Photo Courtesy of:

Taking the Work Out of Workout

Have you ever been to a Zumba Class? It’s like a super fun dance party with easy choreographed moves that make you forget that you’re even working out. The best part is, that you don’t even need to know how to dance to join in on the fun!

One thing you should know about Camden is that we really like to have fun! We had brain stormed so many fun ideas for resident events.-food trucks, pool party, etc. when we came across the idea of hosting a Zumba class here at Camden Plantation. We figured being that we have this enormous racquetball court, why not take advantage of our wonderful amenities?

We started to research local Zumba instructors in the area and reached out to a few of them. I emailed Catherine and immediately she was on board. We started promoting the event through our Facebook, Twitter, and flyers. We asked residents to RSVP through the portal.

There were 25 people RSVP’ed for the class, and we were so eager to see the turnout and ready to have some fun. Cristina, one of our amazing leasing consultants, and I decided to stay and take part of this awesome event. People that were registered and even some that hadn’t, showed up and were ready to get their dance on. The class was so fun and the instructor was great too! She was very patient and involved and danced with us and in between us. It was only one hour and you wouldn’t even think that with all the laughter and smiles that you we were burning calories. The group had  such a good time, that they asked for an encore!

We will now be hosting Zumba classes at Camden Plantation every Thursday at 7pm starting December 3rd. So if you haven’t taken a Zumba class yet or are looking for a great place to have fun with your neighbors, come to our very own Zumba class!



My Official Pumpkin Pie Primer- The 3 Main Components to Consider for Successful Pumpkin Pie Making

When most of us think of Thanksgiving, some of us will automatically picture a turkey and all of the trimmings. For those of us who like our dessert, first, we think of PUMPKIN PIE. And, if you are like my husband, you dream of pie with a pound of whipped cream on top.

For most of the population, it does not matter to you how your pumpkin pie gets to the table. I, personally, agonize over how I am going to make mine each year because I am just that kind of person. I have a goal that each year I will try to do something slightly to my pie different in hopes of topping the year before. I drive my family crazy, but they enjoy the results.

A basic homemade or semi-homemade pumpkin pie has three main components: crust, pumpkin filling, and whipped cream. Each component can be store-bought, semi-homemade, or homemade.

  1. The Crust: The crust is the foundation upon which a pie is created. In the past, I have opted for a premade crust because they are beautiful and all that you have to do is pour your pumpkin filling in. Plus, there are so many types of premade pie crusts available if you like variety. However, for the past few years, I have opted to make my own homemade crust that I would find off of Pinterest or out of my old Betty Crocker The basic ingredients in a homemade crust are eggs, butter or shortening, flour, and a liquid. The ratios of each of these ingredients determine the texture of your pie. This year, I am going to make The Pioneer Woman’s “Sylvia’s Perfect Pie Crust”. What makes it different than other recipes that I’ve tried, before, is the addition of vinegar. We’ll see how it goes…
  2. The Filling: The biggest decision you must make…
    1. Pumpkin: There are three options in choosing what type of pumpkin to use- canned pumpkin pie filling, canned pureed pumpkin, or fresh pumpkin puree. Libby makes a mighty fine pumpkin filling with wonderful self-explanatory instructions printed on the label that is pre-seasoned. No fuss, no muss. I was perfectly fine with using this method and grew-up with our homemade pies being made using this type of filling. Two years ago, I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to buy a pie pumpkin. I then roasted and pureed it. I made my pumpkin pie using this fresh pumpkin and I fell in love! In my opinion, the fresh pumpkin is much lighter tasting. A word of caution, make sure to strain your fresh pumpkin puree. I made that mistake the first time by omitting this step and it made for an almost burnt pie crust and watery filling. Another word of warning, pie pumpkins might be hard to find in your area so you may have to shop around. I purchased my pumpkins at Whole Foods this year.
    2. The other decision to make in regards to the filling is whether to use sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk with sugar. That’s a tough one- I have made my pies with either. I personally feel that sweetened condensed milk makes for a richer tasting filling.
    3. The last major component of the filling is the spices. When you opt to use fresh or canned pumpkin puree, you have the opportunity to adjust your spice ratios to your liking instead of its taste being predetermined. This is a great option for those who are sensitive to over-spiced pies. In my case, I am going to toast my spices- I just saw that on TV and it looks like a good idea.
  3.   Whipped Topping: When you are ready to eat your pumpkin pie, you have to think about what you are going to top it with. The nice thing about the times that we live in is we have so many options for whipped topping: Cool Whip, canned, or homemade whipped cream. My family likes all options, sometimes in massive quantities to the point that I must hide it. I just made a pie a few weeks ago and I used Reddi Whip. This Thanksgiving, since my mom will be there and making it for me, we will use homemade whipped cream. I am such a nice daughter…


