This Southern California weather has me sweating!!!  I’ve run out of cute stylish tanks and this heat has me refusing to go out shopping for more.  How do you beat the heat, stay indoors, and get some new tanks!?!  Why, revamp some tees into tanks of course!

Honestly, I love all of the shirts I revamped and I would wear them more if they were tanks.  However, for the sake of keeping the length of this DIY blog short, I’ll just show you one tee.  Technically, I did the same to all of them, they’re all just different prints, but you’ll get the gist of what I’m doing.

As you can see below, it’s just a regular crew neck t-shirt.  This one is actually big on me, but the outcome is the same.

Folded TeeSnip t-shirt:

1. & 2. Cut both sleeves off just along the inside of the seam

3. & 4. Cut off the folded over ends of the sleeves

5. Cut off top, just below the crew neck

See Below:

Cut patternOnce all snipped, fold over the top cuts (front and back, not together), pin and sew into place.  Remember to allow room for straps to be pushed through. 

To create straps, cut open the strips of sleeve you removed and sew one end to the other, making one long strap.  Thread through both sides of the top of the shirt.  Once both sides are threaded, you can sew the other two ends together, making your tank top straps. 

I loved it so much, I recently wore this on our day trip through Yosemite, have a look:

Transformed Tee at YosemiteIt’s a good thing I mostly wear long sleeves and sweaters in the winter, because I have a feeling I’ll be turning more tees into tanks this summer!  What are you favorite tee transformations, maybe I’ll try one of those too!?!

-Sandra
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I found these great water bottles called Infruition while back to school shopping and I just have to share with you all!

Back-to-school shopping in July!?!  Well, considering my kids start mid-August, it’s never too soon to shop for school.  Anyways, I always feel so guilty having my kids buy water out to the vending machine at school, or worse, using the water fountain.  Not that they’re spoiled, because they’re not, but they have lost so many water bottles over the years, I decided to stop forking out money that’s just going to get lost anyway.

Hoping that they’ve learned their lesson, I decided to get them pretty little bottles for school this year.  However, I wanted something that they were going to make it their mission NOT to lose.  Boy did these little bottles make them happy when they arrived!!!

Not only can you infuse fruit into your water, they can have a mid day snack too!

My kids are in love.  I keep trying to hide these to save them for when school starts, but no such luck there.  As you can see below, one bottle we tried cucumbers (yes, cucumbers are a fruit) and lemons and the other cherries.  It works much better if you chop up the fruit so it releases all its juices, but pitting the cherries worked just as well.

These bottles come in different sizes, the mini, the sport, and the jug size; I opted to go with the sport size to last all day for my kids. But I’m sure since they love these so much, I’ll be buying the jug size for the house.

Because I love amazon so much, I got them here: http://www.amazon.com/Infruition-Sport-Fruit-Infused-Bottle/dp/B019IZMGHM/ie=UTF8?m=A2UUZC0XBM235R&keywords=fruit+infuser

They’re made from BPA-free plastic, which makes this momma happy.  The website has delicious recipes and it’s so simple, the kids can prep these the night before or in the morning before school.  All it takes is chopped up fruit in the center chamber and water in the bottles, put it together and Violá!  Fruit Infused water.  The kids love this.  The teachers will love this.   I love this.  It’s not juice, it’s not sports drinks, it’s not plain ol’ water….it’s fruit infused water.  What’s not to love!?!

What are you drinking today?

-Sandra

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company, and/or its affiliates in any way.

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I don’t know about you, but I love men’s buttoned up dress shirts.  However, they don’t translate into “stylish” wear for women.  On my quest to find something similar without the fuss, my daughter found a website called Closet Tree that up-cycles clothes, making them stylish along the way.  We were floored that a simple DIY solution was starring us in the face!  How did we not think of taking a man’s dress shirt and making it our own!?!

