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My Top 10 Best Camping Tips & Hacks

I love camping, but if you know me at all, you know that I love to have a plan. Even if things don’t always go as planned, you can go on to Plan B 🙂

Here are some tidbits of wisdom (no particular order) that have served me well …

#1  Plan all your meals and snacks (I suggest lots of snacks) ahead of time – then use your menu plan to create your shopping & packing lists

#2  Create a separate plastic storage bin (with tight fitting lid) to store camp essentials – one for your “camp kitchen” aka, pots & pans, dishes, utensils, dish towels, etc. – one for your “camp gear” aka, tools, flashlights, rope, fire starters, bug spray, etc. – one for your “camp pantry” aka, to store all your non refrigerated, dry food items.

#3  Have 3 separate coolers – one for meats (freeze ahead of time and put in zip lock bags (to catch blood from the meat so it doesn’t mix in with the water from melting ice)) – one for beverages (I keep these separate because the lid is opened so often). I also fill a gallon zip lock with clean ice for my glass each time we get more bags of ice. – one to serve as the “frig” … for your fruits & veges, condiments, butter, eggs, etc. I freeze gallon jugs of water before hand to keep things cold and then use the melted water to make lemonade.

#4  Try to choose a shady campsite – it is cooler during the day and you can always find a sunny place to hang out if you want heat & fun in the sun.

#5  Get inexpensive solar garden path lights from the Dollar store – place them around your site so you can see where you are going a night … darkness fall very quickly. These generally work even if they don’t get direct sunlight during the day, maybe not as bright, but enough to light your path.

#6  Use aluminum foil and aluminum pans – the grates over the fire pit are usually pretty dirty and gross, so I use foil grill pans to cook my meats – plus easy clean up 🙂

#7  Have two matching (size/shape, so they can stack) laundry baskets – pack your clothes in one with the empty underneath. Each night as you change clothes, put the dirty clothes in the bottom basket and stack the clean clothes on top of it.

#8  Have small mesh bags for carry bath & hygiene essentials to the shower house – make one for males & one for females, or one for each person. I also set up a hand washing station at the campsite for quick clean ups. I put a bar of soap in an old knee high nylon stocking and hang it with a towel near the water / dish washing area.

#9  Always take your trash to the dump station every night before going to sleep – you do not want animals prowling around your campsite because they smell your meal leftovers! I also fill all our water containers at this time too – I need fresh water for my morning coffee 🙂

#10  Always have a well stocked first aid kit with a basic first aid manual. I use a jumbo vitamin/pill day of the week type container and re-labeled them for a supply of Advil / Benadryl / Pepto-Bismol / etc.

Do you have any tips or tricks or ideas about camping that you could share with us? Leave a comment … I’d love to hear them. We can all learn from each other !

Camping - Nap Time

There’s nothing like a relaxing afternoon nap while you are camping.

Happy Camping 🙂

Book Review & Giveaway ~ To Fall in Love Again

My Thoughts:

I loved reading “To Fall in Love Again”. I felt an immediate connection to both Drew and Amy, the main characters. I loved that it was a love story that revolved around two older, widowed adults. I enjoyed the pace of the story – it felt like they were my friends and I was living the story with them.
It seems like their relationship was meant to be right from the start … they “just happened” to be staying at the same hotel, they “just happened” to be on the same flight, they “just happened” to have seat assignments right next to each other … sounds like fate to me.
Both of them were dealing with the loss of their long time spouses, yet seemed to to be able to acknowledge their mutual attraction from the beginning of their friendship. Since they are a little older than the typical love story twenty-somethings, they have the life experience to know that their relationship isn’t only about them. They are mature enough to know that their roles of parent, grandparent, and business professional will all come into play … it’s about their families and friends too. Trust me … they all chime in with their opinions about this relationship.
David Burnett does a great job of tying all these relationships together. I intend to read his other books and hope that he makes this story into a series. I would love to see how their relationship grows. I highly recommend this novel and give it 5 STARS 🙂

Drew Nelson did not plan to fall in love that morning!

