Back To School Time!

Ahhh… it is that time again! School bells are ringing and there is the sweet sound of children’s laughter in the air. It is Back to School Time! As a single mother of three, this time of year proves to be one of the busiest times. Everything is kicking off and I’m being pulled in every which direction. The juggling act begins as we begin juggling kids off to school, a career, athletics, dinner, homework, and the countless loads of laundry that needs to be done. Where does all of that laundry come from anyways? Even though this is my busiest time I vowed that this year I would be better and become organized with my back to school efforts. Let’s see how successful I am with my attempt but the ideas were too great not to share. Hopefully, this will help you as you prepare yourself for another school year. Continue reading

San Diego Restaurant Week


Photo credit to

I love food, which is why I typically blog about food. You can imagine then why I love San Diego Restaurant Week! To explain, San Diego Restaurant Weeks features 8 days from Sept 20-27 (Yes, I know that’s more than one week) of set menus from 180 different restaurants. These set menus offer a menu that typically includes an appetizer, main, and dessert at different prices ranging from $10-$20 lunches and $20-$50 dinners. It is a perfect opportunity to try a restaurant that may typically be out of your price range.

The best preparation is to visit the San Diego Restaurant Week website and search restaurants by name, neighborhood, price, type of food, or distance. From there you can see their set menu and decide what options to choose and see if it’s something that interests you. Personally I like to find deals on restaurants that I would normally not go to and I have never been disappointed. Not only is this a great tool for finding a new place but also a great way for local restaurants to show off and highlight their talents and tasty foods!

Be sure to set aside a night to check out a new restaurant and make sure to do some homework by first checking out the website to pinpoint the perfect spot!

Hidden Costs of Owning a Home

Our friends at Zillow recently published an article on their blog revealing some shocking numbers about the actual costs of owning a home. Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Orlando and Charlotte are cities featured in this study and all have additional home costs averaging $9,000 per year!

Living in an apartment home eliminates many of these hidden costs with lower utility bills and nearly non-existent maintenance expenses, still allowing renters to live in prime locations. To save yourself some serious dough, end your search for a new place to live at a Camden Community near you! Read more from Zillow’s study here.

You Could Spend More Than $9,000 Per Year in Hidden Costs & Maintenance Expenses | Zillow Blog

It’s a common problem: First-time home buyers often focus solely on the sticker price of a house when deciding how much they can afford, and then are shocked by all of the other costs associated with homeownership. However, these extra or hidden costs are often the most stressful part about owning a home.To help buyers better prepare, Zillow and Thumbtack identified a variety of common home expenses — both unavoidable and optional — that often get overlooked during initial budgeting, and calculated what homeowners could spend each year to cover these costs in their area. While these extra expenses might seem small, they quickly add up, costing the average U.S. homeowner more than $9,000 per year.

Beyond principal and interest

Let’s start with the unavoidable. A mortgage calculator can help you estimate your monthly mortgage payment, but if you’re only calculating principal and interest, then you could be underestimating the actual cost of homeownership. That’s because property taxes and homeowners insurance are added to the monthly payment as well. Additionally, while you pay utilities as a renter, if you’re moving into a bigger house, your heat and electric bills will likely increase.

Maintenance costs

Home maintenance is another common expense many buyers overlook. Using Thumbtack data, we identified costs for five popular home maintenance projects: housecleaning, pressure washing, yard care, carpet cleaning and gutter cleaning. It’s helpful to know how much these types of projects typically cost in your area so you can plan accordingly, even if you, like many homeowners, prefer a DIY approach for these projects (and if that’s the case, remember to budget for trips to the hardware store to buy a lawn mower or other tools).

Location, location, location

As with all things real estate, these extra costs can vary significantly by region. In Boston, homeowners can pay nearly $14,000 annually for these combined hidden costs and maintenance expenses — the highest in the markets analyzed. Compare that to Phoenix, where homeowners pay almost half ($7,550) for the same costs.

Curious how other areas stack up? Check out the graphic below for a breakdown of the 15 metros analyzed in the report.

