

To be honest, it takes a couple years to feel completely at home in a new place. Think of it as a new opportunity for adventure. It always takes time to get used to a new place, but it’s especially tough when you are in a new country with a totally different culture. However, there are some simple things you can do to make yourself feel at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Get Your Home Sorted

Before you do anything else, you should get your home sorted. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own home, you will struggle to feel at home in a new country. Make an effort to create a cozy, welcoming home for you and your family. You can fill it with some things to remind you of home but you should also buy new things to celebrate the transition. Once you start feeling comfortable in your own home, you then have a safe space to come back to and you can start exploring the new country.  

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Learn About The Culture

When you first arrive in a new country, you will still feel like a tourist and everything will feel a bit unfamiliar to you. The best way to settle in is to make an effort to learn about the culture. Be open to new things. Seeing a lot of the local tourist attractions and going to museums is a good place to start. You should also be adventurous with the food that you eat, as well. Go out and find lots of local places to eat, and instead of cooking your favorites from home, look up some recipes and start using local ingredients. Try to engage with local holidays as much as possible too. When you start engaging with the culture, you will feel more like a local. You’ll stop feeling like a visitor and start feeling like you’re home.

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Consider Applying For Citizenship

Even though you are a permanent citizen and you have the right visas in place, it can still feel like you are just a visitor. If you want to put your roots down and you plan to stay for the long haul, you should consider applying for citizenship. If you get in touch with an immigration lawyer, they will be able to advise you about the process. It’s easier to become a citizen in some countries than it is in others, so consider how long the process is before deciding whether it’s right for you. If you do become a citizen, you will feel much more at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Host Visitors From Back Home

Having people visit you from back home will really help if you are feeling homesick. It also gives you a good opportunity to show people your new life and the home that you have created for yourself. After these visits, your new lifestyle will feel more permanent and being able to share it with your family puts a more positive spin on things. 

It’s important to give it time when you move to a new country because the transition takes time. If it didn’t, that would just be weird. Don’t let fear of change stop you from trying new things. If you don’t like it, you can always move back home but a life of untaken chances and unrealized dreams will definitely end in regret. Be brave. Follow these simple steps and go for it! You’ll feel like a local in no time. 

What would be your best tip for how to make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

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Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions and tips to get past your fear of needles today are my own. 

There’s a lot going on in the world. It’s been a crazy year. None of us ever imagined we’d live through a global pandemic in our lifetime. The biggest concern for most of us before 2020 was a laundry list of first-world problems. Life in 2019 could be hard, but not 2020 pandemic hard. Suddenly, for most of us, nothing made sense, and when that happened, the unknown brought with it new stresses and anxieties. 

Right now, the only answer to stopping the pandemic is herd immunity. That term kind of makes me want to moo, right? All kidding aside, I’m thrilled that science has given us a way to save ourselves and those we love, but getting vaccinated brings with it a new set of anxieties and stresses for some.

The fear of needles is real and nothing to be afraid of.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Don’t like shots? The thought of a needle freaks you out? You’re not alone. 25% of adults have a fear of needles. Don’t be embarrassed. I got so many shots as a kid with chronic health issues that I get sweaty palms just thinking about it even now. I worked through my fear of needles by making a plan and moving through my fears. Please don’t let needle anxiety stop you from being safe from Covid-19.

The Meg Foundation has resources to help you get through needle fears. Everyone can benefit from learning these techniques, but for people with needle anxiety, the techniques are life-changing. The first thing is to make a plan because action is the enemy of anxiety; the more concrete the plan the better you will feel.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Here are a few simple tips from Hack the Vax to get past your fear and get vaccinated.

Be an advocate for yourself

If you are nervous about getting your vaccine, don’t be afraid to say so. Lots of people have a fear of needles. Those administering the shots are aware of this. Letting people know what you need is the only way they will know (this goes for everything in life, not just vaccinations). You’re not being difficult, you’re advocating for yourself. You are a self-aware bad B. People don’t mind giving you what you need but you’re going to have to tell them.

