Low Carb Moscow Mules

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Moscow Mules have become one of my absolute favorite cocktails aside from wine. The only problem with drinking when trying to maintain control of your figure: SUGAR!

Moscow Mules made “the right way” should be accompanied by a delicious bite of ginger followed by a hint of lime and smooth vodka finish.

Because I do not plan to stop enjoying libations anytime soon I decided to make some minor adjustments to my favorite cocktail. The result – a simply satisfying twist without losing the remarkable taste, but minus the additional sugar.

 

Low-Carb Moscow Mules

Ingredients:

2 oz. Tito’s Vodka (preferred)

8 slivers Fresh Ginger Root

½ Lime

Ice

4 oz. Club Soda (optional for fizz)

Chilled Copper Mug

 MOSCOW MULE

Prepare the cocktail by putting the copper mug in the freezer and begin slicing fresh ginger root minus the skin (8 slices should be a good amount per drink). Smash ginger root in cup with a spoon to release the ginger juice essence. Pour 2 oz. vodka in cup with the ginger and let sit for about 10 minutes.

 

Squeeze as much of the lime juice as you can into the cocktail mixture. Add ice cubes (I like about 3) and Club Soda. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.

Not feeling the lo-carb thing? Here is my favorite recipe for the traditional Moscow Mule Cocktail:

 

Ginger Bitin’ Moscow Mules

Ingredients:

2 oz. Tito’s Vodka (preferred)

4 oz. Goslings Ginger Beer(preferred)

½ Lime or lime juice

Ice

Chilled Copper Mug

GINGER BEER

Prepare the cocktail by putting the copper mug in the freezer. Pour 2 oz. vodka in cup. Squeeze or squirt lime juice into the cocktail mixture. Add ice cubes (I like about 3) and Goslings Ginger Beer. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Gratitude Exercises for Kids

As another school year comes to a close parents everywhere are left scrambling with ideas on what to do with their children for the summer.

Summer camps are commonplace and have become a leading choice amongst parents for getting the children out of the house and active. According to acacamps.org, summer camps are a $18 billion industry!

Additionally, summer is a great time for creating structure with daily chores and reading. But, if you are a seasoned parent like me, you may have concluded there is that special something missing from your child’s personal development over the summer. That special something is appreciation and gratitude.

The rush of the school year and schedules can make it easy for one to forget to say thank you for the small things in life. We are all guilty of this – not just our children.

Summer to children (and parents) represent one thing: FREEDOM! A stray from structure and a welcome to long summer nights. Children get their

way a little more often than they did during the school year and parents just might be able to get up in the morning a little bit later. Not saying that children don’t deserve a little freedom. We all do! It is healthy and perfectly okay to want to yearn for change in a different direction than what you are used to.

However, none of us are perfect.  I began to notice with my own kids as the summer progressed a certain attitude tends to develop the deeper into summer we journey: THANKLESSNESS and ENTITLEMENT.

Upon the onset of summer, some familiar sayings my husband and I start to hear around the house from the kids:

 

“Can’t we go out for ice-cream during the week” (it’s summer)

 

“We should go get that new swim suit” (It’s summer)

 

“We should splurge on all the vendors and restaurants we want when on vacation (It’s summer)

 

Asking over and over and over again soon turns into entitlement. We can all say thanks to that summertime freedom that we might be feeling (yes, parents are included in that too).

To help balance the transition of my enthusiastic summertime clan, my husband and I came up with a simple summertime gratitude activity for our family. Here are some simple examples that you can make into your own. Be Creative! No matter the variation you and your family decide, the goal is incorporating more GRATITUDE and less ATTITUDE into your summer.

 #1 Each day do something for someone other than yourself. Example: Each child must approach a sibling, friend, parent, relative and help with anything. Or, simply do something for someone else without asking. For the younger kids we help guide them until it becomes a habit. My older children kept on task by texting me what they did. Eventually this will become habit and following up will become easier for everyone.

 

#2 Every night before bed or at the dinner table everyone must verbally say something they were thankful for in their day. Example: This is similar to incorporating prayer and can even be prayer at the dinner table. Instead of one person leading everyone becomes inclusive by going around the table one by one expressing the gratitude of their day.

#3 Write down a minimum of one thing positive they expect for the future and place it in a jar. Example: I will get along all day with my sister. This activity will encourage your child to want to act upon that challenge the next day. Thus, creating the positive result they wanted to happen.

