Boost Your SUMMER, BUCKET LIST With These Tips

Ah, summer, it’s that magical time when we all get to revert back to our childhood and enjoy the things that make us feel free and young. Whether you are hitting the road to take on those great summer adventures, or having a fun-filled summer staycation right in your own town, there are endless possibilities to create your own perfect summer bucket list. I am going to break down the top favorite activities to add to any summer bucket list and make the most memorable summer ever!

If, however, you are having trouble coming up with specific ideas to try out this summer, aside from many online websites, there are books that are targeted toward providing many great summer bucket list ideas, whether you are looking for ideas to keep the kids occupied or looking for some special ideas for a date night or weekend getaway for two.

Among the more famed summer fun things to do, going to the beach is a must for many. To plan for a fun and event free day at the beach, some necessities that you should pack for the day, in addition to snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated, include, a good cooler, some trendy beach towels, sand toys for the kiddos, and even consider a beach tent for when you need to take a break from the sun, or take a nice shaded afternoon nap to the sound of the waves crashing.

Find shelter from the sun with a pop-up Beach Tent

Campout! No matter if you are gearing up to hit up the local state park for a weekend adventure full of fishing and hiking, or throwing up the tent in the back yard for a night of marshmallow roasting and ghost stories, good camping gear is an essential. From the tent to the backpack, to proper hiking shoes, things can go awry when you have worn out or poor quality camping gear that leaks or breaks apart on you during your camping trip. And, don’t forget to take the Kindle with you to enjoy some leisurely reading while you are catching those rays!

Great camping adventures start with a great tent!

What would summer be without ice cream? While is may be convenient to pile the family in the car and drive down to your local ice cream shop, or grab that coveted ice cream out on the beach, you may find it a more fun family event to churn your own ice cream with a personal ice cream maker. Imagine the anticipation as the motor churns away and the end result is your very own creation of frozen summer goodness? Another benefit of making your own ice cream is the ability to mix and match ingredients and create a bowl of ice cream that suits everyone’s tastes, and will likely last beyond one single serving!

Make your own summer treats with an Ice Cream Maker!

Swimming is the ultimate go-to sport of summer. So, whether you are heading off for a day at the beach or lounging at the local pool, you need to make sure you have the essential products on hand. First, and foremost, is a good quality sunscreen– the SPF factor will be dependent on the individual. If you are looking to get a little tanned for the day, then you would obviously go a little lighter on the SPF that what you would want to lather on your delicate skinned toddler. Pool toys and goggles are also necessities when it comes to taking children to the water. Additionally, don’t forger to pack plenty of snack and waters to beat the heat and replenish all those calories burned up making a splash.

Don’t forget to pack all your swimming necessities for the pool!

Have a BBQ and eat outside. One of the things that people enjoy most about the summer months is the chance to get to enjoy their meals outdoors. Be it, dining on your own back deck with the family and a lovely meal you prepared in your own kitchen, a nice little spot at the park starring a blanket and a basket, grilling a burger and hot dog at the campsite, or perhaps setting up a portable grill for a little tailgating before the ball game. Any time is a good time to enjoy a nice meal outdoors during the summer, just don’t forget the bug guard, especially if you live in the south!

For dinner on the go, a portable grill is a no-brainer!

Go on an epic date! No matter if you are enjoying a nice meal outdoors while gazing up at the stars, or being entertained by a concert in the park, having a good blanket that the two of you can snuggle up on and enjoy the fresh air and atmosphere is a must. Or, if you are feeling more adventurous, jump in the car and venture off on a road trip. Summer is a great time for taking road trips, being that you don’t likely have to worry about snow or iced over roads, and there is a great opportunity to get out and really sight see. Roll the window down, turn up the radio, and just let your sense of adventure lead you off into uncharted territory. Of course, epic dates do not always have to be just the two of you. You can have a great family date night by enjoying the fun and laughter of family game nights or even plan a couples’ date night and play games with your couple friends.

Enjoy those concerts in t he park with an outdoor blanket!