Because we weren’t willing to fork out the non-up-cycle price of the website, we ventured out to DIY one of our own.  We took a trip to the local vintage shop and found a pristine, cheap, buttoned up shirt for less than $4.00.  Brought it home and chopped it up.  After all, we didn’t want to take a brand new $30 shirt and make an up-cycled dress, especially if this was our trail & error experiment!

Here’s our shirt before DIYing:

Here’s what we lopped off:

DIY Cut Pattern

First, we chopped off across the top of the shirt, placed elastic across the front and back of the shirt, folded it over and sewed it up.  For the shoulders, I didn’t place elastic in them because I wanted it to be versatile.  We wanted the dress to go over or across the shoulders without looking scrunched up.

Next, the cuffs had to go.  I cut them off, but saved them to be used after I shorted the sleeves.  Once I shorted the sleeves, I cut along the inside of the dress, slimming it down to fit my daughter and giving it a more feminine shape.

Last, I reattached the cuffs to the sleeves to give it a finished buttoned up shirt look. Violá!

Finished up-cycled dress:

What do you think? Love it or leave it!?!

-Sandra

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Before my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I had never heard of it, nor gluten, probiotics, vili, etc.  Needless to say, we had a huge learning curve and boy did we research.  Reading labels was something I had never done before then and learning just how many different names “gluten” is hidden in was just the beginning.

Shopping trips consisted of veggies, fruits, and protein.  Nothing processed, nothing made.  I don’t know about your kids, but telling a 4 year old she can’t have all those things she was accustomed to eating was no small feat.

Doctor’s Recommendation

One of the best things her pediatrician recommended for us, was to find a great probiotic to help with digestion.  So, back to some research.  We had some hits, but mostly misses on our mission to find one that suited her dietary needs.  Not to mention, she is Autistic and had oral texture issues as well.  So gummies, although ideal, didn’t always work and forget trying to get her to swallow pills.

Which brings me to these yummy gummies:

We found these gummy probiotics by Nutra, and although I feared the same result as all those other gummies we tried, these are different.  For one, their texture a more solid type of gummy.  The taste isn’t as “sweet”, but they’re not bland either.  They are slightly powdery, but it’s not overpowering.  My daughter loves them!

Best thing about these is that they fit the bill.  It helps with her digestion AND it’s gluten and sugar free.  We love them!  Anything that helps her tummy function better and I don’t have to fight her to take is a plus in this mom’s book.  Here’s a link of where I ordered these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I02T9B0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498168308&sr=1-1&keywords=probiotic+gummies+kids&m=

So, what’s your favorite probiotic?  I’d love to her about those as well.

-Sandra

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company, and/or its affiliates in any way.

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Matcha Green Tea Latte Desk View

We’ve all seen and heard of the Matcha Green Tea craze all over the news and social media lately, thanks largely to Starbucks’ popular Latte of the same name.  But it’s so much more than that.

What is it?

Traditionally, when you order a cup or buy a box of green tea, it comes in dried crushed tea leaves which you then steep and discard the tea bag.  With Matcha, those tea leaves have been ground into a fine powder and is not just steeped into hot water, it is whisked into your drink and no part of it is discarded; giving you more nutrients in each cup.

The process from growth to harvest to production is different as well.  Growing the shade, allows for better flavor and texture.  And once it’s hand-picked, it’s dried and aged which helps enrich the flavor, before it’s ground into a fine powder.

Why so popular?

Once you try it, you’ll find that this trend is here to stay; it’s definitely not a fad.  Because not only is it delicious, it’s healthy too!  This java lover has switched sides and is loving finding new ways to implement Matcha into all kinds of tasty dishes. 

You’ll see below, I linked my preferred Matcha which is made by Live Well Compass.  Some Matcha distributors add sugar or other ingredients, this one has none of that, no additional additives and/or preservatives.  Which is exactly what you want when looking for high quality tea.  Live Well Compass provides a 100% organic Matcha Green Tea product that has the caffeine that my body is so accustomed to, without any of the coffee jitters, it gives you tons of energy and there is no crash at the end of the day! How can you not love that!?!

