Courtesy of samicone.com

This Weekend’s Fun is on Bank of America!

Looking for something to do this weekend? How about a fun-filled day of arts and culture at your local museum? Well look no further than the Bank of America card in your pocket!

Bank of America has a unique program for their debit card and credit card customers called Museums on Us®. On the first weekend of every month, any Bank of America card holder can get into over 150 participating museums in the nation for free! All you need to do is show your Bank of America credit card or debit card and your ID at the ticket window and you will get a ticket for admission that day. It’s that easy!

My sister facing off a dinosaur!

My sister facing off a dinosaur!

I have taken advantage of this distinctive perk at science museums, art museums and even the zoo in my hometowns of Houston and Dallas. I actually get excited when the first weekend of the month turns out to be a rainy one because I know that if my plans fail, I can always wander into the museum and have an enlightening day. I’m even signed up for text alerts so that I’m reminded before the first weekend!

Goofing off and learning at the same time- for free!

Goofing off and learning at the same time- for free!

The best news? There is at least one participating museum in every city with a Camden community so Camden residents who are Bank of America customers can start enjoying Museums on Us® this weekend!

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IKEA: How I Utilized the Hemnes Collection in My New Apartment Home!

ikea-logo

Ikea logo from IKEA.com

We’ve all moved at some point in our lives. Let’s be honest, moving is not fun. I will say, however, that when it comes to buying things for your new apartment (or house), you can make moving enjoyable. Where do I buy most of my home furniture? IKEA! As you may (or may not) have assumed by reading my previous blog posts, I kind of have an obsession with IKEA. I like it because it is affordable and because there are different collections for different levels of taste. Not everyone loves the super modern, clean white furniture. They offer a more timeless, classic collection called Hemnes for those who want something that will not go out of style in a year. At my place, this is what we have.

Continue reading

A solar eclipse will look like there is a ring of fire around the sun. Cool! 
Photo courtesy of Reuters

Total Eclipse of the (UK’s) Heart

A solar eclipse will look like there is a ring of fire around the sun. Cool!  Photo courtesy of Reuters

A solar eclipse will look like there is a ring of fire around the sun. Cool!
Photo courtesy of Reuters

I have good news and I have bad news. Tomorrow is going to be a super-freaky astronomical day. It is (finally) the vernal equinox, the official start of spring; there is a Supermoon Continue reading

eastervalleyguide.com

Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town! Whose Got Their Eggs Ready?

easter

Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining! Spring time is one of my favorite times of the year. We get to begin enjoying the outdoors again and we are blessed with the warm sun rays on our bodies as we come out of the winter hibernation. Another great thing about spring time is we get a visit from our favorite floppy earned friend! That’s right…. Easter Bunny is coming to town! It is time to get into festive mode as we plan and prepare for a fun spring time holiday with our family and friends.

My kids really enjoy the Easter holiday. They get to get dressed up in their snazzy Easter clothes for the annual Easter pictures and see friends and family as we gather around and enjoy a great meal with lots of desserts! That is always my favorite part! In our family the boys wake up to a great big Easter basket that is filled to the rim with all sorts of fun toys, trinkets, and candies all delivered by none other than the Easter bunny! They look forward to the sweetness overload and prepare themselves for the annual Easter egg hunt that is complete with not only one BUT two prize eggs housing a whopping $5 in each egg! Jackpot for whoever is lucky enough to find the prize eggs.

hunt

Before they get to hunt the eggs they have to color the hard boiled eggs. It is an annual tradition in our home. They get three dozen eggs to color however they choose. They can mix and match colors. They can blend together multiple colors. When they are being extra creative they will even put designs on the eggs! There will be speckled eggs, patterned eggs, and more as they get to work on decorating these eggs. They go all out on this event and we have every color egg imaginable by time it is all over. There are even some colors that pop up that you weren’t sure even existed! Never a dull moment in our home and my boys will utilize every resource available to them to get creative. Here are some neat tricks and techniques they have used in coloring their Easter eggs.

Ever thought about using Kool Aid to dye eggs? Why not? When my kids want some vibrant colors they will use packets of Kool Aid to give them bright vibrant eggs. The color of the eggs turns out brighter than traditional dye. It is very simple and easy to do. It is inexpensive as you can often find packets of Kool Aid 5 for $1. Just mix the Kool Aid packet in water in a coffee cup and place the egg inside the cup and let it sit. Stir around occasionally. Just be careful because Kool Aid will stain your counter tops… hard lesson learned. I would advise placing a mat or towel down under the cups to prevent it from spilling over on to your counter tops.

kool aid

Use items to create patterns on your eggs. My boys will tie yarn/string around the eggs in various patterns. Once the egg is dunked and dyed and the string is removed you will see a neat pattern on the eggs. There are different things you can use to create these patterns. You can use string, pipe cleaners, yarn, masking tape,rubber bands, etc. Anything that will create a block from the dye reaching the egg will work in creating your patterns on your egg. Wrap the object around the egg in whatever pattern you desire and then place the egg in the dye.Just make sure your egg is dry before removing your item to prevent the dye from bleeding over and ruining your design. Once you unwrap the egg your beautiful designed egg will appear!

