Take a Hike! 5 Safety Tips for the Beginning Hiker

My teen daughter has a bucket list of hikes in our area that she wants to complete. We live in the perfect place for hiking. The pacific northwest is filled with amazing hikes all around. I'm told, however, that she doesn't enjoy hiking with her family. Which puts us in a strange predicament because while she is nearly legal to vote, I'm concerned that she doesn't have all the skills she needs as a novice hiker to keep her safe. I realized many people are probably in the same situation. The PNW gets inundated with visitors to our area every spring, summer and fall and people take up hiking our trails. So I created this list of safety tips for the beginning hiker so you can be as prepared as you can be for your next hike.

beginner hikes for the family around seattle
image credit Stephen Matera
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S'mores Cookies

Slightly crispy, with some gooey marshmallows and the perfect amount of chocolate make the prefect s' mores cookie without the campfire. This is everyone's favorite summer flavor, so why not try it every which way! I've got you covered from this delicious s' mores cookie recipe to a collection of my favorite s' mores recipes. Read on!

cookie recipes

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How to Make a Dorm Room Feel Like Home

Heading off to college can be such an exciting time for your teen. But while the idea of living on their own is something your teen is probably looking forward to, I’m sure it’s also pretty overwhelming. Since you can’t be there to comfort them every time they’re lonely, why not help them bring some comforts of home along with them? Follow these simple steps to make their dorm room feel a little more like home.

college life

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Visit Paradise Mt. Rainier: A Locals Guide to Get the Most out of a Day Trip

I have lived in the shadow of Mt. Rainier for nearly 20 years. I try to make a point of visiting at least once a year because it's such a beautiful National Park literally in my backyard. Many people make it a point to visit Mt. Rainier in the summer, but they aren't quite sure how to make the most of the park. I've got some tips on how you can visit the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier and get a real taste of the beautiful National Park.
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How to Talk to Your Child about Tragic Events

As parents, we can often struggle with what we should say and share with our children when tragic events occur. Our children watch and observe us. It’s through our actions that we teach our children how to live. When a tragedy occurs, we can teach our children to understand and cope with the events that happen around them. Unfortunately, tragic events are happening all too often and we need to find a way to have a dialogue with our kids. I hope this gives you a few resources you can use to open those hard conversations. 


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How to Save Money And Travel the World

How to Save Money & Travel the World


Do you want to travel the world? Perhaps you do, but your wallet is like “Woah, hang on.” It is possible to save money and travel the world. You just need to know how to do it. Don’t get discouraged about how expensive it can be to travel. Let’s face it, saving money takes discipline, keep this in mind as you learn how to save money and eventually travel the world.


save money on travel

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S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

S'mores are everyone's favorite! I know they are mine! I love easy to make treats that can be semi-homemade if I don't have as much time, or made from scratch if I do! This S' mores Ice Cream Sandwich is the perfect treat. The combination of chocolate, graham cracker, and toasted marshmallow will have everyone swooning. Use pre-made cookie dough, or make your own! Either way, no campfire needed! Enjoy this easy to make S' mores ice cream sandwich recipe.

smores ice cream sandwich recipe
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The Best Bruschetta Recipe

Bruschetta is hands down one of the best ways to enjoy the bounties of your garden this summer. It's a classic Italian appetizer that is bursting with flavor. It's really easy to make ahead, in fact, it's encouraged because the flavors have time to marinate together. Then, you can serve it up on a toasted baguette. Fresh homemade bruschetta is really the flavor of the summer! Give this recipe with tomato and basil a try today. It's the best out there!

appetizer recipe with tomato and basil

appetizer recipe

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5 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Make a Great First Pet

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Kaytee, but all opinions are my own. I wouldn't telly ou about something I didn't love. Promise.

