The Importance of Being Reese: March 2016

Things I'm Loving Lately: March 2016


Whew, it's been a a whirlwind of a year! If you follow me on Instagram, by now you likely know my family and I have relocated back the the Queen City. (Sorry Raleigh, it was fun, but Charlotte is home.) Last summer, amidst the craziness, I took a promotion at work that made it difficult for me to post as consistently as I had been when I first started blogging. So while I may not be a full-time blogger, I have no plans of leaving my space anytime soon. Just in case you were wondering.

It's been a long time since I've done a Things I'm Loving Lately post, so brace yourselves, I've been loving a lot of things lately!


Wanderlust
Okay, so it's not so much a things as it is a feeling, but I've been lusting to wander somewhere lately. And if you saw my recent post, you know that place is Iceland.



The Color Run
We've already run it twice, but it's heading our way soon and I'm hoping we'll be in shape before it gets here. Granted I don't participate in 5k's to compete, but I still like to be fit enough that I can run without stopping or passing out. And after this past winter, it's going to take a month or so to get me anywhere close to being in shape for this run.




Charlotte
The A Team is officially back in the Queen City, and we're loving every minute of it. Granted, there are a few things about Cary that we'll miss, namely our proximity to Earthfare, the Kids Marble Museum and Full Steam Brewery, but we get Imaginon, 7th Street Market, the Discovery Place, White Water Center, Freedom Park, Carowinds, and the Old Mecklenburg Brewery, so it's not a bad trade.






Chipotle
Yes, I know several people have gotten sick from eating at Chipotle recently, but I'm fairly certain several million people have died from eating McDonalds and Burger King, so for now, I'll just continue to satiate my unhealthy obsession with chicken bowls and burritos from Chipotle.



Green Smoothies + Smoothie Bowls
They're back! If you've been a longtime follower, you know I have a bit of a slight obsession with smoothies and juice. Last summer I had a few health issues that ultimately led me down the "screw this, I'm going to do/ eat what I want" path. While it was fun, it probably wasn't the best thing health wise. These past few weeks I've had to examine, and reexamine my diet, and get myself back on track.

For clarification purposes, I do not diet. Ever. It's a trap. I've not met one person who has managed to successfully lose weight and keep it off doing the Atkins or whatever flavor of the week diet is popular. And don't even get me started on Shakeology or It Wraps. My weight loss regimen is as follows. Find something I enjoy that gets me active. Do it often. Stop eating so much junk. Eat greens like it's no bodies business. Incorporate tons of green smoothies and juice into my daily diet. Enjoy life. Nothing crazy.


Ripped Jeans
I rediscovered my love for ripped jeans back in December. I've pretty much been obsessed with them ever since.



The National White Water Center
Eons ago, well before Little J made her appearance, while Mr. A and I were still in the "will they, won't they" phase of our friendship, we journeyed up to Charlotte to visit The White Water Center. And had an insanely wonderful time. We always talked about going back, but then never did, so this year I've resolved will be the year of the White Water Center revival. If you live nearby Charlotte, it's one of the the best places to seek a bit of adventure within this gorgeous city. You can go white water rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, zip-lining, the list is endless and perfect for people who love adventure-- within reason. Like myself :) Needless to say, this year we're probably going to end up with an annual pass.

So that' what I'm loving in March! What have you been loving lately? Feel free to drop a link below!

Until next time,

Crispy Baked Veggie Wontons

simple and quick veggie wontons the whole family will love


At the end of 2015, I made a goal to myself to start cooking more. Mr. A and I had found ourselves in a restaurant rut. My 20 hour a week job has morphed into a 50 hour a week job, my blog still needs love, and Mr. A has two jobs. Needless to say, cooking has taken the back-burner. It's so much easier to pick up a takeout menu, or stop by Chipotle, than it is to cook a meal with a four year old wrapped around your leg and work and laundry piling up. So instead of cooking elaborate meals, I've rebooted my relationship with simple, easy to cook meals, like these Veggie Wontons.

3 months into the new year and Veggie Wontons are still one of my favorite recipes of the year, so far. They're incredibly simple to make, but they are impressive to look at (and eat) once you're done. Plus they look like you actually spent a bit of time working on them ::Spoiler Alert: they only take about 15 minutes::

Still, one of the best things about these Wontons is that you can fill it with whatever you want. For this recipe, chose to only use veggies, but if you're in a carnivorous mood, you can fill it with chicken, steak, even shrimp. The possibilities are endless.