Additional Health benefits are that it revs up your metabolism, is a weight loss booster, and is jam-packed with all kinds of nutrients that would take all day to eat one by one.  For example, did you know that drinking Matcha before  working out can burn up to 25% more fat and can increase the rate of burning calories from 8-10% to 35-43%?  I don’t know about you, but this gets me excited to hit the yoga mat!

So, after researching all the health benefits, tasting just how delicious Matcha is, and happily giving up my coffee addition, the first recipe I decided to try to make is the ever popular Matcha Green Tea Latte.  Because of course, if it’s harder to make than a cup of coffee, it wasn’t for me.  This did not disappoint!

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Ingredients for Matcha Green Tea Latte:

1 tsp Matcha Green Tea powder

8 oz. Almond Milk

2 tsp sweetened condensed creamer

splash of vanilla extract

Directions:

Place all ingredients in blender on high until powder is dissolved and serve over ice.

The next thing I tried making with Matcha was gluten-free bread to give me a bit of a pick me up for breakfast.

Matcha Green Tea Swirl Cake

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Marble Cake:

3 tbsp Matcha Green Tea powder

2 large eggs

3/4 cup almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups gluten-free flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

a dash salt

1 tsp baking powder

Directions:

-Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bread loaf pan.
Mix all liquid ingredients on low in mixer.
Slowly add in dry ingredients, except the Matcha.
When all ingredients are mixed, increase the speed for 1 minute.
Pour 2/3 of batter into loaf pan.
On low, mix Matcha into remaining 1/3 batter. Then increase speed for 1 minute.
Pour over the batter in the loaf pan and with a skewer stick swirl both batters.
Place in oven and bake 30-40 minutes until done.

This was a hit with the family!  Gluten-free, delicious AND healthy!  So staying with the breakfast theme, my family loves the overnight oats which I previously put up a recipe for, so I decided to make a Matcha Green Tea Chia Pudding.

Matcha Green Tea Chia Pudding

Ingredients for Matcha Green Tea Chia Pudding:

1 tsp  Matcha Green Tea powder

2 tbsp Chia Seeds

2 tbsp sweetened condensed creamer

6 oz Almond Milk

Directions:

In a blender, mix milk, sweetened condensed creamer and Matcha until dissolved well.  Pour into container and add chia seeds.  Cover, shake well, and refrigerate overnight.

My little one has texture issues, so I was a bit worried, but she loved this as much as we all did!!!  This recipe is a single serving size because I wasn’t sure if everyone would love as much as I do, but all you have to do is double, triple or increase to whatever your needs are. 

Lastly, how could I not make Matcha Green Tea gummies!?!

Matcha Green Tea Gummies

Ingredients for Match Green Tea Gummies:

2 tsp Matcha Green Tea powder

2½ tablespoons gelatin2 cups coconut water, divided

1 tbsp sweetened condensed creamer (adjust the amount according to taste)

¼ cup coconut cream (the hardened stuff that floats to the top of a can of coconut milk)

Directions:

-First, pour 1 cup of coconut water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top, let it sit for 5 minutes to allow it to soften. 
Over medium heat, combine the remaining coconut water and sweetened condensed creamer.
Stir until it steams, not boils.
Pour over gelatined coconut water, stir well.
Then transfer into blender cup and add coconut cream and Matcha.
Blend on high for 1 minute.
Pour into silicone molds or 8-inch baking dish.
Last, refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until hardened.
Can be stored in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

If you love coconut and green tea, you’ll love this combo!  Keep in mind to taste before you pour into molds.  I made mine super sweet by adding some more sweetener because for whatever reason, when you refrigeration these, they lose some sweetness.

Matcha Green Tea Panna Cotta

As you can see in the picture (forgive my crumbling gummies, I was too anxious to properly take them out), I made this two ways.  In individual gummies and a “Panna cotta-style” serving size as well.  I covered that with a drizzle of sweetened condensed creamer for an after dinner treat. YUM!

There you have it. 

