Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Travel Tuesday - The Passport Party Project

I developed a love of travel at an early age. My mother encouraged me to be an independent spirit and by the time I was nine, I’d traveled across country alone to visit my family in California. With an early introduction to solo travel I was able to seamlessly visit colleges that I was interested in attending in cities I’d never visited without fear or trepidation. During high school I had a deep desire to travel internationally (all of the women in my family are travelers and had been to countries in Africa, South America and the Caribbean) but despite my best efforts, it remained elusive to me. My first trip overseas occurred after I finished my Masters degree in International Affairs - yes, you’ve read that correctly, I even obtained a degree in the field without ever stepping foot off of U.S. soil. Not to be deterred from my dreams, shortly after my graduation I was headed to South Africa and ended up living there for over 2 years.

I believe that travel should be something that all children and adults have the opportunity to do and developing a love for it early in life is key to successfully integrating international travel. By opening the youth's eyes to new cultures they can develop a worldview that not only will change their perspective but impact friends and family who that share their experiences with. This is why I am so very proud to be a mentor for the Passport Party Project for the second year in a row.  The Passport Party Project(PPP) is a National Geographic award winning grassroots global awareness initiative for underrepresented American girls aged 11-15. The PPP provides passports for the young women if they do not already have one. This summer, 15 travel teen ambassadors will be traveling to Toronto, with a newly stamped passport in hand!

Tourism Toronto, Holiday Inn Rosemont, Heys, Niagara Parks, and National Geographic maps are sponsors for the program. Heys has provided all of the Ambassadors with beautiful luggage for their trips, National Geographic has provided world maps, Holiday Inn is providing a place for them to stay on their journey to Toronto and Tourism Toronto provides the ladies with some experiences during their stay. It has been a pleasure being a travel mentor for 12 year old Ryann, she is looking forward to the trip and is extremely excited about traveling with a group of her peers.

The Passport Party Project is something I stand firmly behind and it is my hope that you might consider a donation to help with the costs associated with the trip. Each young woman is responsible for contributing $1000 toward their trip but that does not cover the entire trip. Your contribution will support the costs of passports, airfare, transfers, accommodations, and meals. If you would like to see a full list of where we need support, visit here. And financial contributions are welcomed on the Go Fund Me page.

I believe in the power of the passport and I so honored to be a Travel Mentor for the Passport Party Project, a program that I know will change the lives of these young women forever!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine's Day Date night look

Valentine’s Day is the weekend and lovers everywhere are preparing to spend time with their special someone. I like the idea of Valentine’s Day but can honestly say that every day is Valentine’s Day with my special someone. Knowing that I am surprised with loving gestures any day helps me to not get hung up on the fact that we won’t be able to spend the day together this year. But with my birthday coming up in just two weeks, we will be sure to make up for the lost time. So Valentine’s Day or any special date night, it is important for me to look great when I am spending time with my man. Since I absolutely LOVE beauty products, this means my makeup is always on point!

For date night I plan on having a face that is both simple and elegant. And for this look, I’ve chosen to highlight Flower products by Drew Barrymore available exclusively at Walmart. I like the message behind the brand

“Beauty should be attainable and bring women empowerment. It is about you and not someone else” - Drew Barrymore Yes! I am all about empowerment and in my opinion makeup is meant to enhance natural beauty and that is why for this date, I will wear a very natural look. Although, I’ve had the theme of minimal makeup for the past year and quite frankly I don’t see it changing. I like a pop of color on my lips or eyes but my look will always be enhancing and never caked on.

For this look I used Flower Zoom In Ultimate mascara ($7.98). This mascara is special because the wand twists and enables you to focus on lengthening, volumizing or curling your lashes, or doing all three. I am a fan of my eyes and so of course I used the mascara on all three settings to get the maximum results. But I have simple used it without twisting and simply enjoyed the lengthening properties of the mascara.

On my lips I am wearing Flower Kiss Velvet Lipcolor in natural. I really like this lipstick because although it goes on matte, you can feel the moisturizing properties. This is very important for me because during the winter months my lips tend to dry out and flake. I have to ensure my lips are always moisturized to prevent chapped lips and this lipcolor fits the bill.

I used a little tiny dash of blush on my cheeks, used my favorite liquid eye liner for a cat eye and am ready for a special night or day date with my love. I am wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day, even if you are spending it alone like me, love on yourself.  We deserve it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Simple Valentine's Day decorating ideas

I think any time is a good time for a celebration and with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching I thought it’d be nice to put together some simply themed party ideas. All of the items I used were purchased at Walmart and in total cost less than $20.00! I kept things simple and stayed with a red and pink color scheme, nothing speaks the language of love like these colors! I started with a vase that has the word LOVE emblazoned across it. It was a great purchase costing only $3.95! Initially I was planning on filling the vase with red stones but decided that instead, I’d purchase some fresh flowers - my favorite, tulips ($4.95) in red. To this simple arrangement I added a heart shaped balloon that says Happy Valentine’s Day ($.99). If you’d like to do something more elaborate you can add baby’s breath or other flowers that you like, but I thought simple was best.

Using the vase as the centerpiece of my design, I purchased a pink plastic table covering ($.99), pink and white graphic paper plates ($.99) and a set of pink utensils ($.99). This makes for easy clean up after my gathering and I am not concerned about spills on a fabric table cloth. I added some red paper shreds (.$99) to provide some texture to my centerpiece and with that last touch my table was pretty much complete.

