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Try Delicious New Stonyfield Yogurt Pouches!

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Butternut Squash Soup with Organic Squash from Hometown Harvest

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Category Archives: Family

Disney Trip on a Budget!

Saving Money at Disney World, Saving money on a Disney Vacation, Disney Savings, Disney World Trip

204 Days and Counting to our Walt Disney World Vacation!

The family and I are beyond excited as we continue to countdown to our Walt Disney World Vacation! In my first post: Disney World: Let the Countdown Begin, I promised that I would let you in on all my secrets to save money yet still be able to enjoy Disney to the fullest. I could think of no other person to brainstorm these ideas with than my best friend and fellow Disney fanatic, Megan. As a former Florida resident and Disney worker she has tips that I didn’t even know about! So I asked her to help me write this post so we don’t leave anything out.

Disney is and will always be the most magical and happiest place on earth. Unfortunately it comes with a big price tag, or does it? The answer is not necessarily! Disney can be affordable if you know a few simple tips and tricks.

Hotels, Airfare, and Park Tickets:

Tip #1: Wait for the off-season.

One of the things you learn about Disney, especially being a former Florida resident, is that there are blackout dates. Blackout dates are when tourism to the parks are at their peak, like Christmas time and the summer months. During their off season Disney is always offering specials and packages to get people into the park. You can save a huge amount of money just by waiting to visit Disney during their off-season.

Tip #2: Book it now, pay for it later.

You can book your Disney Vacation up to 11 months in advance. For $200 you can hold your reservation and pay for your package incrementally. Need more time to save? Call Disney directly and you can book a room up to 500 days in advance. That’s almost 2 years to save up! Save on your airfare by booking  it with your package. Booking my family’s flight alone would have cost us $750, however adding it to my existing vacation package the price only increased by $300. That’s a savings of over $400!

Tip #3: Use your perks!

Have a warehouse club membership? Do you work for a corporation? Are you a member of the military? Have a credit card with rewards? These are all ways you can save on your trip to Disney.  Most warehouse club memberships get you more benefits than just lower prices on bulk items, including vacation packages to Disney. Don’t have a club membership? Check with your human resource department, you might be surprised what your company offers. My husband used to work for a major defense contractor, they offered special prices on park tickets to Disney. It saved us about $200 for our family park hopper pass. Your credit card may not get you cheaper park tickets, but you might be able to redeem some of your rewards for airfare or even a hotel.

Tip #4: Look into the competition!

It is wonderful to stay at a Disney hotel, but sometimes they are really out of the budget. There are literally hundreds of hotels in the surrounding area that would love to have your business. Many of them offer shuttles to the different parks. Saving money on your stay means more money you have to play with elsewhere. All the same rules apply here, wait for the off-season, book it now, and use your perks! Also, did you know that Disney has timeshares? And did you know people will “rent” their timeshares to you for a fraction of the price? A quick search for “DVC rentals” will put you in the right direction.

Tip #5: How many days do you really need?

Not all vacation packages are week long. You can make your stay as long or as short as you need to accommodate your budget. The same applies to park tickets. For example: If your flight arrives in Orlando at 3 pm on Saturday and you leave at noon on the following Saturday. That would be 8 days and they would automatically sell you an 8 day pass for the park. Consider instead buying a pass with fewer days and you will have time to explore the free areas of Disney such as Disney’s Boardwalk, Downtown Disney, or even enjoy the amenities of your hotel!

Dining, Entertainment, and other tips:

Tip #6: Buy a Dining Plan.

Disney offers a wide variety of dining plans that are accepted at pretty much every restaurant in the parks. Most of these plans are as little as $50 per person, per day. That may seem like a lot but consider that these plans include drinks, snacks and meals for each person. Plus, they include a souvenir mug that you can get refilled for free everywhere on Disney property!

Tip #7: Change it up.

There are grocery stores right outside of Disney plus a couple of small convenient stores on the property. You can buy food to keep in your hotel room and prepare meals for your family instead of eating out. We usually plan on one meal in our hotel everyday. This not only saves us money but it gives our son a chance to rest before tackling the parks. You can also visit the buffets or even eat a la carte at any of the restaurants.

Tip #8: If you are staying on property, let your concierge know what you are celebrating!

