7 Healthy Foods That Are Causing You to Pack on the Pounds

Have you been diligently eating only healthy foods on your weight loss journey, only to discover that your scale is going in the wrong direction? The problem may lie in not understanding just how many calories you’re consuming with those healthy ingredients and snacks.

1. Brazil Nuts

Nuts have amazing health benefits, and they definitely belong in your healthy eating plan. For example, Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, which is purported to be an anti-cancer superfood. Selenium helps boost your immune system and has anti-oxidant properties, as well. However, one cup of Brazil nuts contains 872 calories. Go easy on them or you could end up with a body the size of Brazil.

2. Dark Chocolate

Women everywhere rejoiced when the health benefits of dark chocolate were announced. Dark chocolate contains large amounts of iron and magnesium. It even even contains fiber, which everyone knows is a key ingredient for successful weight loss. But before you gobble down that entire bar, know this: There are almost 600 calories in one bar. Just one small ounce has 170 calories. Given that, a few nibbles are probably a better idea than a whole bar.

3. Yogurt

Probiotics is a buzz word lately, and the best place to get them is inside a rich, fruit-filled yogurt cup, right? Wrong. Most of the popular brands of yogurt have added sugar (or sugar substitutes). One cup of yogurt has about 100 calories, but remember that the added sugar can a) increase cravings, and b) get stored as fat.

4. Cheese

What woman doesn’t feel clever choosing to chow down on some protein-packed cheddar cheese instead of junk food? While cheese is truly a healthy food when consumed in small quantities, it can sabotage your weight loss efforts if you don’t control your portion sizes. Just one ounce of cheddar cheese has about 114 calories. If you have a kitchen scale, you’ll see just how small one ounce is. In case you don’t, it’s about two tablespoons. Depressing, huh?

5. Avocado

The versatile and delicious avocado is valued by dieters for its healthy fats, which increase feelings of satiety. They are also loaded with nutrients like potassium and Vitamin B6. When you enjoy avocado, though, be aware that half an avocado has over 160 calories. And everyone knows that it’s easier to eat both halves than to let the other side go brown. There’s 320 calories right there. Enjoy.

6. Olive Oil

While everyone else was debating the differences between light olive oil, virgin and extra virgin, we turned the bottle around and checked out the calories. Yikes! Just two tablespoons of olive oil has 238 calories! Be careful of how much you use for your cooking, or you may inexplicably start packing on the pounds.

7. Coconut

The coconut is wildly popular right now. Home cooks are finding more and more ways to integrate this natural anti-biotic and healthful food into every recipe. Recipes are calling for coconut oil and shredded coconut, and women are using coconut milk and coconut water for cocktails, smoothies and sauces. While no one is disputing the health benefits of coconut, you may want to lower your intake just a bit if weight loss is your goal. Try to keep calm when you read this, but one coconut has over 1400 calories and a single cup of shredded coconut has over 280 calories.

Moderation is the key to enjoying any of these healthy, calorie-packed foods. It’s not worth giving up the tremendous health value in an effort to lose weight.

As long as you indulge lightly while keeping in mind the calorie counts, you should be good to go.


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Movie Mothers We Wish We Could Be in Real Life

Sometimes the movies just get it right. There are times when you sit there, watching the silver screen, and you say to yourself, “Now, that’s the way a mother should be,” or “Man, I wish I had a mom like that.” Here are some movie characters that we wish we could be in real life, either as the mother or as the daughter.

Mrs. March from “Little Women”

There’s a lot to envy about Susan Sarandon’s character, Mrs. March, or Marmee as her girls often called her. Surrounded by her four loving girls while her husband is away fighting in the Civil War, it’s clear from the outset that Mrs. March has reared her four daughters well. They are simultaneously independent-minded and respectful of their mother. Full of love and vigor, they obviously feel free to become the best versions of themselves without rebelling against their loving mother or losing their own dignity or sense of womanhood.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have daughters like Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sitting on the floor at our skirts? The times have passed since we can expect our daughters to find joy in learning to embroider in the candlelight in the sitting room after supper. But maybe we could glean a little glimmer of that bygone age by teaching our daughters to sew a button, dance a ballet or listen to classical music.