Making a pumpkin pie is not a daunting task- anyone can do it. Have fun and get creative. Another option is to switch it up and instead of making one big pie, make mini pies. Or, just skip the pie making altogether and find yourself a great bakery that will pile your pie high with whipped cream. There are also other ways to enjoy pumpkin if you are not a pie person. Either way, have fun and please enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Dinner table thanksgiving

Easy DIY Holiday Recipes!

Gobble gobble gobble! Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and you know what that means! It means yummy goodness to overfill your belly and cause that traditional tummy misery that we all love so very much. It is that time of year where over eating is expected and encouraged and diets and calorie counting is absolutely not allowed. This is one of my favorite times of the year and I cannot wait to get together with my loved ones and over indulge.

Here now comes the dread question… What do you bring to the family dinner? Do you opt for paper goods and drinks? Or do you go for the store bought desserts?  This year you will go for neither! I have some great quick recipes that are super simple to make and even faster to whip up! These are great recipes that you and your family are sure to love!

Grape Salad: This will make a large salad. Feel free to cut the ingredients in half for a smaller salad)

What you will need: 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract,  2 pounds seedless red grapes,  2 pounds seedless green grapes (I like both types of grapes),3 tablespoons brown sugar,  3 tablespoons chopped pecans

Directions: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla until blended. Add the grapes slowly and toss/stir around until covered in the mixture. Once all of the grapes are in, keep blending until they are all coated with the mixture.

Transfer into the serving bowl you want out on display. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans just before serving.


Photo from:

No Bake Snicker Pie: This is one of my favorites that my aunt makes for our holiday get together. Actually, we have her make this every time we get together if we can talk her into it. I am sure it will be a favorite at your table as well!

What you will need: 1 Oreo cookie pie crust (store bought is the easiest) , 1 (8 oz.) block of cream cheese, ½ cup dulce de leche, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1- (8 oz.) package Cool Whip, 3 Snickers candy bars (you will need to chop these up into smaller pieces)

Directions: Spread 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche on the bottom of the pie prepared pie crust . Sprinkle 1 of the chopped Snickers bars over the bottom of the pie crust.

In a large bowl, beat ¼ cup of the dulce de leche with the cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in Cool Whip and beat mixture until creamy and fluffy, scraping the sides as needed to ensure everything is fully incorporated. Add in 1 chopped Snickers bar.

Pour filling into crust, evening out the top with a knife or spatula. Dollop the remaining 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche around the top of the pie and swirl in with a knife. Top with remaining chopped Snickers. You can also choose to add additional peanuts to the top or drizzle with chocolate for added flavor.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.


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Cornbread Casserole: I am a lover of cornbread so this is a recipe I use all year long! I have this at my own dinner table often and I am sure you will too.

What you will need: 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained and 1 can cream-style corn, 2 eggs 1  (8 ounce) package dry corn bread mix (I like Jiffy), 1 cup sour cream 8 ounces Shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, reserved liquid, eggs, corn bread mix and sour cream; stir until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool some before serving.

