Valentine’s Day- The unfiltered mom version

By: Nicole Leigh Marcellus

As I sat down to write this blog post, I started to think what could I possibly say about Valentine’s Day? I am probably one of the least mushy gushy lovey dovey people I know. I am the last person that has anything to say on the most Hallmark holiday all about love of the year. So if you are expecting a blog about how I have this wonderful relationship where we can barely stand to be apart, have sex multiple times a day and go on romantic date nights every weekend, stop reading now and find another Valentines Day blog post. This isn’t the one for you.

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Heres the nitty gritty truth of the matter. I write about a lot of things. I am not afraid to get personal. I have never ever written about my husband or my relationship. If I am being honest, I don’t mention him very often. The reason is I am a come as you are kind of girl. I like to be honest. I don’t like to give the appearance that everything is sunshine and rainbows when it’s not. That’s not my jam, guys! Social Media has enough people shoving down your throat that their life is perfect. I refuse to be one of them. That being said, my relationship is far from perfect. It’s not all hearts and stars and rainbows. Because of this I have chosen to stay silent about it. I have choosen to almost pretend like it does not exist, to not be fake. I’m choosing this hallmark holiday to lay it all out on the table.

Our relationship has been through the ringer. The short abbreviated version. My husband and I had an instant connection, dated for a few months, and I got knocked up. While this wasn’t a planned pregnancy, it was very much wanted. Unfortunately, we lost our sweet baby. We still went on to get married as planned, and then had two more children in less than two years. Essentially, in less than three years, we had three children with one that unfortunately is in heaven. We had only month’s of dating under our belt. Now we have a home and two precious girl’s and this loss weighing on our still fresh marriage. On top of that, I went from a stay at home mom at the beginning of last year, to opening my own business, and now I am working at the business full-time. We both have endured our struggles. I don’t feel like it’s my place to share his. I, however, will be blunt and say I definitely suffered from post partum depression, and the loss of our first baby. Pair that with my husband working swing shifts, and be starting a business, and its a recipe for disaster. We have really been in a constant season of survival for years. A relationship cant thrive on survival.

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My girl’s have gotten a little bit older now, my business is a year old and more established. I am coming out of this season of just surviving. This season where guys if I am being honest we were ships passing in the night. We were roommates, not husband and wife, and definitely not valentines. I went into 2018 realizing something had to give.

I have committed this year to not just surviving but thriving. To not pushing my relationship to the back-burner for my kids, or my business. To realizing that the two people we were 5 years ago when we began our journey are still in their somewhere. To letting go of five years of built resentments of me feeling like he didn’t change enough diaper’s, wipe enough snotty noses, hold my hair back when I was vomiting for months while pregnant, or most importantly appreciate me enough. He’s learning to cope with me forgetting or misplacing half of our life. He’s learning to love the imperfect person I am. He’s learning to take on more of the responsibility at home since I started working at my business full-time. He’s realizing how this mom gig may not be as easy as he thought. We are learning to prioritize each other, and our relationship.We are both realizing that this marriage thing isn’t always easy. We are both learning to find some middle ground, and be more than just roommates.

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Season’s come and go. Babies grow up; hard time’s get easier. What I have taken away from it all is this: Stick with it, keep on keeping on. Don’t throw in the towel as long as there is still love there. This too shall pass. I have changed a million times since I married this man, he has changed as well. That change doesnt have to be a bad thing, as long as we can grow together. I don’t have this whole marriage thing figured out, guys. My relationship still isn’t sunshine and rainbows everyday. As I said, I am probably the worst person to write a Valentines Day blog post. I wanted to do it though, because I know I’m not alone. I know there are other mama’s just like myself with little babies, and toddlers, and even big kids, in the thick of it. I know that they are to knee deep in diapers, laundry, and homework to look up at your husband. I am you, and I am here to tell you: we will be ok. You are not alone! I too have an imperfect realtionship in a social media world where everyone else is getting a dozen roses, diamond necklaces, and love notes. I will be getting the Fresh Market meal deal for a simple dinner at home. There is nothing wrong with that. This is just a season as long as we can remember though at some point we have to stop surviving, and start growing forward. At some point we need to look up at our husband’s even when we are exhausted and feel like we have nothing left in us, and make our realtionship a priority.

I’m Nicole Leigh Marcellus

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Photographer, Educator, Blogger, and all around life inspirer, with huge dreams. I’m obsessed with all things farmhouse, chai tea lattes, yoga pants, top knots, and my family.

EveryDay Moms Photographer List

 

Tampa Area Photographers

In today’s photography world there are so many choices. Choices in photographers, choices in types of photography, different editing styles, full-service luxury or DIY digitals with everything in between. The list goes on and on. So how do you choose the right one? Is a documentary photographer right for you, would you rather more of a lifestyle session or maybe a posed portrait session is more your style? OR maybe like 90% of the world you don’t even know there is a difference in all of this! Maybe you don’t care about the label as much as the results!

 

When you start looking for a photographer the number one best place to start (after you have asked your friends, that neighborhood Facebook group and maybe looked through some Instagram hashtags) is by looking at a photographer’s portfolio. Scan through their website, pour through their latest images on FB and IG. Do their images speak to you? Do they make you feel something? Do you look at them and think, wow I want images like that? Does their editing style match your taste and your vision? Really look at their work and ask yourself if it is something you would hang on your wall! Do you just like their pretty pictures or do they make you feel something inside? Do they create art that you would hang on your walls?

 

Next thing to ask yourself do they fit in your budget? Remember that cheaper doesn’t always mean better but we all have a budget to work within. For some that might mean saving money for 6 months to have that dream session, asking the photographer if they accept a payment plan (many will!) or looking elsewhere to find someone that fits. Your photographer understands that everyone has financial constraints, talk to them about what your budget really is or if you really want them, wait and see if they offer a sale!