Block the pain

Getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be painful. Over-the-counter anesthetics like Lidocaine cream are great for a little pre-vaccination numbing at the injection site. To be honest, when I was vaccinated recently ( both times) I didn’t feel a thing. I usually get the flu shot every year and I do feel that but with the Pfizer vaccine, I honestly felt no pain or even the standard pinch when a shot is injected.

Take deep breaths

You probably remember the power of breathing techniques from giving birth. I never put much stock into breathing techniques, until I experienced a unmedicated, Pitocin induced birth. That made me a believer and anyone who has used it, knows it works. Don’t overthink it. Just take a few slow, deep breaths before and during the injection. Using a meditation app for a minute before also helps me in stressful situations to just slow down and get through the moment.

Distract yourself

If you want to rely on something more than just deep breaths to get you through, focus on something that makes you feel happy or relaxed. To clear my head, I always listen to music. However, watching kittens on YouTube or just scroll through your social media feeds is enough to take your mind off the task at hand…or arm, I should say. I’ve done this a lot with my girls throughout their childhood. Distraction is a great way to refocus those overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety that needles might bring. For me, when I am stressed, I talk, so I chatted with all the other people getting vaccinated.

Bring a support person

Phone a friend or family member and either bring them with you physically ( schedule your vaccinations together) or Facetime them during your vaccination appointment. Maybe it feels a bit awkward as an adult to be virtually hanging out with a friend in a room full of people but if it relaxes you enough to not feel as overwhelmed, it is totally worth a few minutes of talking to your phone in a room full of strangers. A bestie, spouse or sibling is a great support person for getting out of your head and engrossed in conversation. The Big Guy and I got both vaccinations together, sitting side by side.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

The Big Guy and I got both of our vaccinations, and even though there was trepidation about getting the shot, I’m so glad that I did it. Getting everyone vaccinated is a step towards keeping the whole country safe and being able to hug our loved ones once again. Making a plan and working through your fears of needles to get vaccinated not only keeps you safe, in my eyes, but it also makes you a superhero because not only are you protecting yourself from getting coronavirus, you are protecting everyone you know and love. You are part of the solution to this devastating problem that is ravaging the world with no discrimination, rhyme, or reason. 

Don’t let your fear stand between you and your safety. Think, plan, and go get your shot and pass on these techniques because you never know when someone else is feeling nervous, too.

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How Autism is Different in Girls than Boys and How to Recognize autism in girls

April is Autism Awareness month. Did you know that? I didn’t. To be honest, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about the ins and outs of autism and what a diagnosis means for parents and children who live with it. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I am not directly affected by it ( that I know of because maybe I have just not paid enough attention). The most interesting thing I’ve learned as a girl mom is how autism is different in girls than boys and how to recognize autism in girls. Did you know it looked different?

I do have friends who have children, more than 1, who are autistic but even though I know them, their children and spend time with them, I ask on a need to know basis and listen when they want me to but I never wanted to pry to the point that I make them feel uncomfortable. I know that sounds like a lazy excuse but I swear, I didn’t want them to feel like they needed to educate me. I’m a Latina/woman/ with a mental health diagnosis…I don’t appreciate having to be anyone’s token anything so I try not to put others in that position. 

What is autism?

I’m fully aware that every child with or without autism is different. However, I was assigned a post for Cafemom this week about things everyone should know about Autism and, in my research, I reached out to my friends and asked for help and credible resources and I learned a lot. A lot. I’m so grateful for this assignment. 

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What Hosting Do You Need For Your WordPress Site?, WPEngine, web hosting

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Hosting is a critical element of any website today, and with many different types of hosting packages, it can be difficult to know where to begin. After many years of hosting my blog, I’ve happily landed at WPEngine and love it for the performance and customer service. With that in mind, in this blog post, we’re going to take a look at managed hosting for WordPress. What is it? Is it a good option?

First thing’s first, what is managed WordPress Hosting? Managed WordPress Hosting is a service whereby your web host manages the technical aspects of running your WordPress site. To be clear, it’s not a service where your web host creates your WordPress site, they simply manage things like security, back-ups, updates, speed and consistent high performance.