Hidden Costs

Easy and Inexpensive Lunch Hack for a Busy Work Week

Are you trying to be health conscious? Spending too much money on lunch? Have you ever thought of meal prepping? If so, I am here to help guide you in the right direction on how to meal prep to make your life easier, save money and overall, be a healthier you!

We all know how the typical lunch time goes. It comes way too soon, you can’t decide what you want or where from and it never lasts long enough. I have always tried to prepare my meals ahead of time by usually making dinner the night before and having leftovers the following day, but what happens if you don’t want to cook ever other night and eat the same thing over and over? Usually you end up spending money out and eating unhealthy because you’re making such a hasty decision on the spot.

Let’s think about it for a minute-

An average lunch costs about $10, right?


Now, let’s say you are eating out 4 times a week.

You end up spending an average of $160 a month!

And most likely not eating the healthiest and/or best thing for you. What if I told you that you could meal prep and be healthy for about $15 per week? Do you think I’m crazy? I’m not, I promise.

Here is how I meal prep for about $15 per week:

  1. Make a list

This is crucial to make sure you get the items you need. I typically shop at a few different places to get these items. I make sure my list is categorized by the way my grocery store is laid out to make my trip more efficient. *Tip: If you want to eat clean, stay on the outside isles of the grocery store. (IE. Produce, Dairy, and Meats)

  1. Don’t get too crazy fancy, Stick with what you know

MealPrepMondayFoodBoneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – I buy mine from Sam’s Club at $1.88 a pound (Yes, I know it’s an amazing price!). I end up purchasing about 6 pounds of chicken for roughly $11.30. Mind you, I am one person and typically 6 pounds of chicken would last me about roughly a week and a half.

Broccoli – I also buy at Sam’s Club, broccoli florets all ready to go in a 2 pound bag for $3.98. I steam the broccoli in my microwavable steamer basket in batches until the entire bag is cooked. If you want to switch up your method of preparation, you can also sauté your broccoli in a pan with garlic and olive oil.

Sweet Potatoes – Luckily, my favorite grocery store carries George Foods-Petite Sweet Potatoes 1.5 pounds in a steam bag for about $4.99. And who said meal prep was hard?

Raspberries and Strawberries – Any type of berry is a great low calorie and low sugar snack. Luckily, my local grocery store had a BOGO sale and I was able to get a container of both for $5!

*To make the above even cheaper, you can always switch sweet potatoes for a bulk of brown rice or Quinoa. Personally, I just love sweet potatoes!*

RubbermaidTakeAlongsTupperware/Plastic Containers – They don’t call me the container queen for nothing! Luckily, I have enough containers to last a lifetime but if you are just getting into prepping and are in need of containers, I recommend Rubbermaid TakeAlongs. They are microwave safe, dishwasher safe and reusable. I was lucky enough to find a value pack of 62 pieces at Sam’s Club for $19.98!






3.  Prepare and shake things up with some spices!

Now that you have what you need, let’s spice things up! Don’t be afraid to try new and different spices from the grocery store. Some of my favorites for chicken are McCormick’s- Grill Mates Marinade packets in Mojito Lime, Baja Citrus, Backyard Brew, Garlic, Herb & Wine and Zesty Herb, just to name a few. I typically will divide my chicken up and marinade each bunch with a different flavor. You can also play around with different vinegar and oils along with salad dressings.

Make sure to cook all your food in one session. Place an equal amount of each item into the containers. I typically cut my chicken up into pieces before marinating. Once cooked, I add the following to each container:

1-cup of cooked chicken

½ cup of sweet potato

1-1 ½ cups of broccoli

You can also even it all out and eyeball it. It is a little time consuming but totally worth it. It usually takes me a total of two hours but in the end, the results are astonishing! *Don’t hesitate to freeze meals for the following week!

As you can see below, I was able to make 10 lunches in two hours!


I can grab my lunch in the morning on my way to work at Camden Westchase Park, save money and eat healthy throughout the week!

For further reading about food prep,check out this Simply Camden blog post!