Corn casserole

I hope these quick and easy recipes will help ease the stress level as your wonder aimless in stores trying to figure out what to bring to the holiday dinner! These are always a favorite at our dinner table and I am sure that they will be at hit at yours as well. The real meaning of the holiday is to simply gather around and be thankful for all that we have and most of all for one another. We all need that reminder every once in awhile… click here for one. Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and what it really means as you turn these moments in your Camden home into life long memories. Eat up and enjoy!


Camden Cares for YOU, Houston!

Have you ever gone to bed beyond tired, but in a good way? This is the tired that you feel after sweating all day in the Texas heat for a good cause.   You feel so good that you can even ignore how bad you smell afterwards… This is how many of us in Houston felt after our Camden Cares volunteer days.

As with other Camden offices, the Houston and corporate offices partnered with Rebuilding Together Houston to help the aged, disadvantaged, and or disabled out with fixing up their homes. Camden committed to rehabilitating 15 homes here in Houston this year; 8 having been completed on September 23-24 and the remaining 7 were completed on October 7-8. As with other cities, volunteers from all corners of the organization helped out with this cause. Everyone from vice presidents to average employees work side by side to accomplish our goal- to put smiles on the homeowners’ faces.

The houses that we are assigned by Rebuilding Together Houston are first toured and screened by a taskforce of Camden employees in order to assess what needs to be done in each of our assigned homes. Camden employees go out to the homes the day before to try to complete some of the preliminary work such as pressure washing or organizing and gathering supplies to insure that the each of the volunteer days run smoothly. Our crews show up early in the morning, receive their assignments, and get cracking. It is like watching an orange Camden swarm overtaking a house!


Mrs. Terrel’s house Camden Cares Crew. What a lovely lady! – Samantha Dickerson

One of the best things about your volunteer day is hearing everyone’s stories. You hear stories about employees’ past experiences volunteering for Rebuilding Together and the homeowners that they had the pleasure of meeting. This was my first experience with Camden working for Rebuilding Together. I had volunteered in another city for another company with this same organization years ago, but it did not feel as good as this experience that I had with Camden. One of the homeowners that we were helping was a beautiful 80 year old lady and mother of three children. In her home, she had fostered over 100 children over the years. Some of which she still has contact with today. The best part of our day was seeing the smile on her face when she saw her home re-painted for the first time.


Here’s a picture of me and the amazing team I got to spend the day with in front of the house we worked on. – Stephanie Oribhador

On a side note, the other benefit of Camden Cares is meeting and spending time with people who we may not get to interact with on a daily basis. As a Camden newbie, it was great to hear about how long many of the employees have worked with the company. It just shows how much our employees love Camden. It also showed me how much our employees care about the community and provided us with a unique opportunity to give back.


Mrs. Terrel’s dog, Coco.

Camden Cares is something we at Camden look forward to every year! No matter how much paint you get on yourself or how beat up you feel at the end of the day, it’s always such a special feeling to truly make a difference in someone else’s life. Even Coco’s…

This was a collaboration from Stephanie Oribhador and myself.

Hark! The Texas Renaissance Festival

The Texas Renaissance Festival

Dates from the TRF website!

When I think of fall in coastal Texas I think of bagpipes, jousting, corsets and mead! I am of course referring to the Texas Renaissance Festival, the world’s largest Renaissance festival. The Fair runs from the second week of October through Thanksgiving weekend every year and attracts people from all over for some ye olde fun. The dates this year are October 10th-November 29th.

Whether you have been to a Renaissance festival before or not, the Texas Renaissance Festival has something for everyone. Fair-goers enjoy shows all day long that include music from the time period, hilarious comedy acts and amazing dancers and acrobatics. Come with an appetite because the fair has foods common to the time period from many different countries. Be ready to enjoy good alcohol too as the fair has a wonderful wine and mead assortment plus an onsite brewery.

