Single Mom Chronicles: Rewind: White House Tour, Washington Monument – Washington, DC

When I scheduled a day off to see the 2009 Inauguration of President Obama, it was a huge piece of history especially for my son who was 8 years old.   Another milestone is having an opportunity to tour the White House in in 2011.   Initially, I was going to postpone but decided to just do it.   I am so glad we took our date and were able to do the tour in addition to see some great sites in DC.


Last year, I submitted several dates for a White House tour, two of the three trips were canceled due to the weather(snow again, and again).  I believe the third date was canceled on my end due to the threat of torrential downpours.   In January,  I submitted another request and received a date within 2 weeks.

After deciding to go, I looked for a hotel at a reasonable price in close proximity to the White House.   I am a fan of boutique hotels mainly because of the personalized service and each hotel offers a unique experience.   My hotel of choice was located in Northwest DC, Topaz Hotel.  Thanks to Expedia, the rate was $109 per night.    The hotel is nestled away within a residential NW neighborhood and within walking distance to a variety of eateries.   The best part for me was a Starbucks on the corner.

In order for my son to have an excused absence from school, he was required to do a presentation on his trip.   The road trip to DC was fun for the kids and they were extremely excited to stay overnight in a hotel.   We checked into the hotel on Thursday evening and then decided where to eat dinner.  Since the Bertucci’s was within walking distance, we headed there for dinner.   Since my kids are not big eaters I love when restaurants offer kids menus and reasonable portions.   I was a little tired and wanted a smaller meal.  For my meal, I ordered endless soup(Tomato Basil) and  salad with Red Sangria(delish!) while the kids ordered pizza and lemonade(the kids menu offers an ice cream cup as well).

Our White House tour was scheduled for 9:30 so we turned in early.  The hotel reserved a cab for the next morning and the White House was only 10 minutes from our hotel.   After checking in at the gate, we entered our first security screening and then the 2nd security screening.   I was amazed at how immaculate everything was within the White House.   After the entrance, you walk through a hallway adorned with photography that chronicles the Obamas as well as previous Presidents.   Prior to the tour beginning, we were able to look into a library containing over 2,700 books, Vermeil Room, there was also a cabinet with china and crystal from previous administrations.    I was just in awe with the amount of history.  The first room we walked into was the East Room(largest room in White House), with  3 beautiful chandeliers that  require 96 hours for cleaning which is done once a year and 2oft high ceilings.   This room also has a historical portrait of George Washington.   From the East Room,  right down a hallway is the red carpet where guests are ushered down.  It was amazing to see the short path in this hallway because on tv the hallway looks far longer.   Next we entered the Green room which has a piece of artwork by Jacob Lawrence that was purchased for $ 2.5 million by the White House Historical Association.   The next rooms were the  Blue room, Red room, and State Dining Room.   Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take in any pictures in the White House.   After the tour, we went into the White House Store to purchase some souvenirs.

Since we were in close proximity we decided to visit the Washington Monument.  The best part is the tickets are free.   The elevator within the monument takes to 550ft and there are portals with breathtaking views.   The elevator is below at 490ft and on the descent down the elevator makes two stops and you are able to see the inside of the monument which has memorial stones.  It is unbelievable when you see the detail of each stone.

After grabbing lunch, our next stops  were the National Museum of Amerian History and National Museum of National History.   Both museums are free except for the IMAX theater in National Museum of National History.  The exhibits in the Museum of National History were beyond words and I plan to take myself and the kids soon.   The kids were totally exhausted from the walking so we hopped on the Metro and headed back to the hotel.    Our nap was long overdue and so one cab ride later we arrived at one of my favorite eateries, The Diner.   Another restaurant with a kids menu and the kids were antsy for breakfast food all day.  My DS ordered the french toast, DD ordered chocolate chip pancakes and I had the mini burgers/fries and Diner Punch(hmmm).     Our last morning there we grabbed a quick bite at the Luna Grill, it was quick and local but not worth another visit.

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Review: The Local Eateries I Love;Foodie Moment

If you have perused my blog you will see how much I cook and bake, however, the best meals are those prepared by others.   I have two of my favorite eateries featured whose food I absolutely love.  There is nothing like eating yummy food with the freshest ingredients.