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For those that aren’t technically minded, or simply don’t have the time to manage all the nitty-gritty parts of their website, AWS direct connect is one of the best cloud connection options.

Generally speaking, with most web hosts who offer managed WordPress hosting, you’ll receive exceptional premium support, where the support is provided by actual WordPress experts who know exactly what they’re doing. Managed WordPress hosting can be a little more expensive than your standard shared hosting, for example, GoDaddy’s basic plan starts at $2.99 per month (usually $5.99, with 50% off), but if you’re willing to pay the extra, then it’s certainly worth it. If you want to buy vps hosting, I would suggest opting for knownhost.com for results you have never imagined were possible in the first place.

As with most things, there are pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting, so we’ve put a list together for you to decide whether it’s right for you:

High Speeds: Because managed WordPress hosting servers are designed specifically for WordPress websites, you likely won’t be sharing your server with as many other customers as you would with shared hosting. Higher speeds mean more traffic; if your website or blog loads within 3 seconds, which it will with WordPress hosting, then customers will stay longer on your website, and you’ll receive a higher SERP SEO with Google.

Quality Support: As we mentioned earlier, the support you’ll receive from a managed WordPress hosting plan will be top-notch. The WordPress experts at your beck and call really are experts, they know what they’re doing, so you can ditch the back and forth nonsense and be reassured that your problems and queries will get sorted straight away. As well as providing support, they can also advise you on which WordPress plugins would and wouldn’t suit your website, giving you tailor-made help whenever you need it.

Updates and Back-ups: Because the technicalities of WordPress are managed by your web host, you won’t have to worry about updating your website to the latest version of WordPress, or be concerned about daily back-ups. These features are all dealt with in-house by your web host, so you’ll receive automatic updates without any conflicts, and daily back-up runs in case anything goes wrong.

This enhances the convenience factor considerably, lessening your workload. However, you will still need to make sure you’re keeping on tops of the likes of SEO and PPC for your site. Your host won’t cover elements like this. You can view PPC data with separate tools to make sure you’re maximizing your advertising streams to full effect.

That all sounds pretty good, right? Well, it is, but there are a few downsides too, which may or may not affect you depending on why managed WordPress hosting is suitable for you:

Cost: Most managed WordPress hosting plans will set you back at least $10 per month, if you choose their unlimited options (which is advised for WordPress hosting, due to WordPress plugins, database back-ups, etc.). It may not sound like a lot, but when you compare it to shared hosting which is generally around the $2 mark, there’s quite a difference. However, if you consider how much it would cost you to pay for someone to manage your WordPress website, with the added security and speed features, it’s actually very reasonably priced.

Limited to WordPress: This may sound obvious, but it’s worth pointing out. If you choose managed WordPress hosting, the likelihood is that you’ll only be able to host a WordPress website. But, if you’re looking at WordPress hosting, then you’re probably not wanting to use another CMS, or create your own website outside of WordPress.

Limited Control: Because someone else will be managing your WordPress website, you won’t have as much control over the technical aspects, such as, security, speed, back-ups etc. Again, a moot point if the reason you’re choosing managed WordPress hosting is for someone else to run things because you can’t/don’t want to/don’t have to.

To be honest, if you’re using managed WordPress hosting for the right reasons, then there aren’t really that many cons we can think of that would put you off. If you’re a small-time blogger, or have a personal website, then this type of hosting probably isn’t for you. You can easily find a web host that offers shared hosting with 1-click installs for WordPress, with a much more affordable price tag. However, if you’re a growing business, or your website generates a lot of traffic, then managed WordPress hosting would certainly be beneficial.