A celebration of love in my opinion requires libations, so continuing the red and pink theme, I purchased a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cranberry juice ($2.95) and a bottle of Barefoot Red Moscoto ($4.95). Don’t let the low price of Barefoot keep you away, I am a huge fan of their wines all of which are priced under $12.00 and many have won awards! Don’t be fooled, lower prices does not necessarily mean lower quality!

Finally, I added some Valentine’s Popcorn mix that is perfectly salty and can be that way too, don’t you think? You can find the recipe for the mix on this post and the bags can be given as favors once your get together is over. Whether you are celebrating self love, love of family or romantic love this Valentine’s Day, check out Walmart for everything you need during this season of love!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valentine's Day Popcorn Mix

When I think of Valentine’s Day I think of sweet treats. Every year the treats vary - I’ve made everything from heart shaped paleo coconut poundcake with coconut whipped cream to red velvet sandwich cookies. This year I decided to make something that was pretty simple but still tasty - Valentine’s Day popcorn. Although I am not a personal fan of sweet popcorn (kettlecorn is NOT my friend), I know that my son has a party coming up at school and kids and adults alike will go crazy for this sweet and salty treat. As a matter fact, to be honest, despite my aversion to kettlecorn, I actually really like my Valentine’s Day popcorn which should sell you on it immediately!

I picked up all of the ingredients I needed for the recipe at Walmart.  This recipe is quick and easy, as a matter of fact, it is so easy that I’m not going to give you specific measurements. This is one of those recipes that can vary depending on your personal taste preferences so any way you do it, it will be delicious! You start with popcorn - I used microwave popcorn but you can use any method that works for you. Pop your popcorn and place it in a large bowl. As the popcorn pops, melt white chocolate according to package instructions. I used Wilton white candy melts ($2.47). Place the popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle with melted chocolate - as much or as little as you like. Since I am not a lover of sweets, I went pretty light and used about a quarter of the bag for 4-5 cups of popcorn.
Sprinkle warm popcorn with pink or red sprinkles - I used Wilton Tall Valentines Sprinkles ($3.29). Next add Chex mix for the salty and M&Ms Valentine’s Milk chocolate Cupid’s Mix ($2.88) for more sweet. Again, the ratios are according to your personal taste buds and I suppose tasting as you go is part of the fun!

Finally, place the Valentine’s Day popcorn mix into Wilton’s Treat bags ($4.25) and it is ready for your child’s class party or as gifts for your loved ones! Of course, this treat can simply be for you to eat. If you have leftovers that you want to save for later, be sure to place them in an airtight container. This Valentine’s Day treat is sure to be a hit!

Enjoy your own Valentine's Day baking. If you are looking for even more ideas, here are some from the rest of the Walmart Moms:

Strawberry Filled Cupcakes

Tips for Perfect Cake Pops

Easy Sweetheart Cake Pops

Heart Shaped Rice Krispy Treats

How to Melt Chocolate in a Silicone Pan

Strawberry Cheesecake Milkshake

Saltine Cracker Toffee

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Hearts on a Stick

No Bake Valentines Peanut Butter Crispy Square

Valentines Cracker Candy

Brownie Hearts

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna for Game Day!

The Big Game Day is right around the corner and I know folks are already prepping for the watch parties. Most parties have the food basics - hot wings, dips, chips but when I was a pescatarian I frequently had a difficult time because there were few choices available to me. Although I have added poultry to my diet, I still want to keep vegetarians and pescatarians in mind when I bring my contribution for the Game Day party. Of course I visited pinterest to find a recipe that fit the bill. I found many interesting things but ended up extremely happy with a Mexican lasagna. It is both vegetarian and a healthy choice coming in at only 265 calories a serving!

The Mexican lasagna was really easy to make and I picked up all of my items at Walmart. Mexican lasagna is different from regular lasagna for a number of reasons but primarily because instead of using pasta noodles, corn tortillas are used.

I am a big fan of Mexican food and am an elitist when it comes to my tortillas, in my opinion, corn is the only way to go! I found Mission Corn tortillas for $1.68. I only used 4 so I am freezing the rest for use in future recipes. For protein I used refried beans and a plant based protein - Beyond Beef beefy crumbles ($3.98). 
If you eat meat, you can of course use ground beef, turkey or chicken. Another difference is that I used Great Value 1% milk fat cottage cheese and Great Value cheddar cheese for a topping. I also used a favorite that I always have in my pantry - Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies($2.11).

I am completely pleased with the outcome of my Mexican lasagna. It was simple to assemble, it took less than 15 minutes! I baked for 45 minutes and it was done. I can’t wait to share my creation next Sunday and I am definitely adding this recipe to my dinner rotation. I will be cutting up my lasagna and freezing squares for future dinners. Low calorie, low fat and delicious? Perfect for the Big Game and any day!

Vegetarian Healthier Mexican Lasagna

1 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup meat substitute crumbles
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2/3 cup tomato sauce
4 corn tortillas cut into fourths
1 can refried beans
2/3 cup salsa
1/4 cup cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9 inch casserole dish with cooking spray
Mix cottage cheese, crumbles, corn and tomatoes in bowl. Add chilli powder and mix.
Pour pasta sauce in bottom of dish. Place 8 tortilla pieces on top of sauce. Heat refried beans and spread on top of tortillas. Layer remaining tortillas. Spread cottage cheese mixture on top of tortillas. Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, top with salsa and cheddar cheese. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Enjoy!

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