I’m still experimenting with Matcha Green Tea recipes, so I’ll have more recipes in a future posts.  You can click any of the links above or go here → https://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Culinary-Servings-Smoothies-Metabolism/dp/B01M0A10XA to get some of your own Live Well Compass Matcha Green Tea. 

Feel free to use any of my recipes above to fall in love with Matcha, or if you want to do some experimenting of your own, the bag has a link to the top 100 video recipes to try out as well.  Either way, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Matcha favorites and give those a try too!  Leave me a link below↓.

-Sandra

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company, and/or its affiliates in any way.

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**Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote products of Farm Fresh To You or their services.  It is a service that I tried on my own, for myself and family and would genuinely like to share it.

Farm Fresh To You

I just have to share with you all how I got my first Farm Fresh Delivery in less than a week and how you can too!

While researching Fibromyalgia, one of the best things I can do to help with pain management and inflammation is eating healthier and exercising more.  So while on my mission to do just that, we we’re walking around our local Farmer’s Market this past Friday night, trying to beat the heat while stretching and getting some exercise in. 

Among the many things we saw, from local eateries sharing their goodies to local artisans sharing crafts and local musicians dropping their beats, we stopped at the local farmer’s stand.  However, this one was different, there were no goods in front of him.  Just a very nice gentleman sharing some information and their services.

The Basics:

I’m going to run down the basics of the Farm Fresh To You services, however, I’m also going to give you all a link to check it out for yourself and get a discount on your first order!

After you go to the website to create your log in, it’ll prompt you to set up your order.  You’ll have a choice of boxes: fruits, veggies, non-cooking box, etc.  After that, you get to choose your box size (prices vary).  Once you have your box choice, you then pick and choose the produce in your box, it’s as easy as clicking and dragging.  Add your payment method, shipping address and delivery date, and you’re done! 

It’s that simple.

Best thing about this service is that not only is the produce organic and locally grown, but you can control just what you get, when you get it, access to your own website to decide all that, products such as homemade butters, jams, syrups etc., plus access to recipes and events Farm Fresh To You hosts as well.

We started with one of the smaller boxes at a promotional half off price to begin with and we’ll see how it goes.  So far, my kids are devouring it all, we just received our first box today and I had to pry it away to take a quick picture before they ate it all!  As you can see from the picture above, I picked all fruit, and I have to say, I’ve never tasted strawberries so sweet.  What a difference non-pesticide treated fruit tastes like! YUM!

So, I hope you all sign up, enjoy it and let me know what you think!  Here’s that link I promised you, which I’ve also added to my page for easy access:

-Sandra

 

I’ve been making Cheater Wraps long before I fell in love with PF Chang’s Chicken Wraps.  Of course, my version was without the lettuce, but it wasn’t difficult to add that to my recipe.  It’s one of the easier (lazier) gluten-free meals that I make and the kids love them!  Please note, this is NOT an exact replica of those famous wraps, but if you love cheap, easy, super quick and delicious, you have to try these…

Ingredients for Cheater Wraps:

1 pkg – lean taco seasoned ground turkey

1 can – 15.25 oz whole kernel corn

1 – 1lb pkg white rice

Directions for Cheater Wraps:

Turkey mixture:

-Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat and then add ground turkey.  Cook about 3-5 minutes, or until browned.  Use spatula to make sure to turkey is crumbled into the smallest pieces as it cooks.

-Stir in a drained can of corn and continue to sauté until thoroughly cooked.

Rice:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat then add white rice.  Sauté while stirring until just right before the rice browns.  The rice should go from slightly translucent to solid white.  Add water to rice, cover pan, lower heat and simmer until done.

To Serve:

Spoon one or two tablespoons of both the turkey mixture and rice into the center of a lettuce leaf, sprinkle some queso fresco on top, roll taco-style and enjoy!

Usually with ground meat, I drain the excess fat, but with lean ground turkey, there is no excess fat left over.  So not only are you eating healthy, this meal was cheap too! 