There really is no end to the amount of fun you and your family can have this summer. So, take these ideas, expand on them, and create your very own summer bucket list. You are only limited by your imagination! Okay, perhaps, your budget as well. But you can find many a great adventure awaits you within your own budget and available time. Now, get creative, and get out and start enjoying this summer!

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You Grew Up, Now What?

Butterflies. Or, gas bubbles. That is how everyone explains it. That first faint awareness of feeling your baby moving inside of you. That wonderfully delicate and precious life you co-created, is not becoming an active organism inside your very own body. It is random; almost undetectable and fleeting, at first. Once you realize what the feeling is, you spend hours on end in stillness just waiting to the chance to feel it once again. Eventually, the fluttering gives way to more forceful kicks and then it is like an army of circus elephants have taken refuge inside your womb. Regardless of the shortness of breath, the swollen ankles, and the all too often tear drawing kicks to the rib cage, you savor every single movement that beautiful infant makes. You have just entered a new and exciting, and sometimes terrifying, chapter of your life- you are now, a mother.

Your life is now forever changed, and you will never be the same. No day in your life will ever be the same, either. You feel a sense of elation. I mean, after all, babies are precious; they are adorable, and sweet, and fun. Right? Well, they are, that is, when they are not cranky, or crying for hours on end and there is nothing you can do to make them happy. They tend to get sick, too. Suddenly, horror sets in alongside elation in a perfect marriage of hot and cold emotions. You come to realize that you are now responsible for keeping this precious and innocent human life safe. It is your job to care for them when they are sick, when they get hurt- which you will try with your most valiant efforts, yet fail time and time again to prevent, and when they wake in the middle of the night from the nightmare that torment their peaceful sleep. You think about the future, it is your job to raise them to be decent and responsible adults, and when if they turn out to be less than positive and productive members of society, you feel as though you have failed at your job.

First days of school are times when we believe as moms that are the hardest. From irrational fear that your child will spill his lunch tray as the class makes the, what seems to you, far too long trek from the cafeteria back to their classroom, where they must carry their trays to eat lunch in class, rather than getting to sit in the lunchroom. You worry all day while he is at school about him spilling his lunch and then having to wear wet cloths, and will they provide him another tray? But what if his classmates laugh at him for dropping his tray? It turns out, that his first year in school was much harder for you than it was for him. While he was busy making new friends and learning new games, you were beating yourself up with fear of not being there to watch over him for every minute of the day. He was, after all, your child. Your responsibility.

After that delicate first year of school, they seem to get a little easier with time and practice. You eventually get excited for those memorable first days of a new school year and forever capture them in pictures taken of them in their new outfit with new shoes and those new backpacks. It is, as they say, a Kodak moment. However, it feels as though the school years fly by all to quickly and then one day you are staring down the fact that this new first day of school, is far different than any before it. You are now sending that precious child off to high school. And suddenly, the fears of spilling lunch trays in the hall or scraping knees on the playground or wearing we shoes all day because he cannot resist splashing in mud puddles or if he sits close enough to read the board give way to much greater fears. Now, you are faced with a whole new set of fears- what if someone tempts them with smoking, or drugs? What if he falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes defiant in class? And, what about, girls?

Ah, the teenage years. The time when you realize that up to this point, you only thought you knew what fear was. There are few fears for a mother greater than the first time she watches her child pull out of the driveway for their very first driving experience on their own. It had been somewhat fun, albeit terrifying at times, riding around with them as they learn to drive. But now the learner period is over, and they think they are ready to take the car out all by themselves. Legally, now they can do that. But you are full of fear and a sense of what ifs that you will try anything to convince them they need more time with you in the car with them. It seldom works. Incredibly, following what seems like a never ending few years, you look up one day and come to the stark realization that you have survived. You no longer have the typical drama entailing such things as who will be their good influences, who will be their bad influences, and just how much trouble can they get into. Alas, your child is now an adult.