MOD PIZZA

A pizza place that has a wonderful variety of pizzas and you can design your own.    The foodie in me is so far removed from choosing something on the menu.   I prefer to design my own pizza which means I get to select every topping.   My fave is going with the red sauce, mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, red onions, roasted red peppers, and spinach.    Once I’m finished adding toppings it goes into the oven, oh my can you taste the goodness from my pictures.  This is hands down my favorite place for

ModPizza

El Tio Mexican Restaurant

Can I tell you I can absolutely eat Mexican food every night of the week?   This is what happens when you scan your local coupons for eateries in your backyard.  How did I miss this place after almost two years in the area?  I am hooked is really an understatement.   My favorite is their shrimp tacos.   The shrimp are grilled to perfection, and then the cabbage, pico de gallo, a spicy dressing with a garnish of cilantro.    I have gone multiple times and each time it’s the same delicious and fresh ingredients.   Oh, did I mention the churros!!!!!

ElTio

 

 

Single Mom Chronicles: DIY Fitness -TRX (Total Resistance Exercise) ***Update****

Week 11 of using my TRX

Some  things I learned in 11 weeks:

  1. Adjusting the straps for specific exercises
  2. How to challenge myself with proper positioning
  3. Proper form while completing each exercise
  4. Improved endurance
  5. Muscle definition

DIYFitnessTRXKit-2

I will admit it is a GREAT way to challenge your body. When you first look at the bands it does look challenging however over time it gets easier. I found a great video on YouTube to get started as a beginner. The video was excellent for my initial 4 weeks. My progress is evident after 4 weeks in terms of my form and endurance. The video is at RealFitTv and you can move at your own pace. I was able to finish 2 sets in my first four weeks but I will say I am ready to progress to 3 sets.

DIYFitnessTRXKIt-1

The only confusing part with using the TRX is the length of the bands. There are three different lengths: short, mid-length(marks on the band) and long. Also, there is the mid-calf length as well if you are doing exercises from the floor.   I will also let you know that using the TRX with feet in stir-ups is an exercise challenge.   This will definitely take some time to perfect.

I a found a video on Shape.com to set-up TRX at home

 

This is another home workout using your TRX.

 

Single Mom Chronicles: 52 Week Cash Calendar Savings Game **Update**

52weekSavingsGame

WEEK 6!!!!

Every new year I see someone post about this savings game and every year I PROCRASTINATE on starting it.    I am really trying to turn over a new leaf this year by not  THINKING and PLANNING but DOING!   

In order to really see the money grow, I decided to get the kids involved in the savings game.   I opened accounts at Capital One 360 for both kids.   This will be a phenomenal way for them to learn the importance of saving but really seeing the benefits of sticking to a PLAN.

This is going to be a project of DISCIPLINE and DEDICATION.   If you’re not familiar with the savings game the idea is to add $1 to your account(s) each week.  For example, week 1 you add $1, week 2 you add $2, week 3 you add $3 and so on.    The 52nd week should net $1,378.

We have finished WEEK 1! 51 more WEEKS to GO! 

If you want to join in on the fun, here is The Cash Calendar Savings Game

 

Cooking and Baking by Me: Meal Planning and Importance of Home-Cooked Meals

Make Ahead Meals

Before school started I was on a mission to get our meal planning organized.    My preference is to cook at home, however, our time in the evenings is very limited.    Also, meal planning prevents excess spending on take out.    I found this recipe on Food Network and after trying one time I was sold.  These were hands down the BEST SLOPPY JOES.   I will never buy anything in a can.   I also use ground turkey instead of ground beef.  This is the recipe I used from Food Network.

Sloppy Joes

MealPlanningSloppyJoesFinal1

 

Ground Turkey Sliders with Alexia Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

I take 2 packs of 4 ground turkey patties and make 8 sliders.  My kids love, love sliders.    The key to my recipe is to season the ground turkey with ground cumin, minced garlic, onion powder and chili powder.

