Tuesday, August 11, 2015

5 Rules for Souvenirs

After years of traveling and visiting places, I have learned what makes a great travel memory and what doesn’t.  Over the years, I have visited 30 states, 8 countries and lived in 9 different states. That is a lot of traveling and exploring and I am extremely blessed to have done it. Don't worry I have a list of places that I still want to explore. 


When I walk around my house, I see all of these fantastic items, which instantly bring back memories of exploring our beautiful Earth. Now, I know what you are thinking, why are you blogging about souvenirs.  The first is that, no matter what I refuse to buy junk. My children are learning that when we go places they don’t always get a “trinket” to take home. Half of the time it wouldn't make it back! We choose to bring back memories in the form of pictures or videos. We turn these into photo books, to cherish. Inside those books, we add little things that would normally get lost, ruined or you don't even think to keep. More often than not they become my favorite items, ticket stubs, stickers, patches even brochures!

tickets stubs added to the back of our family yearbooks

I am often asked as a single mom, how I am able to afford to travel and that is simple. It became a priority to us; I am using Advocare to become debt free and experience the world, We don’t buy brand new toys or top of the line clothes or even electronics. 95% of what we purchase is purchased at a second hand store, or given to us from others. I want my children to think of their lives and remember their experiences not buying things. With that being said, what we do have,  we lovingly refer to as treasures. We love to catalog them as well, think of our ornament book we created. When we do purchase something it has special meaning behind it and we try to purchase things that we can use or we can eat at a later date.

Me at 18- drawn by an artist on the streets of Barcelona (man I could't understand one word he said but it was fun). 
Twenty years ago (wow!) I spent three weeks in Australia and New Zealand. It was a life changing experience, I gained confidence to travel and explore, try new things (activities and food) and meet new people, all while growing as an individual. In Australia, I was able to purchase an opal ring, which I still wear and a boomerang. Now, I don’t really use the boomerang for much but it has special meaning behind it. While in Australia, we took lessons in the outback on how to throw a boomerang and actually have it return to us. This was the boomerang I learned how to throw.  In New Zealand, I not only got to visit places that you could learn to sheer sheep but tend to other animals, I brought back a sheepskin pillow case cover, this again I use.

My chair is multicultural: a pillow from New Zealand and a blanket from Mexico

Almost twenty years ago (ok, did I really just type that?) I went to Mexico for a high school trip. I bought a hand woven blanket.  I watched the lady make the blanket and was able to then take it home. How neat is that? To this day we still use the blanket when we watch movies. It’s perfect to cuddle under and stay warm.

Not only can I use the items that I bring back but they add a history to my house, a long time ago, I decided if I was going to spend my time and money on something it was going to have meaning and purpose. My house is a reflection of my life and how the different places I have visited have influenced my life.

Many people have asked how  I keep my souvenirs under control , along with helping the children to learn how to appreciate what they have. The five rules we follow in my house are: 

1.       Start a collection: When you have random pieces and you start to display them, they now have meaning. My children collect the squished pennies, each one of them has a ton of them. We are presently working on a way to display them. We also collect beach glass every chance we can. There is also the postcard projects that we do, those postcards help to tell a story of the places where we have gone. I have a cookbook from each state in which we lived, let me tell you how much my children love having State dinner night!

squished pennies (my collection) from the World Trade Center- talk about an amazing souvenir!
Some of our cookbooks- once a week we pick our favorite recipes and celebrate a different place we have lived/visited

2.       Set a budget- allow your children to purchase something that they want, and help them understand what their purchase is going to do to their budget. When we go on a trip or stay-cation, my children get a set amount of money to spend; this includes treats (such as ice cream) and anything they want to purchase (such as a remote control car). The other part is that they have to trade one item at home for another. This really helps to keep the clutter down and makes them more aware of what they are purchasing.

3.       Treasure the items you have- this is a hard one, you don’t want your children to become so focused on the things they have that they don’t  focus on anything else but respecting what they have makes the items last longer, think back to my blanket. My children know that the blanket is older than them and they curl up with it and joke about all the places the blanket has been. 

4.       Buy items that special to the place you are: You don’t go to a grocery store to buy shoes, same thing with items from your adventures. Buy items that tell the store of the place that you are visiting, if there is a certain food that is known to the area or maybe you found a particular piece of clothing. These items will tie into the memories created during the trip. You can read a post about the Vermont gift box I created.

This one combines rules number 4 and 5! This was made by Peanut at the Granite Mines. 