Leigh Anne Touhy from “The Blind Side”

Watching Sandra Bullock portray the real Leigh Anne Touhy in “The Blind Side,” mothers everywhere can relate to the desire to give a deserving young adult a good home. As she and her family welcome Michael into their affluent home, we watch in admiration as she shows her friends and community what unconditional love really means. Her show of strength hides a deep emotional current that adopted son Michael is well aware of. He senses the depths of her love, possibly, because his own love for his new family is equally profound.

Isn’t there some part inside all mothers that wants to save the underdog? It’s the part that makes a mother bear a bear. It’s the part that makes us stop at nothing to make sure our kids get their turn at bat; gets an equal share of everything that’s handed out. It’s the part of us that sacrifices in the name of motherly love. In that sense, there’s a little bit of Leigh Anne Touhy in all of us.

Betty Mahmoody from “Not Without My Daughter”

If you missed this older movie that’s based on a true story, you owe it to yourself to watch it. (Just hide in the bedroom some afternoon with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine. We won’t tell.) Sally Field portrays a woman who lives in America and is married to an Iranian man. In the opening scenes, we see that her husband is a doctor with a magnanimous personality who gets along swimmingly with his in-laws. Over the course of the movie, they move back to Iran, where the husband decides he wants to revert to the traditional Iranian lifestyle. We won’t tell you the whole plot, but basically, Betty and her daughter are prisoners. Betty has opportunities to escape back to the U.S., but she would have to leave her daughter behind in Iran – something she is unwilling to do (hence the title).

Sally Field’s character is someone that all mothers should aspire to. She uses her wits, her wiles, and her connections to come up with a plan to spirit herself and her daughter through treacherous terrain and dangerous situations. In the face of adversity, this mother stood up and faced the challenge. When it’s our turn as mothers to stand or be defeated, we can find hope in this true story of survival.

Movie characters like these help to promote the true essence of motherhood. That is, gentle guidance, unconditional love and protection. Whether you’re a young mother, single mother, or mother of an adult, what you offer to your children as their mother is something they will always cherish.

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TV Show Moms That Make Us Feel Better About Ourselves

Some TV moms just have a way of making us feel better about our own parenting skills. On the surface, the following TV show moms are shining examples of how to show affection to a child. Underneath, there’s a lot to love about a mom that makes us look good.

The Middle

Patricia Heaton does an awesome job of portraying Frankie Heck, mother of three kids on “The Middle.” There’s something about her that almost all moms across the country can relate to. Going to a job she hates, being misunderstood by her family and dealing with challenging kids. Yup, you can smile with understanding as she comes home and flops on the couch with a beer. But dinnertime at the Heck’s? Now that’s another story.

How can a mother who claims to love her children throw down a few bags of take out burgers and fries almost every night and call it a meal? I mean, sure, you’ve been known to pass around the local Chinese takeout menu to get everyone’s orders. Chinese food has vegetables. Fast food joints don’t. Besides, you can’t cook Chinese. Or pizza. Or Indian food. So it’s actually a treat for the kids when you order out. You’re not like Frankie at all. Nope.

Madam Secretary

As Madam Secretary, Téa Leoni tries to show us how awesome she is as a professional working woman, wife and mother. Wow. What an inspiration. Plus, she apparently has a smoking hot love life with her husband, played by Tim Daly (off-screen as well, but that’s gossip for another day). I mean, what woman wouldn’t want to be as good a mother as Elizabeth McCord, Secretary to the President of the United States? How does she do it all?

Well, she doesn’t. Not really. Take a closer look and it’s hard to find a mother less tuned in to what’s going on with her kids. She had no idea that her daughter, “Noodle,” was into fashion, no clue that her youngest son Jason hadn’t made any friends at his new school, and absolutely no notion that her oldest was sleeping with a heroin addict. (And, he is the President’s son, no less!). Honestly, if you were those kids’ mother, you would make it your business to know what they were up to every minute of the day. As Madame Secretary, wouldn’t it be within your rights to have your kids’ every action monitored? You bet it would! You are SUCH a better mother than her! Wait a minute. It’s almost midnight! Where’s your daughter? Her curfew is 10:00!

Modern Family

Gloria has one child to rear, and she does it with style. Sofia Vergara plays the doting mother so well, and her son Manny, played by Rico Rodriguez, is all the better for it. He’s a well-mannered, sophisticated young man who reflects positively on his upbringing. Even though Gloria spent years raising Manny as a single mother after her divorce, their relationship is perfect.