MakeAheadSliders

 

Make Ahead Lasagna

Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna, freeze and thaw 24 hours before you prepare.   I would suggest baking at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours.   For some reason, parts of the noodles did not bake.  This is was a little disappointing.   The recipe is so easy I will just make a day before I plan to bake.

MakeAheadLasagnaFreezer

 

WHY ARE HOME-COOKED MEALS IMPORTANT?

As a full-time working parent, I know how hectic the evenings can be with trying to prepare dinner, homework, winding down and getting ready for bed.

The article  from Fix.com outlines key reasons on why we should have more home-cooked meals!

I learned how important home-cooked meals are in terms of:

  1. Improving health and longevity
  2. Strengthening family dynamics
  3. Encouraging clean eating
  4. Living green helps the environment by reducing carbon footprint

I
Source: Fix.com

Single Mom Chronicles: Five Love Languages – Take The Quiz and Find Out Your Language

5 Five Love LanguagesWhich One Are You- 1 (1)

 

Although I heard about the Five Love Languages, I never read the book by Dr. Gary Chapman.    Since we are in the month of February I thought it was a good time to take the quiz.   I’m so skeptical about quizzes in quantifying who your are as a person.   I decided to take the quiz and find out my Love Language.    The one thing I noticed from the quiz is that more than one answer applied to me.    Unfortunately, you can only choose one answer.

My Results:

My Love Language: Physical Touch 

75% Quality Time

50% Acts of Service

25% Receiving Gifts

0% Words of Affirmation

While the results indicate my primary Love Language is Physical Touch, I believe it is difficult to only define one.  Based on the ranking, I would agree that the remaining languages are relevant as well.

If you are interested in taking the Five Love Languages Quiz by Dr. Gary Chapman, click the link to get started.

My Inspiration: The Loss of My Dad – Unconditional Love

HSGraduationCard

This post is filed under “my inspiration” however not sure how to be INSPIRED on this topic.My dad passed away 28 years ago and his birthday is  January 1st.   Every new year is a great beginning and a reminder of his birthday with the void it has left. My dad passed away as I was starting my second year of college and he was over the moon proud. I was the first of his six children to go to college. For him, education was a big deal. Although he was not a college graduate, he believed in the benefits of education or pursuing a trade. He worked hard and was highly skilled in a lot of areas. I give him credit for my interest in science.

While I was de-cluttering a room at my mom’s house I found my high school graduation cards. I will always treasure this card from my dad, wow to seen his signature after 28 years. I remember sitting on the stage at my high school graduation and looking over at my family and winking at my dad. It feels like it was yesterday. The best part of the day is having a limo transport us to and from the graduation ceremony. My dad tried to provide anything for his “SMOOCH”. I remembered he drove miles to get my Barbie RV so I would have in time for Christmas.

HSGraduationCard2

He always wanted me to go to college as I was thinking “come on dad what else would I do” Unfortunately my dad passed away during the 1st semester of my sophomore year. I can remember the pride on my dad’s face when I made the dean’s list. It was tough returning to school but I pride my dad felt made it worth the effort.

When I look back over my life I often wonder if he is my guardian angel. Hopefully, he is and smiling down on his busy grandchildren who constantly throw his “smooch” for a loop. Just the other day my baby bro and I were talking about how each of us stands just like our dad. It was funny that we both noticed.

In 2016, I am now 46 years old and high school was almost 29 years ago. I hear people say losing someone gets better over time and I will be the first one to say this is untrue. When I think of the missed conversations, graduating from college, buying my first car, my first job, becoming a mother, etc there is no way to replace a dad’s perspective. A dad is the first man in your life who loves, protects and provides a genuine perspective to make critical decisions. I envy women who have their dads during their adult years. There is no price you can put on reaching out to your dad for advice or having him make you laugh. I know having his advice would have prevented me from making some reckless decisions.

Shortly after New Years Day stores are adorned with Valentines Day cards, gifts, and decorations. If you’re single it may be a bittersweet day. What should you do? Do you spend it alone? or with single friends? Honestly, I like the idea of having a special day to acknowledgement those you love. I do not believe this is the only day to show love or give love. Unconditional love is a given on every day of the calendar. While I enjoy dinner out the only date I could wish for on Valentine’s Day is with my dad.

meandmydad

My Valentine’s Wish    

Single Mom Chronicles: Welcome February- “Love is in the Air”

love is in the air

 

Welcome, February!!!! This is the month where stores are adorned with so much related to Valentine’s Day.   Is Love in the air?

