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...

Early Mornings Make Me Happy

That first sip of hot coffee, a cuddly blanket with a warm kitty curled up at my feet.  Add in my current reading material, and THAT is the perfect way to start my day.  Once I have a few moments of easing into the day in that manner, I am ready to do some yoga or pilates, work on a personal project and get ready with plenty of time to spare. How I love a great start to the day. Getting up early to enable such a perfect morning routine is a struggle for me, but the days I am successful are ALWAYS better days.  I’m more productive, less stressed and just plain enjoy life more. And since enjoying life and creating a healthier and happier life is exactly what I promote here, I thought I’d share one of my favorite resources to help you create a better start to YOUR day: I’ve taken the online course myself and gleaned quite a bit of useful information.  This time around, Crystal is doing a live version – for extra motivation.  The class starts April 9th and registration ends then, so if you think you need a little push in improving YOUR mornings, sign up soon!  I’ll be participating and I’d love to have you join me!  Go check it out HERE. What makes up the perfect morning for you?  I’d love for you to share in the comments!...
Rails to Trails = Happiness

Rails to Trails = Happiness

We just came back from a wonderful ski trip to Boyne Mountain, Michigan.  The weather could not have been more perfect!  Several days of skiing in the sunshine, tasty tacos and cold drinks sitting at picnic tables at the base of the mountain, live music in dark pubs at night.  Perfection! Now that we are home, I’m anxiously waiting for the weather to break (lots of cold and rain right now) so that I can begin enjoying one of my favorite healthy passions – walking trails with my pup. Many areas (not just ours) have started to convert old railway trails to walking paths.  I LOVE this trend.  We have several in our neck of the woods, the most notable being the Monon Trail.  They are typically nicely paved so perfect for walking or biking, often have houses and restaurants along the way, and are a great way to get your exercise in a lovely setting. When we travel, I’ll often search out these types of walking trails as they are usually well maintained and safe.  Perfect for getting out and experiencing an unfamiliar area.  If you would enjoy the same, here are a few places to look: Rails to Trails – great resource to find trails in your area or wherever you want to travel Do a Google search using the terms “rails to trails” and your city If you are in the Indianapolis area, here are a few of my favorites: Indiana Trails Monon Trail Although I do love hiking (more on that in a future post), when I want a more social experience, a rail to...

How to find the BEST local restaurants

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Florida.  The marina is hopping and you’re sitting outside, right next to boats coming in and out, fishermen selling fresh seafood right off the dock, tourists and locals strolling along the pier.  The margarita in your hand is made with fresh ingredients, icy cold and salted – and since it’s Happy Hour they are 2 for $8!  Just then the server brings you a plate of fresh oysters, fish dip made with freshly caught local fish and fish tacos overloaded with toppings.  Sounds wonderful, right?  Way better than greasy, unhealthy fast food.  That was one of our recent meals in Clearwater, FL. One of the things I love, both when traveling and when at home, is to try out new local restaurants.  I am very lucky to live in an area that has many stellar local places.  But even when traveling, I take the time to do a little research to find the best places to eat the area has to offer. Here are my steps t0 finding a great local restaurant:  First if it’s an area new to me, I check out Yelp.  Even when we are driving on a road trip, once the stomachs start rumbling, the phone comes out and the search for a place to eat begins (tip: use the map features to see what’s along your route).  I’ve even trained my kids to do this, so we’ll all start yelling out names of places as we find them.  Unless there aren’t any available options, pick someplace with at least a 4 star rating.  Check out the reviews, take...
Ready to Look GREAT This Spring?

Ready to Look GREAT This Spring?

Well, it’s been a while!  The past few months I’ve been re-thinking how I want to spend my limited free time and how I want to run my business.  For now, I’ve decided that instead of working with individual clients, I’d like to share on a regular basis my favorite things.  All the things that make me happy.  Everything I share is a resource that I personally use and feel will help you achieve a happier and healthier life.  I’ll be adding to this list frequently, so check it out HERE – then bookmark it and check back often!   Today I want to share one of my favorite ways to help you look and feel great – no matter your weight, fitness level or age! For many busy working moms, fashion falls on the wayside – sound like you?  Maybe like me you used to LOVE putting together outfits, getting dressed up and trying out the latest trends.  My undergraduate degree was actually in Fashion Merchandising so goodness knows I love clothes!  Yet somehow, through the years, I found myself wearing jeans and t-shirts with few accessories more and more often.  It was just easier. A few years ago I discovered the fun of GYPO’s (Get Your Pretty On) wardrobe challenges.  I participated a few times and had so much fun that I now have an annual membership.  If you feel like you are in a rut, you MUST check this out.  I don’t spend a ton of money on clothing anymore, yet I always feel put together.  I get lots of compliments and know that what I’m...
Favorite Books from November 2017

Favorite Books from November 2017

Some REALLY great books this month!  I enjoyed a nice mix of Fiction and Non-Fiction.  Here were my favorites: FICTION Very fun vacation read – every time I thought I had the plot figured out, something would happen to throw me.  The main characters are a pair of writers with a seemingly perfect life.  Until the wife goes missing.  Who is responsible?  Don’t read ahead to fully enjoy this one.  My rating 4.5 out of 5. This book couldn’t be more different than the first one.  Covers many of the topics so many of us working moms think about – do I love what I’m doing?  Or am I just doing it for the money and prestige?  Is that enough or would I be happier going down a different path?  Full of quirky characters and new chances.  My rating 4 out of 5. I just finished this book last night and got a huge kick out of it.   I didn’t love Sunshine, but the questions she raises – how far do we go from our truth when we start “curating” our life oneline?  How do we balance sharing what is real versus what looks good?  are so relevant today.  I’m sure you’ve heard others say “I wish my life was as good as hers looks on Facebook.”  Well this book helps you think about those questions.  My rating 4 out of 5.  The other fiction books I enjoyed this month were We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel, Elizabeth Is Missing: A Novel and We Have Always Lived in the Castle: (Penguin Orange Collection).   I read two non-fiction books this month. ...

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