Things I love – Weekly Breakfast Date

Have you ever started something for fun and it quickly became a long-standing tradition?  I love it when that happens! Years ago, my daughter’s birthday fell on a school day.  To make it special, I had her invite her two friends (neighbors) to breakfast before school.  I bought donuts at the grocery and we stopped at our local coffee shop for hot chocolates.  It was fun and a special way to start the day. Next birthday I had the same request. After that visit, it dawned on me that we could be having a fun breakfast before school more often.  “Coffee Shop Day” was born.  Once a week I’d wake the kids up twenty minutes earlier and tell them it was coffee shop day.  It was always a fabulous way to start the day and a terrific break in a busy week. After a few years of this, my daughter moved on to middle school and a much earlier start time.  Coffee shop day with her had to end.  My son was still in elementary so we started branching out.  Now we rotate between three different restaurants (two of them are local!) once a week before school. Early morning breakfasts have been a fun way to connect, spend quality time together and slow down even in the midst of the school year. What fun traditions have you created by accident?  I’d love to hear all about them in the comments, so please...

Summer Entertaining

It’s finally warm enough here in the Midwest to have dinner outside.   My screened-in porch is one of my favorite places to be when the weather is nice, and it’s definitely my favorite place to enjoy meals and have fun with friends. If you struggle with entertaining, summer entertaining might be just what turns things around.  Summer entertaining is expected to be way less elaborate because if the weather is nice, aside from serving a bit of food, there isn’t much more you need to do. No need to deep clean the house, just set up a table and some chairs outside, turn on some music and enjoy a much more casual atmosphere than a standard dinner party. I also love impromptu summer entertaining – which happens often around our house.  We’ll be off doing whatever we do on the weekends – at the soccer field, a swim meet, farmer’s market, etc. and we run into friends.  It feels natural to invite them to come over afterwards for a drink or game of cards.  Right? Spending time with others is the BEST way to deepen relationships, and it can be tons of fun too.  Strong relationships are a key to a happier and healthier life. Here are a few of my favorite outdoor/summer entertaining tips:  Keep it simple. Throw together a cheese and cracker plate with whatever is in the fridge and pantry.  Add a few fresh veggies, pickles or even fruit and it can be lovely and tasty. Bring your own.  Not sure if you have enough drinks on hand?  Enjoy tastings with friends where everyone brings a...
Adventure Everywhere

Adventure Everywhere

“We live in the middle of nowhere – there is nothing to do!” If you’ve ever uttered those words, then this post is for you.  When I was younger, that was my attitude.  However, after living in a few different states, traveling to places all over the world and then coming right back to Indiana, I no longer feel that way.  In fact, I truly believe that if you look hard enough, you will find something to do or something interesting to check out (within driving distance), no matter where you are.  Doing new things and exploring can add a lot of happiness and enjoyment to your life. I’ve made it my mission, wherever I am, to find those places.  Now I want to share them with you. Several times a month, I’ll be sharing my finds within a short drive of where I live or where I’m traveling.  I suspect some will be quirky, some might be delicious, and some might not be your cup of tea.  However, hopefully these posts will inspire you to do something new or find something fun where you live.  I’d love to hear about your adventures too.  Please share your finds and experiences in the comments or on my Facebook page. Ready to begin?  Me too! We are entering the dreaded (and well-loved) soccer and swim seasons.  My kids both participate in sports year-round, but Spring and Fall are still definitely busier.  Great for them, exciting sometimes for us, but also time-consuming.  As in, I can’t even find a night in the next month to use a FREE hotel room!  How sad...
Up for a FREE meal?

Up for a FREE meal?

Who doesn’t love getting something for free?  Especially a meal at a nice restaurant, a hotel room or an afternoon of bowling.  Thanks to the years I’ve been mystery shopping, those are a regular part of our lives. In just the last month, I’ve had a breakfast date with my hubby ($42), went bowling and played laser tag with the kids ($115), had pizza and beer for lunch over Spring Break ($50) and got a carry-out lunch at a national chain restaurant ($35).  This is just me doing a shop or two here and there.  If I had the time I could do so much more.  I started mystery shopping almost twenty-five years ago when the company I was working for closed it’s doors and I was out of a job.  I started doing a few dinner shops a month so we could still enjoy a nice meal out without spending money we didn’t have!  Now I just do it for fun, to stretch our entertainment dollars and to force myself out of my routine and try new things. It would be challenging to make a full-time living mystery shopping; most shops don’t pay much outside of reimbursement, but for cutting costs or adding extras to your life, it’s a great part-time gig.  It is important to undersand that once you conduct the shop, you will have to come home and fill out an online form (sometimes within 12-hours of doing the shop), upload some pictures and be available for the next few days for questions.  At first, it would take me an hour or so to fill out...
The Best Hidden Resource!

The Best Hidden Resource!

Today I’m singing praises about a resource most of us have access to, and few people ever use.  It makes my life easier, brings me daily enjoyment and costs NOTHING.  What is it? The local library. Seriously – if you don’t use your local library, you really need to check it out.  Libraries are so much more than dusty old shelves of books (although if you love to read, you’ll appreciate that too).  Ready for some examples of why the library is such a great resource? It’s free.  Unless you habitually forget to turn in your books, the library will cost you nothing. The library contains more than books.  Most libraries have DVD’s, audio books, music and magazines.  Mine also has board games and get this –  museum passes!  Yep, on our recent Spring Break we were able to check out family passes for two state museums and visit them for free.  This easily saved us $100. If your library doesn’t carry what you want, you can request it.  The library doesn’t have a book you want to read?  Ask them to purchase it or see if they can get it on loan from another library.  Most libraries are continually buying new material and they appreciate it when members tell them what they’d like to see. The programs can be terrific.  When my kids were little, we were regulars at story time – it was a fun, free activity we could do together.  Now they always enjoy participating in the summer reading program. Our library offers a program or two almost every day of the week – truly something...

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