Now let's get down to the reason you're here!


INGREDIENTS

Wonton wrappers
Cream cheese
Finely chopped peppers
Finely chopped broccoli
Mozzarella cheese

INSTUCTIONS

Start by preheating your oven to 350"f.

Now grab your wonton wrappers and spread a little cream cheese in the middle of them. Add a pinch of each veggie and sprinkle a little cheese. You will want to make sure not to over do it. They won't stay closed.

Baked wontons cooked to crispy perfection with a few simple ingredients


Bring two corners in and then press the middle in. Gently place on your baking pan and fold up the top of the triangles edge.. For me this helps it hold.Then once you are done making them, place in oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the wontons are golden.

Try not to forget or your tips burn. Take out and let cool. Serve them up with a bowl of Pineapple Jasmine Fried Rice, or use them as appetizers with a side of ranch or salsa.

Easy to prepare and make veggie wontons that look and taste amazing


As always, if you enjoyed this recipe, please feel free to Retweet on Twitter to share with friends, or Re-pin on Pinterest to save for later!

Until next time!


10 Ways to use Tax Season to Kick-Start Your Savings

10 simple ways to increase your savings during tax season

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

There's no doubt about it, sticking to a budget can be incredibly difficult to manage. Though your monthly bills may seem pretty insignificant on their own, when combined, they can take a toll on your already strained resources. Add in entertainment, the occasional dinner out, and a few unexpected expenses here and there, and you can find yourself falling behind in getting your bills paid on time. Luckily, I have 10 solutions for your budgeting woes this tax season, including an in-depth look at my favorite solution, the Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan.

If your wallet is feeling the strain of everyday expenses consider implementing these simple money saving tips into your day-to-day life.

Get Rid of Your Expensive Phone Bill 
Did you know that most major cell phone carriers actually charge you a monthly fee just for being under contract? So basically, you’re being charged and additional fee just for being loyal. Make your wallet and your bank account happy and ditch your expensive cell phone carrier for a no-contract plan that doesn’t charge you hidden fees for being loyal.

Not sure where to begin your search, try the Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan. This plan features Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data, including up to 10GB of 4G LTE data per month per line for only $49.88 per month. As an added bonus, you get a free movie on VUDU every month worth up to $7! Simply pick out your phone, pay the one-time $25 charge for a starter kit, select your plan and be on your way.

Increase your savings by getting rid of unnecessary and expensive cell phone contracts


If you have multiple cell phone users in your family, sharing data can cut down on your ability to access what you need when you need it. With the Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan, you can get more for less without being charged those pesky overage fees for accidentally using too much data.

You can choose from a variety of high quality phones that will help simplify your life. And with tax time right around the corner, now is the perfect time to plus up your life for a fraction of what it would typically cost for a contract with a major cell phone carrier.

Utilize budgeting apps to help you create and stick to a budget for your family


Since I’m an ardent lover of all things Samsung, I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime and the Unlimited Talk, Text and Data plan, and haven’t looked back since. I snagged an incredible deal. The Grand Prime was originally $149.99 but happened to be on rollback for $99.99!

My previous cell phone provider was charging me $60+ for 3 GB of shared data for my husband and I. With my new plan, I can stream video, including our one freebie a month (a $7 value)  directly to our TV via our Roku, which will make family movie night an easy (and inexpensive) activity now! I can also surf the web, manage my budget, and check my bank account when I'm on the go without having to worry about data usage. I call that a win!


Cut the Cable 
There are tons of options out there for entertainment that won’t put a dent in your finances the way a monthly cable bill does. This tax season, ditch your cable service and try subscribing to online streaming services. You’ll find that you will pay considerably less, and will have access to everything you want to watch, when you want to watch it.

If you still want your local channels, consider investing in an antenna. A good antenna will cost you $50-$70, but it’s a one-time fee as opposed to a monthly bill.

Save Your Tax Refund 
 I know, the temptation to book a 7-day cruise to Bali immediately after receiving your tax refund can be great, but don’t. Resist the urge tap into your George and Wheezy and instead, put your money in savings. You never know when an emergency might come up, and it’s always better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

Automate your Savings 
Simply put, if you can’t see it, you can’t spend it. Set up your account so that a few dollars are automatically deducted out of each of your pay checks. It doesn’t have to be an exorbitant amount, but a few dollars here and there can really add up over a prolonged period of time.

