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A Little R&R in Mexico

Horizon

As Rachel mentioned last week, this summer has been extraordinarily busy for us.  We worked on our eBook for several months (in addition to our full-time jobs), and my husband is basically out of the country for work until sometime next year.  It has been a crazy time, and I saw an advertisement today that Christmas is only 11 weeks away.  How in the world is that possible?!?  I for one have no idea, but I’m going to save my panic for tomorrow.

In the middle of everything, my little family was able to get away to Cancun, Mexico for a little while.  William and I had not seen my husband in over 5 months, which is much too long.

I don’t know if I will ever fly alone with a 2 year old, though.  Ever.  We talked a lot about planes before we left on our trip, but I think William was expecting a much different experience.  For starters, he could not understand why the airport had so many doors, yet we could not go outside.  I completely understand the confusion.  I did my best to wear him out during layovers, but there is only so much I could do!  He seems to have amazing reserves of energy, and he barely napped on the plane ride down to Mexico.  Unfortunately, he seemed really scared by all of the noise, and he really, really just wanted to go outside.  He cried/screamed “outside” over and over again on the plane.  Random people offered me their cellphones for entertainment.  That’s how bad it was.

Very Brief Nap on the Plane
Very Brief Nap on the Plane

Gathering our luggage and getting through customs both times was no joke because I packed for all three of us.  Thankfully, people seemed to take pity on me, and we had help both here in the U.S. and in Mexico.  We survived!

Watching planes in the airport.
Watching planes in the airport.

Drew met us at the airport.  Our shuttle did not have a car seat, so Drew held William on his lap, sort of.  Below is William catching a breeze on the ride.  It made me nervous, but William loved it!

Riding with Drew
Riding with Drew

We stayed at the Westin Lagunamar.

The Westin Lagunamar
The Westin Lagunamar

This is the same hotel where we stayed in 2010, but I had forgotten how beautiful the beach here is!  We had a mini-kitchen in our room with a full size refrigerator, a microwave, and a stove top.  The pool area of the hotel also offered grills, which made it super easy for us to cook everyday.

Based on what we learned from our trip in 2010, Drew took the bus to Wal-Mart to shop for groceries, and then he took a taxi back to the hotel. He had too many groceries to ride back on the bus.  The round trip took him about 2 hours.  Wal-Mart carried most of the items we needed.

We ate out about four times while we were there, and the food was wonderful and so very fresh.  I could live on the guacamole!  We purposely limited the number of times we ate out, though, to save money and also because eating out with a 2-year old can be pretty stressful.

Infinity Pool at the Westin Lagunamar
Infinity Pool at the Westin Lagunamar

To be honest, most of our time was spent at the pool and the beach.  With views like this, though, do you blame us?  Drew and I were both very tired from the daily grind, and going other places with William, especially in another country, isn’t exactly simple.  Almost everything we were interested in doing required a decent amount of travel, and we just were not up for it with our two year old.  William is at the age where he could play at the pool or beach all day every day and never tire of it.  So, that is what we did!

DSCN0081 copy 2

Almost every day, though, Drew or I went across the street for Starbucks: coffee for him and iced tea for me.

Starbucks, La Isla Village Shopping Center
Starbucks, La Isla Village Shopping Center

It was an easy walk to the La Isla Shopping Village across the street, where Starbucks was located.  This shopping center is an open air mall with a fun mix of stores ranging from Tommy Hilfiger to Carolina Herrera.  We didn’t do any major shopping while we were there, but it was really fun to look!

La Isla

Here is one view of the shopping center from our hotel: it was literally across the street from us.

View from Hotel

We did buy some chocolate from a store located in the mall: Ah Cacao.  We didn’t try the milk chocolate, but the dark chocolate was wonderful!  It was a little “dry.”  That’s probably not the best way to describe it, but I’ve had dark chocolate that seems waxy, and this dark chocolate was nice and crumbly.  So good!

Chocolate

This mall also had an aquarium in it, and William loved for us to just stop by and let him look at the fish.  Every time we walked over to the mall, we saw quite a few buses, both tourist buses and buses for public transportation on the streets right outside our hotel.  William is obsessed with buses right now.  He’s still talking about seeing all of the buses.  He says: “Dada bus.”

Our entire trip could be summed up in three words: pool, beach, mall.  It was just perfect for us, though.  Here’s a few more family snapshots.

William Swimming

Relaxing (Briefly) in the Pool
Relaxing (Briefly) in the Pool

William and me at beach

William's Favorite Part of the Trip was the Showers to Use After Visiting the Beach!
William’s Favorite Part of the Trip was the Showers to Use After Visiting the Beach!