10 OC Walks

I recently read an article on the difference between a walk and a hike. A walk is usually in a urban setting, basically where you live. A hike is generally in the wilderness, requiring a back pack and hiking boots. A walk often is on  well-groomed pathways. Walks are local and people outside the immediate area don’t know about them. This made me think of our Camden Communities in Orange County and all the great “walks” our residents can enjoy. I’ve picked 5 walks that are close to some of our So Cal communities.

1. Turtle Rock Trail, Irvine. This is by UC Irvine and a favorite of many locals. It’s 2.8 miles, easy to moderate or if you want a vigorous workout try climbing to the top of Suicide Hill. Begin at Turtle Rock Community Center.

2. Bayview Trail and San Diego Creek Trail, Newport Beach to Irvine. This trail runs along the Back Bay on paved pathways, very easy, and great for the whole family, including your furry friend!  If you want to get closer to the water look for the unpaved trails. The Bayview Trail is 3 miles round trip or you can double that once back at Jamboree by crossing over the neck of the bay on the sidewalk. Start at Bayview Way and Jamboree Road.

Continue reading


DIY Personalized Stationary

Snail mail may not be the most popular form of communication nowadays, but there is something still exciting and almost romantic about getting a handmade card in the mail! Even better when you send out your thank-you notes and such on your very own handmade stationary! Plus, a personalized stationary set is a very simple and affordable gift to make for newlyweds, birthdays, you name it. The example I used in this personalized stationary post is for a wedding.

All the crafting essentials! And besides the cards- all can be used for another project!

All the crafting essentials! Besides the cards, everything can be used for other projects!

Here’s all you need: Tip: Any of these supplies can be found at your local craft store. I buy frequently from Paper Source, but I can’t ignore a $1 stamp bin at Michael’s either. This is a bit of an investment, but if you enjoy doing this, everything except the paper can be used again!

  • Cardstock- I prefer folded cards so something can be decorative on the outside and sentiments can be written inside. For this example I used Sage Green to match the bride’s colors in size A2.
  • Matching envelopes in size, but color doesn’t have to match; it can also be an accent or complimentary color!
  • Paper for lining; I chose a heavy weighted fine paper but it could be anything from plain card stock to patterned wrapping paper to the Sunday newspaper comics- think creatively! For this example I used paper with green leaves and silver birds- just the right pop of color and pattern.
  • Stamp for décor- flowers, a cute “hello” or just “thank you”! For this example I used a bird stamp- sense a theme? The bride loves birds!
  • Initial stamp. For this example I used a W.
  • Envelope liner templates
  • Embossing powder
  • Versamark ink pad– a clear water mark ink
  • Heat tool– no not a hair dryer!
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Tape runner or double sided tape
Ready to stamp?

Ready to stamp?

It’s Embossing time!

Don’t be intimidated by heat embossing! It’s super easy, fun, faster than you think and creates a lovely raised and shiny image.

  • Start off stamping your décor stamp in the Versamark ink, being sure to cover it completely with the ink.
  • Stamp straight down applying pressure to the front of the folded card.
  • Pop off the stamp, and you should see a faint, watermark image of your stamp on the card.


Sparkle baby! (But note: this isn’t glitter it’s embossing powder!)

Sparkle baby! (But note: this isn’t glitter it’s embossing powder!)

  • Place the card in your tidy tray or on a piece of scratch paper and sprinkle the embossing powder over the image liberally, and then tap off the excess.
    Tip: If loose powder is still on the card where it shouldn’t be, lightly flick the back of the card. You can then put the leftover powder back into your embossing container so there’s no waste!

Tip: Keep your stamps clean and all your supplies will last you- I have had this ink pad and powder for over a year and have used them on several projects!


Be careful it’s hot hot hot!

Be careful it’s hot hot hot!

  • Turn on your heat tool and hover about an inch from the card. Once you start to see it become melted, raised and shiny, keep it moving until the entire image has just lost its gritty powder look. Tip: it IS possible to burn paper so watch as you emboss!
YAY mass production!

