Getting Back to Balance

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BackToBalance #CollectiveBias

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If you are a regular reader of my blog (and if you are not, shame on you) then you know that my word of the year is:

change

I new that I needed to change a lot of things about my life if I wanted to move forward and be happier. I signed up for and took a Life Coaching Course (100 days of analyzing your life will definitely change you). I started setting office hours so I could work smarter, not harder. I focused on what I needed to do to get ahead, not to just survive. I’ve been hugging more and yelling less (I hope the kids will think so too). Change isn’t easy, but if you are striving for more balance in your life, it’s a must. And balance doesn’t have to be a bad word. You CAN have balance in your life… you just have to make it a priority.

Finding your own balance will mean something different to every person. For me it’s about eating better, parenting better, and working better. It’s about having time in the day (every day) for the things that are important to me. It’s also about finding more enjoyment in the little things.

Part of those “little things” is being able to treat myself to the things I really love. One thing I’ve been buying a lot of lately is SKINNY COW® products. Things like SKINNY COW® Divine Caramel Filled Chocolately Candy and SKINNY COW® Double Caramel Swirl Dipped Bars are some of my favorites. The last time I was at Walmart they were having a demo of the new SKINNY COW® products, like the new iced coffee drinks.

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Yum! I had to go pick up one of everything.

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Do I really have to mention again how much I love coffee? You know part of finding my balance is having my hot coffee in the morning, but when it comes to the afternoon and I feel like I need a pick-me-up I’ve been indulging in the new SKINNY COW® Ice Coffee flavors. They are available in three dreamy flavors (Creamy Cappuccino, Mocha Latte and Vanilla Latte) and are only 120 calories per bottle. You can drink them cold right out of the bottle… OR, you can do what I do and whip yourself up an extra treat.

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Easiest afternoon snack ever… mix the ice and SKINNY COW® Iced Coffee in a blender, pour into a glass, add your whipped cream and caramel (or chocolate) sauce and you have the perfect pick-me-up! Why leave your house to go to a coffee shop when you can make your own coffee drink in your own kitchen?

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I also love throwing a pack of the SKINNY COW® Divine Caramel Filled Chocolately Candy in my purse for those days when I just really NEED something sweet. You know what I mean?

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Balance isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. The real trick? Don’t beat yourself up over not getting everything done in a day. Make some time for a sweet snack and know when work ends and family time begins.

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You can find SKINNYCOW® Iced Coffee in the milk aisle, or maybe even in the front coolers at Walmart.

Have you tried SKINNY COW® products? What is your favorite?

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9 Most Romantic Restaurants in Santa Clarita

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#Dinner4Valentines

With Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, I thought it would be fun to give you a run-down of the most romantic places to eat in Santa Clarita, California. Now, romance means something different to everyone (some want mood lighting and expensive food, others are okay with some great food and a friendly atmosphere) and Santa Clarita has never been known as the hub of romance. Still, when we do find ourselves with a night alone, there are quite a few fabulous restaurants around town.

Let me start by saying these are MY personal favorites. I know we have a very active Santa Clarita Foodies Facebook group that would either approve or tear these apart (I don’t want to find out which). I’ve lived in Santa Clarita for over 15 years so I’ve definitely seen restaurants come and go. These are my favorites right now (in no particular order).

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1. Solita Tacos & Margaritas  – Solita is my new favorite restaurant in town. They serve Baja-style Mexican food and have an incredible bar with lots of specialty drinks. This is the place to go for some amazing food and cocktails. They do have a front room with a cozy fireplace, but the restaurant can get busy… and it’s not exactly quiet. The food and service, however, make up for the lack of privacy. I highly recommend you make reservations.

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2. Le Chene – Le Chene has been around forever and if you want an out-of-the-way restaurant, this is it. You have to travel up Sierra Highway for a while before you come to this little chalet amongst the forest. This is the place where they bring you a chalkboard with a handwritten menu. The food is French, but the people are as nice as can be. You would think this place would be more expensive than it is. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s less so than some of the steak restaurants in town. It’s not quite as old-world as the exterior of the building looks, but you will rarely find children and you’ll be able to hear your dinner partner. Try the stuffed mushrooms. Definitely make reservations.

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3. Vines – This restaurant is inside the Hyatt Hotel on McBean Blvd, but don’t let that fool you. This is NO hotel coffee shop. This elegant restaurant has amazing lobster bisque and is a very cozy and quiet place to dine. The service is fantastic. It’s definitely on the pricier side, but it’s also worth it. Make reservations, they can fill up quickly.