For a solid twenty or so years your entire being has been centered around your identity a mom. The fact is, being a mom has been your sole identity. And, then one day those children grow up and become adults, and they go out and they begin lives of their own. They now possess the ability to pull from the ideas in their own minds and develop a desire to pursue their own dreams. They morph into their own identities as adults, and you do not get a choice as to where they can or cannot become adults or when that change happens. When it happens, we are not always ready for this change, and we can find ourselves in a place where we simply do not know how to not be a mom. Initially, the first reaction to this new and even more terrifying chapter in life is a gut reaction. We panic because we want to cling on to them as children because being their mom has been our entire identity for the better part of half our lives. You are terrified because you do not know  how to not be a mom and you do not know how to be anything else, so it is terrifying and it entails a deep sense of loss because it sis not as much about control and turning over control to allow them to live their own lives as it is that you can feel as though you are losing your own identity. When your identity is attached to being a mom, you do not know how to let that go easily, because you can feel that you are losing the core of who you are – you identity; your purpose in life.

While is our job, as parents, to nurture them and to protect them and to try and teach them morals and manners, it is only our jobs, for a time. One day, they will grow up, and we are expected to allow them to go out into the world and make their own dreams their own reality. They grow up, then what? That is when we trust that we did the best that we could, even though we made our share of mistakes along the way. And, we trust that we have given the world amazing people. It will be hard to remember what life was like before we were moms. Life without wiping more runny noses than our own or grocery shopping without having Capri Suns and Lunchables in our carts. Now we find ourselves in a place where we trade the Capri Suns for bottles of wine and the Lunchables for frozen bags of vegetables to steam. The house is quieter now and we get to watch programs without ducks or mice or crime fighting turtles, or catchy hero names like T-Bone and Razor. Although I am not thoroughly convinced Hallmark and Lifetime are better substitutes for cartoons. Just my humble opinion. Family game night has given way to date night and movie night for two. Road trips are now much easier, and to some degree, a little less exciting. Sometimes, we reach back into the recesses of our minds and pull out tiny fragments of ourselves before we became mothers. There was a time, when we were ourselves teenagers, when we had dreams and ideas and aspirations. Perhaps, this is the time to go back to college to finish that degree or buy that shiny sports car with only two doors. Maybe, you move down to Florida and spend a year on the Gulf of Mexico trying to rediscover yourself and what you want out of life. Perhaps, what you discover is that what you want is to be close enough to enjoy a relationship with your grandkids, and decide to move back home, after enjoying that year-long vacation on the coast. Regardless of whatever choices you make, they are now yours to make. Find a hobby, or join a new social group, or binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix. Either way, we cannot hold on to them forever, but we do still have ourselves after they grow up. Always cherish every minute as a mom, it really is a life long commitment. However, never lose sight of your own identity and the person you were before, because, while there may be some of those crazy dreams and ideas that it may be too late for, such as being a drummer in a rock and roll band, there is still a chance to write that book.

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“Girl, wash your face” an Honest Review

Often times we are reminded of how much influence we allow society as a whole to have on us. I was recently reminded of that myself when I read “Girl, wash your face,” by the witty and charming Rachel Hollis. The book takes an in-depth look at how we can buy into the lies that society spoon feeds us and how we can, in turn, begin to feed those same lies to ourselves. She tackles many commonplace misconceptions about oneself, such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not a good mom,” “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I am defined by my weight,” and a whole smorgasbord of self-defeating inaccuracies that can limit ourselves to step out of our proverbial comfort zones and realize our true potential.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, but in all sincerest honesty, Rachel made me acknowledge some hard truths about myself. While, most of my later adult life, I have been a self-proclaimed “independent woman” who had my shit together, the reality is that I have been independent because life had thrust me into circumstances, not of my own choosing, that warranted my self-independence, however begrudgingly. No matter how much we think we have ourselves together, there will always be those things that society sells that we are buying up like they are bargain deals at a going out of business sale at our favorite boutique. I for one, have come to accept that I have bought into so many of the lies that society, family, and even friends have been dishing out to me. Many of those lies, I have held on to and hid behind as though there was a sense of comfort in attaching myself to them, like a tub of death by chocolate ice cream after a stormy break up.
There is something about the way that Rachel engages her readers with her own life experiences and stories that lends an air of realism to her, and allows the reader to relate to her words and gain a sense of trust in her, as though she gets us, because she has gone through so many of the same things. While Rachel’s stories may not be exactly the same stories, verbatim, as the ones that I or anyone else who reads the book owns, Rachel allows her one personal accounts with the lies that society places upon us to in some way, come across as a comforting chat with a dear friend, or sound advice from a trusted therapist.
She speaks volumes of truth in her book in how she implores her reader to peel back the layers upon layers of untruth and tragic bullshit that society has heaped upon us for years and years, and realize the true and real value that we all possess. I would highly recommend anyone to read “Girl, wash your face.” But I would really encourage anyone reading the book to take the time to really dig deep in to the pages, and the words that Rachel is expressing to each and every one of her readers. Take her stories and let them seep in deeply into your mind and your soul. The advice she provides at the end of each chapter, noted as: “Things that helped me” are there as stepping stones, not meant to be disregarded or taken lightly. She has, as the reader will learn, overcome overwhelming odds to become the dynamo that she is today. And, people do not get that far in life without learning a few lessons along the way. When such people offer to share those learned lessons in an effort to prevent others from giving into the lies or to aid them in seeing past the lies dished out daily by the world around us, we listen. We learn. We adapt. We wash our faces, and we show the world just who we are!