Disney is all about celebration, they even have a town with the namesake! Whether it is your first Disney trip, birthday, honeymoon, or you’re just happy to be alive, let them know! Concierge will give you a special pin to wear in the parks. The cast members are trained to recognize these pins and I PROMISE you they will make it worth your while. My husband and I were celebrating our honeymoon and were given the ‘Just Married’ pins and hats. Wearing them in the park got us a lot of perks. They bumped us to the front of a long line, brought us free dessert, and gave us special seating at one of the shows. Cast members will go out of their way to make each trip more magical. Make sure you return the favor by telling them they’ve made your trip extra special!

Tip #9: Prioritize!

This may be a no-brainer but by sitting down and thinking about what is most important to you and your family, you will find ways to make adjustments to have the vacation your always wanted. There are so many things to do at Disney and I promise you, you won’t feel like you are missing out on anything. Disney works hard to ensure everyone has a magical time. For example: if you don’t have the extra cash for a character dining experience, you can find a schedule of meet and greets for you and your family’s favorite characters.

Tip #10: Stay at a Disney World Resort!

One of the nice things about staying at a Disney resort is being able to get into the parks before the public and being able to stay after the public leaves. This is especially helpful if you are planning on going during a very busy time (like spring break or any holiday). Also, staying at a resort means you can take nap breaks or regroup at your room before heading back to watch the fireworks at night. Last time I was there we watched the Magic Kingdom Wishes Firework show from our resorts beach. It was amazing!

Megan and I are thrilled to not only be vacationing at our favorite place on Earth with our families but to also save as much money as possible doing it! We hope that these tips will help you plan the most magical vacation possible for your family. Next time I will be posting about fun crafts to make while waiting impatiently patiently for your trip to start!

Disney World: Let the Countdown Begin!

Disney

Our first ever family trip to Disney is officially booked!!!

Words cannot begin to describe how happy I am about this vacation. When we started finalizing our trip details I started to think back on my first trip there as a child. I remember riding the Dumbo ride over and over again, not minding the long lines. Seeing Mickey and Minnie in real life was almost too much for me, as a 5 year old I felt like I was going to burst from the excitement! As a child and even young adult, I wished I could live at Disney. I wanted nothing more than to work for them, be in a show, or just be a princess!

I have been to Disney World 4 times in my life. My husband and two children however have never been. To see them experience the magic for the first time is going to be amazing. I’m close to bursting just writing this out!

I am planning on a writing a post once a month (or maybe a little more) about our preparations for Disney. My first plan of attack is to make a super cute countdown calendar to keep up in our house. The original idea of having one finished for this post didn’t happen because life happened!

Also, since I am a frugal momma, I promise to share my tips and tricks for having all the fun you can at Disney without breaking the bank. I want to help not only my family enjoy all that Disney World has to offer in it’s fullness but your family too.

Let the Countdown Begin: 245 Days

Go Organic For Earth Day

I love organic food. Seriously, I’m addicted. It is healthier, safer, and tastier. Not only is it good for us it’s better for the environment. Organic farmers do not use dangerous pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem. Despite what some may have you believe, those chemicals make their way not only into the food they are sprayed on but the waterways and even the air we breathe.

Eating and cleaning organically on a budget can be hard and overwhelming. For food the best way to start is to check out the list of the dirty dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest concentration of pesticide residue. According to the  Environmental Working Group “individuals can reduce their exposure by 80% if they switch to organic when buying these 12 foods.” Apples, potatoes, celery, and peaches are just a few of the dirties. You can see a complete list of the dirty dozen as well as the clean 15 on the Environmental Working Group’s website. I also recommend avoiding all non-organic corn and corn by-products as most corn is genetically modified. My family and I are not science experiments, if you agree check out the Just Label It campaign. Join me in telling the FDA we have a right to know what is in our food!

Another great way to save money is to plant your own garden. You can buy organic soil and seeds at any local hardware or nursery store. Now if you are like me and have a black thumb start small. I bought an organic basil plant, and since I have followed the directions to the letter it is still alive. I use a lot of basil so growing my own is more cost efficient and the added bonus is that awesome fresh taste. Having a garden is also a great way to teach your children about where our food comes from. I’ve always taught my children where the stores get the food from but it amazes me when children don’t realize that food doesn’t just magically appear in Harris Teeter. Gardening is also is a means to get them excited about eating all different kinds of fruits and veggies. Something about growing their own food makes them want to eat it more, who knew?!

