name='p:domain_verify'/> Always A New Day


4.20.2017

5 Camping Tips for Beginners

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend - we sure did! This year, we went on a camping adventure with some sweet friends. Just us, the great outdoors, and no fuss. While I am definitely new to the camping experience - and we have quite a bit to learn - we already have plans to do it all again!

We learned SO much this weekend about what works and what doesn't - from the prep to the camping itself! And just this week, I asked my Instagram friends good vacay ideas for the fam, and an overwhelming majority said camping. If camping is in your summer plans and you've never gone before, you will learn a bit from our mistakes and these 5 camping tips for beginners.


RENT

If you want to tent camp, go for it! But, with a high maintenance toddler (and maybe mama but who's counting), we rented an RV! If you're new to the RV world, which we clearly are, rent one first to see how it is. There are SO many options - it's crazy to be honest. For our family of four, we went with a set of bunk beds and a queen bed. Our camper looked similar to this one.

And while we may purchase one some day, we prefer to rent when the camping bug strikes. Feeling out a few is also helpful to picking one we really love. Renting one also helps you learn the ins and outs of RV living - it takes work to get it set up and to take down, so learn away!

TRUST THE EXPERIENCED CAMPERS

God bless our camping friends. We went with three other families who all go camping often. We met to plan our meals, and they sent us packing lists, too. Though we forgot a few staples (the wine opener...hello??), they had back-ups. And, we walked through their campers and took notes on what necessities we would need should we go again. They were life savers!

Find your camping expert buddies and pick their brains. But, better yet - GO CAMPING WITH THEM! You learn as you go!

MEAL PLAN

No matter if you go with friends or go solo, meal plan just as you do at home. Pick a night for grilling or a night for a fish fry (we did both). These RVs have the capacity to cook almost anything, and if you are missing a kitchen appliance/pot/etc, I can bet you can find it and add it to your camping supplies.

Plan out lunches too - we did sandwiches which are easy to tote around as you swim, hike, or picnic. Snacks are easy too - goldfish, chips, cut up fruit, s'mores, and cheese were our favorites. Trust me, you will SNACK like a boss.

PACK SIMPLE

This tip is seriously my favorite. I loved packing for this trip - all the graphic tees, shorts, yoga pants, and bathing suits I could find. And, I didn't even bring a hair dryer! Hats, dry shampoo, and boom. You are not fancy, and it's awesome!

Packing for the kids is simple too - play clothes and all their bathing suits. No craziness needed because it's just you, your peeps, and nature.

RELAX

If you've been reading a while, you know I can get worked up pretty easily. And, I did have crazy scenarios flash through my head about what could happen while out in the wilderness, but once I saw my kids' excitement, I tried to chill. It was nice losing service and not having anyone scream for an iPad. It was nice to sip coffee under the trees. And it was nice to sit around the late-night campfire after the littles went to bed.

You are creating amazing memories with your kids. When you can see their joy (even after a certain toddler melted down like a loon when hiking), it's just plain fun.






Have you been camping before? I'd love to hear tips that made your trip awesome. We are excited for our summer camping adventure - and you can bet I will have that wine opener!

Special thanks to Jane - camping/photographer/breakfast extraordinaire for the help, pictures, and that breakfast I can't stop thinking about!

4.07.2017

What Turning 40 Means For Me

Some have commented that I celebrated 40 for a long time. And, we honestly have - Napa in the fall, a surprise birthday gathering in early March, and my Round Top getaway on my actual birthday. It's not about attention at all - it's about letting it just sink in, and I had to - slowly.

Forty means a great deal to an anxious and busy mama. Forty means all the memories come rushing back - as if they happened yesterday. Life goes too fast, you guys. And it's fun, crazy, and bittersweet. No matter what age you turn this year, you are allowed to feel nostalgic, remember the glory days, and even celebrate as long as you see fit!


Before I let it all go and jump right into my fabulous 40s, I wanted to flashback and remind myself what storms and triumphs I've endured.