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4. Bella Cucina – This little neighborhood restaurant got it’s start on the Old Road and it definitely wasn’t the place for it. Since it’s moved locations to Seco Canyon Road in Saugus, it’s found a new life as the local Italian gem. From the fresh bread to the extensive menu selection, the service is top notch. This is a great place to have a quiet dinner for two or bring a group of friends and make a party out of it. Food is great and the prices very reasonable.

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5. Piccola Trattoria – This is another neighborhood Italian restaurant that you might drive right on by if you didn’t realize it was there. Set back off the main Sierra Highway Road, Piccola Trattoria is a favorite of many locals. Old world Italian food, excellent service and a great atmosphere (both inside and out) make this a great place for a date night. Definitely make reservations because they can get pretty busy.

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6. Pulchella Winery – I just adore this place. If you go in on a weekend night you might have a pretty large crowd… if you go during the week, it’s often very cozy and quiet. They also have a back patio which is fabulous when it’s warm out. Pulchella serves their own branded wine and they have a pretty good selection – mostly reds. You can get a wine flight of 5 of their most popular wines for only $10. The great thing about Pulchella is that you can bring in food from anywhere you choose. They don’t have a food menu, but they are very accommodating (even encouraging) when you want to bring in your own dinner. Newhall Refinery is right across the street and will gladly pack dinner (and dessert) to go. You can even call them from the winery when you are ready to eat. They might even bring the food to YOU if they aren’t busy.

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7. Larsen’s Steakhouse – If you are craving a big, juicy steak… this is the place in Santa Clarita to be. If you are trying to impress, this is the place to be. Larsen’s has great food… typical steak-house fare, and it’s pricey. But… the atmosphere is great, service fabulous and you are pretty much guaranteed to have a great meal.

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8. Karma – If you like Indian food, Karma won’t disappoint. I happen to like Royal Tandoor in the Vons Shopping Center on Bouquet Canyon better for a family dinner, but for a romantic atmosphere, Karma will do the trick. They have an extensive menu and large, comfortable booths.

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9. Tea Gardens – Depending on your idea of “romantic”, I really love this little tea shop. They have great breakfasts and lunches, fabulous afternoon tea and a huge selection of teas from all over the world. Can’t get away for a romantic dinner? Try a romantic breakfast or afternoon tea.

 

So, you may be wondering why I only have 9 restaurants… well, because as hard as I thought about it, there just aren’t any other restaurants I know of that could fill the #10 spot. I’m sure my friends in Santa Clarita might have some other ideas… and I would love to hear them. Please leave me a comment if you have a favorite place I missed. And… if you live in another city (or state… or country) leave me a comment with YOUR favorite romantic restaurant.


Easy Breakfast Ideas for a Lazy Sunday Morning

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WarmUpYourDay #CollectiveBias

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Sunday morning is our lazy time. We wake up late (if we’re lucky) and have a big family breakfast. I am always looking for really special and easy breakfast ideas. I don’t mind cooking, but I don’t want to slave over a hot stove on my one morning off. I’m pretty fortunate that I have 3 daughters who like to cook… we usually trade off making weekend breakfasts. Our rule in the house is the first one up is the one who makes the coffee… although I have been known to hang out in bed a little longer so someone else will make it for me. When Temera is in a good mood, she’ll get up, make the coffee and even bring us a cup in bed. I really wish she would be in a better mood more often.

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I do like surprising the family with something extra special on the morning it’s my turn to cook. I wanted to try these Pepperidge Farm Apple Sweet Rolls that I found at Walmart and one of the things I really love making with sweet rolls is waffles. It so incredibly easy… and fun… and delicious! I don’t have to slave in the kitchen for hours.

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If you pick up a Pepperidge Farm Sweet Rolls and 100% Florida Orange Juice, you’ll find a coupon in the refrigerated aisle for $1.00 off. You know you are going to be buying orange juice anyway, so it’s a pretty good deal.

This particular Sunday morning, I was the one up first (figures) so I had to make my own coffee and get breakfast ready. Luckily these cinnamon roll waffles are incredibly easy to make.

Ingredients:
Pepperidge Farm Apple Sweet Rolls (they come in a can of 4 – I used 2 cans for my family)
1/8 cup 100% Florida Orange Juice

The Sweet Rolls come with their own apple filling and icing so you don’t even need any other ingredients. EASY! What I did is take the icing and mixed it with the orange juice to make an orange glaze that I drizzle over the waffles when they are done.