A little too perfect, if you ask her new husband, Jay, portrayed by Ed O’Neill. Jay sees what you see. A little fancy pants boy who is doesn’t want to let go of his mother’s apron strings. On the other end of those strings is an overprotective mother who has trouble letting her baby grow up. You’re not like that, though. You can see the error in preventing anything bad from happening to your kids. You know that Manny will always need approval from his mother, and that his future romantic relationships may suffer because of it. That’s why you always tell your son he can date whomever he chooses. As long as she’s a good girl. With no piercings. And she should be the same religious faith, obviously. That’s just a given.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey has given us six glorious years of entertainment, so they are hereby relieved of any scathing remarks about Lady Edith’s reluctance to acknowledge her own child to save her own reputation, or Lady Mary’s curious lack of motherly bragging about her amazingly adorable and handsome son George. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to understand the mother-child relationship of the olden days. The only one that makes sense on the show is the one between The Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham. The way he still comes to his wise old mother for advice; the way she still tells him what to do and how to behave. Now that’s the way it should be!

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Common Pet Food Ingredients That Are Really Bad For Your Fur Babies

When it comes to pet food, you can’t necessarily take everything on the front of the package at face value. We dug a little deeper and found some alarming information about some pet food ingredients.

Pet Food Doesn’t Have to Be Pre-Approved by the FDA

Unlike human food that comes to market shelves, pet food manufacturers don’t need prior FDA approval. Pet food is regulated with the same rules that govern animal feed. The FDA does its best to make sure that pet food ingredients are generally recognized as safe and that the ingredients have an appropriate use in the formulation. Basically, there’s a lot of trust that’s placed in the hands of pet food makers to comply with the FDA rules.

The Ingredients to Avoid:

Most high quality pet food manufacturers do place a high priority on pleasing both owners and their pets, but not all. Here is a list of pet food ingredients that should be avoided, should you find them listed on the next package of pet food you’re thinking of buying.

Phosphoric Acid: Phosphoric acid is a colorless, odorless mineral acid that is used in various forms as a food acidifier, a leavening agent, a rust remover and—in dentistry—as an etching agent. Sounds delicious, right?

Cats need their food to be within a certain pH range between 6.3 and 6.7. Since phosphoric acid works as a food acidifier, it is used in some cat foods to achieve that balance.

You might find phosphoric acid in some dog foods as well, since it has been used to enhance flavor. The most common place you’ll find phosphoric acid is in Coca Cola. Some studies have indicated that phosphoric acid can contribute to bone loss in humans.

Since pH can be adjusted with other natural ingredients, and since there is some evidence to show it can be harmful, it’s probably not something you want to risk giving to your pet in their food.

Fluoride: Fluoride is a byproduct of the manufacturing process of the phosphate fertilizer industry. It’s very convenient for fertilizer makers to have such a huge market for what would have been a useless waste product. Towns across the nation pay thousands of dollars to have fluoride added to the drinking water, supposedly so we can all have better teeth.

Unfortunately, the dangers of fluoride are becoming increasingly well-known by medical professionals. Fluoride has been linked to increased lead absorption, thyroid disease, dementia, arthritis, bone fractures, and a compromised immune system, as well as many other things.

Fluoride is added to many pet food formulas for the same reason that it’s added to our toothpaste and drinking water. Supposedly it helps your pet’s teeth be stronger and healthier. The reality is that nations that add fluoride to the water do not have healthier teeth and gums than nations that don’t.

The scientifically proven health risks of fluoride far outweigh any anecdotal dental benefits. Just as you’re better off without fluoride, so too is your pet. If you see this ingredient on your package of pet food, keep looking elsewhere for a healthy formulation.

Propylene Glycol: Propylene glycol is an organic compound that is commonly added to dry pet food to inhibit bacteria growth and reduce moisture. Now, you obviously don’t want your dry pet food to be wet and moldy, but this is one ingredient your pet will live better without.

Inside your pet’s intestines, propylene glycol upsets the delicate balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria. Propylene glycol doesn’t discriminate between the different kinds of bacteria; it just kills everything in its wake, so your pet’s immune system could be compromised. If you see this ingredient on your pet’s food label, you might want to pass on it.

