Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Moving, Homes, and Mortgages

 Hey, everybody! It's been a bit since I posted, due to both the holidays and because I was out of town for three weeks at my seasonal job in Kentucky. My sister and I both travel to Kentucky three to five times a year for a seasonal job, working at a place we love. The idea has been tossed around about us moving to Kentucky, either full-time or at least for the majority of the year. One obvious and important item we've been looking into is where to live. We currently rent a small apartment from a friend, but if we did move, we would definitely need something more permanent, more our own space, where I'd be able to bring my dog, and where we would have all the appliances and furniture needed for permanent living. Not to mention, since I love the job there, the friends, and the location, I'd be much more interested in purchasing a home rather than continuing to rent. Because I would be a first-time homeowner, I've been looking for helpful and reliable information online. For example, I was surprised to find out that last year, many first-time homeowners are turning to their parents for financial help rather than getting a loan (according to this article from Wall Street Journal).

Unfortunately, the part of Kentucky we would be looking to move to isn't the cheapest part of the state. It's a great area, and real estate is slightly pricier than we were hoping when moving was first mentioned. I have been able to do some browsing online of homes for sale and realized that one thing we definitely needed to look into was a mortgage calculator so we could figure out the basic requirements such as what we could afford, the minimum income we would each need to be able to afford a downpayment and monthly payments, et cetera. I actually found a calculator that not only calculates the home-related payments, but allows you to input your other monthly costs (car, car insurance, credit cards, bills, et cetera) to give you a clear picture of what you can afford. Super helpful for sure!

Needless to say, this certainly is not a decision we will be making quickly. Moving and buying a home are both huge commitments and we will be pondering, praying, and seeking advice before making any decisions. I'm 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Get Outside This Winter With These 4 Family-Friendly Cold Weather Activities

 There are so many reasons to get the whole family outside, even in cooler weather. Nature is known for its ability to encourage healing and reduce stress. It also helps reduce illnesses and boosts the immune system. If those aren't enough reasons, there are also some really cool outdoor things to do as a family in the winter. Instead of sitting inside staring at your screens, go ahead and give one of these four family-friendly activities a try this winter. 

1. Take a Nature Walk

The majesty of nature is not diminished in the winter. In many ways, it is even more remarkable as the landscape quiets down and prepares for a rebirth in the spring. That makes the winter a great time to get out and enjoy that beauty on a nature walk at a local park.  

2. Try Cross-Country Skiing

If you don't want to walk, cross country skiing is an excellent form of exercise and a good way to cover long distances rather quickly. For safety purposes, it is a good idea to take a lesson or go with an experienced skier before setting out on your own. For those who prefer a more adrenaline-inducing experience, RAP snowmobile tours may be just the ticket. 

3. Experience Ice Fishing

Most people think of fishing as a fun, relaxing summer pursuit, but it is actually quite enjoyable even in the ice and snow. Many outdoor shops around northern lake areas can help you learn what you need to get started with ice fishing, plus get you suited up with the right gear. 

4. Create Snow Art

You don't have to go further than your own backyard for this fun family activity. Let loose and create some magical snow art with squezable food coloring bottles. Then, head inside for some warm cocoa and cookies as you gaze through the windows at your creations.  

No matter what winter outdoor pursuit you choose, be sure to take general cold-weather safety precautions like wearing layers and carrying emergency supplies. This way, everyone gets to have fun and stay safe. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Effective Ways To Stay Warm This Winter

 This winter will be much like those in the past: colder weather, longer nights and snow and rain. While there is nothing worse than being chilled to the bone in cold weather, there are few things nicer than feeling all warm and toasty while the snow falls outside your window. Here are a few ways to add some delightful warmth to your life in the next few months.

Upgrade Your Home

If you are like most people, you probably spend more time inside your home in the winter. A nice, warm home is an undeniable pleasure. With insulation contractors Maryland, you can increase the comfort level of your home or business by adding energy-efficient spray foam. When the furnace kicks on, you will feel confident that the heat will stay inside much longer than before. Your furnace won't have to work as hard to keep everyone warm and you will save money on utility bills.

Get Out and Exercise

A little exercise is a good way to generate some heat of your own. Plus, it elevates your mood during the short days of winter and promotes better health according to WebMD. You can try out some of these outdoor activities:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice-skating
  • Playing hockey
  • Nordic skiing
  • Downhill skiing
  • Working in the yard

You can find an activity that suits you, whether it is walking the dog or looking for winter birds. Elevating your heart rate is a good way to stay warm.