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want heirloom art to hang on your walls or an album to pass along to future generations?
  • Maybe you want digital images only to put on your computer or make your own prints
  • Maybe you want all of the above?
  • Does your photographer blog their sessions so you can share that with friends and family?
  • If you only want digitals ask yourself why and what you really plan to do with them
  • Do they offer family films as well as photography services?

Knowing these answers will help you narrow down your choices!

Other considerations are does their service match your needs? Are they a full-service provider to help you through each step in the process from a pre-consultation meeting to helping you put prints in your hands or on your walls? Maybe you don’t want that and just need someone who provides you with digital images and let you do the rest of the work.

tampa bay area photographers

Now let’s talk about different types of sessions. Posed Portrait traditional sessions, Lifestyle session or Documentary sessions.

Traditional Sessions

These can be in a studio or on a location. They are typically stiffer, everyone is placed in a certain position, told to look at the camera and smile. Clothes generally are coordinated, makeup artists hired, the background is pretty.

Lifestyle Sessions

These can also be either in a studio or on location, although more typically they are done on location. While everyone is dressed in their coordinated Sunday’s best, the session itself is much more relaxed. There is still a lot of direction usually given by the photographer, but mainly they are gentle cues to elicit warm funny reactions. These often take place in a gorgeous setting, sometimes with props, but not always. They can be more of a hybrid between Traditional and Documentary.

Documentary Sessions

This is all about real life, real moments and very little to no direction. Sessions like this can take place in your home or other places that contain memories for you and your family. They can be centered around a daily activity or just your everyday real life. No special bought coordinating outfits, no cheese, no stand there, do this. These sessions are more about photographing the pieces of your life that matter the most at this point in time (and yes those important moments vary from season to season, that’s what keeps it fun!). Think about a few things happening in your life right now that you would be over the moon to have in a photograph giving you the chance to remember once they no longer happen, that is what these sessions are all about!

Tampa Bay Area Photographers

Below is a list of local photographers that all belong to the EveryDay Mom’s group. They are moms, friends and post funny meme’s. Scroll through the list, look at everyone’s work and see what style really fits your tastes and needs! 

 

Momma Got Soul Photo and Films

http://www.mommagotsoulphotography.com/

Artistic Storyteller and Documentary Family photographer. Telling your family story through beautiful real-life moments.

Families, Day in the Life, Maternity, newborn and events

 

Running Circles Photography

www.runningcirclesphotography.com

Birth and Newborn Photographer

 

Nicole Marcellus Photography

www.nicoleleighmarcellus.com

Families and Weddings

 

Heartstrings Photography

https://www.facebook.com/heartstringsphotosbytiffany/

Families

 

Lokelani Photo

www.facebook.com/lokelaniphoto

Rather than giving you the same posed portraits you’re so familiar with, I’m more interested in capturing the authentic connection between loved ones.

All aspects of Family Photography from the engagement to the wedding, maternity, birth & newborn, and finally the traditional family photos.

 

Clara Aluri Photography

https://www.facebook.com/claraaluriphotography/

Families

 

Precious Memories by Michelle

http://www.preciousmemoriesbymichelle.com/

Newborn through the first year

 

Mama and Crew

www.mamaandcrew.com

Focused on capturing life’s candid moments

Families

 

Sunshine Smiles photography
Www.sunshinesmilesphotography.com

Glamour

 

Lauren McDonald Photography

laurenmcdonaldphotos.com

Newborn, maternity

 

Sweet Novalee Photography

https://sweetnovaleephoto.wordpress.com/

Capturing candid natural light images

Families

 

Sweet Plum Photography and Boudoir

www.sweetplumphotography.com 

www.sweetplumboudoir.com

Specializing in maternity, birth, family, and boudoir. I love making my clients cry (in a good way!) I find the beauty in you and your family and I capture it.

Birth, Families, and Boudoir

 

Andrea Dwyer Photography

Www.andreadwyerphotography.com

Beautiful heirloom portraits and a fabulous experience with personalized session styling

Maternity Newborn through the first year

 

Miranda Love Photography

https://www.facebook.com/Mirandalovephotography/

Maternity, Newborn and children

 

Sheena Marie Photography

https://www.facebook.com/sheenamariephotos/

Maternity, newborn, families

 

Christine Lee Photography
www.christineleephotography.net

Sessions focused on real emotions, genuine smiles, and honest laughter.

Families and Kids

 

Misty Jones 

www.mistyjonesphotograpy.com

Natural light photographer. Sessions are held in a home studio or on location.

Families, Children and couples

 

Kalyn Parrish Photography
Facebook.com/kalynparrishphotography

Newborn, maternity

 

Amber Lynn Photography

www.facebook.com/amberlynnphotography.ambernanton

Family

 

Anna Faiola Productions 

www.annafaiola.com

Photography and video production company

 

Kimberly Smith
http://www.faithfuljoyphotos.com/

Lifestyle, candid photographer

Families

 

Yanira McCall Photography

http://yaniramccall.com/

Specialize in Family, Women, Children, Senior, and Personal Branding/Headshots style Portraits.

 

Ali Shryock Photography
www.alishryockphotography.com

Families, Maternity, Newborn

 

Nadia Lauchman 
Www.nadialauchmanphotography.com

Newborn, maternity and families

 

Rachel Rayne Photography

https://www.rachelraynephotography.com/

Luxury Maternity and Newborn Photography specializing in beach sessions and an

award-winning experience

 

Memories Captured by Kelly 
https://www.facebook.com/memoriescapturedbykelly/

Family

 

Essentia Photography 

www.essentiaphotography.com

Specialize in beach photography,

Wedding, Lifestyle, and Maternity

 

Lindsay Bove Photography
Lbovephotography.com

Lifestyle, maternity, children and family portraits

 

Darlene Barlows Photography

www.darlenebarlowsphotography.com

I want to document the special moments in your life, whether at your wedding or the birth of your first child, but I also want to be there for the ordinary moments.