Vendors from across the world come to display their handcrafted jewelry, clothing, oils and more! With a different theme every weekend, the TRF, as it is commonly called, is also filled with activities for kids from medieval carnival rides to face painting. There is absolutely never a dull moment.

One of the best parts about the fair is the people watching. Many fair-goers dress up either in medieval clothing or in a costume that goes with the theme of the weekend. You are always guaranteed to see costumes that astound and delight. The front of the fair has costumes to rent as well so that you can blend in! If you are feeling bold ahead of time, you can easily make a costume and blend in yourself like I did last year.

Texas Renaissance Festival

We had so much fun doing Day of the Dead makeup on All Hallow’s Eve Weekend that we’re making it a tradition!

Like I said, the TRF has something for everyone, but what I love most about it is the freedom that it gives visitors to let go of our busy 21st century lives for a day and to get a glimpse of how people used to eat, dress and be entertained…sort of.

Houston dwellers have a quick 45-minute drive to the fairgrounds in Plantersville, and even though it does take about 3 hours from Dallas and Austin, it is worth the car ride.

Check out the TRF this fall! You won’t regret it. They have group rates on tickets and If you like the Texas Renaissance Festival Facebook page, you will get inside info about their ticket sales.

Camden Cares – Tampa, FL – Paying it Forward at it’s Finest!

Helping the homeless, making paracord bracelets for our troops overseas, welcoming our veterans home
from an honor flight to DC… These are just a few ways that Camden employees volunteer to show our love and support for the community we live in. What I’m talking about is Camden Cares, a yearly nationwide effort. We’re more than just a community: we’re family!


The most recent Camden Cares event in Tampa, Florida where we helped paint the interior of the Starting Right Now campus, which is a program that meets the needs of the growing population of homeless families and children in Hillsborough County.

This was an extremely heartwarming event not only because of the bonds we made with our community and each other, but also because it was our second time helping Starting Right Now. Last year we helped paint the exterior of the campus and we also got down and dirty with some landscaping. We pulled weeds, cut branches from fences, we raked, and we planted. We poured our StartingRightNowLogoCamden blood, sweat, and tears into this incredible project.

We’re helping our community and we’re helping each other. We’re doing great things and we’re giving back to those who have given so much to us! When you do great things, great things begin to happen everywhere. It’s like a contagious happiness!

CamdenCares 2015-2

Keep following our blog to learn more about what Camden Cares is all about and to learn what we have planned for upcoming volunteer events – Because I’m happy!

#CamdenCares #CamdenHappy

September is Hunger Action Month

I recently had the opportunity to do some volunteer work. I have always wanted to help around in the community but always used the excuse that I didn’t have time, didn’t know where to start, and so on. I attend a large church, Church By The Glades, in Coral Springs, FL and they hosted a volunteering event throughout South FL with 1300+ volunteers coming together to make a big difference in one afternoon. This was a great opportunity and I didn’t want to miss out. There were so many options to choose from, and I decided to help at Feeding South Florida. They are the leading domestic hunger relief organization in South Florida, and together they rescue and distribute over 40 million pounds of food throughout the 4 South Florida counties- Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe. It’s very exciting for me to think that we have so many Miami Camden Properties throughout these areas. I actually drove past Camden Plantation and Camden Portofino on my way there!

Can you tell that I was so excited to be a part of this great event?

Can you tell that I was so excited to be a part of this great event?

There were 2 time slots, and having a 2 year old, my husband and I couldn’t volunteer together, so he took the morning shift, and I took the afternoon shift. When I got there, they had us meet up in a conference room where they showed us a video with some helpful facts and chatted about the different roles and split us up into groups -inspectors, sorters, and distribution . I was a part of the inspection team. We would gather foods donated from retail and local growers, and make sure that the food did not over exceed the shelf life, and was safe and healthy enough to eat.


We had over 100 volunteers in this group pic. Photo courtesy of Church By The Glades instagram.

We had over 100 volunteers in this group pic.
Photo courtesy of Church By The Glades instagram.