#4 At the end of the week read the expectations that were put into the jar to see which may have came true that week (helps invite The Power of Positive Thinking)

To take it one step further, speaking and living in appreciation daily to where it becomes a habit (that would last way past summer) is the ultimate goal.

Most things that we do past 20 days or more become a habit. This activity has not only proven to work great for my family, but also has changed their mindset and ours for the better overall.

Blessings to you and your family! I would love to read what positive outcomes you have had incorporating your gratitude exercises into your daily schedule.

 

 

 

Experience a Native American Pow Wow in your State

POW JAIA

Grab your family, pack up the van and head on out for a taste of history you can’t find in the school books. If you ever wanted to experience a Native American Pow Wow, keep reading to find out where you can find one, and just what exactly a Pow Wow is.

As summertime pours in, the search for unique experiences for my family within my home state of Ohio continues. In fact, I encourage you to do the same within your home state for numerous reasons.

For one, you can save time and money on traveling expenses. Next, you get to see how awesome and unique your State truly is when you venture beyond the cracks and crevices of your city.

Finally, the chance to experience something new should never be put on hold. Many times we stay stagnant in our city because we are comfortable with the familiar. Or, you could also be saving up for the perfect trip out of state and/or to get out of the country. In the meantime, let the hidden jewels within your state and outside your city tie your family over until the next big adventure!

In a conversation with a friend, she explained how (on a summers eve zip lining a few years ago near (Hocking Hills, Ohio) she heard enchanting drums and bells bellowing throughout the air. To her surprise she was told a Native American Pow Wow was in full action. Although she didn’t finish her zip lining in time to go, it definitely piqued my interest to find out more.

I began to search Pow Wow’s in the State of Ohio and came across a plethora of information. The vastest website pertaining to this gathering was called Pow Wows.com. Within the site you can find a monthly Pow Wow event going on in states all across America. Some more elaborate and others more intimate like the one that my family attended in June, at Baby Bison Ranch in Cadiz, Ohio.

This particular Pow Wow was special for my family because of the close proximity it was to where my mother was born in Smithfield, Ohio. We have been told that my grandmother’s side of the family carried Cherokee Indian by way of Oklahoma. Most of my mother’s family have moved away from Smithfield. However, we had been planning to visit my Uncle who has a beautiful home with a scenery of land for miles. The combination of the two events created the perfect opportunity to discover what this gathering was all about.

As we began our journey, the scenic rolling hills and desolate winding roads gave way to hot summer sun that tanned all our skin. Anxious for the adventure, my family and I reached our long awaited event.

This precious girl in the white cap welcomed my family to her family’s ranch. She was a Cherokee Indian.

POW GIRL

As we walked through the gates, somewhat unsure of what we were stepping into, we were kindly greeted by a young girl, age 11, eager to welcome us and explain the sacred grounds that we stood on.

She explained that her great grandmother, a full Cherokee Indian owned Boss Bison Ranch. They were honored to be able to throw this tradition annually and welcome new faces who know little or a lot about their culture. We were warmed to be told that All were welcome.

For admittance to the event they required one canned good per person which would be given to local charities in the area.

Beautiful garb and colors adorn the Native Americans as they began their sacred dance.

POW DANCE

As soon as we walked through the gates, we were met with lively colors, the rumble of the drums, and a sacred dance began. We took our seats on barrels of hay around the grassy dirt dance floor.

Plenty of beautiful energy stones to choose from.

POW ROCKS

Around the perimeter of the Pow Wow were Native American Vendors who we quickly learned were friendly and a wealth of information. Although our attention was easily diverted to the beautiful jewelry, stones, herbs and oils that lie on the table, we soon realized how diverse the Native American’s there were. There were various shades of dark, brown and white skin tribes in attendance. Some had blond hair and blue eyes while others were black with dark brown or black hair. This was a discovery that most school history books have rarely shared. Here is my husband’s take on a conversation with a vendor:

A history lesson from a man that called himself a White Indian.

“I was told there was a lot of diversity in the Native American background particularly in Ohio. In speaking with a White Native (what he considered himself to be) American vendor that the Woodland Indians were known for capturing black runaway slaves and white women during battle. They would then take them back to their tribe and the elder mothers of the tribe would then decide if they could be adopted into their society to live side by side and learn their culture and their ways. Once one (white or black) was adopted into the tribe they virtually never wanted to leave because they were considered free.”