Wear Some Awesome Clothes

One key to staying warm is to wear the right clothing. You don't necessarily have to spend a lot. Concentrate on the basics of hat, gloves and a warm coat. Always be sure to wear some warm socks to keep the chill off your feet. If it is really cold out, bundle up with some extra layers and don't be afraid to break out the long underwear. Remaining warm in winter just might help you enjoy the season even more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Things To Do for Your Child's First Birthday


There's something so special about your little one's first birthday. You've made it through a whole year of ups and downs, sleepless nights and so many firsts. Although most people only think of throwing a party for their child, here are some other things you can do to mark the occasion. 

Get Professional Photos

Although you may be tempted to save the money and just take pictures on your phone, you won't regret spending a little extra for the real deal. Hire a professional to do a photoshoot for your little one. A popular first birthday tradition is a cake smash photo session. You can find cakes in Schaumburg IL, and the photographer will capture your child digging into it with frosting smeared all over the mouth and little hands. 

Write Your Child a Letter

Your child won't remember the first year, but you can write a special letter that tells what it was like. Record all the details about your kid's first steps. Write down your little one's birth story. Put all of the memories down on paper and then present it at the eighteenth birthday party or any other special occasion when you feel your child is old enough. 

Celebrate Together

Of course, you'll want to commemorate the occasion with friends and family. It's always fun to throw a party for your little one and have everyone get together. However, you and your significant other should celebrate just the two of you as well. Making it through the first year is a big deal, so you should do something for yourselves. Get a sitter, go out to dinner and reminisce on the past year.  

Don't worry about going overboard when it comes to celebrating. You're not just observing a birthday. You're celebrating everything that happened in that first year so be over the top and enjoy the special day.

Swimming In Style - And Modesty

 Swimwear can be a hard issue for many women. Whether it's the fit, finding the right suit for your body type, or, for someone like me, making sure I can move around easily in the water without sacrificing modesty. Growing up, I mostly wore lightweight skirts that came to mid calf, with a pair of capri athletic pants underneath and a t-shirt on top. This was before all the modest swimwear styles and companies came on the scene, and let me tell you - my younger sisters have a much easier time finding modest swimwear than I ever did! We have been on several cruises over the past few years and it has been so nice being able to shop for modest swim attire through various shops online. Not to mention, they look much classier than I ever did in my leggings, skirt, and t-shirt! And of course, with these swimsuits being designed for water activity, they're much safer and more comfortable. Here's an example of one of my sister's swim skirts.

For me, modesty isn't something that goes out the window when I'm at the beach, pool, or in any other activity. Modesty means different things to different people but I pretty much look at it as covering my body; not out of shame or embarrassment, but because it's not public property for everyone to look at. Whether it's casual wear, church clothes, an evening gown, or swimwear, I want my clothing to cover my body without being too snug or fitted. Not so loose and baggy that I look like I'm wearing a potato sack, but not a form-outlining fit either. Both because I can't stand anything snug, but most importantly because I don't want to be "covered" with a material that ends up outlining or drawing attention to my body.

I just love the ruched waist on this swimsuit!

One company I discovered is LYRA modest swimwear. These swimsuits offer full coverage, including leggings that go to the ankle, without sacrificing movability and even style. Cute, stylish, classy, and leggings that keep you covered even if the skirt happens to float up. These literally look like cute day wear, but they're made in a quick-drying fabric designed especially for water. And it's even chlorine-resistant, so swimming in public pools isn't going to damage or fade your suit. They are available in a variety of colors as well as styles, to flatter and fit every body type, skin tone, and personal preference! I'm so glad that modest swimwear is now something you can shop for online, not have to come up with your own best option or pay outrageous prices for a custom outfit to be made. When modesty, style, comfort, and ease-of-buying combine, it's definitely a win-win!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

3 Benefits of Stainless Steel Appliances


There are many ways to revamp the look of a kitchen without completely remodeling it. Installing stainless steel appliances can be a great way to update the room without having to change the theme of the décor. The shiny metal is durable and easy to clean, as well as modern and attractive.

1. Durable

Many people spend a lot of time in their kitchen. Stainless steel is resistant to scratches, rust and stains, allowing cooks of all levels to enjoy their time creating culinary delights without worrying about damaging their appliances. Should damage occur over time, metal refinishing Manhattan NY can be performed to extend the useful life of appliances.

2. Easily Cleaned

Spills can usually be cleaned up using a clean cloth. Mild soap and water may be used after cooking or during a normal cleaning session to remove dust, dirt and food. For more stubborn messes, specialized cleaners can be used to remove grime and restore the clean, shiny appearances of appliances. As stainless steel is non-porous, it better resists the growth of germs and bacteria that types of surfaces such as wood and plastic.

3. Complements Décor

Because stainless steel appliances are neutral in color, they can complement many different styles of décor. Since they are currently popular, many different companies produce stainless steel kitchen appliances and décor items. Homeowners can mix and match items from different brands and still create a theme that looks harmonious and cohesive. People are able to use as much stainless steel as they want. They can limit their use of the material to appliances, or add sinks, countertops or backsplashes for a bolder look.