Being that I work for, Camden, a company that values teamwork and having fun, I am very comfortable with a little friendly competition. They told us at the beginning that the Morning Team sorted through 21,000 pounds of food, at the end of our shift we were told we sorted 23,000 pounds. It’s always fun to brag or “win” but when you are doing a good deed and know how many people you are helping, it makes it all worth it.

My experience with Feeding South Florida was truly a memorable and rewarding one and I am looking forward to working with them again in the near future. I enjoyed this experience so much so, that I’m looking forward to October 7th, as I will be helping out at our Camden Cares volunteer event along with my fellow co-workers. I can’t wait for you to read about our experiences there.

I would suggest everyone volunteer at some point in their lives. Get involved, get out there and do something good for others, I promise it will make you feel good about yourself too!

Where’s the Cake? Fluff Bake Bar!

Birthday Cake - funfetti cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, cake crumble and and sprinkles on top. Photo courtesy of

Birthday Cake – funfetti cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, cake crumble and and sprinkles on top. Photo courtesy of

Recently I went to a birthday party with a friend of mine. The cake came out with the typical candles on it as we sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl, but as I glanced at the cake I noticed this was no ordinary birthday cake. It was a 3 layered vanilla buttercream funfetti cake with sprinkles and crunchy bits on top! It was a cake that just made you smile from ear to ear before even trying it! This was no store bought cake. This had to be an expensive cake from a bakery I had never been to.

So of course I asked, “Where did you get that cake?” The birthday girl said, “Fluff Bake Bar. It has only been open for a few months.” Well no wonder! Here in Houston, when a new restaurant or bakery opens word travels fast…especially if it’s good. Once I got my hands on a slice and took the first bite, I was transported back to my childhood. There was something so familiar about this cake! It was moist but at the same time had a little crispy crunch, and the frosting was creamy sweet buttercream goodness. I couldn’t believe how yummy it actually was!

Rebecca Masson - Fluff Bake Bar owner and chef. Photo courtesy of
Rebecca Masson – Fluff Bake Bar owner and chef. Photo courtesy of

While researching this new local bakery, I found out the owner of Fluff Bake Bar, Rebecca Masson, is an award-winning pastry chef who went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France for culinary school! She also competed on Top Chef: Just Desserts, didn’t win, but made Houston proud even with a pink cast on her left arm! She has made quite a reputation for herself in the pastry world, and is even “a highly sought consultant creating signature dessert menus for the top tier of Houston restaurants, including, Vic & Anthony’s.” Rebecca also supports the Lucky Dog Rescue with various charity events! She is a pastry angel in my eyes, and I am going to be a long time customer of Fluff Bake Bar…no wonder she is known in Houston as “The Sugar Fairy.”

Veruca Salt
Veruca Salt

Being the foodie I am, I rushed over to Fluff Bake Bar with an excuse to get a cake! While I was in there I noticed all the other goodies they had in the glass display case. I was a kid in a candy store, or in this case, a cake store! In addition to their cakes, Fluff Bake Bar has different kinds of cookies and cakes, but my eyes were draw to something I had never seen before! Cute little 8 oz. clear cups which looked like mini versions of their cakes with a clear lid on top (great way to have a few bites and save the rest for later). It just so happens that’s what they call their “cup|cakes!” How genius!

Chocolate Chip Cookie, SOL - (their version of a moonpie), Cup|Cakes - Birthday Cake (vanilla), Carrot Cake , Black Velvet, and Birthday Cake (chocolate)

Chocolate Chip Cookie, SOL – (their version of a moonpie), Cup|Cakes – Birthday Cake (vanilla), Carrot Cake , Black Velvet, and Birthday Cake (chocolate)

I picked up the Veruca Salt cake along with a few cookies, and some cup|cakes (of course). The Veruca Salt was so yummy with devil’s food cake and a salted caramel buttercream frosting with some chocolate crunch pearls and pretzel toppings! The marriage of sweet, salty, and a little crunch most of us crave, on a plate! My dad had the carrot cup|cake and said it was one of the best carrot cakes he has ever had, and this is one picky man! I took a bite and fell in love with this cake…the moist carrot cake with half-baked cheesecake, candied carrot pieces, hazelnut crunch, and cookie-butter buttercream icing! I have no words for pastry chef Rebecca Masson for creating this amazing carrot cake!