Pets do best with natural foods and natural ingredients, just as we do. Basically, if you wouldn’t want to see an ingredient in your food, it’s probably not the greatest choice for your pet’s diet, either.


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Easy Ways to Customize Your Apartment

Apartments can be cozy, but they can also be drab and without personality. There are lots of ways to stamp your personality onto your apartment without risking the return of your damage deposit.

Change out the Kitchen Knobs and Handles

It’s likely that the kitchen cabinet knobs, pulls and handles in your rented abode are standard, bottom of the line stuff. But these things just screw into the drawers and cabinets. You can easily arm yourself with a screwdriver and replace all the hardware with anything of your choosing. Maybe you want to upgrade or go vintage. You can find brand new knobs, pulls and handles at hardware stores, and cool vintage ones in antique stores and online auction sites. When you move, just screw the original hardware back in place.

Install Decorative Outlet Plates

Those putty colored plates over your wall outlets are hideous by anyone’s standard. You probably have some in plain sight on the kitchen backsplash and on the light switch as you enter the kitchen. These plates screw off really easily with a standard screwdriver, and you don’t need to fuss with any electrical wiring.

You can find super cute outlet plates at hardware stores that will fit any outlet configuration you have, including single light switches and double and quadruple outlets. Some home crafters even sell decorative outlet plates on sites like Etsy.

When you leave, take your cute outlet plates with you to install in your new apartment and leave the landlord with the putty ones.

Install Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is usually only found in high-end kitchens, but you can enjoy it in your apartment dwelling, too.

First, measure the length of your cabinets where you want the under cabinet lighting. Then head on out to your local hardware store and check out the options for LED under cabinet lights. These can get very pricey, but you’ll be able to find some less expensive options, too. Options include hardwired lights that stick with adhesive underneath the cabinets. These will have a little plug on the end that goes into a standard outlet on the backsplash.

Another option is to get a short length of white LED Christmas lights. You can screw a succession of cup hooks underneath the cabinets. (Your landlord won’t mind about a few screw holes on the underside of the kitchen cabinets. Just remember to remove the cup hooks when you move out.) Pull light string taut and plug in.

Apply Window Cling Film

If you apply window cling film properly, you will be able to achieve really cool effects, depending on what look you’re going for. Window cling film can add add privacy to your apartment dwelling, add decorative flair or both. You can find rolls of decorative cling film at hardware stores. Don’t leave without buying a squeegee, which you’ll use to press out the air bubbles in the film. The film removes easily without any damage or residue on the window itself.

Create a stained glass effect with cling film, apply frosted glass cling film on the lower part of a window for privacy purposes, or press it onto kitchen cabinet glass for additional customization in the kitchen.

Replace the Showerhead

You don’t have to get stuck with a rusty old, trickly showerhead. With absolutely no knowledge of plumbing, you can install a brand new showerhead of your choosing. You don’t even have to turn the water off at the main. Pick up a showerhead starting at $10 from a discount department store like Target.

To install, wrap a washcloth around the connection for the old showerhead. The washcloth will prevent you from scratching the finish. Use a wrench or large pliers to unscrew it. (Store the old one under your bathroom sink so you remember to replace it when you move.) Now, just screw on the new one, using the same method.

These personalization ideas are so easy that you don’t have to be a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter to implement them. And, the best thing about these is that you can use them wherever your future home is.


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Why Making Friends as an Adult is So Hard

Making friends as a child can be as easy as lending a classmate your pencil. Who doesn’t remember walking into the classroom on the first day as a shy youngster and slipping into the first empty seat available, only to become instant best friends with the girl in the next row?

When we become adults, it gets a little trickier to initiate a new friendship. Our attempts can be misconstrued in what seems like a hundred different ways. You might try making eye contact with a friendly-looking face on the subway, until she frowns and moves to the next car. You try to start a conversation in the clothing store, and discover the woman doesn’t even speak English and has no clue what you said. Your friendly invitation to go for drinks after the league soccer game is interpreted as a pass or a sign that you’re a closet alcoholic. The women in the snack shack at your kid’s Little League game have their own clique, and they aren’t letting anyone—including you—in. Have adults forgotten how to make new friends? It sure seems that way sometimes.