If you’re looking for a stress-free option that isn’t time-consuming, or you don’t have the technical skills but are willing to pay someone else to deal with that side of things for you, choosing a managed WordPress hosting provider should be a consideration. It all comes down to weighing up whether the ‘managed’ side of things is worth paying for, dependent on the type of website you have, or the type of business you run. There are plenty of web hosting providers available that can offer managed WordPress hosting, such as, WP Engine, and SiteGround. It’s certainly worth having a look at the offers on the market, as web hosts are well known for offering enticing deals and sales to draw you in.

A lot of people do not think their choice of host matters, but it does make a big difference when it comes to cost and site performance, so take the time to assess all of your options carefully.

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How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Planning a family vacation is always a little stressful, especially in an ever evolving global pandemic. Aside from just being safe these days, you have to find a way to keep each member of the family entertained – from fussy toddlers to brooding teens, and do so without going broke. Organization and little planning go a long way when planning family trips so there’s no meltdowns during your trip. Have you ever thought about planning a camping or RVing trip for your family? Honestly, we’re considering buying one. Our teen girls are begging us because we’ve had such great times on our past trips. That’s saying something when “roughing it” is our daughters’ dream vacation.

Right now with vaccines in full effect and summer approaching, we’re all struggling to plan our next trip. COVID-19 travel restrictions are constantly changing. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to plan a memorable and exciting family vacation. Just think outside the box and plan an adventurous camping trip. You won’t be disappointed, believe me! Been there, done that, doing it again and again for infinity. 

A camping trip is perfect opportunity to just breathe.

How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

There are a lot of benefits to a family camping or RVing trip. You get to spend some time unplugged from technology and listening to each other instead of stuck behind your phone. No fear of missing out on everything happening right where you are. Yes, I know after 2020 and quarantining, more together time might not be what you had in mind. But choosing to be together is something entirely different from being imprisoned together by a global pandemic. 

Also, you can get up close and personal with nature, which is an adventure within itself. Vacationing in national parks and sharing that quiet time taking in nature with your children is priceless. Everyone can shed the roles of who they are expected to be and just be. If you get up early enough, you can even sneak in some together time with your partner. What relationship can’t benefit from that?

Camping means finding quiet moments to appreciate each other without the noise of the world interrupting.

How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

With that in mind, here are some tips you can use. Here’s how to plan the perfect camping or RVing trip for your family! 

  • Choose your destination carefully. While you may want privacy and relaxation, choose a sight that is not too far from civilization. If you’re new to camping, you’ll appreciate access to shops and similar facilities if you need them. With kids, you’ll need them. It’s a good idea to reserve a spot at a camping site or national park far in advance ( like now) mainly due to the rise in popularity of camping trips in 2021. 
  • Plan an itinerary for activities that you can participate in around your chosen destination. For example, while an afternoon hike will always be exciting (and won’t cost you a penny), it becomes distinctly less fun if it’s raining. Instead, you might want to check out a local museum or head to the movie theater. Try to have a plan in place so that each day is varied. Remember that you can always drive to a neighboring town too. 
  • Ensure that you have everything you need for a successful camping trip on hand. For example, you cannot simply purchase a tent and a few sleeping bags and hope for the best. You should also ensure that you have easy access to a first aid kit, flashlights, and similar safety-related products. Also, if you’ll be cooking and preparing your own meals, you’ll need to purchase a tent stove or camping stove. This means that you can save money and make exciting meals from scratch instead of having to stop by restaurants. Make it more exciting and catch what you eat. There are plenty of options to choose from, and you can see the full list here.
  • Take turns choosing which activities you participate in each evening. For example, this could mean that you bring a collection of board games, host an outdoor movie night or my favorite sitting around a campfire talking under the stars. Giving every member of the family a turn to select the activity means that everyone will be happy and enjoy their vacation.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where is your dream destination for a family camping trip?

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Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure, The HULK Coaster

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We just got back from a quick road trip to Orlando. It was a pretty spontaneous decision, think of it as a red wire blue wire sort of situation where we were all about to die from being trapped in the house for a year and we decided to give Universal another try this time, we chose Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It’s home to themed lands like Jurassic Park, Seuss Landing, Marvel Superhero Island and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The first time we went to Universal was way back in 2012. The girls were too little at that time but we didn’t realize that until we were there. So we spent a lot of money to stand in the rain and watch the gang from Victorious sing some songs on stage, rode 1 ride and went home. It was a bust. This time was definitely more fun for our family.