YAY mass production!

Now, form an assembly line! Stamp and apply powder to several cards or envelopes, line them up (carefully not to smudge!) and then heat emboss in a row.

I heat embossed all the birds onto the cards as well as the “W”s on the back flaps on the envelopes.




So stressful! NOT!

So stressful! NOT!

Now onto the liners!

  • Grab your envelope liner template (I’m using the A2 for these), and this is the secret: you trace it… Yup, that’s it! Trace with a pencil, then cut it out with scissors!
  • Now, either use your double sided tape or tape runner and apply on the top flap- in an upside “V” if you will.


Like so! With much talent and precision of course!

Like so! With much talent and precision of course!

  • Tuck your liner into the envelope all the way matching up the point of the flap with point of the liner (making sure the sticky line on the envelope is still exposed!). Apply pressure to make sure it all sticks together nice!






Wow! Doesn’t that just add a special pop of pattern and color to an otherwise boring envelope? This is a fine paper, but again- there are SO many possibilities of things you can line envelopes with: comics, your artwork, your kids’ artwork, newspapers, stamped paper…I could go on.



Here it is all together! If these are a gift, just stack up the cards and envelopes, and add a final touch with a bow!

Happy crafting!- <3 Jessica.

Follow me on Instagram @craftykiddoll!

For more creative things to do with paper, take a look at Simply Camden’s post: Wrap it Up!

Our happy little Camden family.

Welcome Home to Camden

Did you know that Austin has landed the title of Forbes’ Number 1 fastest growing cities in America for 4 years in a row? With that being said, on average 110 people move to Austin every day according to Austin Business Journal! I have the great pleasure of growing in this industry as a Camden employee. The best part of my job is getting to greet the 110 people daily and introduce them to an amazing style of living that we call living excellence. When you are planning such an exciting move to Austin, from North Austin to South Austin, or one mile closer to work to avoid 30 minutes of traffic, moving expenses consume your budget! On what seemed like the hottest day of the summer, July 31st with a high of 100 degrees, I moved into my very first Camden apartment. Here’s what I learned from my move!

First, friends are super important! I could not have moved without the help of my closest friends and their

I love my new kitchen!

I love my new kitchen!

trucks. In order to make moving faster, have your stuff ready to go and ready to throw in a truck. I decided to have just a few boxes and clothing baskets that I would fill up with the small miscellaneous items. This made my move super easy. I would quickly load up the baskets then unload in the new place and repeat.

What keeps everyone moving in 100 degree weather? Lots and lots of water! I kept a 32 pack of water in the fridge to keep everyone super hydrated. I also found that eating a heavy lunch made everyone tired! I decided to make a yummy lunch for a motivation to keep going. Maybe make that your ending goal.

Most importantly what I learned while moving is that coming home to a Camden apartment means coming home to perfection. I have lived in many apartments and I can honestly say I have never felt so at peace then I do with my apartment home. The maintenance team works around the clock to create a new home each time someone moves out and you move in. The accent colors are inviting and the kitchen appliances are high quality. The leasing staff was welcoming and eager to give me my keys. The best part of my new home is getting to share it with my Camden family, and that’s what I call living excellence!

Our happy little Camden family.

Our happy little Camden family.

My Experience with the Bikini Body Mommy Challenge

My badge of honor! This photo is for everyone to display proudly if they complete the challenge.

My badge of honor! This photo is for everyone to display proudly if they complete the challenge.

I just worked out for 90 days in a row! This is a miracle!! As far as working out, I have never been able to stick to anything for more than just a few days and I just finished my 1st 90 day Bikini Body Mommy challenge!

“Hi, Bikini Body Mommies” is the way Briana Christine, founder of Bikini Body Mommy (BBM), starts every workout routine.  Briana is a mother of three and lost over 100 pounds in a year after her 3rd child was born.  She began BBM to help motivate and inspire others to help to transform their bodies and live a healthier lifestyle.

