My Vacation Review

Well I hate to say it but I don’t think I’ll be going back to Ocean City, Maryland.

After a 7+ hour drive, we arrived at our hotel early Saturday afternoon. We were all pretty excited to get settled in and start exploring. Our hotel was rather disappointing. I’ve paid half as much for places twice as nice in other popular destinations, but it seemed like all the area hotels were outdated and poorly maintained. I’m guessing this is due to the fact that it’s a tourist only area and the locals don’t really have to deal with it.

We went for a walk to check out the area and grabbed some menus from nearby restaurants so we could plan dinner ahead of time. We also checked online for other restaurant ideas but found that every place was pretty overpriced. Most of the restaurants I’ve gone to on other vacations, like in Cape Cod, were in the $15-20 range, unless you were getting something extra special. The prices in Ocean City were in the $25+ range. I’m sure other people have found better prices, but most of the more affordable places had scary reviews.

The sounds of kids racing their modified and extremely noisy cars was constant, no matter where we were. It was like a big college kid party town. Sure I didn’t go there for “tranquil”, but just a little bit less wild would have been nice.

Now even putting all that aside, there was really nothing to do besides lie on the beach, eat, and buy things. There really weren’t any Ocean City attractions, like museums, historical sites, unique geography, etc. Nothing that makes Ocean City stand out. I had done some research into things to do before we went, and although I didn’t find much, I figured a lot of stuff probably wasn’t mentioned since most people like to spend their days on the beach.

The best part of the trip was going to Assateague Island. And that’s not even in Ocean City. I realized that when we went 9 years ago, we had gone to the Chincoteague side and since they fence their ponies, we didn’t see any. As soon as we crossed the bridge into Assateague there were ponies milling about in the roads! It was so neat! It was a unique experience, sort of like going on a safari, but with only ponies! We also did some of the nature walks, one of which was a boardwalk through a salt marsh, and saw some turtles and tons of crabs and birds. Another nice thing about Assateague Island is that it only costs $15 to get in, and the pass is good for a whole week! It includes access to the beaches too, which makes it an extra good deal!

All in all, Ocean City might be a fun spot for a young group of people looking to hang on the beach during the day and party at night, but I don’t think it’s a good spot for a family vacation or a couple’s romantic getaway. I would suggest the Assateague/Chincoteague area instead, but even then, probably only for a weekend unless you wanted to make a few day trips to other areas.

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Planning For Vacation

Tomorrow I leave on a vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. This is the first vacation to somewhere new, that I’m doing all the planning for by myself. Our other vacations have been to places we’ve been before, like Cape Cod- I’ve been going there every year for about 15 years, so planning that trip wasn’t particularly stressful. I hope this one goes just as smoothly. 
I found the perfect hotel, reasonably priced, right on the beach and about two blocks past the end of the boardwalk (hopefully that’ll make it a bit less crowded). It’s across the street from an amusement park and a couple of seafood restaurants. Seems like an ideal location but I’ll keep my fingers crossed! 
I did some research and planned an outing to Assateague Island for a day. I went there with my family when I was 15, on the way back from Virginia Beach, but we never saw any of the wild horses. I hope this time we have better luck. 
I also want to check out the Fenwick Island Lighthouse and the nearby Mason-Dixon Line marker. On the way home from vacation, I want to swing by Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to check out a few unique stores. 
Other than that I want to leave the plan open to hanging on the beach, strolling the boardwalk, and visiting any attractions we might happen upon. 

To prepare for this fun and relaxing vacation, I’ve made like a million lists, googled activities and restaurant reviews, and made or purchased some supplies. 
I went to my local Christmas Tree Shop and purchased a large green tote bag with a zippered top for $3.99. I figured that would make an excellent and cheap beach bag but it seemed to be missing something. My monogram! Rather than hand embroidering something so large (it would take forever!), I decided to design it out of a festive fabric. I found some green, yellow and orange citrus printed fabric that was perfect for the job. I traced my monogram on the fabric, cut out the letters, ironed them, sewed them on, and voilà! 