Smell that basil goodness!

Like I said, I have a black thumb, so having an immaculate garden is just not in the cards. That is why I visit my local farmer’s market. I can find organic produce and save money. Without having to pay for shipping costs, the actual price of the food is lower. This helps my pocket and keeps more emissions out of the air.

I do love finding deals and I was up for the challenge when we decided to switch to organic and natural foods. Trader Joe’s became my go to place. It is a great place to stock up on healthy snacks and organic goodies without spending every dime of your paycheck. As far as finding coupons went that proved to be difficult. If you want artificial, genetically modified garbage then you can find coupons galore and manage to spend less then $20 on a cart full of junk. It takes some digging but you can find coupons for the good stuff. Occasionally, I get lucky and the paper and/or coupons.com will have a few. My rule of thumb is to always check the brands website and/or facebook page to see if any promotions are available. Mambo Sprouts is an organic website that offers coupons, and all you have to do is sign up for their newsletter.

I believe cleaning green is equally important to eating green. What’s the point of eating healthy if you are spraying your toys and living space with chemicals? Organic cleaners do as good of a job if not better then conventional ones. They are safe not only for your kids but the environment. The best part is you can make your own for less money then you would spend on brand named cleaners. If you are too busy for that, or worried that your inner mad scientist might come out while mixing ingredients, no worries I have you covered. When I’m too lazy to make my own, my favorites are BabyGanics tub and tile cleaner and Seventh Generation all purpose wipes. I use those wipes on everything! With 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a husband I can assure you they work magic. Soap.com is a great place to find green cleaners at a great price. If you haven’t order with them before use the link below and get 20% off your first order!

This Earth Day, after you turn off the lights and the water, why not try going to a local farmer’s market and go green the organic way!

 

 

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Native American Proverb

 

 

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We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

- Native American Proverb

Dating vs. Marriage

I was catching up with an old friend a couple of days ago. After all the how have you been, what’s new, then he asked me if I thought being married was easier than dating. I said “Yeah, I think so. I mean at least for me. I made some bad choices in boyfriends, and my husband was a great choice. So yeah it’s easier.” That ended that or so I thought. Yesterday his question and my response came to mind. My gut response was yes it is easier and according to my 6th grade social studies teacher always go with your gut, but…I started to question myself. Easier? Maybe in the sense of I made a right choice in a mate and it is nice to have someone to share your life with it is easier. But what about when things go wrong…arguments, disagreements, stress, work, etc? It really isn’t so easy then.

Marriage is a commitment, til death to you part, unless you are celebrity. For better or worse, no surprises, it is right there in the vows, the worse will come. When you are dating someone and you get into an argument, you don’t have to talk to them or see them if you don’t want to. Bad fights, arguments, you can walk away and never look back. Being married you are living together, you HAVE to see their face. Sure, I can (and have) walk around and ignore my husband but I would eventually have to talk to him, even if it was only about something house or kid related. The silent treatment can only last so long. When we were dating, I would blow him off for a few days if he made me mad. I wouldn’t answer the phone, texts, or AIM. Now, we have to work out our differences. Period. But the best part is, there is the better. I will say it, love is better in marriage then dating. It is forgiving, understanding, deeper, and supporting. I know not everyone has had a happy relationship or marriage experience. Like I said before, I made really bad choices in boyfriends and my parents’ relationship was awful, so my view on love was it was a fallacy. When we find the person we were meant to be with it makes all the difference.

Photo Credit: Jessica Smith Photography

I wanted to get some other opinions. After all, I’m married. Being married and dating is different from person to person, gender to gender. I asked my friends, married and single alike, is marriage easier than dating? Why?

After 30 years it had become easy….hahahah. Have to get back to you on the dating thing. TBD.

Lol! Dating is easier….marriage is more work. You are now living with this person everyday.
Dating you are more spontaneous…often times with marriage you just get into a groove and the spontaneity leaves…which is why marriage is more work.

I think Marriage is easier than dating. Dating was always hard for me because I felt weird meeting new people. I love being married

I can say being married for 22 years its no longer work. Wouldn’t want date again I don’t think i would remember how.