POW MAN

 

My brother-in-law made a new friend. We all did that day.

POW MIKE

As hard as it was for us to pull away from this event, what we took home with us that day was invaluable. The most memorable moment of the entire experience was removing the misconceptions I had been taught in the past about the culture and how welcoming the Native Americans were from the moment we stepped into the Pow Wow until the moment we left. To find a Pow Wow near you visit www.powwows.com

 

Someone had a real wolf as a pet. He was chained up nice and tight though.

pow wolf

 

Travel Tips for the SMART consumer

Traveling with family any time of year will cost you a pretty penny. Planning ahead and selecting alternatives to your travels can save your household hundreds, and in some cases even thousands of dollars. The larger your family gets the more important this “strategy” becomes. Here are some of my favorite traveling tips that has proven to be a great benefit to saving money.

 

EXPEDIA TIPS

Expedia has become my first choice in selecting pricing for hotels, flights and car rental for several reasons:

PROS: Expedia allows the customer to choose from a wide variety of hotels and car rentals across the United States without paying any costs upfront. Book your car or hotel in advance and select pay at hotel at the very end of your purchase. This is a great help for families who may not have access to credit cards or enough money to pay for hotel fees up front. It allows the planner to proceed with checking off their travel “to-do-list.”

CONS: You will have to place a credit or debit card on file, but you can cancel your booking up to one week in advance at most locations. Some of the “high end” hotels require you to pay at least one night in advance. This is a small CON as I have never had any issues with placing my card on file and cancelling.

 

DRIVING VS. AIRPLANE TIPS

If you have a large family like mine, traveling on an airplane can seem like a pricey luxury. More than likely, you will save hundreds and hundreds of dollars travelling by car. As I mentioned before, I always start my planning by searching on Expedia. Although I know my chances could be slim on finding discounted seats for my large family, there are those rare instances there (depending on the location) might be some discounted rates. In comparing the difference in price between driving versus airplane, let’s take a look at some simple math.

A family of five flying to Florida round-trip costs $348 per person bringing your total to $1740.

A family of five renting a van to and from Florida costs $650. Don’t forget to factor in gas (approximately $500) the total comes to $1150 or $230 a person.

So far you have saved about $590!

There may be times that absolutely calls for airplane travel such as traveling oversees or traveling from east coast to west coast. In those instances here are a few tips that could help:

Airfordable https://www.airfordable.com/ is a fairly new alternative to affording your airline tickets. For a small fee you simply search for your airline tickets on your favorite airline website or search engine. Upon selecting your flight, upload your screenshot to Airfordable during the booking process. Make bi-weekly payments up to your departure date. And no worries, your rates are locked in!

Southwest Airlines has a superb credit card that racks up points towards your airfare. Friends and family alike have raved about receiving airline tickets for free or little to no cost. More info: (put site)

A final tip: Timing when purchasing airline tickets is also super important in getting the best deals. According to Airlines Reporting Corporation, https://www2.arccorp.com/articles-trends/sales-statistics/  the best time to purchase airline tickets is at least 7 to 12 weeks out. The only exception would be holiday time travel. Purchase those tickets as soon as possible!!

 

AIR BNB VERSUS HOTEL TIPS

I recently began tweaking some final touches to my family’s summer trip. One factor of the planning that always seems to be an issue is finding a large enough hotel room. This room must be large enough to accommodate everyone (which is really code for: teens MUST have their own room, the kids ages 5 and 7 have their own space, and of course the parents need PRIVACY). Some of my favorite hotels over the road that can accommodate for large sized families are Sonesta Suites https://www.sonesta.com  , Comfort Suites https://www.choicehotels.com/deals/best-rate , and StayBridge Suites https://www.ihg.com/staybridge/hotels/us/en/reservation . If you notice a trend the “code word” is : Suites.

Nonetheless, there are times when the city that you are traveling to have no hotel “suites” around. If you are not interested in purchasing two hotel rooms at a time, I highly recommend giving Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com a try! Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com began back in 2008, but its popularity of allowing travelers to live like a local across the World has risen. The average stay per night at any given time ranges in 500,000 area. http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/airbnb-statistics/

Not long ago as I searched for a hotel large enough to accommodate my family, I booked two rooms on Expedia totaling $350 for one night. Uncomfortable with the price, I decided to try a search on Airbnb. That search not only saved me $150, but my family and I will be staying in a full 3 bedroom house, on a Christmas Tree Farm! Savings and adventure! You can’t beat that!