5.       Make it- Make something during your trip that can become your souvenir, when you or your child looks at the item, you know have the memory of making it together and a great keepsake. My children created sandblasted pieces at the Granite Mines in Vermont. We make pennies everywhere we go. When I went to Disney World in 1997 (sheesh! All these old trips, but it is a great example of rule #3!) we went to Epcot and I made a doll in the country of Germany. Now, Pumpkin plays with that same doll. When we went to  the Vermont Teddy Factory the kiddos each made a bear. 

My doll made at Disney- she is looking a little rough but she has lots of love! 

Bean's bear he made at VTF! 

Children will learn what you help them to learn and more importantly live by. Our memories are our true souvenirs or as well call them treasures. Each trip we go on we create a yearbook (photobook) and those are by far our favorite pieces, the children and I often sit and look at them. Each time we look at the books, we create more memories, we laugh about the things that have happened and share our favorite stories. 

It is amazing to me how much my view of traveling and my money habits have changed with my perspective changing. I am a blessed woman, who continues to live in awe of our wonderful Lord and his blessings. 


Monday, August 3, 2015

Label Daddy!

I love sharing savings with you all, here is an amazing deal. 

Save 20% on Label Daddy labels! Label Daddy is the number one solution for labeling your belongings! Remember to label all clothing, sports equipment, electronics, and other personal belongings your kids bring to school, camp, sports leagues, day care, vacation, and other places. Label Daddy labels keep them from getting lost or mixed up with others. These labels are great for adults too! -- Put them on your sunglass/eyeglass case, phone, camera, sports equipment, tablet, e-reader, hats, clothing, and more.

These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant! Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive. You design your own labels! Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more. Their exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp! These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

Save 20% on your entire Label Daddy order - this is the best discount available anywhere. Use code USFAMILY20 at checkout. http://www.usfamily20.labeldaddy.com




Saturday, July 25, 2015

Little Passports... help explore the world

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

It is amazing to me how big and small our world can be at the same time. When I was 18, I was told that I had a Gypsy Soul; and that just embodied me perfectly. I love to explore and try new things. I have been blessed enough to travel to many different places in our country and abroad. I have even made it my goal that by the time my children graduate high school they will have traveled to every state in our country and at least two other countries (I know, huge goals, but oh so worth it). 

With that being said, I have to save money for all of this traveling, in the mean time I still want the kiddos to learn and explore. A few years ago, I came across Little Passports and fell in love! Actually I should say LOVE! Instead of stressing about how I was going to get the kiddos out into the world, I could have the world sent to them! 


Little Passports is a subscription where you can choose your own adventure, there is the USA Edition that sends you a starter discover kit for the first month. Included in this kit, is a wall map of the USA, a guide book, a welcome letter from Sam and Sophia (they are your new pen pals), a disposable camera and a photo scavenger project. The recommended age for this discovery kit is 7-12. Now, after your discovery kit comes, each month you will travel to two states: with online activities, postcards and state books. I haven't done this subscription yet, but I just love the idea. It's like taking a road trip without having to worry about gas!

The next subscription box is the original one and this one is the one we fell in love with. This is the world Explorer subscription, again your subscription starts with a discovery box: a suitcase (works perfectly to keep everything all together), a world map, letter from same and Sophia, stickers and activities, stamps for your passport and stickers for your suitcase. Each month after that you travel to a different country, again with a picture, activity, stickers and stamps!  We loved looking at all of the different items each month and then trying to find the country on the map! 

I love how our suitcase looks like we have traveled all over!

The final subscription is the Early Explorers (ages 3-5). This subscription follows the same set up: the first month you get a discovery box: in this box is a map, suitcase, a book, luggage tags. Each month following you will receive a world theme activity book, souvenirs, flashlight adventures and stickers. I cannot think of a better way to introduce these to a child. 

I have to tell you that I adore this program, I love anything that involves learning and activities. Each month, my children would run to the mailbox asking where they would be going this time. When we got into the house, the package was opened faster than I could even get the front door closed. 

Our world map that has hung on the children's wall for years now!
During one of our trips, we went to Japan and here we learned origami, it was so much fun to see the kiddos try and fold their papers to make paper cranes. To this day they still talk about whose crane came out the way it was supposed to and who needed more help. I love how their memories are incorporated right in with their little blue suitcase. 