We figured the girls were older this time and definitely would love it. And while what we got to do see, ride and do was good it still wasn’t Disney. The thing is Universal and Disney World are completely different kinds of parks and if you’re used to Disney, you’re going into the whole thing with the wrong mentality.  So here’s a quick rundown of why you should go to Universal Islands of Adventure and why you shouldn’t go to Universal Islands of Adventure.

Why you should visit Universal Islands of Adventure

·  Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies

Universal Islands of Adventure has some thrilling rides. If you like to go fast and hard when you play, Islands of Adventure are for you. The rides will not disappoint but be prepared to be whirled, twirled, fast and furious and to the extreme. Warning: That Dudley Do Right Rip Saw River ride looks harmless but it is, in fact, Splash mountain on steroids and it is raging. It may be the most fun you’ve ever had getting wet but YOU.WILL.BE. DRENCHED. I suggest bringing either a poncho or an extra set of clothes.

·  You love Marvel

Not going to lie, the Incredible Hulk Coaster and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman were two of the best rides I’ve ever been on. Did they both almost make me throw up? Yes. Did I love it? Yes! Did I lose my voice screaming from excitement? YES!! If you have kids over 8, they will probably love it.

·  You love roller coasters

Universal has some pretty awesome coasters that will leave you dizzy and discombobulated but screaming for more. If you love roller coasters, Universal Islands of Adventure is for you. Bonus; VelociCoaster is coming June 10th and we saw it being tested and it looks amazing.

·  Dr. Seuss makes you happy

I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 16 years reading Dr. Seuss whether it was to my girls, to my nieces and nephews or to the sweet preschoolers that I taught but I never found the stories to be as beautiful and endearing as I found Seuss area to be. It is bright, colorful and beautiful filled with whimsy and imagination. However, as I mentioned before, Universal is for thrill-seekers and even the carousel and The Cat in the Hat ride seemed to go very fast. I know the area looks like a kid’s playground but it isn’t as tame as it looks. We loved it but I’m not sure how well a toddler would fare.

·  Harry Potter fans

Hogsmeade is like immersing yourself in a Harry Potter book. It is beautiful and if your family are Harry Potter fans, it really brings the story to life. The butterbeer was amazing (we preferred the frozen) and the Ollivanders wand experience was really cool. However, there are only a couple of rides and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ is only available by virtual queue and it is virtually impossible to get a spot. We had a time 3 times and the app booted us out and we lost our reservations. It was very frustrating.

Why you shouldn’t visit Universal Islands of Adventure

·      It expensive

There is the initial cost of the tickets (1 day/ family of 4/ $579), then if you don’t want to spend all of your time waiting in lines there is the option to purchase express passes ($69) and unlimited express passes ($89), parking ($26), and lockers ( $2 each time you ride something that requires you to put your bag in a locker). That is not including souvenirs, food and drinks. There are definitely more budget-friendly ways to plan your trip. Don’t wait to the lat minute like we did.

·      Express pass will make or break your trip

Unless you love waiting in lines and only being able to fit 4-6 rides in on your visit, you better buy yourself an express pass. It was our first real trip to Islands of Adventure so we didn’t know how any of this worked but now we know. If you are staying in a Universal hotel, which we were not, you do get express passes included in your hotel stay. But as we were not, we spent all day waiting in lines and didn’t get to experience as much of the park as we had hoped. Very disappointing. However, if you are staying at a Universal Resort express pass is included so I would highly recommend staying on grounds. Resort rooms were very affordable, we just waited too late to book.

·      CoVid rules de jour not de facto

Universal Islands of Adventure does have great guidelines in place for following CoVid safety protocol. However, not everyone was, you still had to scan your finger to enter the park and there wasn’t anyone really enforcing the rules in the lines until you entered a building. Several times, I had to ask people to step back and stay on their 6 ft apart socially distanced marker. That was very frustrating and made me feel anxious because people were invading my personal 6ft apart space.