Anyone who is thinking about updating their kitchen should consider purchasing stainless steel appliances or accessories. Used and new models can be found in a variety of price ranges, which can make them easier to purchase on a budget.

Monday, October 19, 2020

3 Things To Remember When Catering An Event


Whether you're just starting out as a caterer or are no stranger to a hot food merchandiser and big events, catering can be a demanding line of work. It takes a lot of time and preparation to do your job well. Here are tips to remember when catering your next event.

Go for Finger Foods

When in doubt, finger foods are a win for almost any event; they're easier to eat, kid-friendly, and keep portion sizes controlled. Along with this, finger foods eliminate the need for silverware, which can increase your overall budget. If you are serving finger foods, make sure they're appropriate for the type of event you're catering. Namely, don't serve something like hot wings at a wedding unless they're specifically requested by your client!

Serve a Diverse Menu

It's impossible to know what every single guest likes before an event, so your best bet is to offer a diverse menu that caters to many tastes. If you're offering exotic or especially spicy dishes, serve alternatives that are simpler and milder as well. No matter what kind of dessert you're offering, have a chocolate option available. Above all, don't neglect your vegetarian or vegan guests!

Think About Backups

Make sure you've got enough replenishment to feed everyone at least twice over — people love going back for seconds, especially if the event is offering buffet-style service. Consider what will be the most popular items of the night and make a few extra batches of these items. Remember: it's always better to have a little too much than not enough to go around!

When catering an event, it ultimately comes down to your guests. Get as much insight as you can on what the event will be and who you'll be serving on the day of; the more you know, the better you can serve them!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Need to Get Your Windows Winter Ready


As cooler temperatures settle in, it’s a good time to go over your winter prep checklist. Many homeowners inspect their gutters, drain their water pipes, and so on. Be sure to include maintenance of your Denver Windows while you’re preparing for the frigid months ahead. Here’s why it’s important to do so.

Reason #1: The Window Trim Won’t Rot Away

Exterior wood on roofs and siding is treated for wood rot, but not so much for the wood on window trim. Excess moisture from rain and wet snow can perpetuate trim wood rot, leading to damaged windows and moldy siding. Paint and repair the wood on your window trim as needed to prevent further headaches in the coming winter. Exterior wood stains are an attractive and durable protective option. 

Reason #2: Fewer Bugs and Critters Can Get in

As windows age, the gaps and cracks can get bigger with each year. Critters look for warm sheltered nooks and crannies when cold weather strikes, and that includes your windows. If the thought of spiders and mice in your house creeps you out, that alone should motivate you to get insulation strips for your windows!

Reason #3: You’ll Save More on Your Heating Bill

At some point, you have probably heard this phrase before: “windows that perform better help you save more on your heating bill.” But how much energy can you really save with regular upkeep on your windows? Well, it turns out to be a lot… 25 to 30 percent! 

Reason #4: It’s Cheaper Than Replacing the Whole Window

Regular maintenance on your windows helps them to last longer, and it’s simple too. A fresh caulk or weatherstrip job is much cheaper than a window replacement. If you do end up replacing your window, use the opportunity to purchase an energy-efficient model to save money on maintenance in the future.

Reason #5: You’re Better Prepared for Winter Storms

Think of your windows as a shield. They’re the only barrier that keeps your home safe from the elements during a storm. Do you want to take your chances with a window that’s in iffy condition? Check the storm rating on your windows, and plan accordingly. 

Reason #6: They Simply Look Better

Let’s face it, well-kept windows have better curb appeal. You also get a better view from the inside when you’re cooped up indoors. Regular cleaning of your windows and siding helps control the growth of mildew, particularly in shady spots. Window sills are sometimes overlooked, but important to wash too. Clean window sills help improve indoor air quality.

These reasons alone provide good motivation for the regular maintenance of your windows. Doing most of the work yourself is simple and doesn’t cost much. By taking action now, your windows will last longer and you won’t have to handle emergency repairs out in the cold. You can relax by the fireplace knowing that your windows are already taken care of for next year.

Monday, September 21, 2020

5 Creative Vacation Ideas for Families

 Every family needs a break from work and school now and again. Family vacations are a great opportunity to relax, let off steam and enjoy making new memories with those you love. It also gives you and your family members a chance to branch out and see new and exciting parts of the world. The best part is that you do not even have to go too far to have a good time! If you are looking to plan a family vacation, consider these unique ideas.

Whitewater Rafting

For those looking for an exciting and engaging adventure, consider whitewater rafting. This thrilling getaway can last one day or one week, depending on where you go and what your family wants to explore. These rafting tours are led by professionals who will help you learn the tools of the trade and lead you on a trip down some of the country’s most beautiful waterways.