Sell Unused Items 
You know that old sweater you haven’t worn in 2 ½ years? It’s time to consider the possibility that it may be time to get rid of it. There are probably tons of unused items sitting around your house collecting dust. Unused items can’t pay your bills, but the money that you make selling those items can. Spend a few hours a month going through your home and setting aside old items you no longer use.

Shop Smart 
One of the easiest ways to save major money on clothing purchases is to wait until the end of the season to buy your clothes. You can easily save 50-75% just by waiting until the end of the season to do next year’s shopping.

If you have picky teens, try to stick with simple things that are always in style. That way you won’t have to listen to complaints about how “uncool” they are.



Clip Coupons 
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer, but as the much esteemed Benjamin Franklin once said, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Consider subscribing to the Sunday newspaper and set aside time once a week to clip coupons. If you shop at the grocery store regularly, be sure you have their loyalty cards. Not only do members get additional savings, but most offer gas perks. Those extra savings can add up over time.

Carpool to Work 
If you have close friends at work that live nearby, consider starting or joining a carpool. If you’re all headed in the same direction, you can all chip in a few dollars and save major money on gas.



Pack Your Lunch 
Though it can be difficult to resist the urge to take the easy way out, try packing your lunch for work. Dining out for lunch on occasion is okay, but try to limit the frequency. You’ll see a huge difference in your bank account. This also works well for school-aged children. With the cost of school lunches steadily on the rise, you can get more bang for your buck simply by packing a lunch for your kiddos.

Pick up a Side Gig 
Looking to earn a few extra dollars? Consider picking up a side gig. Nothing too strenuous, or time consuming. Aim for places that you already frequent and can add value to your life. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, look into a position at your local gym, or consider picking up a newspaper route. This way you can burn calories and make extra money at the same time.

Get a handle on your budget this tax season. Be sure to visit your local Walmart and check out the Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan. Consider plusing up your life and save money in the process. Your wallet and family will thank you!

Ditch your cell phone contract and try a no contract phone to help stick to your budget


What are some simple money saving tips you and your family use during tax season?

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/2-ovk or your local Walmart for current pricing.

Until Next Time,




On Living While You Can


Last summer I thought I was dying.

My dad had just had a stroke, I'd driven from North Carolina to Pittsburgh with Little J and about 2 hours of sleep. I'd also neglected to eat for several days and had so much coffee in my system, my blood stream was probably brown. So it should come as no shock that I ended up having a massive panic attack.

Up until that point in my life, I'd never had a panic attack. In fact, if I'm being honest, I thought they were a bit silly. What on earth could be so bad, that it would cause your stress to physically manifest itself in the form of a panic attack?

But then that summer came and blindsided me.

It began early on. One thing after the other. So fast, and so quick that I didn't have time to recover before the next hit came. When I got the call that my dad was in the hospital, that's when it all came crashing down.

As I lay there on the floor of my dad's truck, struggling to breathe and losing consciousness, the one thing I recall saying over and over again, is that I wasn't ready to go. And despite the very calm EMT's who loaded me into the back of the ambulance, all the while assuring me that I wasn't dying, I spent several months thinking that there was something wrong with me that the doctor's missed. And it turns out there was, it just wasn't fatal.

The thing about thinking that you're dying, is that after you've discovered that you haven't died, you have this urge to do all the things. That's why Chicago happened. It was so out of the blue and so unordinary for me. I'm typically a serial planner but perpetual dreamer. I plan, and plan, but never do. Last summer was a wake up call.

Shortly after my panic attack, I planned a one-day trip to Chicago. I managed to snag a roundtrip ticket for $30, and had always wanted to see the Windy City, so I did. I went back a month or so later with Mr. A. Then I went to Philly, Asheville, Myrtle Beach and a few other local travel destinations here and there. The final leg of 2015 was pretty travel heavy, but I didn't have the opportunity to travel internationally. And I plan to change that.

After too many years of collecting dust I recently sent off to renew my passport. It's been so long since I've traveled internationally, I'm almost afraid that I've forgotten how. But last summer was a reminder that life is too short to not see everything while you can. So I'm planning on adding a few more stamps to my passport collection.


My first destination? 




Iceland!

I've always felt that Iceland was a little bit underrated. At least for me. Everyone wants to go to these beautiful tropical destinations, meanwhile, I want to go somewhere a bit off the beaten path.
Iceland is one of those amazing countries that people tend to forget about, but seems like it would be incredible to explore. So it's at the top of my list.