Leaving Mexico was so hard, especially since Drew and I had to go separate ways.  Drew left the day after William and I left, so he took us to the airport where we said our goodbyes for another few months.

William did not nap at all on the return trip, and on the return trip, we were hit with a flight delay and a timed-out crew.  I wasn’t sure we were actually going to make it home, but fortunately, we did!

During our stay, we had some family photographs made to document William turning 2 years old.  He turned two just a few days before our trip.  I’ll post some of those next week along with a few more details of our trip!

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

 

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Pewter or Aluminum: Do You Know the Difference?

Blog Post Pewter or Aluminum

Our online store includes aluminum gift items such as spoon rests, chip and dip bowls, pitchers, and cake stands (although these are currently sold out), among other items.  The photograph above shows the pitcher we carry in our online store.  When we first purchased these products to add to our store, we thought they were pewter.  Upon further investigation, we learned they are actually aluminum.  Once we started researching the difference between aluminum and pewter, we realized that all of the “pewter” pieces we registered for and received as gifts when we married are actually aluminum.  So interesting!  Do you know the difference between the two products?  Below is a brief tutorial on the differences between aluminum and pewter.

Aluminum

Aluminum products may be heated in the oven or cooled in the refrigerator or freezer.  Aluminum pieces are also low-maintenance.  These pieces need to be washed by hand and dried immediately, but they do not necessarily need to be polished.  If aluminum pieces are washed and dried as soon as possible after being used, the pieces should last for one’s lifetime.  If serving acidic foods like tomatoes, garlic, or onions wipe the aluminum piece with vegetable oil before placing the food on it in order to minimize the possibility of harming the finish on the piece.

Some brands of aluminum can be used as baking dishes.  The aluminum pieces we carry can be used in the oven up to 250° (F), making them ideal for keeping food warm.  Aluminum should not be used in the microwave, though.

Aluminum pieces may be made of up to 10 different types of metals, but the main metal in the piece must be aluminum.

Popular aluminum brands include Arthur Court, Wilton Armetale, and Beatriz Ball.

Pewter

To be classified as “pewter,” a product must consist of at least 92% tin.  Because tin is considered a precious metal right now, pewter prices tend to be higher than prices for aluminum pieces.  In general, pewter that contains a higher percentage of tin is considered a higher quality pewter.

Like aluminum, pewter is fairly low-maintenance.  Similar to aluminum, it must be washed and dried by hand, preferably as soon as possible after it has been used.  Unlike some brands of aluminum, pewter cannot withstand high heat and should not be used in an oven or a microwave.

Some pewter pieces are made by hand, so be sure to check for hallmarks or stamps pressed into the piece that might indicate who made it.

Pewter brands include Match Pewter, Danforth Pewter, and Woodbury Pewter.

Do you have any aluminum or pewter pieces in your home?  If so, we would love to know your favorite pieces, so feel free to tell us in the comments!

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Favorite Things: Summer Hats

William for Blog

Today on the blog I share my favorite hats for the summer.  Sun protection is very important to my family, even though we still sometimes don’t take as many sun precautions as we should.  Back in 1994, our father was diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, on his forehead.  At the time of his diagnosis, doctors predicted he had about 90 days to live, even with treatment.  This was the amount of time his doctors had seen patients live with similar melanomas.  My parents had four young children at the time, and my father opted to try chemotherapy and radiation in an effort to prolong his life.

Once his treatments began, doctors found cancer in the lymph nodes in his neck.  Thirteen lymph nodes were removed.  The top 4 were cancerous.  The bottom 9 did not show signs of cancer, and his treatments resumed.  Today, our father is alive and thriving, and for that, we are very grateful.  Every time he sees the dermatologist, though, he is reminded that his life is a miracle.  One side effect of the radiation, too, is that he does not have any feeling on the left side of his face.  If he cuts himself while shaving, for instance, he doesn’t realize it unless he actually sees his face bleeding.

Because of this frightening experience, we try to protect our skin as much as possible.  As the mother of a very active 21 month old, though, I am finding myself out in the sun a lot more than usual.  We try to limit our time outdoors to non-peak sun hours, but we are still out in the sun a good bit.  I am usually pretty consistent about using suncreen, but in years past, I have not worn a hat.