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I tied a strip of the fabric to the zipper to bring it all together and complete the look. 
Since the fabric was something I already had on hand, the total project cost was only $3.99 plus tax! Quite a good deal for a totally customized bag!

Another great find was a beach cabana/sun hut from the Christmas Tree Shop. For $16.99 you get a space big enough for two beach chairs, three adults just sitting on beach towels, or four or five small children. It creates a breeze-free area to enjoy a picnic on the sand, and a place to take a break from the sun. 

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We probably won’t spend all day on the beach, but at that price, it’s worth grabbing just in case. I saw ones at other stores that had a front flap that zipped up to create a changing area for an extra $20 or so, but we’ll be only a short walk from our hotel room so I can’t imagine we’d actually use it. 

I’m also making sure we have all the basics. Sunblock. I got two kinds- 50 spf lotion and 30 spf spray. Plus an aloe cream for the inevitable sunburn. Two bathing suits per person. No one wants to wear a wet bathing suit if they don’t dry before the next swim, and you never know if you might tear it or something. Two beach towels- same reason. Water proof containers and pouches for cell phones, keys, etc. At least two pairs of flip flops per person for the beach. I have the worst luck and it seems I always break a pair, so this time I’m bringing a brand new, super durable pair, and a couple others, plus some brand new sandals. A first aid kit just in case. Sleepwear that is appropriate in case someone needs to get something from the car or go to the hotel office, etc. Everyone’s regular medicines, and extra just in case. I plan to bring a few extra migraine pills because I’d rather take an extra pill than miss out on enjoying my vacation.
In my opinion, you should plan as if everyone is going to need a lot of everything. Not one band aid in case someone gets a cut, but several because you might get the misfortune of several scrapes. Not just a couple tums in case you get a sour stomach, but a bottle of them in case it lasts for days or you’re not the only one. 
I know that most things you could just run out to a store for, but if you plan that way, you could end up spending a lot of your vacation time shopping for supplies, and you’ll most likely end up spending more money than you would have if you’d planned ahead. 

Anyway, I’m super excited! I have most of my packing done and just have to pack the car and make a quick trip to the store. I’m going to try to get myself to bed early so I can hopefully head out by 5:00am tomorrow morning. I’ll try to make time to post some pictures and an update about my trip so you can share in the fun! 

Back And Better Than Ever!

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written a post but I want to get back to it. It’s been a busy past few months for me, between quitting smoking (almost 4 months tobacco free!), getting a new job, and putting some serious effort into getting into better shape, it seems like this blog got left behind. Now that I’ve had time to get myself together this blog is coming back!

Sausage and Potato Soup

Nothing is better on a cold winter night than a hot bowl of soup! Soup isn’t usually the main course unless it’s eaten for lunch, but a hearty stew-like soup can be filling on it’s own.
I like recipes that are easy to follow and use ingredients that can be found in most kitchens. It’s disappointing to see a delicious looking dish but be unable to try it because you don’t have all the specialty ingredients on hand. In general, I will only post recipes that are easy and require basic/common ingredients so that you can try it right away. I also think it’s great when you find a recipe that isn’t too strict and allows you to easily play around with measurements and other ingredients. I love crock pot recipes but sometimes I can’t decide on a recipe until it’s almost dinner time. This is a stovetop recipe and should only take about 45 minutes from start to finish. If you’re like me, you’ll love my recipe for sausage and potato soup!

What you’ll need:

-1 lb of ground sausage (this can be breakfast sausage or Italian. You can even use links and peel them open to get the ground sausage out, or slice them into small pieces. I have even used frozen boxed breakfast sausage links- not quite as good, but it totally works!)
-5 or 6 potatoes (more or less depending on size- you’ll want it to be about the same amount as the sausage)
-about 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth or bouillon (I haven’t tried it but you could probably use beef too)
-about 2 cups of water
-kosher salt (amount depends on preference and you could substitute regular salt)
-black pepper (as peppery as you like)
-a pinch of onion powder
-a pinch of garlic powder
-a pinch of seasoned salt
-a pinch of parsley (optional)
-large stock pot
-frying pan

Step One:
Pour the stock into the stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil.