I am so honored to have a guest blogger, Latoi Storr of ToiTime give her perspective overview on celebrating Valentine’s Day if you are single, in a relationship or married.  Latoi is a married, full-time working mom of 3, and blogger.   When I connect with another CocoaMommy who can relate to the mommy challenge and keeps it 100!  This is a breath of fresh air!  Do check out Latoi over at ToiTime!

ToiTimeGuestBlogger

Bio in her Words:

LaToi McGinnis-Storr was born in Ohio and grew up predominately in Lancaster, PA. I am a wife and a mother to 3 beautiful kidlets as I call them.  I am a Pennsylvania State University 2003 graduate.  I can be described by my friends as the wild child and wildflower of the bunch. I like all things “weird” and by weird, I mean that gummy bears are on the food pyramid.  Look it up with a magnifying glass trust me it’s there. In my spare time, I like to practice my make-up tips as well an avid reader.  I value friendships and quiet moments.  As a busy mom on the go, I try to focus on being as prepared as possible and letting the rest just happen.  Follow me on Instagram – Toirenee3 or Twitter @Renee_toi

Valentine’s Day – Check out Guest Blogger, Latoi Storr’s Perspective

 

 

valentine1post

It’s that time of the year again.  Are you happy about it?  Let me say that as a woman I’ve been on every spectrum of the Valentine’s Day ordeal.  I was single, I was newly broken up, depressed, hurt, angry, bitter, and now married so I get it.  I know that many people will tell single women or men not to be in their feelings but let’s keep this real how can you not?

SMOKE SCREENS

 There are going to be deliveries to jobs that practically flaunt the never ending love fest.  Most likely the fest is only a day.  There will be no doubt many roses, candy boxes, and teddy bears being sent where women would otherwise talk negatively about their men.  Watch these next couple of weeks.  Ray Ray is a bum, he don’t take care of the kids, he doesn’t love me, he cheated on me again-then bam magic takes place.  On Valentine’s Day the message will be he’s a mess but that’s still my boo.
There will be men duplicating orders to send to their boo thangs and wives, the day is really a messy day.  Yes some will prey on the day and make women’s lives horrible.  So again take things with a grain of salt.  Am I Valentine’s Day hater, not at all but I am one who knows the real deal behind fake smiles and the smoke screens of Instagram and Facebook.

SINGLE’S AWARENESS DAY

 You do not need to acknowledge this day as singles awareness day.  Unless something magically happens out the sky you have been single and will be single on February 15th.  Now that’s not a death wish or anything like that but I hate when people act like we need to go out of our way to condemn others for not finding the love they need. Love is complicated and it’s not as easy as the movies would suggest.  Men and women put their best face forward and then once you get to know them they don’t match what you need for your life-no harm in that .Yes it’s frustrating but the sting is all in how you make it.  Don’t let anyone push their feelings about the day on you.
For my singles please don’t do the traditional sit around with your lady friends and male bash.  It’s not healthy.  If you want to receive love soon, don’t bash it. You attract what you put out.  So don’t let the bitterness go out and expect a prince in shining armour to appear.  Take the time to deal with your issues.  For my singles it’s a day to gather with friends and uplift yourselves not on the we single and miserable but about the good qualities that you have to offer.  If you don’t want to be alone it can be a great alternative.  I would suggest an actual activity.  For instance instead of dinner find something that you wouldn’t do like go to a Burlesque show.  Nothing is more sexier than seeing another woman in her sexual peak show you some new moves to boost your confidence.
My other suggestion is take a pole dancing class.  One don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it-the work out is insane.  The ladies who pole dance are some strong individuals.  Again it’s about doing something physical and finding an activity that’s out the box.  It will help ease the day trust me.  Also if you have a group of women who are in the same boat, you can have fun and exchange gifts amongst yourself. Now all the women in the group will have a Valentine and no one will be left out.
Yes you can turn the day around and have a little fun while doing it. When I think about the countless dinners I went to sitting around with my girlfriends complaining I really wished I had used my time wisely to do an activity.  I would plan a girls weekend if you have the money to do so.  Get away, and catch a new city.  It doesn’t have to be super far either.  It could be something a few hours away and find activities that are really out of the box and change-up the atmosphere.  Make things such as Groupon and Living Social your bestie for such occasions.  There really is strength in numbers.  If you don’t live near your girlfriends you can still sign up for classes you will be surprised how many others are in the same boat and guess what if you’re open to the idea you may meet a new friend or two along the way.