I'm hoping that this blog keeps me more accountable. At least twice a month, I want to do a budget recap, travel tips, and steps that I am taking to get us to Iceland. My goal is to have us there before 2017, but depending on weather conditions and life's ability to destroy even the sturdiest of plans, I'm not going to set a firm date until we get our savings well under way.

Be sure to tune in every once and a while to see how the planning is going. Who knows, maybe you'll join me on my journey to Iceland.

My final piece of advice? Please don't wait until you think you're taking your last breath to decide you want to live. Life is so fleeting, but it's so incredibly beautiful. Take it all in while you have the chance.

Until next time,



On Taking A Step Back


Yes, it's true. I'm still alive. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I have photographic evidence to back my claims.

If you've been a longtime reader, I'm sure it has not escaped you that there has been a noticeable shift in the focus of my blog. What was once such a private and open invitation to view the daily dabblings on my life has since slowed to a trickle. I have done this very purposefully and with intention.

Here's why.

The big scary truth of blogging is that once it's out there, it's out there for good. Every word I've ever typed on my blog can be read, analysed, hashed, rehashed, and so on and so forth. Though I see no harm in sharing my boring everyday life, within reason, I find myself getting more fearful of what that exposure means for Little J. Am I somehow setting her up for a lifetime of ridicule by sharing my seemingly innocent stories of her childhood? I'm sure this is a question many bloggers have had to ask themselves. And after years of going back to this one simple question, I'm finding that all signs point to yes. At least for my family.

So what does that mean? While you may see less personal posts on my blog, you'll still be able to keep up with us on social media. See on social media, I have a bit more control. I can set my account to private and maintain a barrier around my family. On my blog, I don't have that same amount of control. At the end of the day, I don't really have any control. And that's what is prompting me to make this decision.

Though I may be cutting down on the personal side of my family, that has allowed me time to work on producing stellar and useful content for all of you. So expect to continuing seeing amazing recipes, printables, travel stories, daily musings, and parenting tips. And yes, my family will still pop up from time to time, but just a little less often.

I hope you all can understand.

Until next time,


Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie


This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sara Lee Desserts, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #SaraLeeDesserts http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV


Unpack your blenders! Warmer weather is rolling in and I'm celebrating by blending up something special.

As an avid fan of Cheesecake (well, any cake really, but especially Sara Lee Cheesecake) I'm always looking for an excuse to bake and or eat a cake. But when warmer weather rolls around, I'm a little less into baking, and a little more into finding ways to escape, beat the North Carolina heat. That's how I came up with this Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie. Because really, what's better than a tall glass of Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie on a warm Spring Day?

::Spoiler Alert::The correct response to that question is nothing.

I initially made this smoothie using Little J as my test gerbil, and got ZERO complaints. Well, other than when she was done. It pretty much touched on all the essentials for being an awesome treat for her.

Quick (check)
Sweet (check)
Can be consumed through an adorable straw (check)

Luckily for me, I don't have to be on par with Julia Childs to keep my family happy. We're all about keeping things simple and efficient. Which is why I'm 99.9% certain you'll LOVE this smoothie.

Ingredients

1 Sara Lee Original Cheesecake (I snagged an awesome deal at Food Lion and grabbed a few for future smoothies).
1/2 Cup of unsweeted Almond Milk
1/2 lb of strawberries
Optional: Whipped cream and gram crackers to top


Instructions 

Add cheesecake, almond milk and strawberries to blender. Blend on high until smooth. If desired, top your smoothie with whipped cream, gram crackers and serve with a smile!


Quick tip
To rim your glass with crushed gram crackers, put 2-3 stick of gram crackers in a ziplock bag and crush. Wet the top of your glass. Dip the top of your glass in the crushed gram crackers and spin slowly. Sprinkle additional gram crackers along the lip of the cup if necessary.

This is such a fun and simple smoothie. This is an excellent recipe to help your little start to get their bearings around the kitchen. Just be sure to monitor them carefully with the blender!

Heading to Food Lion to pick up a Sara Lee Cheesecake? Be sure to use the instant redemption coupon on your Sara Lee Original Cream Classic Cheesecake package for $1.50 off the purchase of one cheesecake good through 3/31 while supplies last!


For even more recipe and smoothie ideas, be sure to check out Sara Lee on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! I promise, you won't be disappointed!

As always, feel free to retweet this scrumptious smoothie on Twitter or repin for later on Pinterest!

Until next time!