If I lived at Camden Midtown, Travis St., or even City Centre I would be a regular at the Fluff Bake Bar, and by regular I mean daily visitor. However, Midtown isn’t that far from anyone in Houston, right? Run, don’t walk, over to the Fluff Bake Bar for a sweet treat today! I recommend taking home a little of everything! Can’t stroll over to the Fluff Bake Bar? Well why not place an order online or by phone and pick it up later…I’m placing an order right now!

So You Think You Can’t Cook?

We all have our strengths, weaknesses, talents, hobbies and passions. Cooking and baking are two things I really enjoy, and I consider myself pretty good at it. I could never understand how people say, “I can’t cook”, or “I can’t bake.” Don’t get me wrong — some people are much better at cooking or baking, and it may come easier and more natural to them, but I believe that everyone can cook!

Check out this show on Food Network. If you think you can't cook-wait until you see these people! Photo courtesy of Food Network

Check out this show on Food Network. If you think you can’t cook-wait until you see these people! Photo courtesy of Food Network

My philosophy on cooking is, “If you can read — you can cook.” Reading a recipe and following the directions is the main part of cooking. Finding good and easy-to-follow recipes is the first step. You can’t go wrong with a traditional cookbook, and most large cookbooks have a lot of information in them also. The very first cookbook I ever received was from my Grandma. It was a Better Homes and Gardens cook book. The introduction had different cooking terms, equipment, food storage tips, measuring tips, meal-planning guidelines, table settings, and cooking techniques. The Internet is also an amazing resource for cooking and baking. You can Google or search anything and find a recipe with detailed instructions and pictures. Pinterest has thousands of recipes too, and is also a great website.

Pinterest is a great resource! Follow me @AlissaKarsten Photo courtesy of

Pinterest is a great resource! Follow me @AlissaKarsten. Photo courtesy of

I did my research before writing this blog and asked some of my friends who “hates cooking” exactly why they don’t like it. “What is it about cooking you hate? The prep, the cleanup, the time spent?” Most of the people I spoke to had similar reasons.

Here are a few:

  1. Time spent grocery shopping for ingredients
  2. Time and effort cleaning up after preparation
  3. Wasting ingredients not used (wasting money)
  4. Keeping track of multiple items being cooked at once, making sure they are all hot and ready to eat at the same time
  5. Not able to just throw things together for a quick and good dinner
  6. Take out is much easier and faster
  7. Just don’t have time for it!

Although I understand these “issues” with cooking, I must say I have to disagree, and now it’s my turn to argue this list. Shopping for groceries is not the most exciting part of my day, but I must say it’s necessary. You have to go grocery shopping in order to survive! If you are smart about it (and read my past blog about grocery shopping) it’s not that painful. You need to be organized, and if you shop right, you will be saving a HUGE amount of money instead of ordering take out or going out to eat!

Having a fair and organized clean up schedule is important too. If you live alone, well sorry — you’re stuck cooking and cleaning and may want to stop reading now, but for everyone else out there — switch off! At my house, I cook, my fiancé cleans, and it’s only fair. Cleaning dishes up as you go, while you are cooking, is smart too; it saves time in the end. For those of you with children, time to teach the some responsibilities and help clean up after dinner. There is never an excuse to waste ingredients or left overs. Everything can be stored, refrigerated, or frozen and used at a later time, or even the next day to create a brand new dish.