The first thing you want to do is heat up your waffle maker. I think we got ours for our wedding 17 years ago and it’s still going strong. I never thought we’d actually use it, but we have given that thing a workout in these past years. I love it!

(1) Lay out your sweet rolls.

(2) Like I said, the rolls come with their own apple filling pouch. If you make a little indentation with your finger in the center of the sweet rolls, you can squeeze the apple filling in the middle.

(3) When your waffle maker is ready (it will beep to let you know it’s hot enough) make sure you spray some kind of spray oil on both the top and the bottom… if you don’t, you’ll have the sweet rolls stick to everything and you will have a mess on your hands. Put one roll on each section of the waffle maker and close the lid.

(4) When your machine beeps again, you are done!

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Remember I said I made an orange juice glaze to go with them? Super easy… mix the icing packets that come with the sweet rolls with the 1/8 cup of orange juice (or you can use more or less to your desired consistency). Heat the mixture up in the microwave for no more than 20 seconds. You want the icing to melt just enough to easily whisk the orange juice together with it.

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Get your plate ready, drizzle on your glaze and then get ready to make a fabulous morning cocktail to go with it!

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My kids started making lots of fun mock-cocktails years ago when they wanted to have special drinks like we would have, but without the alcohol. We since have made a lot of these over the years just because they are fun… and you don’t always want to drink alcohol in the mornings. For these OJ Sunrise drinks, I start with some club soda or seltzer (we use our Soda Stream to make the water extra fizzy) and add orange juice and a splash of grenadine for the red color. These taste pretty much just like a Tequila Sunrise (okay maybe not exactly like one), but they are fun and yummy!

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These area part of my easy breakfast ideas that I whip out when I want to make something special for the family without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. After all, I want to sit down with everyone and enjoy my Sunday newspaper too!

Check out the Pepperidge Farm website for all their products, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Now that you’ve seen my easy breakfast ideas… what are your go-to ideas for your family breakfasts?


Movie Night with Pillow Forts and Pop Secret!

This post is sponsored by Pop Secret. All opinions (and pillow fort design) are mine alone.
#PopSecretForts

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Who didn’t ever make a pillow or blanket fort when they were a kid? We used to do it all the time. We had two large sofas and a big corner table in our family room that you could crawl under. We would move the sofa cushions around so they were standing up and drape blankets across everything so we could hide underneath. It was awesome. It’s part of childhood… and even though my kids are 15, 12 and 10, I still catch them with forts in their bedrooms every now and then. Not sure what it is about “hiding” underneath a ton of blankets but it is FUN.

We try and do a Family Movie Night every Friday night in my house… it’s something we all really look forward to. Sometimes we’ll pick a movie from Redbox or Netflix, other times we’ll  just catch up on TV shows that we’ve recorded. Either way, we make some snacks and all settle in together for some family bonding.

When I suggested that we make some caramel popcorn for our movie night, I heard a few screams in my house. If you’ve never made it yourself it’s incredibly easy to do… and really tastes so much better than store-bought. I started with Pop-Secret because it’s so fast and easy to make in the microwave. My husband insisted we buy the Kettle Corn, but you can use whatever flavors you like.

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It only takes a few ingredients:

3 bags of Pop Secret popcorn – already popped
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cream of tarter (don’t ask me why but it’s in the recipe)
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Heat all the ingredients EXCEPT the baking soda in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Spread out the popcorn on 2 baking sheets and drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn. With a spatula, turn the popcorn over until it’s pretty much all coated. Bake in a 200 degree preheated oven for an hour, turning occasionally.

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WARNING: This is NOT going to last very long. It’s amazing… seriously! The perfect snack for movie night.

Of course, while I was making the caramel popcorn, the kids were busy doing what kids do: building a fort!

 

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Think there is any room for me in there?

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WAIT! Don’t eat all the popcorn… we haven’t even put the movie in yet!

Making your own pillow fort? You can submit your photo to Pop Secret’s Facebook page for a chance to receive a fun prize pack and other surprises! While you’re over there, download a coupon for $1.00 Pop Secret microwave popcorn.

 


Setting Goals: Home, Career, and Vitamin C

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its Advertiser.
All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone and should not be construed as medical advice.
#24HourEsterC #CollectiveBias

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I’ve been writing a lot about setting goals the past few weeks. Resolutions are out the window (so old school). The problem is that goal setting doesn’t have to encompass just one area of your life. Goals setting should cover ALL aspects of your life, including your home goals, your career goals, and your physical goals… even things as easy as adding in some more Vitamin C.