In the end, there are more reasons why you should visit than why you shouldn’t. We wanted to love it but it wasn’t what we expected. Maybe it was CoVid? Maybe it was being unprepared? Or maybe we are just Disney people? Either way, we’d love to go back and give Universal another try and check out the VelociCoaster. It looks amazing and I’m sure it will be one more thrilling ride that my girls will fall in love with. Have you been to Universal Islands of Adventure? What is your favorite area? Favorite ride?

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easiest way to get protein without eating meat

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I was a vegetarian for 10 years. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of meat even now after going back. It just isn’t my vibe. Sure, I love the occasional steak, burger, fish or chicken but mostly, I prefer anything else. I’ve taken a lot ethics and animals classes, joined PETA when I was 18 and it’s hard for me to enjoy eating pretty much anything with a face but I’m not here to pull anyone over to the vegetarian side. I just know that I’m not alone.

A lot of people are starting to think seriously about how much meat they eat on a daily basis. Some people have ethical concerns about how much animal products they eat, others are aware of the environmental impact of farming for meat, and others realize that a lot of meat in the diet simply isn’t healthy. Yes to all of this for me.

However, most people rely on meat for the vast majority of their protein consumption, which is crucial for healthy muscle growth amongst other things. So, what can we do to get the protein we need without as much meat or none at all?

A teaspoon of powder is all it takes

We all know the nutritional benefits of milk in the diet, with the calcium, iron, and other additions it has for your diet. However, making one replacement can help you not only get the same calcium but also add some protein to your morning glass of milk. Soybeans are a tremendous source of complete protein, meaning they have both protein and the amino acids that typically go with it in animal sources of protein. Of course, milk isn’t the only way to have your soy, but it’s an easy replacement to make and it tastes great.

All that power in one little bean

If you’re looking to live a healthy, active lifestyle and you need plenty of protein to make sure that your muscles are regenerating and growing as they should, then powdered protein may be something you’re familiar with. However, this article tells you all you need to know about a potential replacement that doesn’t rely on animal products: rice protein powder. Not only can it help you up your protein throughout the day, but it can also help you replace meals if you’re trying to cut down on your portions.

Get nutty with it

Although not quite the same as soybeans (since they are not complete sources of protein), you should also look at the various ways you can use nuts more in your meals. This can include salads, soups, desserts, and snacks throughout the day. Peanuts have, per gram, the highest amount of protein out of all of the nuts. However, walnuts and hazelnuts also pack plenty of protein in their punch. What’s more, they also have a lot of those heart-healthy unsaturated fats. You shouldn’t eat more than roughly 30g of them a day, however.

Completing your proteins

Soybeans tend to be one of the few most readily available sources of complete proteins, which is why they’re the easiest to recommends. Others, such as rice and nuts, do not contain the amino acids that are also essential and typically come with animal proteins. However, there are other vegan sources of amino acids that you can incorporate in your diet. If you’re ever worried that you’re not getting enough, you might also want to consider using amino acid supplements just to top you up. Getting it through your diet is more widely recommended, but the option is there just to err on the side of caution.

Getting the protein you need is possible without eating as much meat. Hopefully, the tips above help you see the alternatives to getting your protein when milk isn’t the.

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Disney, Credit Repair, financial security, financial freedom, quinceanera, My why, why I am working to reverse my diabetes, family, Signs of diabetes, diabetes, diabetes symptoms, type 2 diabetes, how to reverse diabetes

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Look at me. I probably look just like a lot of you. Most days, I look a little tired, wearing yoga pants, an oversized sweatshirt and a messy bun and some days, I look cute. But, there are subtle differences, ones you can’t see, bubbling right beneath the surface like well-placed Botox. Lately, I’ve been feeling a sort of way; like I’m walking a tightrope of mental health. Any wrong move could send me toppling and it’s exhausting. I feel like my bipolar diagnosis has been standing at the back of the room hanging out and suddenly, the pandemic has got behind that diagnosis and begin to nudge me uncomfortably forward. This might not make sense to you, if you’re not a person with mental illness but if you are, you know exactly what this feeling is. This is my diary of a manic mom.