Another way to customize your eggs is by using paint or markers. Once the eggs are dyed and dry you can add designs to your egg using a paint set or simply a marker. I have seen polka dots, squiggles, lines, and faces added to eggs to create custom one of a kind eggs. This is super easy and a fun way for your kiddos to decorate their eggs. Try personalizing them with their names or initials for added customization! My kids enjoy looking for “their” very own egg that has their name on it.

Decoration

When it comes to decorating their Easter eggs every year it never ceases to amaze me the extent they will go to make their eggs their very own customized creation. They really enjoy being unique and making them all very different and each year their designs and ideas get better and better. It is their way of exploring and creating and I love watching them and seeing their finished products. Regardless of which way you choose to enjoy this Easter tradition in your beautiful Camden home, just remember to relax and enjoy the moment. These are the moments that turn into life long memories.

Wishing you and your family a joyous Easter holiday filled with lots of decorative Easter eggs, chocolate Easter bunnies that are super yummy, and quality family time with the ones that matter most. Enjoy!

Happy Easter

redpats

What is Business Casual?

I am excited to announce that I am one of the selected employees of Camden who has been given the opportunity to be a Camden Mentor. One of the perks of being a Mentor is visiting the Camden corporate office in Houston, TX. My excitement hit its peak when I found out that I am allowed to wear “business casual” clothing while at training. After the initial jumping for joy, I was met with a sudden fear and questioning: What exactly is business casual for women?

This is a topic that is so broad that I think it deserves its own descriptive blog, from the perspective of a Camden employee that is used to wearing black slacks and button ups at work, and t-shirts and jeans outside of the office. Everyone has their own opinion of what is appropriate business casual attire. After some lengthy searching on Pinterest, here are some options I have come up with that are appropriate to wear in a business casual setting.

For us ladies, business casual can be overwhelming. We have the choice between skirts, pants, and dresses. We also have heels vs. flats. Then we have to think about accessories. This is what I have come up with.

1. It’s okay to add some color to business casual. Though black, grey, and tan are great neutrals, you can spice up with a colorful blazer, cardigan, or top. Colorful pants and skirts are also okay if they are not too tight and are not made of denim.

pinkblazer

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

redpats

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

2. Patterns are also okay. Pinstipes, floral, animal print (in moderation) and some plaids are great for skirts, cardigans, and pants.

polkadottop

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

leopard

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

3. Yes to cropped pants, no to Bermuda shorts. Absolutely no denim is acceptable for business casual.

cropped2

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

cropped

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

4. Accessories are allowed to be trendy and funky, but keep it classy. Adding a colorful skinny belt, chunky necklace, and layered bracelets are perfect to spice up and otherwise dull look.

teal

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

necklace

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

5. Shoes can be tricky. You do not want a heel that is too high. You also do not want to wear flats that are too casual.

flats

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

heels

Image Credit: Pinterest.com

Where does one find clothing to put together an outfit, but at an affordable price? My favorite places to shop, and where I plan on buying my business casual attire, are JCPenney, Kohls, Old Navy, and Target.

As I make my way through the mall this weekend, I plan on using these guidelines to put together the perfect business casual outfits.

What do you consider to be business casual?

http://www.lushome.com/beautiful-balcony-decorating-ideas-15-green-balcony-designs/74615

Spring; A Time To Beautify Your Patio

Spring; a symbol of rebirth, and a season when our days get warmer and longer. And while red foxes are giving birth to their babies, you could be giving birth to a beautiful patio or balcony! It only makes sense, right? I’m determined to encourage Camden residents to really make use of their outside space and take pride in it. Wouldn’t it be nice to sit outside, enjoy your potted flowers, smell the spring air, and have breakfast on your patio? You don’t have to look at that beautiful patio in your Better Homes and Gardens magazine and be envious. You, too, can create a space others will envy!

So prepare your thumbs, and let’s take a look at where you may want to start off!

You’ll need to evaluate the space you have to work with. If you have enough space for outdoor patio furniture then you should invest in something you can see yourself actually using. It can be a simple set of chairs and a small round table, a rocking chair, or a stand-alone cushioned swing. But whatever you do, leave enough space for some color.

By color I mean flowers, plants, and possibly a small citrus tree. If you don’t think you have the ability to maintain such things…think again. This time of year is the best time to experiment; take advantage of it. Maintaining flower boxes and pots may seem like a challenge if you’ve never done it before, but behold… when you’re done reading this blog post, your thumb will desire that green touch!