 NOT THE SAME GIFTS

 If you are on the side where you have a boo, opt for better gifts instead of the same cliché gifts.  For instance do some DIY projects.  I love to be different. My husband has enough stuff so i opt to gift him a day or an activity for him to engage with a friend or by himself.   Yes I know the day is supposed to be spent at an expensive dinner looking into candlelight with violins playing, but my reality is that’s just not the type of couple we are.  For one, we have small children so if you are in the same boat unless you made prior arrangements, finding a sitter will be virtually impossible.  We find ways to bring the action indoors.  One thing we do is after we put the kids to bed, we bake together.  Yes nothing says time together like a mixing bowl, flour and well some cute lingerie. Remember to always keep it cute.
Now if you aren’t into baking and that’s not your strong suit then another suggestion is to step your game up.  Yes play a game just you and your mate. Games bring out that competitive side so trust and believe that its going to do the same then.  You can have prizes that are little trinkets of things both of you like that would eliminate the need to buy one particular gift.  This is something where a gift is now earned. Again different ways in approaching gift giving.
Listen to your mate when they talk.  There is something that your mate will allude to that they like if you are listening you will hear it and use opportunities to gift these items during these times.

 SIDE CHICK APPRECIATION DAY

 This is one day that I need everyone to stop celebrating.  The only reason I’m bringing it up is to get more people to knock this day of celebrating off.  Why would you take joy in knowing that you are the one who will get part-time benefits from a man or woman?  You really want to be the only one, not the main, not the jump off, but the only one but you settle to be called a secondary lover?  This mentality needs to really stop.  I can’t believe that in this day and age we celebrate such things but we do.  Please end this now.  There’s no honor in being second.  Stop the madness.  I can’t knock you for living this life, but to brag about it is another thing.  You are lonely.  The pieces you get are only temporary.  You don’t get full-time benefits will you cheapen yourself to part-time love.  What about this and every other holiday you spend alone?  Is it worth it?  You are okay with just getting a portion when you deserve the whole thing.  If you were hungry and a restaurant gave you half of sandwich when you ordered a whole, you would pay for that sandwich and be okay?  No but if you allow this type of treatment you are eventually never being satisfied. There’s not enough love and foolishness to keep this type of facade going.
Wherever you are in the spectrum that positive and negative feelings that come about on the big day.  Please always remember that at the end of the day it’s one day.  Love should always be celebrated not because of Hallmark and calendars.  The best type of love even if you are in a relationship or two is self-love.

Single Mom Chronicles: Thred Up-Online Consignment Shopping

I am a huge fan of consigning especially when the site or store offers top quality and deals.   My FAVORITE consignment store is Greene Street Consignment.    For online consigning I have used Swap.com and last year I tried ThredUp for the first time.

ThredUpConsignPurchase

My first purchase on Thred Up were two items.   After seeing another blogger post about her new outfit I wanted to try it out for myself.   I was pleased with the quality, prices and quick delivery of my first purchase.  Also, it was very easy to return one of my items for a credit.    When I found a similar item again the price, quality and delivery were the best.   On my exchange shipment, I received a bag to ship items back for consignment.

ThredUp

This was a few months ago and tonight I decided to continue my “declutter” our living space.   The bag came with a shipping label and it is very roomy and sturdy.   I have two options for returning either I can give to my mail carrier or return it to a FEDEX store.

ThredUpConsign

The bag was large enough for about 10+ items of my teen’s clothing which included jeans as well as a pair of my shoes in the shoebox.

ThredUpConsign1

I will keep you posted on the process when the items are received back by ThredUp.