My diagnosis of Bipolar 1 came the year after I got married, from the unlikeliest of places, my gynecologist. I know, her specialty is cervixes and uteruses not mood disorders with a side of mania but lucky me, I met a gynecologist who also happened to be the mom of a daughter with bipolar. This is where my journey from broken to bent began. Let me tell you, it is a relief when you realize there is a diagnosis and you are not in fact broken.

The diagnosis was terrifying at first. I had no idea what that meant, which made it even scarier considering everything I’d ever heard about the illness up until that point was limited misinformation and worst case scenarios. The consensus from my doctors is that I started having episodes in my teens and by college, they were at their peak. I can only speak to my particular flavor of mental illness but for me, it waxed and waned between full mania and extreme irritability. My “low” is the extreme irritability that comes from not being able to slow down. It’s like racing towards a brick wall going 125 miles an hour. I see the wall. I know it might kill me. I want to slow down but my mind keeps pushing the gas pedal. It is so bad that I get on my own nerves. That is a new level of irritability.

When I’m in a manic episode, I lose my ability to think rationally. I become reckless in all the ways you can imagine. I also feel invincible mentally, physically and spiritually. I’m naturally an optimist but when manic, its beyond reason and consequences were never considered. I am also inspired because all boundaries are null and void.

https://youtu.be/vcCBacPWLrc

My diagnosis was not easy on the Big Guy, myself or the marriage. It took a lot of therapy, medications, research and willingness to embrace my disorder. I had to put everything into accepting my diagnosis, otherwise, I could not have learned to live with it. My husband also had to learn about and come to terms with my diagnosis. From that point on, he became my accountability partner, meaning we’ve discussed it and he knows the difference between my normal moods and reactions and when I’m becoming episodic. I need him to tell me if he recognizes the train going off the tracks, in case I’m not aware.

My experience with a mental health diagnosis has made me a mental health advocate. I had to learn about bipolar disorder. I believe every single person could use some therapy, especially during this pandemic, children and adults alike. My family knows this and we’ve all been in therapy at one point or another. I don’t believe in needlessly suffering when help is available.

I don’t have episodes like I used to. In fact, since the onset and diagnosis, I can only think of two other occasions when I’ve experienced a full manic episode. However, thanks to self-awareness, education and all the work I’ve done over the years to understand my illness, I’ve been able to find my way through them without losing total control.

With the pandemic and some of the situations that has brought with it (quarantining, best friend is a doctor who keeps me abreast of all the latest CoVid news, virtual learning, masks, an election, going back to school, deaths in the family, constantly worrying about the people I love and never being able to hug them), I have felt anxious. I’ve been able to deal with the anxiety. I’m aware it is happening but I push it to the side and move on. However, that constant state of anxiety has triggered what I’ve felt like was a manic episode.

What did it feel like? It felt like running in high heels across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. Other times, it feels like I’m stuck on a roller coaster perpetually going up, violently coming down and going right back up again. When this happens, all I can do is try to process my feelings while separating the noise and chaos from what must be done. Sometimes that means shutting completely down and being still until the attack of everything of the world is hurling at me can pass. I need to make things digestible or I will be swallowed whole. The most important thing is knowing myself and being aware of the symptoms that accompany my illness. You can also read this blog post if you’re curious on what superfood powder blends I take to help my mental health.

Giving myself over to those old reckless and self-satisfying behaviors is no longer an option for me. I’m a mom. Not only do I need to be mentally healthy for myself, I need to be healthy enough to take care of and love my family. Being mentally healthy is for my family. Knowing how to recognize, treat and work through my illness is the only way that can happen. There is no room for ignoring and denying in mental health because in the end it can mean the difference between life and death. Also, our children are always watching. I want them to know that there is no stigma to being mentally ill, seeing a therapist, taking medications or whatever needs to be done. The important thing is that we can embrace our disorder and love ourselves. 