On May 4th, Briana started her 4th FREE Bikini Body Mommy 90 day Challenge. The premise of the challenge is very simple:

  • It is FREE!!! All videos can be accessed via her website: or her YouTube Channel
  • All workouts are under 20 minutes! (Who can’t spare 20 minutes a day?)
  • Strength Training – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Cardio Workout – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Rest Day – Sunday!
  • Pictures and Measurements are taken every 15 days to see your progress
  • All you need is a heavy set of weights (I used 5 lbs, then upped them to 10 lbs later in the challenge), a timer and an exercise mat
  • Extra ab, maintenance and stretch routines are available for a small fee ($1.99 a month!)

Overall, the Bikini Body Mommy Challenge and healthy, clean, portion control eating helped me lose 20 pounds and 16 inches in 90 days. I feel healthier, stronger and more energetic!

I think I need to go shopping for some new clothes!

I think I need to go shopping for some new clothes!

Join me for the next Bikini Body Mommy Challenge on September 4th. In the meantime check out these Camden blogs to help you jump start your health: 30 Day Water Challenge and Jazzercise Ain’t Your Momma’s Workout!

For the Bookworms: Overdrive Library App

I am, to put it mildly, a voracious reader. I like anything from classics to NY Times Bestsellers to trashy vampire romances. The Kindle, and e-readers like it, has been a life changer for me, allowing me to purchase a new book literally the moment I finish another. What’s not to love? Well, I don’t love how much of my money goes to the Amazon Kindle Store every month. Isn’t there some magical place that would allow me to borrow books for a set period of time for free?

Over a million e-books to choose from! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Over a million e-books to choose from! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Enter the OverDrive Library App. If the Kindle was a life changer for me, this app is a life saver. It is exactly like it sounds: an app that plugs into over 30,000 libraries in 40+ countries, allowing members to login to their local library with their library card number (the only thing you need to use this app!) and borrow up to 5 e-books at a time for a two week lending period. There are over 1 million e-books to choose from! But, not just books: depending on your library’s chosen digital stock, this library app also has audiobooks and videos for you to download or stream.

Easily borrow books! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Easily borrow books! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

The best part is, you can download books within the OverDrive app and read your e-books on any device, like your smart phone, tablet or even desktop, and it will remember your place. OR you can download OverDrive library e-books to your Kindle and read on a Kindle device or in a Kindle app. At the end of your two week lending period, you have the option to renew or return your e-book- just like the real library. It’s so simple! And it has saved me time and money without having to sacrifice my thirst for reading.

But don’t just take my word for it. Download the OverDrive Library App, set up your account and start reading!

Camden loves blogging about app recommendations. Read more about the iMovie App and the Top 3 Apps you Need Now!

Quick Simple Beach Hacks

Living in San Diego, I do not go to the beach often enough. It’s the main perk to living in Southern California and so I’ve vowed to myself that I will spend this summer visiting the beach often! Because I hate sand (HATE) and like my comforts, I’ve compiled a short list of things to bring to the beach to make visits a little bit more comfortable:

1. Baby powder – For this see my comment on hating sand! Because of our drought here in So Cal, a lot of the showers and foot wash stations have been shut down leaving us with futile attempts to brush sand off our feet. The answer is baby powder! Because it takes away the moisture, it helps for sand to fall right off and stay at the beach…where it belongs.
2. Zip-lock bags – I recommend a few different sizes. Great for putting cell phones, food, car keys, and then eventually trash into.
3. Some kind of shade – No one wants to be ‘that guy’ (hopefully) and bring a huge easy-up to block everyone’s view, but it is good to bring some sort of shade to get away from the sun. A beach umbrella that screws deep into the sand is a good option and stays put.

Waterproof blanket from JJ Cole

Waterproof blanket from JJ Cole

4. A waterproof picnic blanket – I got one of these off of Amazon and it’s awesome. Sand doesn’t stick to it and wet bodies don’t drench it. It’s also very simple to shake off instead of a towel which everything clings to.
Enjoy and don’t forget to stock up on Aloe at home for that sunburn!