Why Making Friends as an Adult is Hard

There are many reasons why making friends as an adult is much harder than earlier in life. One common reason is that we all have many more demands on our time than we did as children. Our time resource is limited, so our social life is necessarily limited, too. When you take into account immediate and extended family obligations, a full-time job, religious obligations, home maintenance projects, and possibly the pursuit of higher-level education; there isn’t much time left over for friends.

Of course, everybody needs friends, but when it comes to making new ones, many adults feel that they don’t have room for anyone new in their life.

A second reason why it’s harder to make friends as an adult is fear. It comes down to trust issues. The older we get, the more likelihood that we’ve gotten “burned” at least once, but often a few times. The stories we hear in the news make us feel that strangers can’t be trusted. We may feel that either people are after our money, our children, our spouses, or something else. There’s no telling what nefarious reasons a person may have for supposedly wanting to be our friend, right?

However, there is fault in both of these reasons. The issue of a lack of time is one that is largely in our heads. Most of us have more time than we think we do. Also, many quality friendships don’t require as much time as we might imagine. Spending an hour with a friend a couple times a month playing tennis or having lunch can be hugely rewarding and doesn’t take a big time commitment. Chatting for a half hour on the phone to share life anecdotes is easy, too, and you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. Basically, friendships don’t detract from your life—they add to it.

Don’t let false reasoning or fear get in the way of making new friends. Friends help us grow, enjoy life more, and help to make a better world for everyone, including you and your loved ones.


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Career Switch Tactics That Won’t Sabotage Your Life

The days of laboring at the same job for 50 years in exchange for a party and a gold watch are long gone. Partly because it’s more acceptable to make a career switch, and partly because people realize they can live a different life, more and more employees are changing their careers at least once in their working lives.

Switching careers can sometimes be seen as a negative mark on your resume, though. Prospective employers may think you’re a job hopper, someone they can’t rely on, or someone who doesn’t know her own mind. Whatever the reason, switching careers can sabotage your life right along with your dream of succeeding in an entirely new career.

Are you looking to switch careers but don’t know how to manage it without ruining what you’ve already built up? Here are some ideas for successfully transitioning from one career to another.

Make the Change While You’re Still Employed

It sure is tempting to go out like a fireball a la Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire.” But unless you want to live through the middle of the movie—remember the part where there was no money for bills or insurance, and he was trying to hide his desperation?—you should resist the urge to tell your boss what he can do with his job.

Instead, go into stealth mode. You can easily get some job interviews lined up in the new area in which you’re interested in working. You can relax knowing that you still have a paycheck if the interview doesn’t lead to a job offer.

Be Prepared With Answers to Inevitable Questions

When your new prospective employer inevitably asks why you’re applying for a job in a new industry when you’re still employed, you’re going to have to come up with some convincing answers that don’t make you look bad. Here are some things you DON’T want to say:

  1. A) I’m bored at my current job.
  2. B) All the guys I work with are old. I need young blood around me.
  3. C) I think I’m about to be fired.
  4. D) I’m following my boyfriend who just got a job here.
  5. E) A fortune cookie told me to make a career change.

Now, here are some good alternative ways to answer that same question:

  1. A) I’m seeking fresh challenges and new ways to use the knowledge I’ve accumulated.
  2. B) I feel inspired by the millennial movement.
  3. C) My current job doesn’t allow me to grow.
  4. D) I have a vested interest in this city, and I’m ready to put down new roots.
  5. E) Er, there’s really no good way to spin your propensity to base your life on random events.

Connect the Two Fields

You want to somehow make it seem perfectly natural that you would move from one area of industry to another. If you do it right, your new prospective employer will be saying, “Yes, it makes sense that this brain surgeon would want to be a forest ranger in our park. So logical.”

Okay, so your first career is in marketing, where you excelled in improving your company’s prior bad reputation. They spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean, and yet, thanks to your marketing genius, cars are now lining up around the block to buy gasoline from them at premium prices.

You really want to relocate to New York and get a competitive job on Wall Street, but you’re unsure how to make it look like a normal transition. Here’s one way.

You tell the interviewer that marketing has given you insights into how people think. By design, companies are made up of people making business decisions for marketing and personal reasons. Your marketing skills at predicting human behavior will make you an intuitive trader who will bring monetary success to your new job on Wall Street.