Getting a pet seems like a rite of passage for most kids, but sometimes a family doesn't want the responsibility of a cat or dog. Why not consider a guinea pig? Several years ago, my pre-teen son wanted a pet of his own and he did a lot of research on what would be best. He kept going back to guinea pigs and after having Norman and Cooper in our home for more than two years now, I'd have to agree that guinea pigs make a great first pet. Here are five reasons why your family should consider getting a guinea pig as a pet.
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Frozen Dog Bones Recipe

frozen dog bones

Everyone loves a frozen treat when the weather starts to warm up. Everyone. Including your dog. Imagine wearing a fur coat all summer long! So why not treat your furry friends to a nice healthy frozen treat when the sun starts to beat down. These frozen dog bones are made with everything your puppy loves. The ingredients are safe for your pooch and they are so easy to make! They will leave you and your pooch feeling pretty darn cool.

dog bones to make from scratch

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Homemade Dill Ranch Salad with Bib Lettuce, Grapefruit and Avocado

I'm currently obsessed with salads. I love this salad in particular because it's got this fresh citrus taste with a surprising twist. It's easy to make but looks amazing when it's prepared. You can even make ahead the dill dressing and keep it in your fridge all summer long! It's a great balance of flavors making it the perfect summer dish!

fresh salad ingredients

summer salad recipe


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One Night in Seattle? Here is What You Should Do! The One Evening Itinerary for Seattle

I love where I live during the summer. Don't get me wrong, I love to travel, but during the summer, I like to stay close to home and take in the mild summer temperatures, the beautiful water on the Puget Sound and the mountains that surround us. I recently spent the evening in Seattle with my family on a beautiful July evening and was reminded of just how many people flock to our area during the summer as tourists. Many tourists are just passing through as they board a local cruise ship to sail up into Canada or Alaska, both beautiful this time of year. It had me thinking if you had just one evening to spend in Seattle, what would be the best use of your time to get a real feel of our city? I've got the perfect itinerary for you if you are limited in your time in Seattle, so buckle up and check out my recommendations!

boy with ferris wheel in downtown area

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5 Tips for Choosing the Best Seat when Booking an Airline Ticket

Air travel is changing, and most airlines now offer the option to select your own airline seats. This process can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing but choosing the right seat can make a real difference in how you enjoy the process of travel. This won't guarantee that you won't have a toddler kicking your seat or a baby crying next to you, but it can help you be just a little more comfortable in the process!
travel tips
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How to Rescue Clearance Plants

How to Rescue Clearance Plants


Now that planting is ending for the season many plants are going on clearance at local nurseries, hardware stores, and supermarkets. These clearance plants often look as if they are down for the count with no life left in them. If you have a soft spot for plants this can be difficult to see and you may be interested in saving the plants. The good news is you can rescue many of these clearance plants.

garden store plants

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Prepare for a Trip to Disney with Everything from The Dollar Store

A trip to Disney World or Disneyland can get pretty expensive. If you plan ahead for your trip, there are a ton of items that you can buy before you head to the parks! The Dollar Tree might be the last place you’d think to get some of your Disney essentials, but they have a great selection and can help you save a bundle on your trip! Here is how to prepare for your Disney trip at Dollar Tree.


Disney on a budget


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Rolo Iced Coffee

I didn't start drinking coffee until I was well into my 30's. I didn't even like the smell. I do now. Obviously, something was wrong with me. Maybe I wasn't sleep deprived enough but after a while, the coffee culture in Seattle wore me down. Most pure coffee lovers will say this Rolo iced coffee isn't real coffee. It's more like a coffee milkshake and to that I say fine, let it be whatever. I like my coffee with a lot of milk and a fair amount of chocolate and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Trust me, living in the Seattle area I get the whole special drips and pours and pure roasts. This is not that. This is a fun iced coffee made with your favorite Rolo candy and it is fabulous. It is a dessert drink and it's delicious. There is nothing stuffy or hipster about it. It's just a fun way to enjoy a nice cup of coffee. I think you will enjoy it. Just don't take yourself so seriously!

brew coffee at home with these nespresso or keurig coffee recipes

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What to Pack for a Trip to Italy: The Ultimate Guide for What to Bring on your Italian Holiday