Clean up Clean up! Photo courtesy of

Clean up Clean up! Photo courtesy of

Really understanding cooking times, and planning different items to be done at the same time is not easy, but with practice (and failure) you will get the hang of it! The ‘tempting take out monster’ as I like to call him is hard to say no to. It is easy — I mean you can order food online and it’s delivered to your door 20-30 minutes later. Companies like Grub Hub make it even easier and convenient to order take out. Before you know it, these companies will be walking inside your door and feeding it to you! Not having time to cook is not a good excuse. There are so many recipes that simply take 20-40 minutes to cook, and pre-making meals and freezing them is also a smart way to have meals to grab and go!

Cooking for me is therapeutic, and I feel so accomplished and proud when I am finished and have this amazing dish in front of me to serve to my family and friends. My favorite memories with family are from my Grandma’s kitchen table — sharing a meal, laughs, and love. Even cooking together are some of the most memorable times of my life. I grew up watching and helping my Grandma in the kitchen, and she has taught me things I cannot wait to pass down to my future children and grandchildren. Her recipes are incredible and mean so much to our family, that we decided to make a family cookbook to pass down.

This is my family cook book. Recipes from my Grandma and Great Grandma. It means the world to me!

This is my family cook book. Recipes from my Grandma and Great Grandma. It means the world to me!

This is page from the cook book with my first pie I made with my Grandma.

This is page from the cook book with my first pie I made with my Grandma.

Cooking is just like any other trade or hobby; if you want to be good at it you have to properly educate yourself and practice. Think of all the benefits of cooking at home with your friends and family, and try it out. Eventually, it will be a piece of cake!!

Lake Lotus Nature Park (Photo Courtesy of Morgan W & Dreamfinder Photography)

More Than Just The Mouse: Lake Lotus Nature Park

More Than Just The Mouse: Lake Lotus Nature Park

When you think of Orlando, most people think of Disney World or any of the other countless tourist draws to the city. As a new resident to Orlando, I want to explore the city away from The Mouse.

Just north of Orlando in Altamonte Springs, there is a beautiful park called Lake Lotus Nature Park that is something worth seeing. I took the drive up I-4 and got off at Maintland Blvd. where I was surrounded by office buildings, restaurants, and hotels. It was a great suburban neighborhood with all the conveniences you would want. I actually drove by one of our properties Camden Renaissance which borders Lake Lotus Park; it must be great to have this natural beauty as your neighbor! I parked and walked over and as soon as I stepped foot inside Lake Lotus Park I felt like a stepped into a completely different world. I was surrounded by the beautiful bright greens of the different tree leaves with rays of sun streaming through the tops which made me feel like I was in a jungle and no longer in Orlando. It was great!

Lake Lotus Park (Photo Courtesy of Morgan W and Dreamfinder Photography)

Lake Lotus Park (Photo Courtesy of Morgan W and Dreamfinder Photography)


I wandered around the trail and it was fun to get a little lost and try to find my way as I looked at everything that surrounded me. There was just so much to look at. I had my camera with me and this is definitely a place where the camera speaks 1,000 words! The trees, flowers, birds, and even insects seemed to be everywhere I looked! But in Florida there’s something else to add to that list…… gators! Yes ladies and gentlemen, there are gators there and I stumbled on a baby gator in the water as I reached a part of the trail that became a wooded boardwalk around the lake. I wasn’t used to having to worry about gators around me since I’m not from Florida so that was a new experience for me.

Hi Baby Gator! (Photo Courtesy of Morgan W & Dreamfinder Photography)

Hi Baby Gator! (Photo Courtesy of Morgan W & Dreamfinder Photography)

I walked the whole trail of Lake Lotus Nature Park which is about 1.7 miles long and includes the wooded boardwalk around the lake and a great little pavilion called the Windows to the Lake which displays the different flora and fauna that you might see while explore the park. It was great to check out the pavilion and figure out the names of the plants and animals that I was seeing because everything was foreign to me since I didn’t grow up with gators in my local nature parks or even egrets (which I saw too!). It was perfect way to escape for a couple of hours and wander around with nature. If you haven’t been yet then you are missing out! Go check out their website at Altamonte Springs online to get more information and even reserve a picnic pavilion to have a great outing with friends or family! If all the parks in Orlando are as beautiful as this one and as fun, I can’t wait to check out more!