You see? Everything is connected. You just have to give it a little thought and you’ll be able to convince your new prospective boss that you’re a shoe in. Spend some time figuring out the connection between the two fields. Then be prepared to explain it in a reasonable way.

By the way—that brain surgeon who turned into a forest ranger? She kept her job at the hospital and interviewed on the weekend at the National Park. She told the interviewer how she was always interested in the differences between human and animal brains, and her love of the great outdoors. She is now a ranger in Colorado with a side business doing taxidermy for a local museum.

Life sometimes unveils unusual paths. Don’t be afraid to take them.


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What Your Choice of Shoes Says About You

Are your kitten heels worn thin, while your tennis shoes are still lily white? Do you come to a standstill at the sight of a sturdy pair of Tevas? Your shoes say a lot about you. From the way you think, to your lifestyle, and even how you think about yourself. Here’s a guide to what your shoes say about you.

You Own One Pair For Every Occasion

Does your closet look like this: one pair of pumps for work and formal dinners, one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals/flip flops, and one pair of house slippers?

If so, you’re probably not a shoe person at all. You wear shoes because you have to, not because you want to. Chances are, you wear a pair of shoes until the sole falls off before you buy another one. That’s okay. More shoes for the rest of us!

You Have Multiple Pairs of Sandals

First of all, if you have several pairs of sandals, congratulations! You must live in a warm climate where sandals are an everyday affair. You probably get regular pedicures, and you may even sport a toe ring or two. Sandals have gotten pretty swanky since the days of foam flip flops, so your sandal collection should get you from beach to shopping mall in style.

You Don’t Own High Heels

A lot of us consider high heels a particular kind of feminine torture, so no judgment here. If you don’t own high heels, you are either taller than your husband, incredibly practical and busy, or simply refuse to endure the pain that high heels incur just for the sake of fashion. Either way, kudos to you.

Your Shoes Wear Bling

Do you need to wear sunglasses when you open your shoe closet? Do you have a shoe closet? If sparkle is a requirement for you to purchase shoes, that says a lot about you.

Chances are, you are a woman who enjoys the nightlife. You can be found any night of the week dancing away in the arms of some handsome paramour. Maybe you even lead a jetsetter lifestyle. Nice!

You Prefer Platforms

If platforms are your preferred choice when it comes to footwear, it could be that you are, ahem, height challenged. Maybe? Just a little bit? It’s okay. We all know that tall people have the advantage in a lot of areas. Why should they have all the fun?

You Keep Buying Tevas

Tevas are arguably the best outdoor sandal made for active people. But the thing is, they are also one of the most rugged pieces of footwear available for outdoor enthusiasts. One pair can last a normal person a year or more. So if you keep buying them, we’re going to assume you’re wearing them out. Which is really hard to do. You must spend all your time having sporty adventures, like swinging from zip lines! (We’re a little bit jealous of you now, FYI.)

Next time you want to find out more about a new friend, check out her shoe closet. Shoes provide valuable insight into personality and interests. Just ask Teva lady.


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Here are the Best Places to Vacation This Year on a Budget

Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth it to try to take some kind of vacation each year. The following destinations won’t leave a gaping hole in your wallet, and will satisfy that need to get away from your daily routine.

Cruise to the Bahamas

You probably never thought you would be able to afford a trip to the Bahamas, but there are ways to get there that are super inexpensive. All you have to do is get to Florida, and then you’re just a boat ride away from the most luxurious trip imaginable under $500. In May, cruise on Carnival Cruise Line from Jacksonville, Florida to Nassua for a five-day excursion for just $369 per person. You’ll also visit Half Moon Cay, where you can snorkel, ride horses or sun bathe. On a cruise, the journey really IS half the fun! Can’t go in May? There are deals every month, all in the same affordable price range.

Hike the Appalachian Trail

One of the best things about nature is, it’s free. And one of the best things about the Appalachian Trail is that it’s accessible throughout its 2,200 miles between Georgia and Maine. So if you live anywhere along that path, you can probably get to the trail. Though it’s free to hike, you’ll definitely want to bring along some mobile shelter and provisions. If you enjoy camping out, seeing nature up close and sitting around the fire at night, this trip’s going to be a winner. If you bring along your kids, it will definitely be a vacation they will always remember.