Wedding, Families, Headshots

 

Abbey Saxton Photography

www.abbeysaxton.com

I would love to document your family just as they are!

Families, Day in the Life, Maternity, newborn and weddings

 

Jennifer Lynne Photography

https://www.facebook.com/JenniferLynneSelf/

Families

 

Dream Portraits by Olaya

https://www.dreamportraitsbyolaya.com/

Maternity, Newborn and Family

 

Tee Lynn Photography

www.facebook.com/teelynnPhotography

Wedding & family photographer

 

Golden Owl Photography

www.fb.com/goldenowlphotography

Child and Family Photographer

 

Amie Brady Photography
www.facebook.com/amiebradyphotography

Family

 

Chelsea Stewart Photography

Facebook.com/chelseastewartphotographer

Maternity, Children, and Families

 

Allison Ward Photography

http://www.allysonwardphoto.com/

Family, Senior, and Head Shots

 

Jessica Cruz Photography
www.jessicacruzphotography.com

If traditional imagery and shot lists are your thing, we might not be the best fit. Your love is one of a kind and your photos should reflect that.

Weddings, family, maternity

 

Digital Myst Photography

www.digitalmystphotography.com

Maternity, Newborn and Family

 

Cherished Moments Photography

http://dustygirl4.wix.com/cherishedmoments

Family and Wedding

 

Nicole Elizabeth Photography & Design

www.facebook.com/NEphotography11

Family, maternity, wedding

 

Mir Salgado Photography

www.mirsalgado.com

With a very Elegant, Emblematic and Artistic style

Wedding & Portrait Photographer

 

J Morgan Images
Www.jmorganimages.com

Family, Portrait, Weddings, and Beauty

 

Marie Crowne Photography

https://www.mariecrowne.com/

Children, families, maternity, engagements, and weddings.

 

Soul Child Photography

facebook.com/Soul-Child-Photography

Engagement, families and children

 

Austyn Lee Photography

facebook.com/austynleephotography

Families

 

 

Make sure when you reach out that you ask lots of questions and tell them you are a fellow EveryDay Moms Member!

 

Mom and Daughter Selfie

The momma behind Momma Got Soul Photo and Films, Tampa Bay Family Photographer. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am an artistic storyteller. I stay up late, try to sleep late, and drink lots of coffee and beer (usually in that order, but not always). I grew up in sunny (which means really hot) central Florida, never go to the beach or Disney, but try to hike in the woods as much as I can. I remember a time when I said I would never photograph people, now that’s all I do. I think it started with wanting to explore the world and capture that to share with people. Now I want to scream to the world that real stuff beats out fake any day of the week!

Just Breath Supermom

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Thank you. Thank you to the mom that wrote something that moved me so much that I was paralyzed with emotion while sitting in my bed, surrounded by laundry, dust bunnies, and a computer that begged for me to do my homework. Thank you for making me realize that I am not alone. That it is “ok” to not be “ok”. That it is ok not be a supermom all-day, every single day. That sometimes letting the kids eat dinner in front of the TV just so I can sit down and breath for one damn second is OK.

You see we moms are pretty hard on ourselves. Call it biology. Call it societal pressure. Call it what you want – but we often hold ourselves to a ridiculously impossible standard. Why? I am certainly not the one who has it all figured out but what I do know is that I thank all the mommy bloggers and mommy posters out there that at some point, have had a rough day, and then have taken that opportunity to make light of it for the rest of us who just mig

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ht also be having a rough day.

And to the mom that posted in a mom’s group of 5600 women that today she was just surviving and that it was ok – you freed me from my self-inflicted notion that I suck at this parenting thing just because I feel too overwhelmed to do anything worthy of super-mom status, thank you. Thank you for making me feel, and connecting with not only myself but so many other women than needed to hear your words. Words can do so much. Because of words like hers and the many other women that put it all out there – even on really bad days we can remember that tomorrow is brighter and better than this one bad day. That because I am a mom I can survive this and pick myself up and move forward for not only the ones I love, but for myself.

So moms, let us give ourselves permission. Permission to turn on Micky Mouse Clubhouse so we can read a chapter out of our favorite book. Permission to hide in our bathroom for 5 minutes to paint our long over-do toenails. Permission to do whatever it is that helps us do this mom thing a little better. Some days are awesome – some are not. In those moments when we feel we just cannot do it anymore, remember you are not alone. There are women out there from all walks of life “just breathing” in their closets, bathrooms, and driver’s seat. Go on, and remember to “just breath”, and make tomorrow better.

How your family can Celebrate & Honor Black History Month.

February is African American History month. It is a time when we pay tribute to generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to secure equal opportunities in America. It is a time when we recognize that although we are all different, we are really all similar, too. There are many ways to celebrate with your family.

• Visit local museums. It’s likely that February’s premier exhibits will focus on the work of African American creators.

• Sit back, relax and listen to some good, classic jazz. Or go to a jazz concert. Enjoy African American music from the past from Duke Ellington, Zora Neale Hurston, Ethel Waters, and Langston Hughes.

• Read a book together or watch a movie about the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball.

• Join the celebration. Visit cities and towns that enjoy festive cultural celebrations during this month.

• Talk to your kids about diversity and racism. Ask them if they see it in their school and how they feel about it. What can they do to fight it?

• Study your own family’s history and help them see that we all come from another country and culture.

• Head to the library to check out a few books about African American adventures or biographies.

Confessions of an Accounting Wife

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My husband works… a lot. When I say a lot, I mean 80+ hour weeks are the norm in our house and travel is a frequent occurrence for our family. My husband, whom I will refer as “Mr. Tax” for the purpose of this article is Tax Director for a public accounting firm. What people don’t realize is that public accounting is 365 days a year operation and while there are certain times throughout the year when my husband is less busy, that simply means he is working a 60+ hour week instead of an 80+ hour week. It’s quite different than individual accounting and has much different deadlines and extensions. My husband has always worked in public accounting for as long as I’ve known him and in order for him to progress in his career, I knew there would need to be a lot of sacrifices from both of us. Mr. Tax sacrifices sleep for the most part and I sacrificed my career when we decided I would stay at home with our children. The only members of our family who haven’t sacrificed anything are our children. They’re key players in our family, because we are firm believers that their childhood should never have to suffer as a result of their dad’s career choice.