Here’s the breakdown:

Turkey – $3.88
Corn – $0.68
Rice – $1.16
Lettuce – $0.99


Grand Total – $6.71

How can you beat that?  Turkey Wraps a la PF Chang’s for under $7 for a family of four in under 20 minutes!?!  YUP! You read it right!  Try it, enjoy it, and let me know what you think!

-Sandra

It’s been 5 days and I don’t know how many hours since I found out I have Fibromyalgia.  What started out as a routine doctor’s visit for flu-like symptoms that went on for way too long, became a couple of weeks of multiple blood tests, referrals to the rheumatology department, follow ups, and now a diagnosis.

Yep, buckle in for one of those therapeutic posts that I so desperately need so I can get it all out.

Not knowing what Fibromyalgia is, the doctor might as well have said Cancer.  For every question she answered, I had ten more.  I’m grateful that I was assigned to an extremely patient Rheumatologist and that my husband had a day off to go with me.  I don’t think I would’ve had the strength to drive home that day.

The word fibromyalgia comes from the New Latin and Greek meanings:
fibro meaning “fibrous tissue”
myos meaning “muscle”
algos meaning “pain”

I, of course, did what I always do.  I researched it.  I read everything I could possibly get my grubby little hands on.  I wanted answers.  I wanted explanations why this happened to me.  I wanted a cure.  I want it to go away.

What I’ve learned about Fibromyalgia since that day:

-nobody really knows what causes it
-it’s incurable
-women are 10 times more likely to develop it than men
-there is medication to treat specific symptoms, but not the disease itself
-stress triggers flare ups
-my history of medical problems all lead back to Fibromyalgia
-it wasn’t all in my head

…and so much more, these are just the ones that stand out.

One symptom isn’t Fibromyalgia, it’s a combination

Since last Thursday, I’ve had several panic attacks, breakdowns, bouts of anger, moments of clarity and of course, moments of determination.

What now? 

As is my nature, I allow myself 2 minutes a day to be overwhelmed, cry and get it all out, before I suck it up and put on my big girl panties.  Those that know me, know that I’m not a crier.  I don’t like crying.  I don’t like chick flicks.  I don’t get emotional over babies.  The way I see it is that I’ve had a lifetime of crying in my last marriage, that I’ve made a conscience effort to not let things into my life that make me sad. 

Now that I know what I have, my health history is making a ton of sense.

Pelvic Problems

For as long as I can remember I’ve had girl problems.  Heavy periods, occasionally painful sex, several miscarriages, two extremely difficult pregnancies, bleeding fibroids and ultimately a hysterectomy.  I haven’t had any issues in this area since the hysterectomy, until about a few months ago, I found out I have ovarian cysts again.

Digestion Problems

Self-explanatory.  I’ve never been huge on food.  I eat to live, not live to eat.  Now I know it’s because everything I put into my mouth, makes me feel sick.

Weak joints

I can’t count the amount of times I sprained an ankle, kinked my neck, or had joint pain.  What I do know, is that massage therapists need a frequent flyer discount card.

Fibro Fog

I don’t think I’ve had full fibro fog, as described by the doctor, but I have always had memory problems.  Simple things.  I think it’s the reason I refused to study the night before a test because nothing stayed in my brain.  5 minutes before a test was the only thing I ever need to ace a test.

Sleep Disturbance

I’m one of those that if you wake me, that’s it, I’m up.  No going back to bed, no matter how tired I am.  I never thought anything of it.  However, between that, restless legs, morning aches and tingling limbs, I now know it isn’t a normal thing.

Anxiety/Depression

This is a fairly new thing for me.  I’ve always been a planner, but I attributed that to OCD.  Little did I know, it was a coping mechanism to prevent anxiety.  I never considered myself an anxious or depressed person, I still don’t.  However, the doctors did 7 years ago.  I have to say, I was extremely ashamed.  I was put on meds that were horrible and turned me into a zombie.  I hated them and refused to take them, they made me feel worse. 