Play Cowgirl

Do you remember that old movie called City Slickers with Billie Crystal where he and his friends rode horses and rounded up cattle for a vacation? Well, those places really exist and they are super fun. They are called dude ranches, and they are places where regular folks like us can pretend to be cowgirls for a weekend or so. They are surprisingly affordable, and it’s a great way to get away with you and your boyfriend, spouse, or the whole family. Check out DudeRanch.org, where you can browse through listings of dude ranches in every state categorized by location, activity and price range.

Rent a HouseBoat on a Lake

Lake Cumberland in Kentucky is 1,255 miles long. That’s plenty of space for you and your boo to laze around on a full-equipped houseboat for a week. For just under $2,000 for the whole week, you can sleep, fish, swim, dive, dine and frolic on this happening tourist destination lake. Most houseboats sleep up to 12, so you can invite the family and share the rental cost. You’ll also have to share the lake with over 4 million other annual visitors, but hey, with over 65,000 water-filled acres to explore, you won’t be bumping elbows with anyone.

Once you start getting creative about how you want to spend your vacation days, you can find options that will fit any budget. It’s worth it to make the effort to get away for a week or ten days. One of these choices is sure to appeal to you and your vacation pals.


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The 4 Best Vegetarian Food Blogs for Non-Vegetarians

Recipes that are deemed “vegetarian” don’t necessarily have to be for vegetarians only. Everyone needs abundant vegetables in their diet, whether they are vegetarians or meat eaters. Here’s a roundup of some of the web’s finest vegetarian food blogs for the non-vegetarian crowd.

A Plant Based Soul

Every recipe on this vegetarian blog can be made for $15 or less, which is enticing to anyone with a food budget. I was drawn to the vegan, gluten-free, soy-free meatless sausages–I mean, how is that even possible? They will definitely be on my breakfast menu this week!

It turns out Shea, who writes this blog, wasn’t always a vegan. According to her “About” page, she lost 35 pounds after switching. You don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to have your appetite whet with recipes like Lentil and Quinoa Stew, or Cranberry Vegan Goat Cheese.

Oh My Veggies

This image-rich vegetarian food blog serves up hundreds of delectable dishes organized in categories like “comfort foods,” “gluten-free dinners,” and “easy dinners.” You won’t find any meat-based recipes on this site, but you will find incredibly filling and satisfying meal ideas like, Spicy Mango Pizza with Black Beans & ZucchiniSesame Soba Noodle Bowls with Roasted Veggies & Baked Tofu, and Green Goddess Baked Potatoes.

The Garden Grazer

This is one of my favorite vegetarian blogs, and I’m so glad to be able to share it with you! Kaitlin’s colorful and “happy place” blog is pretty simple looking, but it holds lots of yummy recipes that non-vegetarians are sure to be tempted by.

Start with this super easy recipe for a Coconut Vanilla Matcha Smoothie. I’ve personally tried this and have become completely hooked. If you don’t know what matcha is yet, prepare to have your mind blown. Here’s a rundown of matcha that Kaitlin offers.

Next, toss together this lunch or dinner recipe for BBQ Tempeh Sloppy Joes. Your family will literally devour these, I promise.

If you’re feeling indulgent, mix up these Vegan Fudgesicles for a decadent dessert idea.

The Veg Space

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What does a brit know about fresh vegetables, right? Well, this vegetarian and vegan food blogger is all chin up on her veggie recipes, trust me.

First up, choose something from her “starters & sides” category. I recommend the Baked Onions with Hazelnut, Sultana & Feta Stuffing, because, hey, who doesn’t need an excuse to use sultanta? What’s a sultana, you ask? Well, let’s just call it a grape and go with that. Anyway, you’ll be too busy chewing to explain about sultana.

Next, let’s go for Broccoli & Walnut Pesto, because everyone loves pesto. I like this recipe because it incorporates two super healthy ingredients–broccoli and walnuts. The broccoli provides that all-important cruciferous vegetable contribution that fights cancer, and the walnuts provide the protein that vegetarians need. Even if you are not a vegetarian, this dish is sure to please everyone at your dinner table.

Finally, let’s finish up our evening meal with a classic English dessert, the sponge cake. The is called the Victoria Sponge, and you will be ever so fancy and international when you serve it to your American guests.

Well, that’s it. These are four of the best vegetarian food blogs that will keep even non-vegetarians coming back for more recipe ideas!


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