You can choose to use planter boxes that will sit on your patio’s railing (my personal favorite), one that remains on the floor, or create a vertical garden (as shown in the middle below) that you can stand against your outside wall. What you choose should go with your patio furniture arrangement. Tip: keep it simple.

bliss-athome.com/2014, home-styling.blogspot.pt/2012/08

bliss-athome.com/2014, home-styling.blogspot.pt/2012/08

If you’re a beginner, start off with these types of flowers:

Begonias: The ‘foolproof’ flower. They’re low maintenance, but keep them fertilized and watered! They’re sure to give your patio plenty of color!

Petunias: These beauties are known to be ‘weatherproof,’ will last you through late fall, and smell like spring!

Geranium: This type of flower is considered a standard for borders and containers such as planter boxes discussed above. If you give them plenty of sun, they’ll give you plenty of color.

Herbs: Try something you’ll actually want to eat. Maybe chives, basil, mint, or my favorite: cilantro! Whichever appeals to you most. I’d recommend these be grown in a clean, vertical-potted garden.

Citrus Fruit Trees(in a stand-alone pot): Fruit trees will look beautiful once the fruit starts to grow, but eating the fruit will be the most rewarding! Look for citrus trees that are available in dwarf sizes, as you don’t want it to outgrow your pot.

www.vanmeuwen.com; www.fineartamerica.com

Begonia, Geranium, Citrus Tree, Mint, Petunia http://www.vanmeuwen.com; http://www.fineartamerica.com

There are just too many good flowers to list. I recommend going to a local garden and landscaping nursery to choose for your selection. Consider these tips as you beautify your patio:

1. When using planter boxes, plant a variety of flowers while still keeping the ratio between each flower type balanced. For the best look, plant symmetrically and use different colors that differentiate each flower type.

2. Fertilize about once a week!  If this is something new to you, try a flower booster, such as Miracle-Gro Bloom Booster.

3. The no-brainer: water those puppies! Ensure all your hard work and money doesn’t go to waste, and make sure your plants get water once a day.

So prepare for high fives from your neighbors and recognition from your Camden front office, because not only will you get to enjoy your newly beautified patio, but anyone who passes by will also. Don’t forget to share your creations with me and post your photos in the comments. I’d love to enjoy them with you!

 

My Top 6 Ways To Relieve Stress

Managing your stress can be hard at times, but learning a healthy way of doing so is really the best way to cope. Try some of my ways of relieving stress and see if it helps at all.

Riding My Bike in The Heights

Riding My Bike in The Heights

1. Pick up a Book

Go back to the basics. Get away without having to pack your bags and pick up a book. Sometimes you just need to get lost in a book and discover another world. Try uplifting or motivational books, they seem to do the trick for me.

2. Work-out (Run/Bike Ride)

I’ve read several articles that have shown people who often are stressed or even depressed revert to working out as an outlet. The results are phenomenal. I personally like riding my bike; the wind in my hair and an open path. It gives me the opportunity to feel relaxed while enjoying the outdoors.

3. Alone Time

Being alone sometimes is all you really need. Put your mind at ease with some quiet time and let your mind and body digress.

4. Listen to Music

Put that album on that brings you back to the good ol’ days. Nothing makes me smile more than listening to that one song that brings back to that one memory, it’s an instant smile and chuckle.

5. Drink some Tea

This can be done with pretty much everything on this list. I’m a Chai Tea kind of girl but Chamomile has been proven to help de-stress and relax. Sit down and relax by drinking your favorite cup of tea.

6. Do Something you Enjoy

Work and home life can take up a lot of your time but it’s important to still stop and enjoy the things you love. If that being volunteer work, going to the park, a hobby or even going to see some classic karaoke. It’s the little things in life that count and it’s important not to forget about them.

I would love to hear what helps you de-stress, please share!

Rascal loves to cuddle

How did I forget what having a puppy is like?

Haley's New puppy Rascal

Haley’s New puppy Rascal

I have always been a dog lover and pet owner. Last year I had 2 dogs pass away and it left my daughter broken-hearted. So we decided to get a puppy for her last valentine’s day. We got a super cute French bulldog that we named Rascal. He is an amazing dog but he has a few puppy traits that I forgot about, since it had been 10 years since I had a puppy.  Rascal has two major issues he loves to chew on everything and he has no idea how big he is. I started to talk with my co-workers, friends, the vet and residents about these issues to see if anyone had good tips that worked for them. Working in Property management we have to be able to help problem solve.