Affiliate Disclosure Statement- This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you.) Thank you for your support in this way.

Comfort Foods and New Traditions

Over time, many families develop favorite recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. Those recipes become the tried and true go to dishes that moms, daughters, or aunts always know they can throw together for any social gathering and, in a pinch, present a delicious and filling dish that will win over the hearts of even the most finicky eaters. There is such a dish in my family, not handed down from generations, or found as some otherwise undiscovered page in a recipe book. But this dish has become an absolute favorite for my family, and my own daughter and son have adopted the recipe and now, as adult children, are able to make this dish for themselves without any hesitation. This dish is sure to be a hit with your own family. No matter if you are entertaining friends over for the big game, providing for the company luncheon, taking a dish to the church pot luck, or making a filling appetizer for a family holiday get together, this hearty cheese dip will be sure to please everyone. Utilizing only one pot, this recipe is easy, simple, and sure to become one of your favorite go to dishes.
The first thing you will need to do is assemble your ingredients. There are relatively few ingredients in this dish, but they make a big impact with the result. For this dip, you will need one pound of ground beef, one pound of ground sausage – I usually just get the Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean mild, but have used other brands and really do not notice any difference regardless of the brand of sausage used,- one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis, one can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup – in regards to the soup, I have substituted the Campbell’s brand for Walmart and Kroger brands, and I can tell a little difference in that the Campbell’s soup does seem to be more creamy than the store brands,- and you will need one two-pound block of processed cheese for melting. The recipe calls for the Velveeta brand, but given the price difference, I always substitute this for the store brand, and have never noticed a marked difference in the cheese.
Then, you will begin by browning the ground beef and sausage in a large pot. Cook them until no longer pink, and then drain. Add in the cans of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup and the can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. Mix the ingredients together until well blended. Then you can cut the cheese into cubes and begin adding to the mixture. You will want to add a little at a time, and stir continually until the cheese begins to melt. Once you have added all of the cheese to the mixture, you will want to stay close by because this dip is very creamy and cheesy and will stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch very easily. Once the dip is well blended, however, it is an easy to keep dish, by simply turning the stove eye on low and keep it stirred every so often. It also re-heats well in the microwave in just a few seconds, I usually warm in 30 second increments.
Finally, once the cheese has been completely melted and the dip is well blended, you will want to serve up warm with tortilla chips. However, over the many times I have prepared this dish for my family, they have discovered their own ways of wanting to serve the dip up for themselves. Some like to spoon it onto a flour tortilla and roll it up to eat it like a burrito. While others have found that poured over crumbled cornbread into a bowl is a choice way to eat it.
This recipe was taught to me many years ago by a paramedic that I worked with during my time working as and EMT for the county I lived in. It was always a huge hit with the firefighters and other EMTs and Paramedics in our department. When I first began trying the dish at home for my own family, there was no doubt this was going to be a long time traditional favorite food for us for many years to come. No matter what creative ways you or your family and friends decide to enjoy this hearty cheese dip, it will definitely be a fan favorite for any occasion.