I’ve gathered a bunch of things that are going to help me focus on what goals I need to make and I want to run them all down for you so you can get an idea of how they will all work together to make 2015 an even better  year than 2014.

Home Goals

We tend to always focus on the larger picture when it comes to goal setting. We want bigger and better jobs, things, travel plans. We tend to forget that if our home isn’t a calm and happy one, most of the bigger things just aren’t going to happen. So focus on your home this year and make it your sanctuary of peace and calm.

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  1. Everything in it’s place. I’m determined to get better organized in 2015. That means the physical condition of my home as well. I’m so tired of  not being able to find anything… and I’m tired of the kids leaving shoes, backpacks, books, socks, everywhere BUT their bedrooms. I’m going room by room making sure everything has it’s own place to live. Socks do NOT live under my couch!
  2. Chores… the kids make the messes, they can be responsible to clean them up. We have had chore charts in the past, but as parents, we are really bad at making sure they are followed. Now that I’m working pretty much full time, I don’t have the extra hours in the day to pick up after the kids, do laundry, dishes, prepare meals, etc. It’s time the entire family starts pulling their weight. Time for the kids to step up and learn how to manage a house.
  3. Meal Planning. This has always eluded me for some reason. I’m so bad at planning meals and it really has gotten out of control. We eat out way more than I’d like to (see Heath Goals below) and it’s expensive as well. I have so many friends who are very successful with their weekly and monthly meal plans that I’m going to do my best to start focusing on pre-planning in the new year. I downloaded this printable online that I’m going to use. Wish me luck!

Career Goals

We tend to set unrealistic career goals, don’t you think? We want to be a CEO or have a million dollars… sure, that’s great. But what we don’t ever consider is HOW we are going to get there. When you set career goals, make sure you plan out exactly WHAT you are going to do to GET to the place you want to be.

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  1. Do something every day that is going to bring in new business. For me, this will most likely be things as simple as making a new contact (in real life or online), writing a new, valuable blog post for my business, commenting on a potential new client’s blog or Facebook page. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time… just let people know you are here and you provide a service (or product) they need.
  2. Do something extra for the client’s I already have. I spend a lot of time researching my client’s industries and creating unique strategies for them to market their business. Sometimes this goes above and beyond my scope of work (and often times my pay grade) but I do it to add value to what I already offer. I want to be the one who goes above and beyond… because I want to be the one they keep hiring and keep recommending.
  3. Try new things. Sure, my business is in blogging and social media, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try other avenues. I’m considering adding video (considering… it scares me a ton), but whatever I do, I know that sitting at doing nothing more than I’m doing now isn’t going to get me where I want to go.

Health Goals

We try really hard to take care of ourselves, but we know we can definitely do more. We are a busy family and none of us has time to be out of commission, even for a few days. We’ve got to make sure we are in top fighting form.

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  1. Eat right. We are pretty good eaters and love veggies, but I have to admit I’ve been slacking a little lately. It’s hard around the holidays to serve great meals when there is so many chances to just grab a bit while you’re out shopping. Sounds trite, but when you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, your immune system can better fight off the germs. Since I’m working harder on meal planning, part of my goal is to make sure those meals are better for us.
  2. Exercise. It’s not only for your weight, but exercise supports your immunity to help you fight the germs that are floating around. Even a 20 minute walk a day is going to do wonders.
  3. Load up on Vitamin C. Seriously, we are kind of crazy over here about it. My husband has always been a huge Vitamin C fan and now all of us make sure we have extra on a daily basis. Aside from citrus juices that we drink every day (orange and grapefruit), we’ve been adding more Vitamin C with Ester-C 24 Hour Immune Support. I purchased the 500 mg tablets and 2 of these each day stay in your white blood cells longer than regular Vitamin C tablets to give you 24 hour immune support. Plus, they are non-GMO and are gentle on your stomach. We get ours at Walmart since it’s convenient (I’m there several times a week anyway) and they usually have the best prices. Gotta love a Rollback!

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 Follow Ester-C on Facebook and Twitter for immune support information.

Goals… they don’t have to be difficult and they don’t have to be scary. Do small things that will yield a big impact. I want you to end 2015 in a much better position than you are starting. Even if you are starting out pretty great (like I am), there is always room for improvement.

So tell me… what baby steps are you taking to make 2015 your best year yet?

 

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