On average, Mr. Tax arrives home between 6:30-7:30pm during the week. More often than not, we eat dinner together at least 5 nights a week. By 2018 standards, that is more than average, but sitting at the table together every night has always been a priority for us. This gives all five of us time to talk as a family and keeps us grounded. Are the afternoons a little crazy with homework and after school activities? Absolutely. The thing all five of us seem to look forward to the most is gathering at the dinner table to eat dinner and share our days with one another.

Like I mentioned before, our children have never suffered as a result of the long hours and frequent travel. Like most parents, our three children are our top priority. Mr. Tax is fortunate to work for a firm that prides itself on “work/life balance.” The benefits are fantastic and the support the firm provides for its families is incredible. Mr. Tax has missed the occasional parent/teacher conference or doctor appointment, but we prioritize which school activities, doctor appointments and other functions are most important. At the end of the day, they all know they can count on both of us to be there when they need us. They also understand that their daddy works hard to provide for his family and their mommy works hard to make sure the household functions properly. When Mr. Tax is away or if he’s working late at the office, we make it a point to Face Time with him before the girls go to bed. Just because daddy is away or working late, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have time to hear about their day.

Don’t get me wrong; there are some amazing perks to Mr. Tax’s job. For example, last October the two of us took our first, real trip away from the kids to Vegas. It was technically a work trip because Mr. Tax was promoted and spouses were required to attend training sessions along with the employee, but an all expense paid trip to Vegas? Yes, please! It was really great to meet and commiserate with other accounting spouses, as well as gain perspective on new expectations of my husband and possible new expectations of me. Our family also gets to attend a yearly conference hosted by Mr. Tax’s firm at Disney World. During the day, he will teach clients about the latest and greatest in his niche of public accounting while the girls and I live it up at the resort and parks. There is even a family night that includes a big dinner for attendees and their families, complete exclusive Disney character meet and greets and a dessert party on the docks of The Grand Floridian Resort. It’s the little perks like these that make the job a little more bearable.

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Preparation is very important to our family. Each Sunday, the entire family prepares themselves for the week. For my husband and I, this means going over the upcoming week (including if outside childcare is needed for the week) and making sure everything is in place for the week (clean uniforms, groceries, meal planning, after school activities, doctor appointments, etc.). For the girls, this means making sure their rooms are tidy and reviewing their school agendas. When all five of us are organized and prepared for the week, things run smoother. Preparation continues throughout the week in the morning and at night. While setting schedules are important, frequent reminders are helpful in making sure Mr. Tax and I don’t miss anything. We communicate constantly to make sure everything is accounted for (full pun intended). The easiest way for our family to quickly communicate is via texting. The old adage, “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen” hold true for our family so we prefer to text and email when we are discussing and fine tuning our schedule.

As I write this, I’m enjoying a quite evening at home while my girls sleep peacefully in their beds. Mr. Tax is traveling this week for work and will also be traveling next week for work. Since having children, I have begun to enjoy the solitude during the evenings after the girls go to bed and Mr. Tax is traveling or working late. I pour myself a glass of cheap champagne, catch up on terrible reality TV and unwind after a long day. Of course, this doesn’t occur until everything is prepped for the next day.

Here are some tips that have proven to be helpful for our family in managing Mr. Tax’s work schedule and our busy family schedule:

  1. Prioritize! Make a list of what is most important for your family. By prioritizing it helps everyone communicate what is most/least important.
  2. Keep a calendar! An electronic calendar isn’t my forté so I keep an old fashion, hand written calendar on the wall of our kitchen and my husband adds his work commitments to our calendar.
  3. Face Time and Skype! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but this certainly does not apply to children. Make it a point to talk and see each other daily.
  4. Communicate! If something important is happening next week, make a point to discuss it as a family so that expectations are clear.
  5. Organization! Prepare for the week the Sunday before and spend time each evening to prepare everyone for the next day.

 

Camping: Supplies

 

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I didn’t grow up camping, but my husband did. Some of his fondest memories are from family camping trips.  I only remember my family camping a few times. When the opportunity to camp with friends came up I was a little nervous.  Would my daughter cry, freak out and not sleep at night? Would my daughter be bored and annoy the shit out of us? Would it really be relaxing? What about the BUGS???? So many questions but much to my surprise camping has been relaxing and fun for all of us. 

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There is something about sitting around a campfire at night and exploring our surroundings during the day that brings out the best in us. It provides a calm break from the chaos that life at home can bring. With that being said, it is a TON of work initially and it does come at a cost. Our last trip we camped in some of the coldest weather Florida has had in years. We almost cancelled, but decided to go. We spent quite a bit of money buying heated blankets, and extra clothing to wear in layers. It stunk having to spend the money but it turned out to be one of our best trips yet.

Camping is a lot of trial and error; you do not realize you “need” certain items until you do not have them.  The following is our camping supply checklist.

Tent: We tent camp and I love it. When I was searching for a tent I looked for one that we could stand in and also had enough room for our daughter to sleep on her own. It also needed to be “easy” to put up. My husbands needs were one that has a high wind and rain rating and one that provides enough ventilation for the Florida heat. After weeks and weeks of research, we bought the Coleman Tenaya Lake . It is a little overkill for my family of three, but we like our space. My husband calls it our glamping tent.

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Air Mattress/Cots: I love camping and don’t mind “roughing it”, but I am not sleeping directly on the ground. We each have our own twin air mattress. They were super cheap; $7 at walmart. Many of our friends have cots and love them. If you are willing to spend the extra money and aren’t a super tall human those are also a great choice.