Camping on the Beach

When most people think of camping, they picture thickly wooded areas. But have you considered camping on a sandy beach right next to the ocean? There are several campground destinations along the coast that let you and your family combine the joy of camping with the fun of the beach. These camping areas are often suitable for tents and RVs alike.

Historic Sites and Towns

Visiting a place that is important to your state or country’s history can be a rewarding experience for all ages! Many historic sites included guided tours and attractions that are fun and educational. Consider asking your children what historic topics they are studying in school or ask your partner about their favorite moment in history. This may give you some excellent ideas for locations.

Your next vacation could be one for the record books. Consider using one of the ideas presented in this guide when organizing the next big trip for you and your family!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Home Renovations Under Quarantine

 Why is it that so many of my blog posts recently have been about doing things in quarantine? It seems like our way of doing things has changed in so many aspects since the beginning of this year, from shopping, to eating, to visiting with friends, to attending Church...not much is the same simple, everyday life we had just six months ago! Thankfully, we are slowly returning to a semblance of normality, but "everyday life" still looks so different in 2020 than it did in 2019. One bonus that did come out of the lockdown period for our family was having the time to actually get some of those home repairs done. You know, the kind that have been on a to-do list for  forever, but we never have the time to get around to them? We did hours and hours of cleaning, clearing out, redecorating, and repairing the home during quarantine and the house looks much better for it!

One of my ongoing pet projects is the kitchen. We had new wooden cabinets put in several years ago, but to be honest, they already need some repair. Knobs have come off, a couple have been damaged, and they definitely need a new paint job. We were able to get the bigger work taken care of a couple months ago, but we still need to do the paint and knobs. I recently found an incredible deal online for beautiful bronze knobs that I just love and they match our kitchen color perfectly! I also looked at some lovely backsplash tile for the kitchen that I will be keeping an eye on. I hate how messy the sink area gets, and backsplash makes it so much easier to keep clean. Plus, backsplash just looks so bright and cheery!

Another room we've been doing work on is the guest bathroom. Repainting, hanging new mirrors and medicine cabinets; we even put a new bathroom vanity and shelf in. All of these are items we could have gotten some great savings on if I had known about Build.com a few months ago!

One biggie in the home that we just have not found the time to do yet is replacing the bi-fold door to our entertainment room. Our house is an older farmhouse, and trying to find just the right door has been difficult in the area we live. The closest home improvement store is 45 minutes away, so online shopping is a huge plus, especially when it comes to something like this. I have been able to find so many beautiful doors, just the right size, and we can match it to the room colors and decor. I am especially loving the barn-door look of this one pictured below. I can not wait until we find the time (and hopefully a coupon or sale) to get this door replaced!

As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately I didn't know about Build.com and the deals you can get online for home repair. Now that I do, I think it's time we tackle the rest of our to-do list, starting with the aforementioned bi-fold door. Not having to drive 45 minutes to shop, plus adding in the home repair discounts you can find at Slickdeals means we can get the rest of our house in tip-top shape much easier and at less cost. Let's do this!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tool Sets For Everyday Use

 Over the past several months (during quarantine or whatever you'd like to call it), I've been doing a lot of thorough housework. This means clearing out junk that has accumulated that we don't need, making any small repairs I find, adding some new home decor - basically giving our home a facelift, so to speak! It was a great opportunity to get so many little things done that I've had on a mental checklist for forever but never could find time to accomplish. One thing I found absolutely necessary for so many of these home projects is a good tool set

One of the main projects I had was finally hanging up all those family pictures and cute or inspirational quotes we had sitting around the house. Hobby Lobby is one of our favorite stores to just spend a couple hours wandering, so of course we end up with a lot of wall decor that somehow usually just sits in the back room gathering dust until the time some brave soul ventures in to find a piece they'd like to hang. There are a couple tools necessary for this; the first and most obvious being a hammer. I'm rather picky about my hammer; I don't like the overly big, designed-for-major-construction-projects hammers. Something small, light, and easy to wield in small areas, such as if I'm hanging a picture in a corner and don't have room to maneuver a larger hammer. In addition, I like to use a tape measure or ruler to make sure that everything is level and even. Some larger pictures have two hooks on the back for hanging, so it's especially important with these. But even to just make sure your entire decor is not going to look sloppy and haphazard, it's a good idea to use a tape measure before driving those nails in!

A screwdriver is another must-have for frequent use around the house. Whether it's hanging a set of wall shelves, fixing a cupboard door, or putting a new door handle on, screwdrivers are essential. Some people prefer the traditional separate flat and phillips heads; I have a kit with the bits in different sizes and heads. This make it super simple to swap from project to project without needing to carry multiple screwdrivers around. Mine even has the bits tucked neatly into a carrier inside the handle of the screwdriver, so it's super easy!