This year, while my husband and I visited Tennessee before his deployment, I found the perfect hat!  It’s made by Columbia and offers an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50.  My favorite feature is the strap that helps keep the hat from blowing off my head.  In the past, I’ve almost lost hats at the beach or on boats because of strong winds.  Because of that, sometimes on windy days in the past I wouldn’t even bother trying to wear a hat.  The chin strap on this hat has really been helpful!  I have the hat in the Straw, but it comes in several other colors, too.

Hat for Blog

For William, I found a great hat from Cabana Life.  Since the hat is reversible, even if one side is stained, you can turn the hat “inside out” and wear it that way until you have a chance to wash it.  My favorite part of this hat is the velcro chin strap on the infant sizes.

William is constantly on the move, and I don’t have enough time to try to tie a hat on him, so I am very glad for the easy velcro strap.  Even though he can take the hat off, he is pretty good about keeping it on, and I think part of that is due to the chin strap making the hat feel secure on his head.  At any rate, it has been a winner for us!  I don’t believe infant sizes are available anymore in this particular hat, but maybe they will be available at a later date.

Williams Hat For Blog

William's Hat 2

For me, wearing a hat is a pretty efficient way to protect myself from the sun, and I hope I will be consistent in wearing one this summer!  What are your favorite sun protection methods?

Xoxo,

Emily

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Easy Weekday Meal

Clouds

Happy Thursday!  This picture of clouds has nothing to do with easy meals, but I snapped it from my deck one afternoon and had to share it.  It was a gorgeous day!  I love clear skies with fun clouds.  This scene definitely made my day happier.

Now on to the topic at hand.  Rachel and I have been working feverishly on a major project that we’ll announce soon.  This behind the scenes work has taken quite a bit of time, and as our previous post suggests, we are always looking for ways to save time, especially when it comes to making healthy meals.

One day while shopping for groceries, I stumbled on a Ready to Roast Turkey Breast by Butterball.  It comes in a bag like this:

Butterball 1

Let me tell you: it makes a great turkey!  It’s not a super fast meal because of the time it takes to cook, but it is super easy to prepare.  All you have to do is keep the turkey frozen, and then cook it when you are ready.  No thawing required!  That’s the part I loved.  The clean-up is minimal, too.  I lined a baking pan with foil, and so I didn’t even have to wash the pan after cooking the turkey.

Once you open the outer package shown above, your turkey will be in a smaller clear bag.  Leave the turkey in this clear roasting bag.  The turkey actually cooks in it.  I followed the directions on the bag and cooked the turkey in the oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Here is a picture of the turkey in the roasting bag:

Butterball 2

After cooking and cooling this is what it looked like:

Butterball 4

A pre-made package of gravy also came with the turkey.  I didn’t use the gravy, so I don’t know how it tasted.  The turkey, though, was perfect!  It was juicy and very flavorful.  I am definitely adding this turkey to my weekly meal schedule.  The turkey I bought had a bone in it, but Butterball also offers a boneless Ready to Roast Turkey.  I’m planning to try it soon!  The package indicated the turkey should serve 5 people, and this number seemed accurate based on the meals I was able to eat from it.

What’s your favorite, easy meal to prepare for your family?

Xoxo,

Emily

 

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BBQ Sauce for a Quick, Healthy Meal

salmondinner

We wrote our books to save brides and grooms time on writing their thank you notes.  This post focuses on another way to save time, but it’s not for thank you note writing.  It’s for grilling!  These days, I am a super busy person!  As you may know from prior posts, my husband is currently deployed.  I am playing the role of “single” working mom while he is gone, and it’s no joke!

I am really trying to eat healthier, which I find challenging since I am the one who does all meal preparation right now.  However, this sauce is pretty quick and easy to make.  I often glaze salmon with it because salmon tastes really strong to me.  I need something to mask a little bit of the “fishy” flavor.  I’m trying to eat more fish after reading recently that fish burns fat around the abdomen.  I need this help, and this glaze really makes salmon more palatable to me.

This sauce mixes quickly on the stove:

SalmonStove

I saved the leftover sauce and used it the following week.  I had enough left over to use on a 4-lb. bag of chicken and two pieces of salmon.  Using leftover sauce saved a lot of time by the time you factor in making the sauce and cleaning up dishes!

Salmon leftovers

To make the sauce, I used this recipe, but I omitted the ancho chile powder (I didn’t have any) and the garlic clove (I used garlic powder instead because that is what I had).  I also used slightly less maple syrup than the recipe suggested.  I’m not opposed to using store-bought sauces, but I haven’t found one that I really like.  Do any of you have suggestions for a great one I should try?

Xoxo,

Emily