Packing can be an overwhelming task, but it doesn't have to be! Sometimes it's hard to know what to bring and what not to bring when you travel, especially abroad, but here are some of my tips for what to pack when you travel to Italy. It's the ultimate guide of what you should pack and what you should leave at home because overpacking is for rookies!
The Roman Forum and the Colosseum what to pack
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How to Save Money on Coffee at Starbucks

How to Save Money on Coffee at Starbucks


Are you looking to save money on coffee at Starbucks? It’s actually easier to save money at Starbucks than you would think. Anyone that stops at this famous coffee shop knows that the coffee is good, but it can also be pricey. I actually love Starbucks because it's one of my "local" coffee shops since it's a Seattle-based company. Starbucks is well known for its delicious iced coffees, brewed coffees, and frappuccinos. Here is how to save money on coffee at Starbucks.



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Four Bean Salad Recipe

It's potluck season! Also, the weather is warming up and no one wants to turn on their stoves. So why not beat the heat with this classic favorite the next time someone asks you to bring a side dish to their barbeque. This four bean salad is everyone's favorite. It's the perfect refreshing side dish that is easy on the wallet and on the waist-line. 


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Everything You Need to Know about Shopping at a Food Co-op

When we were shopping at a farmer's market in Italy recently, it struck me that each of the items at the market was listed with the region that the item came from. It hit me that Americans have such a disconnect with their food and where it comes from. I started to become much more aware of how my food is sourced.


I've always been a fan of my local farmer's market, but that's generally a seasonal shopping experience in my area. Just this past weekend, Central Co-op opened up in my neighborhood and I thought I'd give it a look. I've never shopped at a Co-op grocery store before, and maybe you haven't either, so I'm going to try to answer all of your questions about food co-op's, from how to shop at them, if you should join one and the best tips to getting the most out of your shopping experience. 
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15 Cool Things to Buy on Amazon for Summer NOW!

I count the official start of summer with the last day of school, so we still have a few days, but many of you are well on your way to enjoy long summer days. With the sun creeping out, and the kids home from school, I've got you covered with some pretty awesome Amazon finds you might not have known you needed but you totally do! Here are 15 cool things to on my summer Amazon wish list. 

watermelon on a beach blanket

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Summertime Essential Oil Diffuser Recipes

Summertime Essential Oil Diffuser Recipes

Bring the outside indoors with these incredible summertime essential oil diffuser recipes!  These diffuser blends give you those fresh and light smells of summer anywhere you go. Whether you are diffusing at home, in your car, or even at your office. Enjoy these natural summer essential oil blends.
If you are looking for new scent blends to try for summer, I have a handful that might fit perfectly into what you are wanting. These are some of the best smelling essential oil combinations, in my opinion.
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Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt Fudge Pops


This post is sponsored by FAGE; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

woman enjoying a homemade frozen treat made with FAGE yogurt

It's no secret that I have a little bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to frozen desserts. I can eat frozen treats all year round, but really do enjoy them when the weather starts to warm up. FAGE Total Plain Greek Yogurt gives these healthy homemade Greek yogurt fudge pops a little tart kick, which may just deter your little ones from stealing them from you. As I described it to my nieces who were eyeing them in my freezer, they have a more grown-up taste perfect for the sophisticated adult palette. 

These Greek yogurt fudge pops will feel like a decadent dessert but they aren't a cheat food at all! 

healthy frozen treat recipes


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Vacation Proof your Garden

Vacation Proof your garden

When you put work into your garden all spring and summer you want to see it grow and thrive. The fear of how your garden will survive on its own is a big one that stops many gardeners from taking a well-deserved vacation. With a little planning, you can vacation proof your garden and have fun without fear you will come home to devastation.

green plant growing in a garden


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How to Get your First Passport

I had a friend recently get robbed. Her home was ransacked and her safe was popped open. They took everything inside including her precious jewelry. As we walked through the house talking about the things the burglar took and the things he left behind, I was probably most relieved for her that her passport was still in her filing cabinet safe and sound. I got my first passport when I was a teenager. It's probably one of my most treasured possessions. For me, I see it as my gateway to the world. If you are finding yourself limited in your travels and think it's time to get your first passport, read on. I've got everything you need to know so you can get your first passport.
how to get your first passport
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Low Carb Parmesan Crusted Salmon Sheet Pan Recipe