When we moved and our belongings were packed up, I thought the kiddos were going to  cry as they couldn't explore for a little while. Our boxes remained packed for over a year, (let's not even talk about why) but when they opened that suitcase up again, they discovered their journeys all over again. It was like Christmas morning, but more importantly they were able to share these experiences with Bean!

We have stopped by toys in our house (we have plenty) and started buying experiences. If you are looking for an experience to share with your children and not have to stress about money, then Little Passports is the way to go!


We were pinning before pinning was cool!

Love all the details in Little Passports- look at the stamps on each luggage tag- even the back has the online information for follow up activities
Activity pages with directions for online activities as well

Our Passport!

Love the real photographs we receive each month- they really help with the experience

Letters from Sam and Sophia all about their adventures!

I cannot wait to explore more places, as we discover this world one country and state a month!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Heartache

If you have ever been to Hawai'i, you know the feeling of Aloha. Aloha is more than just hello or goodbye, or even love. Yes, it is a feeling, a description but a way of life as well. Visiting Hawai'i is one thing and living there is another, Aloha takes on an entirely new meaning. Then there is Ohana, which is family, again, different meaning once you live there. They are two words that are so ingrained in my heart and soul that I cannot imagine life without them. 

There is a quote in the movie Lilo and Stitch that really its home, I'm sure if you've seen the movie, you've heard it! "Ohana, means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten." This is exactly how I feel about some of my friends that have no become my family but also my brother. 



For whatever reason, I have been missing him more than normal. I know what you are thinking, what is normal for missing someone, so how about my normal. I think of him everyday multiple times a day but lately, I sit and miss him. My heart aches, I find myself sitting and wondering what life would be like if he were still here. 

Maybe it is because my sister is having a baby and we are adding another life to the family, maybe it's because I am seeing his daughter grow up and he isn't. It's hard to say why the heartache is more intensified lately. All I know is that my heart aches for his voice, the same videos aren't cutting it anymore, I miss his funny take on life. 

My brother had this smile that could make anything feel better. I remember when Peanut went to kindergarten for the first day, I was sad. My baby was no longer a baby. My brother made it all better, he just said look at it like this "Now, you get time to yourself, isn't that what you are always complaining about?" He was so matter of fact that you couldn't argue with him. 

I pray to have the pain taken away, and it is still there which leads me to believe that God is leaving it there for a reason. I just have to have faith that there is a reason my pain is there. After all only he knows the plans he has for me. In the meantime, I am going to use this time to really sit and ponder on what I am supposed to grow and learn from this heartache. 


source:www.radaronline.com

One thing I have learned already or maybe just remembered is to thank him for what I do have. I have 28 years of wonderful memories of my brother, 28 years of playing with him, arguing with him and 28 years of loving him. I remind myself daily that as much as I want more, I could have always had less. Somehow that thought puts everything in perspective, what if I had one year less with him, I wouldn't have had numerous conversations, or text messages or the laughs. Those million laughs I had in one year would be gone. 

I'm standing and realizing how blessed I am to have had those 28 years. Those wonderful and challenging 28 years. We love and miss you Buddy, All the Numbers all the Time





Thursday, July 16, 2015

24 Tips to Rock your Advocare 24 Day Challenge!

I love Advocare


Yes, I am standing up shouting! When you pray and the Lord answers your prayers it is the most rewarding and fantastic feeling. As my children say the blessings just keep pouring down! I was overweight, tired, stressed and broke. Definitely not the lifestyle I was thinking I would have in my life!

What is Advocare?

Advocare is a world class nutritional supplement company, many people think it is just the weight loss but there is so much more! We are talking a full lifestyle.  Advocare was formed in 1993, many people wonder where the name came from and Charlie Ragus wanted the company to reflect two things an advocate who cared. I am blessed to be a distributor for Advocare.



What is the 24 day challenge? –

The 24 day challenge in a nutshell is a jump start! Someone once told me that the challenge is like an oil change for your body and I cannot imagine a better way to describe it. The challenge is often seen as a weight loss tool and it is; but think of it as more. You are helping your body work to its full potential.
Here are some amazing results from members of my team!

Before and Afters! 

24 Tips to make your Challenge the best it can be!


1-      Make the commitment- this isn’t a get skinny quick scenario, the Challenge helps you learn a new lifestyle of eating and health. I literally wrote myself a contract, I like paper and writing it down helps me!

2-      Read over the 24 day challenge guide and products carefully- The guide will talk you through step by step, know what the products do and why you are using them. Knowledge is power and understanding why you are doing what you are doing is key!