One other item you'll want in a home tool kit is a wrench. This probably won't receive as much use as the hammer and screwdriver, but it's still common enough use that having one handy is important. Tightening nuts and bolts won't come up as often around the house, but just when you think a wrench isn't important, you'll find yourself needing one! Of course, what you need/use most often will determine what you want in your tool kit. I like to keep a pair of scissors, some pliers, wire cutters, and some nails and screws in varying sizes in my kit so I'm prepared for whatever the day and project may require. What does your home tool kit have?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Components of a Business Plan

 Hey, friends! Are any of my readers business owners? Small business, home business, or maybe a booming online enterprise? I'm not, but I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind numerous times how much I would love to open a bakery and coffee shop. Making a limited amount of fresh baked goods every day (cinnamon rolls would be the cafe's #1 menu item since they're my specialty) and serving all sorts of coffee beverages to go with the sweets. It's not something I really think I'll ever do simply because I know the statistics about restaurants failing as well as not having the capital to start something like that, but it's nice to dream. 

I was reading recently about what are considered the top 10 components of a business plan, and found some helpful and extremely useful information. So, in case any of my readers are business owners or are contemplating starting a business, I thought I'd discuss a couple areas I thought especially important.

First, the customer analysis. Who are the people your business will appeal to? What specific group of customers will you be targeting? Are you going to attract moms and families? Is it something that young people will be drawn to? Maybe senior citizens? Singles or couples? I feel like figuring out who you are trying to bring into your business is a huge part of making sure your enterprise gets off the ground and running smoothly.

A second point I thought was very helpful was discussing the marketing, sales, and product plan. If you don't have a plan in place to market your product/service/business, you are pretty much guaranteed to fail. Social media marketing is almost a must in our day and age, but there's so much more than just starting a Facebook page for your biz. Do you know how to use social media effectively? Are you familiar with what hashtags and headlines will catch the eye of potential customers? Do you have an eye for photography to present your products in the best light? Moving away from social media, what is the image you want for your business/brand? Are you going for a hip look? Do you want something traditional and trustworthy, maybe the "family-owned-and-operated" image? Or do you have a unique thought in mind that you want your brand to convey? The possibilities are endless, but it's important to have these questions answered before you open a business, whether it's online or a brick-and-mortar store.

Lastly, having a solid financial plan in place is of the utmost importance. Do you know what it will cost to get your business up and running? How long will it take before you start to see profits? What is the minimum you need to make to cover day-to-day costs? Finance is, without a doubt, the one thing you MUST have calculated and arranged long before opening day.

Cool Craft Project #Crafting #QuarantineActivities

 Hey, y'all! I don't know about anyone else, but during the quarantine/stay-at-home/whatever you'd like to call it, I got bored pretty quickly. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the extra time with family, but with most of our normal day-to-day life shut down, I knew I had to find something to keep myself occupied. I was very thankful when craft stores opened back up, and spent numerous hours wandering trying to find projects to work on. I finished one just recently, and I absolutely love how it turned out! I got the inspiration from a project guide in the store, but I didn't follow their specific instructions; I struck out on my own and put together what I thought would work best for my needs. 

Most of my room is done in a western theme; I've always loved horses, western style clothing, cactus, Texas...you get the idea. The colors are pretty much a sky blue to turquoise color, all complimenting each other and keeping with a western look. I'm not really sure what this project would be called, but it's a magnet board, necklace hanger, and assorted catch-all in one single piece. I started off with an unfinished wood plaque from the craft store that already had a metal sheet in one section. Obviously painting was the first step; I opted for a chalky blue that gives it a sort of rustic feel. Along the top section, I used a piece of leather and attached it with cactus-shaped thumb tacks. Then I found some turquoise mini clothespins that work perfectly to hang necklaces from the leather strip.

The second part, the magnet board, was pretty much all set. So the next step was painting a dowel rod and some caps for it, then finding hooks that were just the right size to hang the dowel from. It took some doing, but we finally discovered some decorative hooks that worked well. After sliding the rod in, I found some metal hanging buckets to attach onto the rod. The rod will hold three of these cups, and this is what I call the catch-all part. I can stash my sunglasses, leather bracelets, pens, and many other little extras that never seem to find an actual home. 

I have to admit, before this project, I never would have considered myself any sort of craft/artsy person. This is honestly the first crafting-type project I've ever completed that I actually felt proud of! It's obviously homemade, but I think it has the perfect rustic look, and fits perfectly with a western theme. The best part is, no matter what theme/style your room is, you can change it up to work. Different board, different colors, different materials...this is just an idea of what you can do with a few craft supplies and some spare time!

Monday, August 24, 2020

How You Should Prepare For a Walking Tour

 How You Should Prepare For a Walking Tour

There's nothing quite like a walking tour to get you outside and ready to explore.  Whether you're on the Great Wall of China or making your way through the Grand Canyon in Arizona - it's exciting to think of everything you'll see.