I still remember when my dad had his first heart attack when I was four.

I still remember moving to that Texas cul-de-sac from Louisiana soon after.

I still remember the epic Halloween parties my neighbors had each year.

I still remember being so afraid I couldn't reach my top locker in middle school.

I still remember being devastated when I didn't make cheerleader.

I still remember how nervous all my friends and I were on the first day of high school so we carpooled in one car.

I still remember my first broken heart.

I still remember sitting on my day bed wondering if my crush would call. On my personal phone line.

I still remember getting my college acceptance letter and knowing that school was the one.

I still remember sorority bid day.

I still remember my first day of student teaching.

I still remember losing Michael. Then Dad. Then Maw-Maw. Then my brother.

I still remember thinking my next door neighbor in my apartment building was cute. Then, I married him 4 years later on one of the best days (and best parties) ever.

I still remember telling my husband we were going to have a baby. Then the day 4 years later when I got to say it again.

I still remember worry. Anxiety. Excitement. Joy. Peace. And repeat over and over again.


These memories are so fresh. Many feel like yesterday. So how can I be 40? The pessimist in me is sad that it all happened so fast. But, then I think how blessed I am. The blessings surround me. I know my repeat emotions will happen, but at 40, I am blessed because I am here. God chose this life for me, and He helped this birthday happen.

The celebrations have ended, but the best year is here. Thanks for being on this ride with me and letting me talk about it for so long.

More memories to come!

4.03.2017

Crispy Cheese Cookies

If you follow me on Instagram, I shared a bit of our Saturday on my Insta-stories. Every spring, we have a crawfish boil at our home - in fact, we've been doing it for 17 years! Our friends and family bring their lawn chairs, favorite beverages, treats to share, and we all gather around the big crawfish table and dig in! I have to say - the hubs makes the BEST crawfish.

One of my favorite parts is all the goodies people bring - from zesty apps to decadent desserts, we have quite the buffet. But this year, a friend brought these crispy cheese cookies that were a huge hit. Once I bit into one, I knew I've had them before so I searched my recipe binder and found it to share with you!


Ingredients -

3 sticks unsalted butter
24 oz. sharp cheddar cheese - shredded
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups of rice crispies cereal

  1. Cream butter in a large bowl.
  2. Work in shredded cheese and red cayenne pepper.
  3. Work in flour, salt, and rice crispies.
  4. Take small sections of the mix and form small round balls.
  5. Place each ball in rows on waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
  6. Use the back of a fork to slightly flatten each ball.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the edges are softly browned.
  8. Cool then enjoy!



These cookies are perfect for parties or a great addition to any meal - even breakfast! The sharp bite of each cookie is so savory. The crunch and the spice is just right, too. Trust me, you will make these and people will want to know exactly what they are!

What a great addition to your Easter brunch. AND, I know we have a while for football season, so PIN THIS recipe and make at your next tailgate!


You will love every bite! If you make them, let me know what you think. Cheese and rice crispies? Who knew!

3.31.2017

25 Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

Next to Christmas, Easter is my favorite - the meaning, the spring weather, and the joy of my kids. This year, we are going on an adventure out of town, but you can bet our Easter baskets will still be waiting on Sunday!

And does anyone still have Valentine's Day candy stashed somewhere? *Raises hand* We still have tons - though hidden and used for special occasions (potty training!) so we do not need anymore sugar in this house. When thinking of what to put in their Easter baskets, I went the non-candy route and thought about each one's interests. There you have my 25 non-candy Easter basket ideas!


Think of your little ones - what do they love to do? For my toddler, anything girly and artsy. For my big boy, any book, car, or gift card will do. I took some of their favorite must-haves and made this fun list. The Target $1 bin could also be your best friend when it comes to filling their baskets.






I wanted to hold this I See Me! book until Easter Sunday, but I just couldn't keep it to myself. Thank you to I See Me! for sending us a sweet and precious book filled with reminders of God's blessings. It's personalized for my little bit and includes prayers of thanks for family and all her little friends. Can't you see how much she loves it?