For years I thought I didn't like fish. I think I had it once as a kid and hated the texture but it was probably some fishy kind of fish that was just not cooked properly. I lived in the Seattle area for darn near a decade before I decided I'd give fish a try again, and boy am I glad I did. We have some of the best salmon in the whole world in our area, fresh caught and local to the pacific northwest. Not only that, salmon is a healthy meal choice packed with high-quality protein, minerals, and vitamins. Salmon also has some pretty great Omega-3's and outside of hearing how great they are for you {homestly, I tune out the rest} I just know it has it, so it's got to be good right? 

Salmon has now become a staple in our weeknight meal rotation. We eat dinner as a family nearly every single night. I cook 99% of the time. We eat out maybe twice a month. Maybe. I'm always looking for quick meal ideas because we are a busy family on the go with teenagers who work and evening sports practices, and to be honest, anything that takes me more than 30 minutes to prep or cook and hard to find ingredients is just not happening.  That's why I love this parmesan crusted salmon recipe. Not only that, it's a good low carb sheet pan recipe and I love a good sheet pan recipe.


easy weeknight meal ideas 30 minute dinner

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Stop Ignoring Twitter! How Bloggers and Small Businesses Can Grow a Relevant and Engaged Audience on Twitter

I don't talk a lot about the background of what I do as a blogger, but over the 14 years that I've been blogging, I've grown my blog from a place to share family photos to a small business that helps to provide for our family. What was once a hobby blog, is now an LLC that has been created to help share content to followers all over the world! When I was in college, there was no career out there that involved blogging or social media marketing degrees. The internet barely existed! I've seen blogging evolve and change over time, and we've seen the start of social media in our lifetime. Social media will forever change our world and we've had a front seat to it all! It's crazy!

why should I use twitter


My blog started to evolve and change. Maybe you've been along for the ride since the beginning. If so, thank you! If you are new here, welcome! I really want this to be a place where I can share real people, real projects and real life. The internet and social media are full of enough fake and curated content, I want to be the girlfriend you can trust who will help you along the way.
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5 Tips for Visiting Italy with Teens

Most people thought we were pretty ambitious for planning an international trip with our teenagers for spring break. I love that we can give them the gift of travel. I think it makes the world a smaller place. {I've written often about the benefits of family travel!} But there are a few things that you should keep in mind, some tips per se, that will make traveling around Italy with teens more enjoyable. And one tip that will spare any of you any embarrassment and frustration as you see the sights. Here are my top 5 tips for visiting Italy with teens.

Colosseum picture with teen girl

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Easy Chocolate Mug Cake (Without Egg)

A friend just told me that her husband will only eat dessert if it's fresh. Like bake a batch of brownies one day and gobble up as many as you can, because even if there are any left, the second day they somehow turn gross, fresh. We all have our things. I actually hate making desserts if we aren't going to consume them in a day or two, so if I'm baking something for dessert, it's because I usually have something I'm going to with a crowd that's going to consume it. But sometimes I just want a little something I can make that will indulge my sweet tooth. This easy chocolate mug cake is the best out there! It's the perfect single serve mug cake recipe you will find!

lava cake in a coffee mug with chocolate chips
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Visiting the Amalfi Coast with Teens

grassi junior boat tours

The plane tickets to Rome were purchased, but we knew we wanted to explore more of Italy with our two teens beyond the busy city. We considered Florence but ultimately decided to head to the Amalfi Coast a few hour drive from the Rome airport. We are beach lovers so we knew we wanted to go somewhere surrounded by water. The Amalfi Coast did not disappoint and while it's mostly thought of as a romantic location it made for the perfect area for our family to explore. There is plenty to do and more than enough to keep your teens entertained. Here are my top picks for things to do with teens when you are visiting the Alamfi Coast.

door in italy


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S'Mores Snack Mix Teacher Gift with Free Printable Gift Tag