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Rechargeable battery powered air mattress pump.

Rubber mallet

Extra tent stakes

Mat to wipe feet on outside of tent.

Broom/Dustpan for sweeping dirt out of the tent

Pop Up shade Canopy and/or Netted canopy

Camping chairs

Blankets/Sleeping Bags and pillows

Fans Battery powered/electric

Extension Cords

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Camp cookware: Pots, pans, pot holders, percolator for coffee, coffee cups, forks, spoons, a knife for cutting up food, spatula, large spoon, extra bowl, Tervis/Yeti cups, dish towels, table cloth for the picnic table and clips for windy days, trash bags, paper towels, pop up food nets, gallon size zip lock bags. We have a second set of these items strictly for camping that we leave in a locking bin.

Camp Stove and Extra Fuel

Toilet Paper: Save yourself from the sandpaper the restrooms provide. Also for using during late nights when popping a squat:-). We keep it in the tent next to our bed.

Cooler for cold food and drinks.

First Aid kit

Bug spray (The real stuff ), bug bands and anything else that will keep the mosquitos away.  

Fire wood! I suggest that if you are planning on camping stock up on wood whenever possible. We have a good stockpile started; after a neighbor chopped down some trees we loaded up. we didn’t do this prior to our last trip and ended up spending around $30 on wood.

Matches, Lighter, fire starter logs

Water, Lots of water. Used for Cooking/Drinking. We invested in a PROPur portable water filter and we take that with us now. We hated having to bring so many gallon jugs of water. Many sites have potable water, but not all. We bring the filter to cut back on clutter in the campsite and reduce the amount of trash generated by bottles of water.  

Lighting: Lanterns, flashlights, headlamps (for every family member). Extra Batteries. If your site has power: bring string lights to hang from tree to tree or from a pop up shade canopy. This is one of my favorite things to hang up at the campsite. It provides a subtle amount of light and nice ambiance when hanging around the campfire at night.

Battery powered phone charger

Pop up trash can that zips, not a must have just a convenient luxury.

Camping sink  yet another one that you don’t need, but once you have it you won’t camp without it.

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Hammock: There is nothing better than relaxing in a hammock drinking your coffee or reading a book. I suggest getting a double person. My husband and I enjoyed snuggling in the hammock together the last time we camped.

Toys/Entertainment: I usually have my daughter pack her own backpack with what she wants. She usually grabs books, her american girl doll/accessories, sketchbook and her hot wheels. We usually bring bocce with us. This last trip we brought our Nintendo Switch, but didn’t even play with it. Our friends brought a frisbee last time we camped and that was fun. Bikes and scooters are fun for getting around the campground. We also always bring our fishing poles and tackle box. We also bring a bluetooth speaker, music is a must at times.

 

Important things to note:

My family did not acquire all of these items at once. In fact some of the items we borrow from friends that also camp. We would have gone broke buying all of the items on this list at once. However we have been camping for a little over a year now and are building a good base for future camps. Everything that we buy now is an investment for future camps. We hope to get to the point where all we have to do is prep our food and load up the gear and go. 

All of our gear does not fit in one vehicle. We usually take two vehicles or use my in-laws truck.

Use locking plastic bins to store supplies and dry food. Do not leave any food or bins out overnight. Animals will try to get into it. Load the bins into your locked vehicle or tent overnight.

If possible bring friends along. We love to camp with friends. Our daughter loves to have friends to play with and we love the adult conversation. It is also nice to have other campers you know to borrow from just in case you leave something you need behind. Of course, you could also talk to a fellow camper you don’t know. We have found other campers to be super friendly and always willing to lend a helping hand. After all we have all been through the same trial and error that comes with the territory.

Stay tuned for future posts on camping. I will be blogging next about camp food and places to camp in florida. We have only camped a handful of places, but I have a ton on my bucket list to share.

It takes work and some days there is more rain than shine but for us the hard work pays off. We are creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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Suzette Foister,

SAHM, Wife, Homeschooler, Owner/Artist of Bring Your Own Canvas…. amateur camper 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Everyday Moms Favorites!

 

 

About Toffee Traditions:

Our Toffee Tradition Started over 40 years ago.  Born and raised in Hyde Park in Tampa, FL.  Our family had a tradition that became my favorite childhood tradition.  As a young girl I cooked next to my mother in the kitchen making our gourmet toffee.  The Aromas filled the house and this time was a special time that I looked forward to and loved.  As the years went by I continued the tradition with my own children teaching them the secrets of making this delectable dessert.  Our families classic was chocolate pecan toffee.  I have made this family favorite of mine many times over the years handing out for gifts to friends, teachers and family.  Our company has created new flavors for sharing.  I have always been talked into selling my toffees.  Today I am thrilled to Own Toffee Tradition & Treats.  It has been a great Journey.  I am happy to share my joy of baking with the many return customers and friends I have made along the way.  I invite you to join the Family Tradition.

  • Fresh handmade buttery toffees
  • Gluten free option
  • No preservatives
  • Small batches
  • Finest ingredients

 

Please like us on Facebook.  You can find our Facebook page here.

toffeetradition@gmail.com

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About Remi’s Minis:

Remi, our family pit bull, was originally found by Hillsborough County Animal Services. He had been tied to a tree and sustained severe injuries from being shot in the head and face over 30 times with a BB gun! This resulted in him having to have his right eye removed. Normally, because of the false reputation that the media has placed on his breed, Remi would have just been “put down”. However, our friends at The Humane Society of Tampa Bay decided to take a chance on him. They performed the necessary surgeries, after care, and training only to put him up for a second chance at life!

My wife and I believe that pets come into our lives at just the right time, for just the right moment. This fateful encounter can either serve to rescue us from personal tragedies, or in most cases, allows us to rescue animals from tragic situations.