 

GAS TIPS

Guzzle, guzzle! When traveling by car there is no way to avoid a fill-up. So, what can you possibly do to help ease those high priced fill-ups?

My first suggestion before you hit the road is to check gas prices at GasBuddy.com. http://www.gasbuddy.com  You can search by city, zip, and State.

Next, you may luck up and find a bed and breakfast or hotel such as Choice Hotels https://www.choicehotels.com/deals/gift-card that offer a free gas card just for booking with them.

Upon reaching your destination do not forget about good old fashioned local transportation (i.e. bus, train, bike) to get around on. If you are unsure of where to locate alternative transportation try Rome2Rio https://www.rome2rio.com. The site will actually will help you plan your transportation of choice simply by putting in your destination. It will provide you with cost and travel time no matter what city you live in.  And then there is also good old Uber and Lyft which will provide you with a lower cost, less formal alternative to a taxi. Refer a friend a get a free ride! https://www.uber.com/invite/robertb3261

Lastly, here is a list of the BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR GAS. Buy the gas and rack up the rewards!

 

FOOD TIPS

A bulk of your trip expenses will come from hungry bellies. Little and big ones alike will want to snack and drink in between breakfast lunch and dinnertime. When traveling by car or plane try these simple money saving options:

Avoid filling up on drinks and snacks at gas stations or airport kiosk’s by stocking up on chips, fruit, juice boxes and water bottles ahead of time. Our favorite places to stock up without going deep into your pockets are Costco, Dollar General and Trader Joe’s.

Cut your fast-food stops in half by prepping sandwiches in the car and storing them in a small cooler. If you are rushing to catch a flight, have the family eat in the car on the way to the airport. That way, they aren’t wanting expensive food stands once they reach the airport.

Here are a few sandwich ideas that have proven to please everyone in my family:

Mama Sophia’s Turkey Bacon Breakfast Biscuits (Makes 8 to 10 sandwiches)

1 to 2 cans of biscuits (large size)

1 pkg of turkey bacon

1 pkg of cheese (we use Colby Jack slices)

Prepare according to the instructions. Wrap in tinfoil. The biscuit’s and meat won’t spoil easily and when the kids awaken from the first break stop, just hand ‘em out the bag. Simple Simple. Add some fruit and a water bottle or orange juice that you packed and there you have it. Breakfast on the go!

Cost to prepare sandwiches: $12 versus Cost at McDonald’s Breakfast $4+ per person for a family of 5 $20

Savings $8+ for Breakfast!!

 

Mama Sophia’s Grilled Spinach Chicken Wraps

Prepared baked, grilled, or fried chicken

1 pkg of Spinach Tortilla Wraps (or Plain/Gluten Free)

1 pkg Spinach leaves or romaine lettuce

Cheese optional

Condiments of herb mayo, mustard or ranch

You can substitute meat with your favorite deli or veggie meat. Or, pack on some extras veggies! Add some chips, fruit and favorite drink.

Your smart planning just saved your family $21 on lunch! Based on $7+ per person for a family of 5

I hope you and your family save some bucks with my tips and spend the leftover savings on something new and adventurous!

Veggie Spaghetti

It’s dinnertime again. Your family is probably getting tired of eating the same boring spaghetti! Last night, my family and I sat down to a delicious healthy alternative. We added a powerful punch of fresh veggies, spice and vitamin C! As your family’s food choices change, so will your dinner plans. If you have vegan, vegetarian, or even meat eaters ino your home, this dish will please everyone! I also recommend for anyone attempting to make any small gradual food swaps.

 

(any items listed below may be substituted or left out depending on your vegetable)

Here is the recipe for my veggie spaghetti:

Sophia’s Vegetarian Spaghetti

1 pkg meatless meat (we purchased our from Trader Joe’s)

 

1 pkg brown rice gluten free noodles (we purchased our from Trader Joe’s)

 

1 yellow or purple onion

 

1 small yellow zucchini

 

1 small green zucchini

 

1 half of an eggplant

 

1 small banana pepper for spice

 

4 roma tomatoes

 

1 green pepper

 

1 red pepper

 

1 yellow pepper

 

2 cans organic spaghetti sauce (we purchased our from Trader Joe’s)

 

2 tablespoons organic brown sugar (optional)

 

2 cloves of garlic or minced garlic

 

Himalyan Pink Salt & peper

 

Olive Oil for sauteing

 

Begin by boiling noodles, while simultaneously sautéing cut vegetable chunks with olive oil in separate pan. After sautéing approximately 5 minutes (keep crunchy) add meatless meat (if using red or turkey meat sauté in separate pan until brown than add). Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Finally, add spaghetti sauce to meat and veggies. Let simmer a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potatoes Restaurant (well shut my mouth!!) Winston Salem, North Carolina

BARB SHRIMP 

Barbeque shrimp and grits.