Step Two:
Fry the sausage.

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Step Three:
While the sausage is frying, peel the potatoes. Dice them up into approximately 1/4″ chunks.

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Step Four:
Add potatoes to stock pot. Allow them to boil for 5-10 minutes until they are reasonably soft. Reduce temperature to medium low.

Step Five:
Add sausage, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, seasoned salt and parsley to the stock pot. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. If soup becomes too thick, add more broth/water.

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If you want some vegetables in your meal, add diced carrots or celery.
Feel free to play around with the amounts! Only have a 1/2 lb of sausage? Just make sure to chop it up small with your spatula to spread it through the soup better. It’s delicious even with just potato as the main ingredient!
This soup pairs well with a thick slice of hearty grain bread or a grilled cheese- although it will probably fill you up on it’s own!

Thinking About Painting A Room?

Painting can be a great way to change the look of a room. It can also be a lot of work between moving or covering furniture, taping up moldings and ceilings, and giving up a weekend to get it done. And there’s always the fear that you might not like the look once it’s done. Sure, you can get a paint chip and hold it up to your moldings and furniture to see how it looks, but it can still be hard to imagine the whole room being that color.

Before you buy the paint, try painting a picture of the room! There are tons of photo painting apps out there that will allow you to “paint the room” before actually painting the room. I use an app called Color Effects. Although this app has a few ads (and has crashed occasionally, though never while I was in a project), it’s free and allows you to mix colors almost indefinitely. This app doesn’t just let you paint the walls, it also retains the effect of the lighting in the room so you can see how it would look with the sun shining through the window. This is extra helpful if you’re afraid to try a darker/deeper color. Once you see that the room is still getting the same amount of light regardless of wall color, you might feel a bit more brave about giving it a go.

You can also use this app if you are thinking of buying a new sofa and want to see how the color would look with your paint/decor, if you’re unsure if you should paint a piece of furniture or cabinets, or even how a new rug or curtains would go with the room.

My mother is considering painting her living room (okay, I brought it up and convinced her to do it. She agreed though!), but she has a hard time imagining the change. I had her send me a picture and I painted it the color she liked. Here’s the before and after:

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I’m going to work on convincing her to get new lamps, switch plates, etc. to go with the new color.

Remember, don’t worry too much about picking a “safe” color- go bold and vibrant and you’ll never get bored of it!

Furniture Placement

Often when visiting a friends house, walking past a neighbor’s, or glancing through a magazine, I see homes with poorly placed furniture. I try not to be critical but I always wonder why they don’t reorganize to utilize the space. A common issue I’ve noticed is furniture blocking doors, windows, entryways, stairs, etc.

A neighbor of mine has two couches, set on an angle so one blocks access to all but a foot of their sliding glass patio door. Yes, they can still get in and out through the patio door, but it’s a tight squeeze and looks unappealing. It’s also very unnecessary for a household of two (personal opinion).

Instead of squeezing in furniture that doesn’t fit, accommodate extra guests with small armchairs. For my neighbors’, a chair could fit easily on either side of the sliding glass doors. The chairs would only accommodate two guests as compared to the couch holding three people, but the increase in space and accessibility would be so worth it. Also consider the idea that even if they kept their current seating for six, what if seven people were present? Or eight? They’d still have a seating shortage. Make up for the shortage with comfortable ottomans (make sure they can handle being sat on), poufs, or even dining chairs. If you’re having a party, not everyone will be sitting at the same time anyway!

If the only reasonable spot to place your couch (you probably want it to face your fireplace or tv) is in a place that would block a door, window, stairway, entryway, etc. try to place it about 6 feet in front. The gap will allow you to walk behind it to access the space, and it will look less cluttered since it will not overlap. If you choose to place the couch in a diagonal across a corner, pull it out far enough to create a walking path behind it, and fill in the corner with a plant, floor lamp, etc. so the space doesn’t go to waste.