In 2013, my wife Christy went to the Humane Society with a co-worker to support her in finding a puppy. While there, she saw (and instantly fell in love with) Remi. He was sitting there with a cone on his neck, fresh from surgery, and he looked so dejected and lonely in his kennel. She sent me his picture and asked to bring him home.

We officially adopted Remi on Valentine’s Day. This was perfectly fitting for such a lovable dog. Remi is a lover, not a fighter. He is the most docile, easy-going dog. He is quick to look for praise, oftentimes placing his muzzle in my hand during walks. He loves nothing more than to climb in bed with our daughters, snuggle right up to them, and be covered up for the night. We are quick to include Remi in any family activities and take pride in telling his story explaining that dogs, like people, should not be stereotyped.

We love to use Remi’s story as a teaching tool for our kids. We often tell them that sometimes we (people and pets) will have to endure bad things in life that we have no control over. But, out of these trials there can be joy at the end of the rainbow! Because of his unfortunate circumstances, we were able to give him a new life where he is beyond spoiled. Remi brought with him a sense of being able to overcome insurmountable odds and a new outlook on life. To this day, his situation still reminds us that things will always get better.

http://www.remisminis.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/RemisMinis/about/?ref=page_internal

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Community Spotlight: Waterset in Apollo Beach

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Waterset is not your parents’ cookie-cutter neighborhood.  You do not hear the song “Little Boxes” as you drive along these streets.  This exciting Newland Communities master-planned development is currently home to nearly 1,000 beautifully crafted homes, with amenities the whole family will love.

First opening in 2012, builders are currently in Phase 3 of construction in this desirable Apollo Beach community.  There is a large selection of floor plans available among seven builders selected by Newland to deliver quality new-build homes to residents.  If you prefer a move-in-ready home, there are a number of inventory homes and resale homes also available.  Continue reading to find out why once you move in to Waterset, you may never want to leave home again!

Located south of Big Bend Road between US 41 and Interstate 75, the first thing you’ll notice upon turning on Waterset Boulevard, is the scenic half-mile tree-lined drive into the community.   Pride of ownership is displayed throughout Waterset, with clean streets and common areas, well-maintained homes and yards, and outstanding amenities.

Waterset Amenities

The Landing

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The Landing Club & Café is the social hub of Waterset.  Complete with a staffed information center and meeting room, The Landing Club & Café offers residents and visitors a delectable café menu of made-to-order food, smoothies, and drinks including a selection of wine and beer.

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Designed with a modern flair, there are several tables and booths available for patrons, as well as an area with two couches.  Perhaps best of all, there is an area dedicated to children, loaded with toys, books, and games.   That’s right; parents and friends can gather and relax while the children entertain themselves indoors without making a mess in your home.  Grab a glass or mug, sit back, and relax!

Just outside, the Landing also includes a fitness center, shade pavilion, outdoor playground, community pool, and a pier overlooking a lake.

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But wait, Waterset offers even more…

The Lakeside

Centrally located within Waterset is another set of amenities, appropriately named The Lakeside.  Situated next to a 32-acre lake, this fun spot includes a children’s splash zone (two actually; one large and one smaller splash pad), a spacious playground for children of all ages, a dog park, outdoor fit stations, a picnic area with grills, plenty of lounge chairs for sunning, and benches or hammocks for relaxing in the shade.  The Lakeside is also home to the Grand Lawn, where community events are held, including concerts and parties such as the fabulous Independence Day celebration, Concerts for a Cause, Wine Down Friday, and more.

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Playground at The Lakeside in Waterset

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Splash Pad at The Lakeside in Waterset

What more could you ask for?  Well, I’m glad you asked…

Future Waterset Club

Located on the southern end of Waterset, construction has begun on another massive play area for families.  The Waterset Club is scheduled to open in 2018 and will include 2 resort-style pools (a lap pool, and a larger pool with slides), another indoor fitness center, tennis and basketball courts, pickle ball, game room, and gathering room.

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Rendering for the future Waterset Club amenities

Scattered Throughout

Waterset has plenty of scenery with many bodies of water, an abundance of trees, and large green spaces to run and play.  This pedestrian-friendly community has small parks located among the neighborhoods, and miles of trails throughout the community, perfect for walking or jogging.  The Fit Trail is a 2.5 mile trail featuring six outdoor fit stations with exercise equipment.

Area Schools

If you’re familiar with Apollo Beach, you’ve likely heard praises about SouthShore Montessori Preschool located within Waterset.  Kids-R-Kids Learning Academy has a daycare/VPK campus nestled in Waterset, plus another location just outside of the community, across Big Bend Road.  Waterset Charter School (Kindergarten – 8th grade) is nearby, as well as Doby Elementary, Eisenhower Middle School, and East Bay High School.  There is also a proposed school site within the southeastern corner of Waterset for future plans.

Apollo Beach Growth

Waterset will continue to grow, with Newland planning to build up through Phase 5 of construction with approximately 5,000 homes total, possibly up to 6,000.  Also on the drawing board for the future, are plans for a Town Center site and a proposed County Sports Complex site.  Waterset is a shining star in Apollo Beach, attracting more commerce to the area.  You will find plenty of shopping, restaurants, businesses, schools, daycares, and medical facilities nearby.  St. Joseph’s Hospital South and the YMCA South County are relatively new to Apollo Beach and are less than three miles away from Waterset.  Travel in the opposite direction, and you will find the TECO Manatee Viewing Center, also only a couple miles away.  Work in the city?  Downtown Tampa is a 20-mile drive via Interstate 75 and the Selmon Expressway.

The Homes

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(Current Watersest Builders. Information subject to change.)

Current New-Build Inventory

There are many inventory homes available now or in the very near future.  Current builder inventory homes range from 1,524 to 3,518 square feet, and are priced between the $230s and $450s.

Current MLS Resale Listings

Active resale listings are currently priced between $212,900 and $550,000, ranging in square footage from 1,747 to 4,028.  Some of these homes even include a private pool. These are not new-build homes; I call them pre-loved.