3-      Ask Questions- This goes for the challenge and beyond, as an Advocare Distributor, we want to help you. We are your cheerleader, your support, your coach. I cannot speak for everyone, but I enjoy sharing your success with you. I want to hear how great you feel! The biggest question I get is what happens on day 25? I’m here to help you navigate.  I’ve been there!


4-      Meal Plan- Success begins with planning, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I know you have probably heard that before but I tell you, when you are hungry or in a rush it is easy to slip! I love to use a blank calendar. I also divide my fridge into sections, so it is easily organized and I am more successful when I get my food! I like similar foods for breakfast and lunch, it helps make my life easier and I try to change it up for dinner.

5-      Buy extra Spark- I don’t care what anyone tells you, Spark is Amazing and you can never have enough on hand! A spark in the morning is recommended and if you want you can have one at lunch. Better to be safe than sorry. The packets are so convenient but the canisters will give you a better value in the long run!  Do what I do, buy both! Experiment with flavor combinations!


6-      Drink Water- Water water water, it flushes out your system and keeps you hydrated. Take your body weight, divide it by half and that is how many ounces of water you need to drink a day. Want to hear the best park, Spark counts! If you aren’t a big fan of water, add some lemon or fruit berries, they give you the flavor and the water will go right down!

7-      Don’t skip meals or snacks- The challenge is designed to be completed in a  certain way for a reason, skipping hurts you. Will skipping one meal or snack, hurt you probably not, but it does give you that mental permission to do it again, which leads me to my next tip….

8-      Don’t cheat.. again once you do it, you have given yourself the mental permission to do it and this will undermine every  thing that you are striving for. If you think you are going to cheat, throw it out, donate it and drive straight home!

9-      Take Pictures and measurements- before and after. I didn’t necessarily do this, I hate taking my picture and didn’t have faith in myself to do the before and after pictures, I do have some random pictures and you can see the change in them.  These will serve as your motivation. I took a picture of myself with my children (I literally cried when I saw what I looked like) and hung it on my mirror in my bathroom, so I could visually see why I wanted the change.

Before- unhealthy and lacking energy

After: 22lbs down and 19 total inches- on my way home from Advocare Success School

10-   Log your food- This was the biggest challenge for me! I am a snacker, oh a couple of bites here and there, well they add up. This doesn’t have to be a big deal, write it in your calendar, make a note in the note section of your phone, I like to take pictures and then make a collage of them. One per day, the colors of a healthy lifestyle are amazing!


11-   Download the app- Next to my Bible app, this is the most used app on my phone. I like to have everything at my fingertips.  I can keep track of my water, my snacks. I also set a reminder on my phone, as a teacher, I often skip meals because there are things to be done. I set alarms on my phone to remind myself to eat, drink, and log my progress! You will thank me for this!



12-   Do the challenge with someone else- there is nothing like having someone there to help you and go through the journey with you. Think of them as your challenge best friend, when you fall down, they help you up. Don't have anyone to do the challenge with, don't worry there are always challenge groups going on, ask your Advocare distributor or email me!

13-   Exercise- don’t let this become a chore for you,  I use it to empower and challenge myself. Go for a walk, enjoy the sights, find something that makes you happy and go for! Advocare makes amazing workout videos that complement the challenge. CU 24, not only can you complete a workout in 24 minutes but it is leveled so you can work out at your ability level. The best part of the video, all of the people in the video are Advocare independent distributors.  Take a dance class, try kick boxing, or kickboxing or better yet try all three!



14-   Celebrate- The Challenge is work, but so worth it. Think about all of the things that you have been successful with in your life, did they come easy? I guarantee not! Take the mini victories you are achieving each day. I wrote myself a note each day on the mirror in my bathroom, it was a pick me up but also a motivational tool to keep going! Advocare build champions, you are one!



15-   Incorporate all fresh ingredients- Skip the processed stuff, it isn’t helping at all. Brown rice and bread in moderation (I don’t even eat them during the cleanse stage, wait until day 11!) Think color, fresh food is beautiful and so fun to eat!







16-   Speaking of Day 11, only step on the scale on Days 11 and 25. Numbers are a tricky concept. Let the way your body feels and your clothes are fitting doing the talking. Day 11- is when the first cleanse phase is finished and then day 25 when you are finished. This goes for the measuring as well. There is something to be said for feeling! Trust yourself.



My Day 11 scale weigh in!