He did not plan to talk with anyone. He did not plan to make a new friend.
He resisted all of Amy’s attempts to draw him out− at the hotel, at the airport, on the airplane− giving hurried responses and burying his face in a pile of papers.

But when the flight attendant offered coffee, and a muscle in Amy’s back twitched as she reached for it, and the cup tipped, and the hot liquid puddled in Drew’s lap, then they began to talk!

Earlier in the year, each had lost a spouse of over thirty years. Drew’s wife had died of a brain tumor, Amy’s husband when his small airplane nose-dived to earth, the engine at full throttle − an accident, it was ruled.
They live in the same city. Both have grandchildren. They are about the same age. Consciously, or not, they both are looking to love again.

But relationships do not exist in vacuums. Drew is wealthy, and Amy is middle class. Amy is “new” in town – she and her husband moved to Charleston twenty-five years ago – while Drew’s family has lived there for three centuries. Drew lives below Broad, a code word for high society, old families, power, and money. Amy’s home is across the river.

Class warfare may be less violent than it was in the past, but when Drew invites Amy to the St Cecelia Ball, battle lines are drawn.

In a city in which ancestry is important, the ball’s membership is passed from father to son, and only those from the oldest families are members.

Family, friends, co-workers all weigh in on their relationship and choose sides. Allies are found in unexpected places. Opposition comes from among those who were thought to be friends. Though they are gone, even their spouses − through things they have done and things they have said − wield influence in the conflict that follows.

Is Drew is one of them, the rich snobs who despise Amy? Does he truly love her?

Does Amy care for Drew? Can she trust him, or is he simply using her?

As each questions the other’s motives, their feelings for each other are tested.

Do Drew and Amy truly want to fall in love again?

Available to buy from…


“To Fall In Love Again is a beautiful and gentle love story that just has to be read.” 
– review from Amazon
“The story was heart-warming and touching and showed that differences don’t always have to be that important.” – review from Amazon
“It’s a breath of fresh air to have a romance that doesn’t follow the usual format, the fact that the characters were older and everything didn’t just fall into place was very realistic.” 
– review from Goodreads

About the author

David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston.

David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches.
He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, a Native American powwow, and his grandson, Jack. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen. In The Reunion, Michael’s journey through England and Scotland allows him to sketch many places they have visited.

David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.

Find the author on the following sites…

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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.




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To - Do List

How My To-Do List Helps Me Get & Stay Organized

I love lists … it’s true ! I love making them, but I especially love checking things off my to-do list.

I make many kinds of lists, but my to-do list is my main list and then I make off-shoot lists from it. For example, I may list: go grocery shopping, run errands and pay bills on my to-do list. An off-shoot list from grocery shopping would be a meal plan list and a shopping list ~ an off-shoot from run errands might be drop off dry cleaning, return library books and pick up a prescription from the drug store ~ an off-shoot for paying bills might be to balance the check book, schedule individual online payments and then file the statements. Usually my main off-shoot type list is grocery related … only if I’ve procrastinated / blown things off like running the errands or reconciling the bank account, do I break it down into doable chunks. Writing tasks down is a way for me organize my thoughts and make a plan to accomplish everything. I’m a visual learner, so having a list in front of me helps me to see the “big picture” and then be able to prioritize things. Continue reading

Back to School Time

Back to School Time = Have an Organized Plan Time

Tis the season … Back to School season, that is 🙂

Yes, friends, it’s that time of the year again … and with it brings a myriad of feelings from anticipation/dread to stress/relief … and anywhere in between.