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Wayfair, settee, Quinceanera, Sweet 16

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It’s funny how changing something as simple as a throw pillow, a blanket or a chair can change the whole vibe of a room. Don’t even get me started on a paint color or art. When we bought our current home, it was a fixer-upper but we saw the potential because it “had good bones” as my Father-in-law would say. It wasn’t going to be instant gratification; it wasn’t our dream home but it had a charm and was in the perfect neighborhood for a young family. So we bought it.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post written in partnership with Wayfair, but, as always, all opinions are my own.

We’ve grown with the house. As we’ve renovated and changed every single thing in this house in the past 9 years, we’ve also changed in every single way except for one, we are still that oversharing, possibly co-dependent family who does everything together. We laugh, cry, scream and shout together. We lift each other up and face change head on, just like this old house. We’ve got good bones.

Latina, Latinas, Stereotypes, DEvious maids, Latinos, racism, business, motherhood, raising daughters

This house has welcomed friends and family for dinners and holidays, it’s hosted several Halloween and Ugly sweater parties. Echoed the sounds of newest additions to the family and enveloped the cries of pain and sorrow of loss. It’s witnessed love in more ways than I ever thought possible. With its meager structure, it’s brought us through a pandemic. Now, it will see our daughters turn 15. In fact, our Bella turned 15 during the first week of the pandemic. Out Gabs will turn 15 next spring.

15-years-old is the age a Latina girl becomes a young woman in the Latino culture. It is the same age that the Catholic church recognizes children as adults. Being a Quinceañera is something all little Latina girls look forward to from the day they attend their first Quinces party and realize that someday, they will get to wear the big dress and crown and be the princess in not just their parents’ eyes but to everyone. She will be celebrated in a way that most girls may never get the chance to be.

We had such a beautiful celebration planned for Bella. It was as big and grand as any wedding and years in the planning. Friends and family for all over the country were planning to come. Bella, who is a shy and humble introvert, was ecstatic to celebrate this Latina rite of passage. I wasn’t able to have my own Quinceañera because my parents couldn’t afford to throw that party 3 times, and they had 3 girls so it’s something I’ve always dreamed of giving my girls. 

She had the dress, crown and shoes. Months of practicing professionally created choreography by her world-renowned ballet teacher with her damas and chambelanes. Decorations, food, outfits and even a special settee for our princess, to serve as her throne for the night. Months of organizing and planning, saving and working towards goals all to be taken away by a global pandemic.

Then the pandemic hit and snatched it away from her on her actual birthday, 1 day before her the biggest party of her life, the CoVid pandemic caused the country to come to a screeching halt. She was inconsolable. I didn’t even know how to reason it with her. How do you reason with a 15-year-old who just lost something she was looking forward to for years? Think of trying to reason with a bride who just lost her wedding the night before the wedding because the world had other plans.

We tried to reschedule for August but, as we all know, the pandemic was not done (still isn’t). Family and friends sent her well-wishes and tried to cheer her up. But the dress still hangs in the corner and all the decorations are boxed up in our theater room. Champagne flutes and Mexican candy for 200 are collecting dust next to the decorations and atop all of it there are two crowns and a last doll, as a constant reminder of what never was. But the settee, the one that was to hold her in her big dress on her big day, now sits in our dining room and is where she sits to do virtual school. It’s where she often naps when she’s feeling down. It’s where her and her sister sit, cut up, laugh and plan their TikToks.

Wayfair, settee

This settee is more than just a place to sit, it’s a place to reflect and feel your feelings. It not only changed the room in this old house, it occasionally changes the moods of my daughters. Most importantly, next June, it will hold my Bella on the day we celebrate her and her sister, Gabs, in a post-pandemic double quinceañera celebration like you’ve never seen. I guess now, I’ll have to order another one so each princess has her own thrown. When they move out someday, I will send these settees with them so they can always remember their big day and the family who loves them more than they can even imagine.

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