Unfortunately, it's not all fun if you're not prepared.

Here are a few ways you should prepare for a walking tour to make the most out of yours!

Take Care of Your Feet

Since this is a walking tour, your feet have to be kept in mind.  Trim your toenails the night before so they don’t rub in your sneakers and socks.  Wear sneakers that you’ve worn before, and that are broken in.  You don’t want to have to break in your shoes on a long hike where you may end up with blisters or sores.

Drink and Bring Water

Whether you're trudging through the Australian outback or walking around looking at Pittsburgh houses for sale, you need to keep hydrated.  Don't go overboard, drink when you're thirsty, and your body will be able to handle the rest.  The best thing for your body is water, but if you don't have food on hand and feel fatigued, the sugar in natural juices can help. 



If your walking tour is outside during the day, wear sunscreen.  This step will save you from sunburns or rashes and help protect your skin in the long run.  Instead of worrying about a painful burn, you'll be able to concentrate on the beautiful views around you.  Go for an SPF of at least 30, since that will block 93% of UV rays from getting into your skin.

Mobile Charger for Your Phone

It might sound nice to cut yourself off from technology and enjoy the views around yourself but keep a spare phone charger.  You'll be able to take pictures of the beautiful scenery around you and have your phone in case of an emergency.


A walking tour can be strenuous if you're not used to being on your feet that long!  Stretch your body so that you can face this walking tour with ease.  The most important place to focus your stretches is on your legs and feet. Warm-up these muscles and joints, and prep them for the workout ahead.

Eat Something

Don’t walk with an empty stomach!  An empty stomach can leave you nauseous, dizzy, and make poor decisions like not drinking water or resting.  Eat some food before you go, and take a couple of snacks with you so that you can refuel your body while you're walking.

Small First Aid Kit

Although most walking tours don't require a ton of dangerous activities, you must bring a first aid kit to protect yourself.  These kits can help if you trip and scrape a knee, or if someone in your group gets hurt.  The hope is that you'll never have to use it, but it's good to keep one in your bag in the off chance it's needed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Sportswear Shopping On a Budget

Hey, everybody! Do we have any Columbia fans among our readers? When I hear Columbia, I typically think of two things: their outerwear and their athletic apparel. Truth is, my uncle is a huge fan of their casual shirts, but my favorites are, as I said, exercise tops and jackets.

I think my first experience actually wearing anything Columbia brand was not too long ago when my sister and I were visiting northern Kentucky and had forgot to bring any jackets with us. *Insert facepalm here.* Yes, we took a trip in October, it was warm where we were coming from, and we didn't think to bring even a lightweight jacket with us! Thankfully, we had a friend who loaned us a couple of jackets and, you guessed it, they were both Columbia brand. I promise, it's not just my chattering teeth speaking when I say that was one of the most comfy jackets I had ever put on! I ended up buying another jacket on our trip, but I was loathe to give that one back to the owner. Needless to say, that drew my attention to Columbia from that point on. Yes, I had seen their apparel in various stores, numerous friends wear Columbia, but that was my first time actually feeling the Columbia comfort for myself.

Next to the jackets, my favorite Columbia product line is their athletic shirts. I'm pretty active, I go biking/walking/running at least 4 days a week, and we also take day trips to go hiking whenever possible. No matter what the occasion or location, Columbia is sure to have the perfect shirt for it. You can always count on Columbia to have comfortable fit and practical style, all wrapped up in a lovely design. Whether you need a long sleeved base layer for a winter hike, a short sleeve tee for a summer jog, or anything in between, or even casual athleisure wear, Columbia has you covered.

Now, Columbia isn't the most pricy apparel brand by any means, but they are typically going to be more expensive than your generic store-brand clothing. In my opinion, the old age stays true; you get what you pay for. To me, they are worth the extra few dollars to get the quality and comfort that far outlasts other brands. (For example, said jacket that we borrowed from a friend was about ten years old and still in great condition!) However, I understand it's not always easy to justify or even afford the price of quality. I consider myself a great budget shopper, deal finder, whatever you'd like to call it, and have often astounded friends with the bargains I can find. Most people would be surprised how easy it is to find insane deals on Columbia apparel. I usually shop around a bit, either online or in store, and decide what product(s) I'm interested in, but I definitely don't purchase right away. I like to wait, check out what sales are going on or will be starting soon, find coupons, and do all the research I can to make sure I'm getting the best deal possible. My favorite department store often runs sales and coupons in conjunction with each other, so I love when I walk out with a bag full of goods and see on the receipt that I spent maybe $47 and saved over $300! It's an incredible feeling for sure! You can also find great deals online at places like Slickdeals, among others. Don't settle for just buying something the instant you see it-check out what bargains you can find, and you'll be amazed at how much you can save!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Unique Must-Try Desserts That Make the Perfect Present


If you know someone who is truly in love with food, you can use this love to find them the perfect gift. If you are looking for something for your foodie, consider these unique gifts that will be sure to offer them a truly one of a kind experience.