I See Me! doesn't have just the personalized books, they also have lunchboxes, puzzles, coloring books, placemats, stickers, and growth charts.  I have my eyes on a cute lunchbox for this love already. And think of birthdays, baby showers, etc...What a keepsake to give someone you love!


If you're looking for a personalized gift, check out I See Me!



Em takes her book everywhere she goes. My favorite has to be her big brother reading the book to her. All the warm feels. See why I love Easter?

I hope you all have a beautiful Easter season. Remember why we celebrate this day. Share that joy with your littles!

This sweet book is courtesy of I See Me! in exchange for a review. As always, the opinions are 100% my own.

3.28.2017

The Best Healthy Snack For On-The-Go



Give my kids a carrot or zucchini slices as a snack - no go. Give them a brownie or a sweet muffin - all the excitement. What if these goodies could be combined into ONE delish treat? I am so excited to share our latest favorite snack to take on-the-go. Whether you are scrambling to get out the door or you want to add some more nutrition to a meal, Garden Lites will have mom AND kids feeling happy and satisfied.
Veggies are the first ingredient in every Garden Lite product - from the muffins to waffles and from bakes to veggie cakes. In fact, they are 33% vegetables! And, Garden Lites are on a mission - just like any busy mom - to create delicious foods that are truly healthy. 'Eat your vegetables' has never sounded (or TASTED) so good. My kids have especially loved the Chocolate Krabby Square Muffins and the Blueberry Oat Muffins which are allergy-friendly, gluten, dairy and nut-free.


It never fails - the toddler wants a snack as soon as we hit the road, and my big kid demands one after school (or sometimes he is eating his breakfast as he chases the bus #morningprobs). Now that I've introduced them to my latest find, we are all happy campers.

Sneak one into your purse or diaper bag when you are out with the littles for that perfect snack just for you (maybe keep that a secret). Or, better yet, pack one into your kids' lunches. Peace of mind plus kids gobbling up their Garden Lite is such a simple thing to make your day easier.

We add Garden Lites to our grocery list when we hit our favorite H-E-B store. We find ours in the freezer section near the gluten-free items. You can find yours in the freezer section of your nearest Publix, Stop & Shop, Giant, Shop-Rite, HEB, Kroger or Costco.

I'm not sure I want to tell my son (the pickiest of my two) that he just ate a good share of healthy veggies AND he liked it. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, right??



Now, here's a fun mom challenge for you - after purchasing your Garden Lites, let your kids try it without telling them your little secret that these treats are veggie rich and provide a convenient way to get in those vegetables. Just wait for their reaction! See? They DO like vegetables after all.

That's what I call a mom-win.

To learn more about Garden Lites, their products,
and to find a store near you, click HERE!

3.17.2017

5 Simple Tips To Complete Your First Half Marathon

Hold up, don't say you would never be ever to run a half marathon. Because I am here to say YES, YOU CAN.  This self-proclaimed hater of running (and pushing 40) never thought she would be able to do it, and then life got hard so she wanted to go harder.

Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer nor fitness expert. I highly recommend you talk to your doctor before starting a running program if you have any concerns. I am just a mom who wants to share five simple ways to complete your first half marathon.


Pick A Run - Set the date. Write it on the calendar. I chose a race in Louisiana because my nephew and cousins ran it last year and loved it. I also knew I would have family at the finish line so I chose the Zydeco Half. For me, I picked a date that gave me 3-4 months to train. If you are new to running and you're busy, it may take time to get a program/routine going.



Get Fitted For Shoes - With the race date set, go get some good shoes! I asked all the running pros, and they suggest 3 months ahead of the race, get your new kicks. I headed to Ground Up and tried on multiple pairs before I found the fit for me. I also used these shoes only for running and wore my older favorites for at-home workouts or strength training.