The end of the school year is coming and it's time to honor those teachers with a sweet end of the year gift. For years I volunteered on PTA, PTO and in my three kids' schools, and every year, I worked at trying to find a fun end of the year gift I could make in bulk for the teachers that had poured into my kids during the school year. The teachers appreciate the recognition and giving them a sweet treat like this S'mores snack mix will keep them going until that very last day! The fun printable gift tag ties the whole thing together! Come check out how to make this sweet treat for a sweet teacher!

s'mores recipe snack mix with golden grahams


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The Best Place to Stay on the Amalfi Coast in Italy

The Amalfi Coast is a gorgeous stretch of coastline in Southern Italy made up of 13 villages between Sorrento and Solerno. You might be wondering where you should stay when you visit this beautiful coastline, but look no further! We did a ton of research before our recent trip and were not disappointed in the location we chose to spend the bulk of our time in Italy. Our family loves the beach and being surrounded by water but we also longed for an authentic Italian experience that felt a little off-the-beaten-path. We succeed in finding that and then some by staying in Montepertuso, Italy. Hands down, this is one of the best places to stay when you come to the Amalfi Coast if you want something a little more authentic unspoiled from the droves of tourists.
where to stay on the southern coast of italy
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5 Easy to Grow Veggies to Plant in Early Summer

I'm not much of a green thumb but I do like to garden and I've learned a thing or two by trial and error. Our spring weather is fairly mild here in Seattle, and I like to plant my vegetable garden mid to late April. I am a no-fuss kind of gal. I plant hardy plants that I know I can grow year after year. These 5 easy to grow veggies are the perfect plants to start in early summer or late spring to give you a jump start on the gardening season and help you get some freshly grown food on your plate before you know it!

garden plant

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The Best of Metropolitan Market-A Local PNW Favorite!

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest from Indiana nearly 20 years ago, one of the first grocery stores I became familiar with was Metropolitan Market. They opened a store not far from my home when my kids were small. Met Market offered these sweet little kids sized grocery carts my little ones begged to use, and seriously, what kid begs to go to a grocery store! But this wasn't any grocery store. Met Market {as it's fondly known to the locals} is the Pacific Northwest's favorite grocery store with organic, natural and locally sourced foods. After 45 years in the making, the local grocery is launching "Best of Met" items, a carefully curated collection of more than 100 items selected by the Metropolitan Market Culinary Council. That list can be overwhelming, so I'm sharing a list of my Best of Met products after shopping the store for nearly two decades. These are the tried and true top 10 Best of Met favorites that you will find me stocking up on!

woman with the famous Metropolitan Market chocolate chip cookie

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Cowboy Caviar: The Worlds Best Appetizer!

This recipe is from the 1940s, and is a favorite at social events across the Southwest, and seems to show up in some version at most pot lucks, dinner's or gatherings, everywhere. It's one of my favorites to bring because there is usually an empty bowl by the end of the night and that always means it's a crowd favorite! It's one of my most asked for recipes. 

It's a great way to incorporate lots of fresh vegetables and beans into your diet, dressed up with a sweet spicy dressing and crunchy chips.  This will surely go in your favorites for parties and get-togethers.  It's a great appetizer and as you experiment with it, you can even start coming up with new recipe ideas using some variation of it as well. I like to wrap some leftovers in a piece of lettuce or top add it to some shredded chicken for protein-packed lunch. You aren't going to want to miss this recipe for the world's best appetizer, cowboy caviar!
summer appetizers


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What to Pack on Safari in Africa

Africa has always been a dream location of mine to visit so when I had the opportunity to go, I did whatever I could to make it happen. While I didn't go to Africa with the intention of going on safari, how could you not make the time to go on one while you are there? With the combination of a humanitarian trip and a safari, the packing was something I stressed out about. There are specific baggage allowances for your travel and it can make packing interesting. Here are my tips from my experience and what I would recommend for you to pack on safari in Africa.  I've even got a few items you should leave behind so you can be sure to bring all the essentials.

zebra in masai mara safari park

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Will You Really Need a Skip the Line Pass for the Sites in Rome?