Spicy Meets Sweet

For foodies out there, you can harness their love of tastes and flavors and what better way than through combining those in strange and exciting ways. Gifting them with gourmet spicy chocolate can be a great way to embody their love of something rich and sweet with something that will be sure to exhilarate their taste buds.

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Truffles are the ultimate in chocolate gifts. What girl doesn't love the exquisite beauty and taste of a box of gourmet chocolate truffles? Whether it's a gift to say I Love You or a just-because from a friend or family member, chocolate truffles are sure to be received with pleasure.

Chef Extravagance

If you are looking for something truly exquisite, you can order extravagant desserts, made from some of the most renowned chefs. Consider Milk Bar and place an order that can bring the wonder of this extraordinary birthday cake to your friend or family member’s doorstep. No longer do you need to travel to foodie hotspots like New York City, and instead, you can enjoy these decadent desserts from home.

Make Your Own

For your food lover, if they prefer a more hands-on experience, you can send premixed recipes that they can enjoy from the comfort of their kitchen. Whether you send them unique dessert mixes or meal kits, enjoy the fun and experiential options available for every type of foodie.

There is something wonderful about sharing a love of food, and you can share that joy and excitement through these unique and delicious ideas. You will be sure to thrill and excite your loved one with these unique and fun flavors that are sure to commemorate a memorable celebration.

Chicago Life

Any of my readers live in or around Chicago? Or have any of you visited the Chicagoland area? I can still remember my first visit to the Windy City about ten years ago. A friend invited our family to spend a few days there, and we took in so many sights! From the Magnificent Mile to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, the North Shore, various restaurants including the famous Portillo's/Barnelli's...we did it all! I had been to New York City a few times previously, and while I enjoyed NYC, I definitely like Chicago better. It's busy but still a more relaxed pace than NYC, the people are overall friendlier, and you never run out of things to do or see!

One of my favorite aspects of Chicagoland life is the amount of bookstores in the area. Our family loves books and each of us, to some extent or another, collect various genres, authors, and series of books. In addition to some used bookstore chains, there are also numerous local used book shops that you can spend hours in looking for that certain book. Whether it's religious, fiction, history, art, music, or any other genre you're looking for, it's almost certain you'd be able to find any book in a Chicago bookstore.

Another plus to Chicago living is, as I mentioned previously, the amount of things to do and sites to visit. We've been to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, ice skating in the park, various events and festivals, Gospel music concerts, Navy Pier, Millennium Park (to see the giant bean), an architecture river tour, and so many other fun and interesting things! It's often educational, you get family time together, and to be honest, it is just plain fun! 

If you love to eat, Chicago is a city you'll love. On the aforementioned first trip to Chicago with a friend, we were introduced to two new experiences that became favorites. One was Chicago deep dish pizza. You have not had deep dish pizza until you try Gino's, Giordano's, or Pizzeria Uno/Due! The first time I ate real Chicago style pizza, I could not believe how thick it was! It's always fun bringing other friends to try it out and see their responses now. The second Chicago specialty we were introduced to is Portillo's/Barnelli's. This is a chain that is known for their Italian beef, Chicago style hot dogs, sandwiches, and of course, the world-famous chocolate cake. Some locations have the Barnelli's pasta joint inside, some are just a Portillo's, but whichever you find, make sure to stop and eat! It's a must-visit!

If you don't live in the Chicago area but are looking to move, it can be a daunting task. Which part of the city do you want to live in? Suburbs or actual city? Where are the best/closest schools, eateries, shopping, etc? It may be hard, but it's not an impossible task to find the perfect apartment to rent during your tenure in Chicagoland. Using an apartment search resource makes the process so much smoother and easier! You can search by location, number of bedrooms or bathrooms, price...an apartment search resource is literally a lifesaver for anyone looking to move to Chicago. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Personal Finance and Savings

 Personal finance is an area that most people would probably say they struggle with in some form or another. It is, sadly, not something that is covered in many schools, so oftentimes young people come into adulthood with all its responsibilities and expenditures without being truly prepared.

I'm a planner by nature and finance falls into line with that, but I will be the first to admit, I'm not always as strong in my financial planning as I am in, say, planning a family vacation with all of its lodging, dining, and activities. I'm a transcriptionist full time with a seasonal job that I work a few times a year, and I have a reasonable idea of my income for each year. I like to sit down near the end of each year and look at/plan any extra output I may have for the upcoming year, be it travel, vehicle expenses, or maybe a necessary purchase such as a laptop or phone. Obviously, we all have those unexpected surprises like a home repair, vehicle breakdown, etc that we can't plan for in detail. However, by figuring out what trips we'll be taking, what tool or device I have that may need replaced soon, and a general idea of what/if my car might need some work done, I can get a decent idea of my extra expenses for the year. This gives me the ability to put some money away each paycheck to be used specifically toward those costs, in addition to my regular savings that won't be touched except in case of absolute emergency. A savings goal calculator is a great help to see just how much that little bit each week will grow over the years.