17-   Sleep- Get your sleep, I am a firm believer that you know how much rest your body needs each night. Sleep helps your body to recuperate from the day.


18-   Use Catalyst- there are reasons why it is called “lipo in a bottle” it kicks butt! This will help you burn fat, build muscle and tone.

19-   Use Thermoplus- This helps you to convert fat to energy, supports your metabolism and helps to reduce hunger.

20-   Plan when you are going start- You can have successful whenever you do a challenge but it makes it a lot harder to start a challenge right before major holidays. Don't forget Challenges make wonderful holiday presents. 

21-   Invest in yourself- Do not let the price of the challenge deter you,  you are worth the investment. After all where are you going to live?


22-   Incorporate and bond with your family- I have three kiddos and we went on this journey together. They loved all of the healthy snacks, we learned and cooked together. We made the food fun, who doesn’t love a fruit butterfly?


23-    Become a distributor- you love your progress and your body right! Why not love the products at a discount?  Share your success with your friends and family.


24-   Last step, enjoy the journey that you have completed and where you are going. Have a spa day, buy a new outfit! These little tricks will help keep you motivated.

I hope you find these hints as helpful as they were for me. As always please feel free to email me with any questions barefootnparadise.lorren@gmail.com and let’s go on this journey together.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Simple Blessings: Daily Blessing Calendar

I am by no means perfect but I try to be the perfect version of myself, a better person than I was the day before. It isn’t always easy and sometimes, well sometimes it is just down right hard to be positive. Those are the moments that praying really helps me to get to up and keep going. 

Over the last few months, I have tried to take learning experience after learning experience to make what I like to call a genuine life. Remembering those moments that sometimes you forget and being grateful for the many blessings in my life.

I wrote about my birthday notebook tradition that I do for the children, each year for their birthdays I write them a letter and tell them all the great memories that we shared or milestones that came their way. You can read the original post. In addition to this notebook, I have the hand print tablecloth where each year on their birthday, we paint their hand and put a print on the tablecloth. I love opening it each year to see how much they grow and they love it as well.

It seemed that I wasn’t remembering enough of the little moments and only focusing on the big stuff. I prayed and tried to come up with a way to be more appreciative of my blessings. I was reading in a magazine about different traditions that people do and I wanted something simple and not time consuming, I do a lot to make nice treasures for our family. Then it hit me that I had pinned something a long time ago, here is the inspiration post.



Daily Blessing Calendar! Loving the simplicity of the idea, I bought a bunch of 5 x 7 index cards and began writing the date across each top line…. January 1 and so on and so forth, until I had done half of the year. I didn’t have a container that I wanted to use yet, so I figured it would be better to just start and see what happens.

I actually had it become one of our countdown bags and you can read about those (Countdown bags). It was a wonderful new tradition. Each night as we are saying our prayers, we think about the day and figure out one blessing to remember and write it down. Peanut’s first baseball game, Bean’s first haircut, sometimes it’s not a first but something to celebrate… donated 250 oz of breast milk today. They are simple one line reminders of a blessing each day!

individual card: one line blessing 
 
simple and filled with such wonderful memories


I love the way the blessings cards are coming along and I am excited to see what will happen in a few years. There are so many things that have already happened that we might have forgotten. We are a little over a year and a half of writing them and each day, I am surprised at how many little things we have already forgotten!

I have even thought about having the children do their own blessing cards so that they can have them when they grow up and share them with their families. 

To assemble the blessing box as we have affectionately started calling it, I started with the bigger index cards, I wanted lots of room to write! After a year and a half, I still couldn't find a container I liked and then I finally landed on this old CD case holder at a thrift store for $1.00! I loved it and how clean it looked! 

Blessing cards in the CD case, clean and yet so accessible!


Using purple a fun and bright piece of paper, I created dividers for each month, this way you can easily see the cards and which month they belong to. 



Love the way it looks when I open the box to write

view from the top


I wanted the feel of a treasured family item, I added a photo to the front of each month divider. I love the added touch it gives. Finally I laminated the month dividers. 

I adore this picture of Bean, this is just so him!

some other months, such happy memories
I have to admit there are days when it become tedious trying to remember to do the writing but the daily blessing calendar, has really changed the dynamic of positiveness (is that even a word?)  in my household. I often hear "Mama, what did we do last year on this day?" "Oh, I remember that!" Simple, effective and helping us to remember the daily blessings that the Lord blesses us with. Doesn't get better than that. 


Happy Blessings to you,


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