Also, I was going through an extremely tough time in my life, my marriage of 15 years was over and as we all know, divorces aren’t an easy thing to go through.  I’ve since, made it out on of the other side of that and other than an occasional co-parenting issue, I’m good.  If I would’ve known then about my Fibromyalgia…well, let’s not finish such sentences.

Pain & Fatigue

I’m putting these two together, because for me, they go hand in hand.  I’ve never not had either one in my life.  I honestly can’t say when the last time it was that I was NOT in pain.  Pain has been a constant for me.

Most of the time time it takes a history of symptoms for a diagnosis, which is why it usually isn’t diagnosed until mid-life

Why have I put all these out?  Why this post?

Mostly for me.  It helps to see how it’s been there all along.  It’s been an invisible constant.  It wasn’t all in my head.  I feel slightly vindicated for all those times I just couldn’t move, for all those sick days I took, for all those missed dates, events and parties.  I’m grateful I listened to my body enough to know that it needed rest. 

But I also put this out because people just don’t know how invisible this is.  I don’t have any physical deformities and I never will.  I look healthy, but I never have been.  I have smiled through the pain because I don’t have the strength to do anything else about it. Lastly, I put this out there because I hope that when I look back at this day, I’ll be able to see how far I’ve gone.  What has worked for me, what hasn’t and I hope it helps others along the way.

What now? 

Considering there is NO treatment and it will never go away, I figure I have two choices, lay down and die or get up and work through it.  I’m here, so you all know what I chose.

Currently I’m a human pin cushion.  I’ve chosen acupuncture for pain management, which is huge for me, because needles make me faint.   I don’t want drugs, because it’s a lifetime commitment at this point and nothing will cure this for me.  So I’m addressing the symptoms and that’s about as much as I can do, other than to have a voice.  I’m looking into CBD oil as an option for pain management, but only as a last resort.

What do I know for sure?

My life is going to change drastically.  It has to if I want any kind of relief.  I have a wonderful life, a great husband and two incredibly amazing daughters to live for.  Nothing has changed with this diagnosis, but it’s going to. I’ll keep learning along the way.  Do what works for me.   I’m still me.  I live with pain.  It won’t defeat me, it hasn’t yet and I’m determined to keep it that way.  I have Fibromyalgia, it doesn’t have me.

-Sandra

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How To Forgo Summer Camp & Save MoneyWhy send your kids to summer camp this year?  You can save so much more money by creating your own summer camp and spend that much needed time with your kiddos this summer!

By doing a bit of research, you can keep your summer spending to a minimum and still be able to enjoy all that your city has to offer.  I usually make a list of my kids favorite places and start there. 

Free Movies Days

Well, when my kids we’re much smaller, summer camp movies were free.  Now, depending on the theater you go to, it can be anywhere from $1-$4.  Either way, it’s still much cheaper than a full price ticket.

Living in sunny Southern California, I usually opt for Regal Cinemas or AMC Theatres.  Both offer summer camp movies 2 days a week and if you click on the links above, you can find theaters near you with a list of movies playing all summer.  Granted, these movies are NOT new movies, but escaping the heat, soaking in the air conditioning, and letting the big screen entertain your kids for a while, more than makes up for it.

Free Museum Days

If you’re like me and like to add a little culture and some learning to your outings, free museum days are a great deal.  Whether it’s checking out dinosaur bones or gazing at the stars, you’re sure to find something that will keep them entertained for hours and tire them out just enough to let you enjoy the day as well.  Some of the museums on this link are always free, some have certain days of the month available, and some are just by donations.  Rest assured, that if museums are on your list, you’ll find one right up your alley and with just a little bit of planning, it’ll make the kids happy as well.

Free Park Days

I know I already mentioned movies.  However, for a much more fun outing, pack a snack, bring your camping chairs, and catch a movie under the stars.  Most communities have local parks that plan both movies in the park or if you feel like dancing under the stars, music in the park.  Both of these fun outings beat the heat by being night time events and tons of family fun.  Best part about these, they’re free!