(Photo Courtesy of Morgan W and Dreamfinder Photography)

(Photo Courtesy of Morgan W and Dreamfinder Photography)

Stay tuned for more “More Than Just The Mouse” and check out my last article about the Dr. Phillips Center!

Take a walk with your dad

National Father Daughter take a walk day

Today is National Father Daughter take a walk day! On July 7th take a few minutes to get outside and smell the roses with your daughter. This day was created to help you and your daughter create life long memories together. Even if you take only 5 minutes to walk with her that may leave a lifelong impression.

Take a walk with your dad

Take a walk with your dad

Walking also helps your physical activity as well.  Doctors say that you should walk at least 30 minutes a day. If you are walking to lose weight then you may want to increase that to 45 minutes to an hour. We have a great park called Fairview Park in Costa Mesa Ca. This is a great place to take that walk. They even do free Train rides on weekends.

Placentia Bridge Costa Mesa, CA

Placentia Bridge Costa Mesa, CA

The summer is the best time to get outside and enjoy time with the family! Time with your family is the most valuable gift that you can give to anyone. If you teach your daughter to be active at a young age then she will carry that with her. I did Taekwondo with my dad for almost 5 years and that time was some of the best memories that I have of my childhood.

Paris photo courtesy of:

Summer Travel Guide

Summer is upon us and we will all be packing up and heading on warm weather getaways. According to, there are some destinations that get more travel than others. Looking for something new and exciting to do with your summer vacation? Try these destinations for size:

5) Mykonos: Known as ‘The Island of the Winds” by locals, this Greek island is a tropical paradise. Equipped with sun, sand, warm weather and great atmosphere, any traveler would be happy to find themselves in this Mediterranean heaven. Mykonos is a great spot for the vacation party goer. This island supposedly is home to some of the best clubs in Greece. Fun fact: The sun shines up to 300 days a year here!

Mykonos photo courtesy of:

Mykonos photo courtesy of:

4) Fiji: Known for white sandy beaches and year round tropical temperatures, Fiji is the ultimate vacation spot. Home to botanical gardens, sand dunes, forest parks and outter island scuba diving, this vacation is sure to be one of a kind. You may have to use a little more vacation time than planned, but I wouldn’t doubt that this would be worth your while.

Fiji photo courtesy of:

Fiji photo courtesy of:

3) Nice: Now, having been here myself, this is a vacation spot that I would suggest to anyone. There is a reason the French call it “Nice La Belle” (translates to ‘Nice the beautiful’). Located on the southern coast of France, right on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is France’s 2nd most popular city to visit after the “City of Love”, Paris. Light blue waters, French culture and beautiful weather are all reasons to pay Nice a visit.

Nice photo courtesy of:

Nice photo courtesy of:

2) Paris: We will stay in France and explore Paris, the “City of Love”. As the capital of France, there is much to see and do in Paris. Visit the Eiffel Tower or come during Fashion Week, Paris never disappoints. Home to some of the most amazing revolutionary sights, Paris is truly a gem. I have heard many a person say that they have found themselves in this amazing city.

Paris photo courtesy of:

Paris photo courtesy of:

1) Maui: Switching gears, we head back to the homeland and explore our island state, Hawaii! Maui is Hawaii’s 2nd largest island. Known for snorkeling, wind surfing, surfing, kiteboarding and kitesurfing, Maui is a great place to go with the family or for a romantic couple’s getaway. Not that far from the world we live in, Hawaii makes for an affordable and close island getaway, Perfect for those of us with vacation hour balances.

Maui photo courtesy of:

Maui photo courtesy of:

For those of us that are lucky enough to be able to travel during the summer break, these are great places to go. Maybe this blog will inspire you to go!