HOA & CDD

Waterset offers single family homes, townhomes, and villas.  This is a HOA and CDD community, with a fee schedule dependent upon the type of home and lot size.
– 2017 Annual HOA, $73
– 2016-2017 CDD Fiscal Year Fees, range from $965 to $3,076
– 2017 Limited Maintenance Homes, annual fees range from $1,056 to $2,149

Feature Resident

I want to send a special thank you to Everyday Moms member Julie Ann P. who so graciously showed me around her community of Waterset.  Julie Ann currently resides here with her family and is also building a beautiful new home through Homes by Westbay.  She explained that her favorite feature of Waterset is the community involvement.  There is so much to do in Waterset with all the amenities and special events, but the people are more than just residents, they are a true community.  They communicate and cooperate to make living here a wonderful experience – and it shows.

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Julie Ann and her daughter with their new-construction home

Just for Everyday Moms

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As your Everyday Moms Real Estate Contributor, I am planning an exclusive small group tour of the Waterset community in the upcoming months. Please contact me today to be included in the group. We will explore the community amenities and builder models, and discuss all that Waterset has to offer while enjoying lunch on-site at The Landing Café, provided free of charge. Limited space is available for this tour; however, I can also assist you individually. Contact me at ChristinaEdwards@kw.com for more information.  I am a licensed Florida Real Estate Agent.

What does community mean to you?

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I am highlighting some of the most sought-after communities in the Tampa Bay Area, as well as some of the smaller hidden gems around us. Do you love your neighborhood? Contact me to share your community experience for a chance to be featured in our Everyday Moms Community Spotlight blog.

Everyday Moms Contributor, Christina Edwards, Realtor®

I am a homeschooling mom of a kindergartner and have been with my husband for 17 years. As a life-long resident of Hillsborough County, it wasn’t until after I had my son that my love for this area was truly realized. Motherhood brought life experiences to a new level; with so much to do here and with community connections growing stronger than ever, this is a wonderful place to call home. I am a USF graduate with a background in business finance and new-build construction. As a local Mom and Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty, I am able to share my love and knowledge of the entire Tampa Bay Area with you!

 

The Bittersweet Goodbye of Preschool

My daughter just started kindergarten. Her father and I walked her to her door, met with her teachers, and said a quick goodbye. I was already emotional over the whole thing- the beginning of a new chapter, a longer school day, the realization that I didn’t have her at home till later in the day. We walked out of the room with tears in our eyes, trying not to do the ugly cry.

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I loved preschool. We all loved preschool. It was a small, cozy place with a class size of less than fifteen students. There were two teachers in the room, plenty of toys and lots of space to move around. It was the perfect place for creativity and imaginative play. Kindergarten used to be that way and might still be in many places, but as the years go by, I continue to hear more and more how kindergarten is the new first grade. There are less toys, more of a focus on academics, and not much time for free play. It was a hard realization for me to come too. I worried, and still do worry, if she will have the same opportunities she did in preschool to be a kid.

Fast forward to three weeks later and my daughter can recognize sight words, has learned several new songs and routines. She loves to run around and play outside and socialize with her classmates in the cafeteria. One day she came home and told me all about a science experiment that involved a balance scale and a variety of objects. The class had to guess which item was the heaviest. As she rattled off the details I was amazed by how focused she must have been during the lesson. She remembered every detail. She’s learning, she’s engaged. I can see her wheels turning. And that is a wonderful feeling.

I’ll miss her messy preschool crafts. I’ll miss the laid back schedule we had (where tardiness and attendance was a little more lenient). The fact is, as we adjust to our new way of life, I can see that she is ready. I may not have been at first, as it’s hard to say goodbye to any stage in parenting, but now I am. I’m ready to help her grow and thrive and become the best little kindergartner she can be.

Clean Eating Crockpot Meals

Written By: Lisa Valentine

Being a mom can be hectic and being a working mother makes it even crazier, especially when I’m at work in middle of dinner time. That makes it even harder to make sure my family is fed a hot meal. When I first became a mom my husband and I both worked different shifts and neither were the typical 9-5. With my husband working 12 hour shifts and my first baby starting to eat real food, I was at a loss for how to have a hot meal for my family when I could not be there. That’s when I started my crockpot experimenting.
Pinterest became my friend. I just started trying different recipes that I found and started making a list of which recipes were at hit. Not all got put on that list, some got altered and tried again, some got the boot. There were a lot of failed attempts and wasted food but I got better at picking meals to cook in the crockpot and it became my saving grace.

   I’m not just talking to working mothers here. I know how crazy kids’ schedules can be and it’s hard to cook dinner every night, especially when your kids have sports and different activities after school. We end up hitting the drive through because we are at a loss for what to cook or you just don’t have the time.  No matter what kind of mother you are; working, stay at home, work from home or homeschooling, the crockpot is THE go-to mom hack. Even when I’m not working I use it because there are some nights I know I won’t have the time or energy to cook. You know, those days you are out all day running errands or doing something fun like going to a theme park, the last thing you want to do when you get home is cook.

   Before I had my second baby I knew I needed to plan ahead this time. That’s when I made a list of our favorite recipes and made some freeze ahead crockpot meals to have on hand post baby. Nutrition is so important when you are postpartum and getting little to zero sleep usually leaves us in survival mode, eating whatever comes our way. This was a life saver when we got home from the hospital! All we had to do was decide the night before what we wanted for dinner, let it thaw out a little bit in the refrigerator and throw it in the crock pot the next morning.