Another common issue is furniture or beds in front of windows. Windows are intended to open up a room by adding light and fresh air. They can’t do their job if they are being blocked.

When it comes to beds, it’s okay to put them in front of a window as long as the frame of the window is entirely above the bed, when all pillows are in place. If the bed blocks part of the window, it looks sloppy and inaccessible. Beds are one of the few pieces of furniture that can work in front of a window since it won’t be a problem to climb on top to let in some fresh air.

Dressers, small tables, and bookcases should also follow the rule of fitting entirely under the frame of the window, including any items placed on top. The difference in placing this kind of furniture in front of a window is that you can’t generally (safely and comfortably) climb on top to open the window. Make sure the depth of the furniture allows you easy access to the window. Even if you do not plan to open the window, the room flows best when it looks open and accessible.

If you have stairs, it’s nice to utilize the space along the side of the stairway. Furniture should not rise above the bottom of the framing on the stair tread. If the furniture overlaps you will be able to see the back of it when you are standing on the stairs.

Never block entryways. You should be able to enter or exit a room without squeezing around furniture. Make sure the furniture does not overlap the molding. If a room has a wide entryway, it is okay to place a decorative piece on either end of the threshold as long as by doing so the entryway does not become hard to maneuver (for example: a six foot wide entryway could handle a one foot wide decorative piece on each side, leaving a four foot wide walking path, which is more than adequate).

Overlapping with furniture always makes a home look sloppy, cluttered and inaccessible. If you already have too much furniture in a room, and don’t want to get rid of the piece, try repurposing it for a different room, or redoing it to make it fit properly.

Walk through each room of your home and see how easily you can maneuver around furniture and whether or not you can access your windows. You may be able to switch the placement of a tall and short piece of furniture to fit properly, or slide a piece farther out to get around it. It can be a lot of fun to reorganize a room and and you may just love the new set up!

Catered vs DIY Super Bowl Snacks

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Are you hosting a Super Bowl party this Sunday? Before you get overwhelmed by the idea of feeding a group of people for three hours or more, decide what your party really needs.

If you don’t think you’ll have a lot of time to cook, or you’re hosting a very large number of guests, you may want to opt for catered food. Your local grocery store usually has a catering department (look for it by the deli counter). They will have a variety of different snack platters such as wings, deli meat, vegetables, cheeses, etc. You can also call your favorite restaurant and place an order with them (many places have separate catering menus). Catering will be a more expensive option, but it is a great way to keep you out of the kitchen and cheering for your team!

If you’d prefer to do it yourself, you still have two different options. You can make all your snacks from scratch-the most affordable option, or you can buy frozen or canned ingredients and just pop them in the oven-also pretty affordable and a big time saver.

For example, my menu will include:
-Frozen meatballs which can easily be warmed up in the oven and served with a marinara sauce from a jar.
-Chicken drumsticks which will sit in different kinds of marinade until the guests arrive and then be cooked in the oven.
-Chips and a variety of store bought dips.
-Stuffed mushrooms which will be prepped before the game and can be popped in the oven when needed.
-Frozen pizza rolls which can be microwaved in about a minute.
-Canned chili which can also be microwaved or warmed in a saucepan on the stove top.
-Cookies and/or cupcakes which will be baked from scratch the day or morning before.

I think the easiest plan is to buy the items that are time consuming or difficult to make, and then make the items that are easier or can be prepared ahead of time. This gives you the best balance of time and cost.

Don’t forget to consider the amount of food each person will consume during the event. Are your guests big eaters? Is anyone on a diet? Try to figure out how much to make of each menu item before you go to the store or place a catering order. Also, when you make snacks at home, cook them in waves so they don’t get cold and so you don’t have too much go to waste if your guests get full.

With tasty and easy snacks, your party will be a win no matter which team you’re cheering for!