While my kids are no longer attending school, I remember that it can be a stressful and expensive time of year. I, personally, always felt better when I had a good plan. As a homeschooling family living on a single income:

  • I tried to set aside some money each payday during the summer for school supplies and textbooks/curriculum.
  • I attended conferences to get new & fresh ideas from other parents.
  • I tried to have my school year ‘planned out’ by mid summer, so I could be on the lookout for great prices on the curriculum I planned to use for the upcoming school year.
  • I tried to find used textbooks at Homeschool Used Curriculum Sales. Many times, I could buy used books from other homeschool families in my coop.
  • I also searched online for used books.

Some of my favorite websites were eBay.com and Half.com. I’ve found some good deals on some Facebook Groups pages and on Craigslist. I also like vegsource.com and homeschoolclassifieds.com. I have purchased, as well as, sold on both of these linked websites … it isn’t very hard 🙂 These two sites also have a convenient ‘want to buy’ tab. If you are in the market for any high school level curriculum (yes, I’m still emptying my last homeschool bookshelf), I am currently selling some Rosetta Stone and AO LifePacs foreign language and ABeka language arts items … check them out at the links above 🙂

Could you use some help with planning your Back to School schedule ~ lesson plans ~ school supply shopping ~ online research ?

Contact Tracy Helps You ~ I’ll come alongside you to help get it all figured out … then you can breathe a sigh of relief & focus on enjoying the last, long dog days of summer with your family 🙂

Tracy Helps You ~ Your Personal Assistant for Shopping & Running Errands

Would you like to have a wife?? No, this isn’t a marriage proposal. What I meant was, wouldn’t be nice to have a partner / someone to help out with some of your household duties?? How about someone to run those time-consuming, never ending errands??

I got a chuckle one day last week when I rang the doorbell at my client’s house. I was returning from running her weekly errands and grocery shopping. She opened the door with a smile and said, “Yay … my ‘wife’ is home”. It was too funny 🙂 Continue reading

My Top 10 Favorite Things About Spring Time in Chicagoland

I think May is my favorite month in the spring. You can pretty much rely on having mild temps and sunny days. Of course, I do live in the Chicagoland area, so weather wise, nothing is ever for certain 🙂 I love getting to see everything come back to life after a long, cold winter.

• Lilacs ~ so many varieties, colors and glorious scents

• Seeing the brave little Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils breaking through the ground

• Seeing and hearing all the robins everywhere

• Having more daylight hours

• The smell of fresh cut grass (sorry allergy sufferers)

• Starting my organic vegetable garden

• Getting to wear sandals

• Being able to have the windows open for fresh air

• Cooking and eating outside

• Going for long walks in the forest preserves or on the IL prairie paths

These are some of my favorite things in the spring. It is usually a short-lived season in the Chicagoland area. We tend to move into hot and humid summer weather fairly quickly … but I do love the few blissful weeks in May with its mild weather and promise of new life 🙂

Many thanks to http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday 🙂

Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Tackle Spring Cleaning Early ~ Kitchen To-Do List Update

It’s the first day of March ~ so here’s an update on my early kitchen spring cleaning challenge I gave to myself.

First I’d like to apologize for posting so sporadically lately … I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the last couple of weeks. Nothing major, mostly just feeling worn down and dealing with sinus issues 🙁

That, coupled with my perfectionist / all or nothing mindset, well … lets just say I felt like I couldn’t post about my kitchen progress because I thought because I didn’t keep up with my own expectations, that I had failed.

I’m working on trying to wrap my brain around a new outlook (we’re all a work in progress … right?) for life ~ Something is Better than Nothing 🙂

So, here are SOME THINGS (from my earlier kitchen to-do list post) that I did accomplish in February …

  • Emptied out, wiped down, and re-organized the inside of the cabinets
  • Scrubbed and de-greased the outside of the cabinets
  • Cleaned the oven and microwave
  • Washed the windows and curtains
  • Cleaned the ceiling fan

So … this is where my new mindset needs to kick in … I accomplished SOME THINGS from my to-do list 🙂  It’s not done perfectly (something has already spilled over and splattered in the microwave), but it’s better than nothing ~ There is still plenty of time and plenty to do for spring cleaning 🙂

Does anyone else suffer with an all or nothing mindset ? How do you deal with it ? Please share your ideas and thoughts … 
Early Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

5 Things on My "Tackle Spring Cleaning Early" List ~ Kitchen

Please accept my apologies for complaining so much about the weather last month 🙁

I’ve decided to stop whining and get productive.  I’m starting some spring cleaning early … hopefully I can be done (or almost done) by the time spring actually arrives 🙂

My plan is to spend the month of February deep cleaning my kitchen.