One thing I have started working on recently is to stop spending little bits of money here and there on extras, and instead to put that money into my savings. I love coffee (as if my blog name didn't give that away!) and it is all too easy for me to swing by Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts to grab my favorite beverage whenever I pass by. Even the cheaper of the two options ends up being a $10 or more expenditure every week if I stop in 5 days. Doesn't sound like much, right? And yet, that adds up to over $500 a year that I'm needlessly spending on coffee! Add in the fast food, snacks, and sodas I pick up just because it sounds good (not a necessity while traveling or in need of an actual meal), and I realized how quickly I spend a good amount of money on "extras" in my day to day life. So, the plan I came up with recently is to allow myself an occasional splurge (pumpkin spice latte season is just around the corner, after all!) but to honestly look at what I'd normally spend on coffees or other extras, and put that amount of money into savings each week. It may not sound like much, but I'm excited to see how my savings will grow as I put this into practice.

I recently read a study that said Americans in 2019 spent an average of $18,000 (in one year) on non-essential items. They broke it down into categories such as eating out, impulse purchases, etc. While some of the categories don't apply to me (I've never used a ride share service and don't have a gym membership, for example), the coffee was calculated at $20 per month and I KNOW I spend more than that on coffee each month! So, after seeing the aforementioned article and then taking a good look at my own expenditures, I am determined to make changes going forward. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

My Blogging Journey

 Just recently, I received an email telling me that my blog domain was up for renewal at the end of the month. I have it set for automatic billing so I don't have to do anything (can't take the chance of forgetting the billing date one year!) but it did get me thinking about my start as a blogger. It's hard to believe that it's been 9-1/2 years since Hope's Cafe "opened for business". When I began blogging, it was as a product reviewer. My mom had been doing it a short time and since I love writing, being able to try new products simply by promising to share my thoughts about it in a blog post seemed like an incredible opportunity. As any blogger can attest to, it's slow starting. Fortunately, I was able to get in before influencer blogs became the "thing", so I had a pretty solid network in place by the time product review blogs gained popularity and companies were overwhelmed by the amount of people asking for free product.

One of my favorite aspects of blogging has been the travel pieces I get to do. Many times over the years, we would plan a family vacation and then I'd reach out to local businesses, restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc to see if they'd like a feature on Hope's Cafe. I've been able to do and see some pretty fun things through this. Branson, MO; Orlando, FL; Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, TN; Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Tampa, FL; Clarksville, TN; Nashville, TN...these and so many other cities have companies that have graciously hosted myself (or myself and my family) in exchange for a blog article. I love to travel and in my dream world, I'd be a travel writer getting to visit foreign cities and countries for work. I can't imagine a much better job than being hired to travel and write about it!

As I look back over blog posts from the past 9+ years, I've seen how my writing has developed. Writing product reviews certainly improves a person's creative writing skills! Once you review two or three of the same type of product in a 1-year span, you have to get creative about how to describe the product without sounding redundant. Of course, there was also growth in being able to write a negative review without being overly harsh. If a product didn't work as promised, simply seemed cheap, or I had a bad experience with it, I always reached out to the company first to make sure they were okay with an honest (meaning not completely positive) review. Thankfully, these aren't common so I don't have to deal with it very often.

Another bonus I've received from becoming a blogger has been the wealth of fitness and health information and products I've learned about. 9 years ago, 24-year-old me thought I was pretty healthy. Sure, I ate some junk food but I was in decent shape, did a lot of outdoor activity, and didn't tire easily. Now that I'm a little older, I realize some of that was simply the energy of youth! Honestly, though, I've been privileged to work with some great fitness brands that introduced me to workout routines, healthy eating habits, specific foods, and exercise tools that I never would have known otherwise. Off the top of my head, kettlebells and high intensity interval training have to be my two favorites. I was able to work with a company doing an 8-week kettlebell fitness program near the start of my blogging journey, and kettlebells have been an important part in my exercise regimen ever since. High intensity interval training came later, but again, it's something I incorporate into my schedule every week. While I wouldn't consider myself a fitness blogger, it's something I really enjoy getting the chance to write about because it means I'm learning about a new way to stay healthy and fit.

So, almost ten years later, I have to say I'm pretty satisfied with the blogging journey I've had. Sometimes I slow down and take a step away, but I always find myself coming back and enjoying the writing, talking about products and programs and places that my readers may have never heard of, and just having a space to share my thoughts about things. Here's to the next 10 years!