Start Planning - I loosely followed this Hal Higdon plan because some weekday runs did not allow for long distances. I wrote down a long run on each weekend since I had more time to run and the hubs was home. Another friend also suggested running 13 miles a week so I incorporated this idea into my planning. If I ran 6 on a Saturday, I completed the other 7 some way during the week.

Find A Running Buddy - Honestly, this is my #1 tip for running your first half. Sign up with a friend or set up long run dates. My friend Kim and I met five different weekends to run the long ones. We had the same pace, and it gave us plenty of time to catch up, motivate, and counsel each other. The brunches we did after weren't too bad either.

For race day, I had my cousin by my side. She ran with me the whole race, stopped when I did, and pushed me to finish in my goal time (which was 2:30 - I finished in 2:26!). There is NO way I could have finished this milestone without her.


CELEBRATE - Cry. High five a stranger. Raise a glass. Share your joy. You just ran 13 miles. Moms, this runner's high is no joke and add in your littles at the finish line - it's truly amazing. The run gave me hope and proved that after hardship, I can do hard things. I can survive hard things.



For more great tips for running your first half, these posts can help:

Running Tips for the Beginner - Always A New Day
My Half Marathon Experience - Seven Graces
Half Marathon Training Tips - Momma To Go

If you have questions or other tips to share, please do. My next run is scheduled for December. Any takers? :)

3.02.2017

Why I Love Spring Cleaning

I am just not a fan of January and February. In Texas, we aren't even sure what season we are in - some days, it's summer. The next - you may have a slight freeze. But, with March's fresh air comes a sense of newness - of cleanliness. It puts me in the mood to start fresh, to enjoy our few months without all the summer sweat. March makes me want to share why I love spring cleaning.


Oh, the clutter. Have you seen that episode of Friends when they discover Monica's closet? The one where they open this secret door to all the mess she's been hiding? Hi, I'm Monica. You will find my hidden clutter in "junk" drawers in the house. You will find my clutter in the guestroom closet. You might even find it in all the random baskets/bins in the game room where small toys go to die. I open and close these hidden spots often because I can't even. Yet, when spring comes, I get the burst to purge and feel human again.

I will spend time in these crazy spots and make piles: what to keep/what to donate or sell/what to toss. Even if these Monica spots stay clean and organized for just a day or two - #winning.

And, I have a confession. Since I've had kids, I am a terrible housekeeper. I don't see the point of spending hours scrubbing this or that when kids take .5 seconds to destroy it all. I have used a cleaning schedule before that works for me - I pick a room (i.e. living room) or a task (i.e vacuuming) to complete each day. I don't spend hours cleaning - ain't no mama got time (or energy) for that.

I also love finding tools that make cleaning easier. I really don't know why this gem has JUST NOW entered my life, but I am loving my new Libman Tornado Mop I purchased at Walmart. The size, the ease, and the spaces this thing can reach are lifesavers. You won't end up with sloppy floors or excessive water because of it's fancy wringing feature.



Mopping isn't my favorite. But, with this mop and my vinegar/soap/baking soda DIY floor cleaner, my kitchen looks and smells fab. And did you know that The Libman Company has been around for 120 years? This family-owned business has made quality their priority, offering the finest USA-made brooms, brushes, mops, and cleaning tools.


Learn more about Libman by clicking HERE
and downloading a $3 off coupon for your Libman mop -
they have other varieties you'll love, too!

ADDED BONUS: Enter The Libman Company’s Pinterest sweepstakes - follow The Libman Company on Pinterest and re-pin from their sweepstakes-specific board. Create a “Spring Cleaning Toolkit” using images of The Libman Company’s products and Spring cleaning tips from the pinboard, and then enter your information on The Libman Company’s Facebook page.

Invite your friends to enter as well!
FIVE winners will receive a “Spring Cleaning Toolkit” comprised of Libman products, and one additional winner will receive a prize package plus a $1,000 cash prize.

Do you spring clean? I'd love to hear any tips and tricks that you use to declutter. My house and my sanity will be forever grateful!
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