  • Cabinets/Counters – clean/degrease the outsides, wipe down /sanitize the insides, re-organize the contents, wipe down, de-clutter & organize counter tops more efficiently
  • Frig/Freezer completely empty out and throw away expired items, thoroughly clean and sanitize shelves, organize shelves more logically, clean off the top of the frig
  • Stove/Oven – thorough cleaning & scrubbing using lots of “elbow grease” to get rid of those really tough baked on stains casino online
  • Floor – wash on my hands and knees (like my Grandma taught me), getting into every corner and scrubbing the grout of the tile
  • Walls/Windows/Ceiling Fan – wipe down walls, clean/degrease backsplashes, wash windows (inside only – it’s February in Chicago, people … lol), change the curtains, clean/degrease the fan blades

I really can’t stand all that gross, greasy dust that accumulates on every surface in the kitchen … I hope to be able to stay on top of this chore every month, so it doesn’t get so out of control in the future 🙂

Who wants to join me on getting an early start on our spring cleaning this year? I’m thinking that if I spend my time productively during these “cabin fever”, winter months, I can actually spend lots of time outdoors enjoying the spring weather without feeling guilty for blowing off my household responsibilities 🙂

Many thanks to  http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday / Top Ten Tuesday 🙂

photo by: BooleanRadley
Pita Christmas Trees Appetizer

Tracy Helps You’s Tips for Holiday Parties

December is here and with it comes numerous invitations to Holiday parties and get-togethers. I attended one last night and have another tonight, and it’s only the beginning.

Santa Hats

Santa Hats … Fun Christmas Dessert

It’s always so much fun to spend time together with friends and indulge in delicious foods. There is usually a buffet table loaded with quite a variety of appetizers, desserts and drinks … that’s probably where you’ll find most of the guests 🙂

Which brings me to my tip for Holiday Parties … I always ask if I can bring something. Many of these parties are actually annual celebrations for various groups I belong to, like my bowling league, small group or choir. We have a Christmas party every year and all bring a dish to share.

As you know, I love lists … so I created a list (spreadsheet) for Party Food. I keep track of what dish I bring to each party, each year, so I don’t bring the same thing to the next year’s party or to another group party (some people overlap groups). I also keep a copy of the recipes with my list. Then it’s easy to send a copy to someone if they enjoyed my dish and asked for the recipe. I try to plan out what dishes I’ll be bringing after everything is cleaned up on Thanksgiving night (my official start of the Christmas season) … I just love having a plan 🙂

I really enjoy looking through magazines and cookbooks for new recipes to try out. Actually, my latest obsession is browsing on Pinterest … don’t knock it til you’ve tried it 🙂

PS … I brought the little Santa Hats last night, they were a big hit … I’m bringing the Pita Christmas Trees tonight !

Let Tracy Helps You do your grocery shopping for you - you'll be thankful you did.

Grocery Shopping ~ People Either Love It Or Loathe It

I know, I’m weird, but I really like to go grocery shopping.  Love may be bit too strong a word, it is after all a household chore, but I do enjoy it.  What about you, given the choice would you take it or leave it?

I like making a shopping list of all the ingredients I need to prepare the meals I have planned for the coming week. I like looking through the sales papers trying to find which store has the best prices for the items I need. I like sorting through my (hopefully not expired) coupons. I just love finding a great deal. Continue reading