Rascal loves to cuddle

Rascal loves to cuddle

Rascal was chewing on everything that we owned. We would come home and I would hold my breath when I walked in for fear of what I was going to find.  So I started to talk with people and I was told about antlers. I started to purchase those and it has helped tremendously with the chewing.  I think he would get bored and toys are not enough.  I’m sure I will have to keep finding items to keep him busy but this has been such an amazing help for the time being.

Rascal in his Thunder Vest

Rascal in his Thunder Vest

Rascal has grown to be a really big French bulldog her is a year old and 42 pounds. French Bulldogs love to cuddle and that is something I love. I did find out that not everyone that comes to visit us loves to be cuddled. I started to talk with the vet and I was told about Thunder Vest.  They said they are used for anxiety like chewing, barking and jumping.  The vest is not cheap but we are willing to give it a shot. When we put him in the vest he is like a different dog.  He calms down so much and relaxes. We had such an amazing result that we purchased one for our older dog as well. I wish I could say we had the same result with her but we didn’t.  I’m ok with it working on one of the dog though.  I would love to hear if anyone else has good advice.

When we got our Puppy

When we got our Puppy

March Madness

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It’s just around the corner…. the squeaking of sneakers, the thumping of balls on the hardwood, the shrill of the referee’s whistle, and the roar of the crowd in either panic or celebration. It’s March Madness, a tradition that strikes basketball enthusiasts every spring.

Long before television, before the college games and professional leagues became so popular, basketball fever was huge in Illinois. Continue reading

Photo Courtesy: www.realsimple.com

Food Storage Tips to Avoid Wasting Money (and the Food)

I am admittedly the worst when it comes to storing food. I cannot even begin to comprehend or communicate the amount of money that I have wasted, simply because I did not store something properly or because it got shoved to the back of my fridge and I forgot it was there. With each memory of a mushy vegetable or a rotten leftover container I see flashes of vacations that my family could have gone on, that pair of Manolo Blahniks and ooh, ooh that bicycle I’ve been eyeing.

To avoid your money being thrown away along with your poorly stored food, follow these tips and you’ll never have to worry again.

Fruits & Veggies

  • You want to store like items together. Apples with apples. Peppers with peppers. You may not have known this but each fruit and veggie produces its own gas and one may have a negative effect on an unlike item and cause it to ruin quicker.
  • Do not wash your produce first. Only wash what you pull out on a need basis. Water left on produce can cause it to mold and rot at a much quicker pace (this makes me want to head home and dry those grapes I just put in my fridge after washing them).
  • If you have and vegetable or fruit that can dry out, store them in a perforated bag or be mindful not to seal the bag as to allow air and moisture to circulate through the packaging.

Meat, Poultry & Fish

  • Always keep any meat purchased in its store bought packaging. Transferring the meats to any new packaging could cause harmful bacteria to enter the food during the transfer process.
  • If you purchase fresh red meat, ground beef or chicken, use within 1 to 2 days. Freeze what you will not be using immediately.If there was not one of those Styrofoam built in pads, place a plate underneath to catch any drippings.
  • Fresh pork should be used within 3 to 5 days.
  • Fresh fish should be used within 1 to 2 days. You should keep it in the coldest part of the fridge.
  • Lunch meat should last 3 to 5 days. Do not buy more than you can use in that time frame (this is in my top three worst food purchasing habits).
  • An open pack of hot dogs will last about a week.

Leftovers

  • Leftovers need to be stored in airtight containers. Leak proof as well.
  • Leftovers should be stored in shallow containers. This allows them to cool faster which prohibits the formation of bacteria.
  • Leftovers should be eaten within 1 to 2 days or frozen after cooling in the fridge for up to six months depending upon what type of leftover it is.

Dairy & Eggs

  • If you purchased dairy in a container, leave it in that container. These are things like sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, etc. If you do take a little bit out, do not put what is left back into the container. Store it separately and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.
  • With hard cheeses like cheddar or any block cheese, wrap them loosely in plastic wrap or even better, wax paper, after you open the original packaging. Not too loose however in order to avoid the hardening and drying out of the cheese. These will be good for about 5 to 8 days after opening.
  • Milk should be used by the expiration date and if you transfer it out of the container, do not pour any remainder back into the original container. Another tip for milk is to purchase the plastic containers or cardboard with a plastic spout.
  • Note to self. Don’t use the egg storage on the door. Keep them on the top shelf in the carton. They will last you up to five weeks.

General Tips

  • “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Always check sell by dates.
  • Put what will expire first towards the front of the fridge to make sure it’s eaten before the expiration date and it’s not forgotten about.
  • Keep you fridge set on 40 degrees or below. Otherwise bacteria can grow.
  • Plan your meals so there is not a chance of wasted items. This way you buy only what you will need.
  • You can check more specific items here.
  • Make sure you move any leftovers to the fridge within two hours of cooking.

Happy eating and saving!!