The recipe:
1 (16 oz package) ground sausage
1 (lb) ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis
1 (2 LB)package of processed cheese product (like Velveeta)

Brown ground beef and sausage in a large pot, drain. Add cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and Ro-tel tomatoes. Blend well. Cut cheese product into cubes and slowly add to mixture until thoroughly melted. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
This recipe can also be placed in a crock pot- once beef and sausage are browned, place all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low for two hours to melt cheese. Place crock pot on keep warm setting, and stir occasionally.


From early on in my childhood, I had been exposed to racism, even though I had not realized it until I was almost an adult. For most of my life, I did not see if for what it was. However, when I was well into my teenage years, I started to pick up on little signs that there was a problem. The first time I specifically remember noticing anything that was out of sorts, was when I was a teenager, I was about sixteen years old, and I had been working at the local sewing factory. I do not even remember why, but there had been a company come in to the plant to take photos one week. It was kind of like when you had school photos done as a child. I had a friend, and we had become best friends at work. I had talked about her all of the time at home, so my parents were familiar with her, at least as far as her name. So, on the day the photos were to be taken, we had decided to have our pictures taken together. We were so excited. We had one individual photo taken and then several of us together. For the next few weeks, I talked non- stop about the photos and how excited we were to get them back to see how they turned out. My parents had very little to say about the photos one way or the other. Finally, the day arrived, and the company came back to the plant to deliver the photo packages. Tracy and I waited anxiously to get our photos. I had never ad photos taken with anyone other than my brother and two cousins, and she did not have siblings, so she had never had hers taken with anyone else. We were very please with how they had turned out. That evening, when I arrived home from work, I had mustered up all the excitement I could handle to show off the photos to my parents. I expected them to go on and on about how well the photos turned out, how pretty we looked, as we had coordinated our outfits to match in sheer perfection. They stood silently for what seemed like eternity. The looks upon their faces were not that of parents who were pleased with the result of seeing their child captured in picturesque gloriousness. I stood there, confused, wondering why they were not saying anything and why they looked horrified rather than smiling. My dad was the first to break the awkward silence. He tossed the package of pictures down onto the table and said some pretty harsh words, the “long story short” of which translated into that I could throw the package of pictures away. They were not interested in keeping them at all. But I had paid for them with my own money made from my job at the plant, and I would never wish to throw them out. I was shocked and horrified myself now, as I wondered why I had looked so bad in the photographs that they had rather toss them in the trash than to keep them. They both went on for a time, mainly yelling curse words at me about how they were unacceptable. I still did not understand why, neither of us had dressed in any way that could have remotely been considered provocative or sexy. Then it happened, like a freight train slamming into a semi. My dad yelled it out at me, He did not hold back any taboo words when he exclaimed to me that the problem was not in our dress, or our hair, or our smiles. It was the fact that Tracy was black. I was taken aback. I had not thought about how during my life time growing up, I had heard that word before, but had never really associated it with any specific person, or group of persons. In that very moment, my innocence was lost to the world. They had never had any problems with Tracy and I being friends, when I talked about her, because they had never met her and just assumed she was white, like us. My gut reaction was one of shock and dismay. But the more I thought about the whole ordeal, I became enraged. How dare they think such horrible thoughts about my dear friend, just because she was different than them? They did not know her; how funny she was or how kind she was to me. They did not see how we laughed and talked about everything from Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to boys. We were, in essence, two sixteen-year-old girls. Girls who should have still been in high school, planning what kind of dress to wear to our senior prom, what kind of college we would like to attend, and what kind of shoes to wear under our graduation gowns. But life and circumstances had forged its way into our life plans, and for whatever reasons, we had both dropped out of high school, and were working in the same local sewing plant. Being that many of the ladies working in the plant were much older than us, we needed each other. We were spending our days in an adult world based on productions totals and incentive raises, and we needed each other to remind ourselves that we were still only sixteen years old, and we still needed to enjoy some part of our lives. To this day, I still have those pictures. Not long after that whole ordeal, when I made a feeble attempt to give out some of the pictures to my family members, it was quickly made apparent to me that my entire family felt the same way as my parents had, and they wanted nothing to do with the pictures either.
Over time, as I grew older, I began to disassociate myself from my family. I have been mocked and shunned by various member of my family for not inheriting the same family beliefs. I had a huge falling out with my own brother when my sister in law was babysitting my daughter for me, and I learned the he was teaching her those same beliefs, at only three years of age. I had a friend who then I got to start keeping her and my son after school for me. Only to later learn that her husband had proved to be a very negative influence on them. When I had picked them up after work on a day that was a school holiday, and on the ride home, my son was explaining to me that he had taught them it was “James Earl Ray Day.” I could not believe what I was hearing! Obviously, I was out another baby sitter. Growing up in a small town rural north Georgia, it is something that is near to impossible to escape from. I am just grateful that I somehow managed to have the compassion and foresight to not buy into that dangerous way of thinking, and that I believe people are not inferior or superior to me simply based on the color of their skin or intelligence level, or really, anything at all. We are all equally human beings, some good some bad, but all human.