When I became a health and fitness coach and started getting into clean eating, I started altering the recipes to fit our clean eating lifestyle. I knew this was something that I could not keep to myself and could use to help other moms who struggle with putting nutritious meals on the table because time is limited.
   Sometimes time plays a factor, even with the crockpot. Sometimes I forget to put it on in the morning or just didn’t find the time. My shortcut for that is adjusting the cook time. Below is a conversion chart for crockpot cooking.
LOW setting   HIGH setting
7 hours            3 hours
8 hours            4 hours
9 hours            5 hours
10 hours          6 hours
11 hours          7 hours
12 hours          8 hours
My go-to versatile crockpot hack is chicken. Throw in some chicken breasts with a little bit of water or chicken broth (low for 8 hours) and shred it when done. You can use this throughout the week for several recipes and alter to your liking. Some ideas are,
Chicken Salad
Buffalo chicken
BBQ chicken
Quesadillas
Enchiladas
Burritos (or burrito bowl)
Stir fry
To put my clean eating twist on it, I use organic chicken. I will serve atop of a salad, quinoa or brown rice or wrapped in romaine hearts or Ezekiel tortillas. I also recently discovered NUCO coconut wraps, they are a natural alternative to tortillas. I thought they were more flexible and held together better than the Ezekiel tortillas. They tasted good to me, but if you don’t like the taste of coconut, you may not like them. I ordered mine off of Amazon.
I hope these tips bring you some relief so you can still eat healthy while surviving parenthood. Bellow I added some of my favorite freeze ahead crockpot meals with grocery list to help on those days you are in a pinch.

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Crock Pot Italian Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or 2 eggs
2 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp salt + fresh pepper
For the sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, smashed
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil  

1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic and cheese. Using clean hands, mix all the ingredients and form small meatballs, about 1/8th cup each.
2. Flash freeze on parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer then place into ziplock bags.
3. Make sauce ahead or when ready to put in crock pot – In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, being careful not to burn. 

5. Pour crushed tomatoes into the crock pot with bay leaf. Add garlic and oil.
Drop meatballs into the sauce, cover and set crock pot to low, 4 to 6 hours. When meatballs are ready, adjust salt and pepper to taste and add fresh chopped basil or parsley.
Serve over favorite pasta.
Write on bag:
1. When ready, pour sauce and place in Crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.
2. Serve over favorite pasta.

Easy Crock Pot Vegetable Beef Soup
Ingredients
1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat
32 oz beef broth
1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
8 oz green beans
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t marjoram
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
Add 1 T oil to a large pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add about 2 pounds of cubed beef and cook until browning some. About 10 minutes.
While the meat is browning, clean and prep veggies. One stalk of celery chopped medium. One carrot cut into 1/4 inch medallions. One medium onion chopped medium. Also 8 oz of fresh or frozen green beans.
Add all to freezer bag. Add 32 oz beef broth (you can do this now or when you dump it all in the crock pot), one 15 oz can diced tomatoes (not drained), 1/4 t thyme, 1/4 t marjoram and one bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix well
Write on bag:
1.When ready, cook on high for 4-5 hours until meat and carrots are tender or 8-10 on low

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Ingredients
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 peppers, sliced
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
1/4 to ½ cup chicken broth, depending on preference (leave this out if you prefer a drier fajita filling)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
Squirt of lime juice

Instructions
Combine sliced onions, peppers & chicken in a ziplock bag
Pour chicken broth over top (you can do this now or when you are ready to cook)
Sprinkle everything with cumin, salt, and chili powder.
Give a nice quirt of lime juice over the top.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, cook on low for 4-8 hours (or on High for 4 hours) or until meat is spreadable.
2. When meat is done, shred with two forks and stir back into juices. Serve meat mixture with slotted spoon with your choice of fixings.

Chicken Vegetable Soup
Ingredients
1 – 2 lbs chicken, skinless, boneless
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup corn, frozen
1 cup edemame (soy beans), frozen
1 14oz can tomatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. salt (to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. pepper, ground
1 tsp. parsley, dried
Instructions
Add all ingredients to a zip lock bag and freeze.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

* To shred chicken – I keep the chicken in the Crockpot and take two forks to pull apart the chicken. The chicken should be falling completely apart.

Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients
1lb chicken tenders
3 T olive oil
1 cup raw honey
2 T sesame seeds
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Directions
Place all ingredients in freezer bag, toss to coat and freeze.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, place in crockpot and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
2. Remove chicken & shred, and then return to sauce.
3. Can serve over hot cooked rice or serve in lettuce wraps.

Crock Pot SW Steak
Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs. stew meat
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
Directions                                                                                                                                          Place onions and garlic in bottom of freezer bag and top with meat. Mix salsa, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper in small bowl and pour over meat. Top with drained black beans.

Write on bag:
1. Cook on low for 7-9 hours until meat is tender
2. Serve with favorite rice

Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients
1 – 2 lbs chicken sausage
2 peppers, sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp parsley

Directions
Flash freeze sausage on parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer.
Place onions and peppers in bottom of freezer bag and top with meat. Add in can of tomatoes and parsley, pour over meat.

Write on bag:
1. Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours
2. Serve with favorite rice or in favorite rolls

Grocery list
Meat & dairy
4 pounds stew meat
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
2 lbs chicken, skinless, boneless
3 lb chicken tenders
2 lb Ground turkey
1-2 lbs turkey sausage
4 eggs

Pantry
Whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
32 oz beef broth
1 32 oz & 1 can chicken broth
3 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
Lime juice
Honey
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Extra virgin olive oil
16 oz. jar chunky salsa
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

Spices
Salt
Pepper
Sesame seeds
Parsley
Chili powder
Oregano
Bay leaves
Thyme
Cumin
Marjoram
Basil
Cornstarch (if subbing for eggs)
Frozen
Green beans
Corn
Edemame (soy beans)

Produce
2 bulbs garlic
fresh chopped basil & parsley
Carrots
6 medium onion
Celery
5 peppers
*Don’t forget freezer bags, your favorite fixings for garnish and favorite rice/pastas.

Freezer bags
Cheese?
Salsa?
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Rice
Pasta
Romaine (for lettuce wraps) and/or side salad for soups.
Whatever else you like…