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...
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...

Color for your Thanksgiving Table

It’s the time of year most of us think about cranberries.  Even if you don’t normally enjoy them, you might consume some cranberry sauce this week while enjoying your Thanksgiving dinner. However, we really should be eating cranberries much more often than once a year!  Cranberries are chock full of antioxidants, vitamin C AND they are great for your digestive system. If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you may have been advised to drink cranberry juice.  That’s because cranberries contain proanthocyanidins.  This helps prevent E.coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder. Thanks to all those antioxidants, they also help our body get rid of toxins that can cause our immune system to weaken – and a weakened immune system makes us more likely to pick up an icky bug. If you’ve never had real cranberry sauce – this is the year to start.  Here is my favorite recipe – it’s incredibly simple, delicious and can even be made a few days before you want to serve it. Other ways to add more cranberries to your life include drinking them (make sure it’s real cranberry juice and not a bit of juice with tons of additional ingredients), adding fresh ones to baked goods, or dried cranberries to your salads.  Or just snack on them raw – yum! This is also the time of year to stock up on cranberries – they can be pretty hard to find at the grocery after December.  Buy an extra bag or two and stick it in your freezer.  They’ll even keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator’s crisper...

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