We recently spent three days in Rome and before we went I did a ton of research. Every blog or travel site told me I would want to invest in a skip the line pass for the attractions we were interested in seeing. I wasn't sure what to expect, and while we did visit in what they say is the "low" season, there were plenty of tourists to be had. Rome is a popular destination and many companies are selling tickets to "skip the line" even to free attractions. But what does this actually mean and should you pay extra to skip the line and buy the pass?
skip the line passes
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5 Reasons to Plan a Trip to Seabrook, WA

This not so hidden gem of the Washington coast is worth planning a trip to. My family has been visiting Seabrook, Washington since 2008 and for more than a decade we've seen the town grow and change and morph into the perfect beach destination. Our kids all love it because it's such a perfect family vacation spot and it also makes the perfect girlfriends get away too. Seabrook is located just 2.5 hours outside of Seattle, so it's an easy drive to get away from it all. Here are my top 5 reasons to plan a trip to Seabrook, WA now!

visit the coastal town of Seabrook WA

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Top Tips Before Renting a Car in Italy

When we made plans to travel to Italy, I wasn't sure renting a car would be the best idea. I'd heard about aggressive drivers and crazy terrain, but my husband was determined. My husband likes the flexibility and freedom that renting a car has to offer. There were four of us traveling and upon investigation of the public transportation schedule, it looked like our plans to get to the Amalfi Coast would be easier and less expensive if we had a car. Trust me, renting a car in Italy isn't for everyone, but if you want to get to some of those off-the-beaten-path areas, it may be your best option. Read my tips for more information about renting a car in Italy. It sure proved to be an adventure for us!

small car in Italy


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Simple Paint Update on Fireplace Finials

I've been trying to inspire my readers for years to think outside of the box and look at how something old and dated that would otherwise be cast off, could up be upcycled to fit into your home. Not only is it a good way to use what you have or even to pick up something for a deep discount at a thrift shop or garage sale, but it also keeps more waste out of landfills. I found these two large wooden finials at a garage sale this past summer and knew a coat of paint would do them a world of good. Sometimes, that's literally all it takes to update an item. I'm hoping that this post will inspire you to think outside of the box and pick up something you would otherwise consider dated and give it a transformation with some paint, just like I did with these fireplace finials. 

wood home decor before and after
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5 Ingredient Strawberry Breakfast Parfait You Can Make Ahead

We are a grab-and-go family. It seems like we are always rushing out the door. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but when you are in a hurry, it's easy to skip it. My teens would rather get a few extra minutes of sleep and skip breakfast but I'm always feeling guilty watching them walk out the door without anything in their belly to start the day. I decided to try these 5 ingredient strawberry breakfast parfaits that you can make ahead. They make the perfect grab-and-go breakfast and I feel better knowing that they are starting their day off with healthy fruit, yogurt, and granola.

breakfast parfait recipes

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Why You Need to Create a Staycation Bucket List

Summer is fast approaching, which means long days with kids at home and the expectation of a vacation planned. When it comes to planning the perfect vacation, your idea of a great vacation is probably not staying at home. When it comes to planning a staycation, we often find ourselves lost for ideas on what to do or how we should be spending our time off. If you are planning a staycation, you need to create a staycation bucket list for you and your family! Here is why you need one, and how to make one for your next staycation.

vacation with your family on a budget


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When is the Best Time to Visit Magnolia Market? Tips on Getting the Most out of Your Visit to Waco, TX

visiting Waco

I'm kind of a self-proclaimed Magnolia Market pro. I have been visiting since 2015 just months after the Silo doors opened to the public and the new Disneyland-like location was opened and I've visited handfuls of time since. It's funny, Waco, Texas didn't use to be on the map as a significant tourist destination and now it's flooded with visitors. I've gone from seeing the store mostly empty to seeing lines snake around buildings with people craning their necks just to get a glimpse of the grounds. 
People stand in line for hours to get a box full of cupcakes and plan a whole trip around a visit to Magnolia Market, so how can you best use your time and when is the best time to visit the Silos? I've got some tips from current employees and from previous experience that will help you plan the right time to visit Magnolia Market.

exterior of magnolia table
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