Ashley…..I actually loved being married. The becoming “one” was the hardest part. But once we settled into our roles….it became a true partnership. I loved being a wife….watching what made him happy and ” trying” to do those things be…

Being that I have never been married, I think there are aspects of both that are easier. When you are married there is a lot less stress between the personal relationship because you are not as worried about what the other is thinking about you or being judged by that person. In marriage you don’t worry about the petty stuff. When you are dating you are constantly trying to impress the other person. Dating is carefree, you get to have your own space and your life. I like the freedom and comfort of having an out when things go bad.

Marriage is easier. You don’t have to worry about finding time to spend with each other and boundaries are gone. You are free to be yourself more and be comfortable with each others bodies. There is also that commitment and peace in knowing you are sharing life and growing in Christ with this 1 other person God has placed in your life.

I think marriage is easier. No playing games or wondering if someone will call you back, or if they like you too fast, or if you’re coming across as too eager or interested too soon. No stressing about whether they are the one or not. Or whether they are wasting your time. What you see is what you get because you know the person so well.

I think being single and dating is easier. You don’t have to put in as much work.

Dating is a piece of cake. You carve out time and go somewhere away from the daily issues of life to spend time with each other. It’s easy to get along when the only time you spend togehter is doing something fun and sometimes a problem since that’s the only snapshot you see of someone when dating. When married, if you don’t date, then the only time you spend with your spouse is dealing with the daily issues of life. That’s why you need to date when married to continue recharging each other. Dating doesn’t always mean going somewhere, but it could just be at home when you intentionally set aside time for each other (ie kids sleeping/naptime).

Photo Credit: Jessica Smith Photography

 

Regardless if you are married or single, love yourself, or you will never be able to love someone else.

 

Love bears all things

 

 

The First Time

The first time I saw my daughter on the sonogram screen I cried. Laying there on that chair, I felt a love I had never known before. She was alive, healthy, and absolutely perfect.

 

Let me rewind and start from the beginning. When I thought I was pregnant I took a test at my best friend’s house. One said yes, one said no, so I had to get blood work done. A few days later I received a call at work “Hello Ashley, this is Dr. A, I wanted to let you know you are pregnant. Let’s schedule an appointment soon. Bye Bye.” I hung up the phone and started sobbing uncontrollably. I was teaching summer camp at the time and luckily my assistant knew what was going on. She kept the kids away from me, while I pulled it together enough to call my boyfriend on the phone. The thoughts racing through my head, I can’t even begin to write them all down. My number one fear was he would be mad and want nothing to do with me. To my relief, he didn’t freak out. He was in shock just like me.

I called my doctor and made an appointment. We were nervous and still getting over the bombshell the day we went to the doctor. As the cold goo hit my belly I thought, this is it, we are going to hear our baby’s heartbeat and this will all be real. It seemed like an eternity that my doctor searched and I strained my ears to hear. The silence was deafening. Dr. A looked at us and said, “I want to send you for a sonogram, I can’t find a heartbeat. The baby may have died.” I felt dizzy,  like the whole world had gone black. If it had been a movie, the camera would have zoomed into my eye and you would’ve seen an explosion inside my brain. We walked out of there in more shock then when we walked in.

The day of the sonogram I felt sick to my stomach, not with morning sickness but with anxiety. I still wasn’t sure about how I felt about being pregnant. But with the lingering thought that she might be gone, I began to pray Please God, let the baby be there. I’m sorry, for anything I’ve done. Please God please… Time seemed to stand still as we waited to be called back. Finally it was my turn, I laid back in the chair still praying in my head. The goo hit my belly and I held my breath. I closed my eyes as I felt the tears starting to spill over onto my cheeks. The technician said “here’s your baby!” My eyes opened and I just couldn’t stop smiling. At that moment I knew exactly how I felt about being pregnant. I loved this baby more then anything I had ever loved before. Her father knew then how he felt too, and we went from being shell shocked to excited.

I thanked God for that baby. Some people might scoff at me, oh you got pregnant out of wedlock and then prayed about it. Yes I did. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s important to learn and move on. I do know this, I might not have planned her but God knew what He was doing. She is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given and I’m proud to be her mommy. Love you my babylove!

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