A Look Back at the Future

Often, we find ourselves looking out into the horizon and for the life of us, we have no idea how to get there, or how we even got to where we are at this point in life. The new year is always a time of reflection for many people; a time to reflect on the year that has come to an end, and what it brought us, and a time to reflect on the year ahead of us, and the promise of opportunity that it lays out before us.
All too often, when people look back over the year that has come to an end, they are filled with regret. Regret over a broken relationship, perhaps they did not make that job change they had been contemplating for some time, or maybe, just regret over doing absolutely nothing throughout the year that brought about a sense of fulfilment to their soul. A true sense of peace and happiness from within generally originates from personal growth, and most people rarely step out of their all too familiar comfort zone to reach the level of uncomfortable that is required of growth.
Sometimes, looking at the year ahead can be a damn scary thing for many people. Maybe their job has changed; maybe their family dynamic has changed because some family members have moved out or moved away; perhaps, they are the ones that have moved to start a new life in a new town, or even a new state, and they see themselves, for the first time, surrounded by total strangers instead of family and friends. Fear can be a very overshadowing emotion that can obscure the view of the future.
Some people are fortunate in that they do not look to the past year, nor the upcoming year with any regret or fear or dread. They view the changes that have taken place in their lives during the past year and the changes that they will face in the new year as opportunities to learn, not just about new places or the world, but learn about themselves. When we have been surrounded by family and friends for our entire lives, we develop a level of comfort in that, and in knowing that while family and friends will not always see eye to eye with them, they will always love them and be there no matter what. People fear less failing when they know they have loving and supportive people there to help pick them back up afterwards.
To face a new year that is already latent with big life changes, provides one with a chance to see how strong they can truly be. If failure comes, there is no loving family or supportive friends to comfort you. Likewise, if great successes arise from the changes that have transpired, those same family and friends will not be there to provide hearty congratulations or help celebrate the joyous occasions.
Regardless, as the very cheesy and cliché saying goes, the new near brings with it three hundred and sixty-five new opportunities; three hundred and sixty-five blank pages on which you have the chance to author your own story, make it a good one. As a matter of fact, I believe that is the best way to look at the upcoming year. There will be good days and there will be bad days; days that come easy and days that will present a variety of challenges to get through. But days that have no concrete story line to follow as of yet, and days that can be faced with determination and anticipation. After all, we learn the most and obtain the greatest amount of grown through the bad days and the challenging days. Those days will only make the good days sweeter.
So, as you stand on the threshold of a new year, take the regret of the past year, and put it away, we cannot do anything to change what has already been done. Rather, look forward, knowing that all days will not be easy or fun, but you have the opportunity and the power within you to make them as good as you can make them for yourself. Every year, the flowers die out from the harsh conditions of the winter, yet, every spring, through thawed ground, they inch their way back to life, and put on a glorious showing for the springtime. See yourself as a flower in the spring at the beginning of the year. Inch your way back to life and put on a glorious show!
Yes, good days will come and go. But after all, “it can’t rain all the time.” (Eric Draven- The Crow)

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