However, if you want some fun Adult time of the same variety, check out the Rooftop Cinema Club.  This specific one is local to L.A., but I’m sure most big cities have something similar.  How fun is watching movies outdoors, under the stars, surrounded by the glowing lights of the city!?!

Or maybe you’d like something a little more adventurous and want to watch movies surrounded by dead people.  For those thrill seekers, Cinespa shows movies in two locations, the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery or historic movie palaces around L.A..

Whether you choose the rooftop, cemetery, or palace, expect to pay for much more than just the movie, but with an experience like that, why not?

Free Beach Days

Most beaches in southern California have some type of parking fee, but usually it’s minimal.  However, a couple bucks to soak in some rays, getting wet, and tiring out the kids is more that worth it.  Don’t let parking fees keep you away, there are so many beaches in California, it’s not hard to find free parking either. 

Don’t want to melt in the sun?  How about the beach at night?  That’s right, it’s the time of year that the grunion run.   Don’t worry, you don’t have to run after fish on the beach, they come to you.  If you’re not interested in getting fishy, let the kids do it, or just let it be a learning experience.  Trust me, the kids will love it and you’ll love doing something free, under the stars, spending time with the kids, while they run around ‘til their little hearts are content.

Catch a local Ball Game

I’m lucky enough to live in an area with two Baseball teams, so I have my choice to choose from.  To get the best bang for my buck, I go with companies like seatgeek.com or cheaptickets.com.  I can get Dodger or Angels tickets starting at $5 each!  Which means, for my family of 4, I can catch a local ball game for $20, plus parking.  Granted, you’re not allowed to take your own snacks in, but you can have a large dinner before the game, tailgate, or spurge at any one of the food booths they have to offer.  Usually, this is the only family outing we spend a little bit more on during the summer.  But considering I’m saving so much money on everything else, it’s worth catching a game or two this summer.

So there you go, with a little bit of planning, a packed lunch, and some sunscreen, your kids will love the summer camp you have custom built for them, much more than those other ones.  Have fun!

-Sandra

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Tomato & goat cheese soup
Goat cheese in my soup? How did I get here?

A couple of years ago, my Chicago native husband convinced me to take a trip and traipse around the city with him.  Never having been and knowing my love for travel, I jumped at the chance to get to know the city he so deeply loved.  Of course, being the conscientious adventurer, I delved into all things Chicago, especially the food and had a list for my must stop and dine places in the city before we even left L.A.

One of the places we stopped at after our improptu photo shoot at Wrigley Field, was the Standard Market Grill.  Being a mom of a child with Celiac Disease, I make it my mission to research places that have gluten-free menus in place for our next visit with the kids.  I wish I could say I sampled everything on the menu, but no, sadly.  Having had a hearty breakfast, I opted for something light and refreshing to hold me over until dinner, and went with the gf tomato & goat cheese soup.

I have to say, I was a bit apprehensive about goat cheese in my soup.  Although I love all things cheesy, goat cheese is not high on that list.  However, I was reassured it was an amazing dish and it did not disappoint.

So how does this bring me to this recipe? Did I steal it? Nope! I didn’t take enough money for bail, so I scoured the web until I found something similar and just as tasty.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp-olive oil
1-medium yellow onion
2-garlic cloves
1/4 tsp-red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp-dried thyme
1 – 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
1-cup vegetable broth
2 oz goat cheese
2 oz queso fresco
black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Over medium low heat sauté with olive oil, onion diced finely, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried thyme, for 5 minutes or so or until onions are soft. Stir occasionally until slightly brown.

Next, put whole can of tomatoes and vegetable stock in a blender (including the juice from the tomatoes). Add the sautéed mix to blender. Blend on pureed setting. 

Then, pour into soup pot and bring to a boil. Add water if desired for a thinner soup. Pepper to taste. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on goat cheese and let melt before stirring.

Last, serve and top with queso fresco.

Side Note: if you’re not a soup person, use 1/4 cup less broth and use it over pasta for an alternate dish. Enjoy!

-Sandra

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