Good food can make one travel out of their way to experience the deliciousness of the flavors in their mouth. And that is exactly what brought my family back to eat brunch at our beloved Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Rich in not only food, art and culture, Winston Salem is home to the award winning Sweet Potatoes (well shut my mouth!!) a soul food restaurant ran by Chefs and Hostesses ViviánJoiner and Stephanie Tyson.

So what makes this soul food restaurant different from the one in your city?

SWEET POTATOES SIGN

Outside Sweet Potatoes in the Art District of Winston Salem, North Carolina.

For starters, it’s a place where the chef will personally will come out to thank you for stopping in. True southern hospitality! Next, most of the dishes incorporate sweet potatoes into the food – creating a unique and magnificent flavor you must go experience for yourself.

Sweet Potatoes is open all week for lunch and dinner, but also have a full bar. I recommend going on Sunday to enjoy their brunch menu ranging from sweet potatoes pancakes, to chicken and gravy on a sweet potato biscuit and sweet potato french toast just to name a yummy few.

On top of the deliciousness the ambiance is relaxing as light jazz and beautiful artwork line the walls.

If you enjoy eating out on the patio, Sweet Potatoes recently moved to a larger location to accommodate those who enjoy the outdoor patio setting. Although North Carolina is known to be hot, the entire patio area is fully shaded with a comfortable breeze.

Check out a few dishes below and be sure to stop through Winston Salem to give Sweet Potatoes(well shut my mouth!!) it’s a restaurant – a try!!

UNFRENCH

Un-French Toast with sweet potato batter

SWEET POTATOES

Fried Catfish and grits

CHK GRAVY

 

Chicken and gravy on a sweet potato biscuit

PANCAKES

Sweet potato pancake with fruit topping

Be sure to also check out their newly opened sister restaurant Miss Ora’s kitchen nearby! For more information visit their website here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique Places to Stay, River Hill Retreat, Sparta North Carolina

Are you heading through North Carolina and looking for an affordable, extraordinary stay away from the busy city life and typical hotel?

 Look no further than the beautiful, scenic, Christmas Tree Farm in Sparta, North Carolina. Better known by the locals and Airbnb as River Hill Retreat.

 

This beautiful retreat and tree farm is located near a state route beside main thorough fair Interstate 77 and is nestled in the foothill of the Blue Ridge Mountains. River Hill Retreat is a relaxing surprise at the end of a long drive.

TREE FARM

Located on a 23 acre Christmas Tree Farm actively ran by husband and wife Joel and Mandy along with their two sweet little boys, created a home away from home that is exactly the reprieve you are looking for.

 If you are in the mood to relax amongst beautiful scenery – you’ve come to the right place. The four bedroom five bed home is pleasing to both families and couples alike.

 Relax on the porch swing under the tree or in a relaxing chair overlooking the vast hillside.

 Looking for adventure? I suggest a small hike down the hill to the pond to fish. Walk amongst the Christmas trees as they beautifully wait for their season.

ALPACAS

Did the kids come too?? Absolutely no worries. Take a breather while the kids play on the trampoline, feed the Alpacas, enjoy s’mores by the fireplace, or play with the friendliest dogs you would ever want to meet. And don’t forget catching lightning bugs in a jar before bedtime.

Dinner on the go is no problem at all. Less than 10 minutes up the country roadside are delicious local take-outs. Or, use the full kitchen in your home away from home to whip up a dish from the local grocery store. All your dishes and supplies needed are already tucked away for you in cabinets.

ORANGE

In the morning wake up to fresh peaches, mandarins oranges and bananas, farm fresh eggs, Starbucks and French Press to sip in the morning.

Does this hidden retreat sound too good to be true? It might, but I believe most hidden treasures are. To book your next stay at River Hill Retreat click here