Jenny Craig Giveaway WINNER Announcement

For the last month, I’ve been running a very special giveaway for my readers. You’ve had the chance to WIN a one month trial of the Jenny Craig weight loss program (including foods, products, consulting, and support). You guys have been following along with me on my weight loss journey and I couldn’t be more thrilled to host this amazing giveaway to help you reach your goals, too.

THANK YOU to everyone who entered the giveaway. Without any further a dew, let’s go ahead and see who’s won:

And the lucky WINNER is…

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congratulations
Winner has been notified via e-mail and has 48 hours to claim her prize or another winner will be selected by default.

** This giveaway is sponsored by Jenny Craig. Thank you to the Jenny team for providing such an incredible prize!

The Jenny Craig program has been truly life changing for me and I am so happy to partner with them. Check back soon for more of my weight loss updates from my Jenny journey coming soon.

The Pros and Cons of Renting vs. Home Buying

Today, I’m so excited to have lovely Leigh Ann Houston from Your Teacher’s Lounge guest blogging as a part of my Journey to Home Owning blog series. Making the decision to rent or buy is the very first step in moving forward when it comes to working toward a new home. Without further a do, let’s learn about Leigh Ann’s home journey and what she has learned along the way…

Leigh Ann Houston Your Teachers LoungeTypically, I find myself writing about preschool crafts, strategies for igniting the literacy light in our children’s minds, or teacher hacks; however, I currently find myself in quasi-unchartered waters (writing about military housing decisions) and I’m overwhelmingly hopeful that I don’t drown (wish me luck).

I’m thrilled Christine gave me the opportunity to share what I’m learning with you!

You can get a taste of our military life in my post “Military kids are resilient but they weren’t born that way.” In short, our little Navy family has lived in seven homes (4 in the last 3 years) prior to our recent move to Hawaii. We own a home in Jacksonville, FL and have rented at every other location. Our bungalow in Jacksonville (in the incredible neighborhood of Riverside) is treated as an investment and we are fortunate to currently rent it to a wonderful Coast Guard family. Like alluded to earlier, we recently moved to Hawaii (I guess someone has to do it…ha ha). Furthermore, since base housing in Hawaii is some of the best in the entire military, we automatically assumed we would move on base. Of course our “plan” didn’t prove as easy as we were led to believe – upon arrival we discovered that there was significant wait to receive base housing. This “wait” has given John and me a moment to reflect and ponder our decision. And now that we are here and we’ve taken some time to research our options (by the way, I’m a tad pyscho when it comes to “researching” options, just ask John about my sleepless nights regarding our stroller purchase – the FBI would have offered me a job if they knew the about my “research” skills), we understand that the decision to live on base, rent out in town, or purchase a house is much more difficult and complicated than previously thought. The aim of this post is to simply offer, in my opinion, some of the pros and cons of renting out in town versus purchasing a house out in town.

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Upside of Renting

  • Little responsibility on the house – This is very appealing since my husband will be going on a deployment in about a year! Call it Murphy’s law or bad luck, but things tend to break as soon as the hubby leaves the country! When you’re renting, the dishwasher breaking is not your problem!
  • Little upfront money – Instead of paying a down payment, renters traditionally have to pay for a security deposit which you should get back.
  • Flexibility – You are only tied to the home as long as your lease dictates, and possibly even less. Military families can get out of their lease due to a deployment or a change in orders.

Downside of Renting

  • No pain, no gain – Sure, you don’t have the risk of home buying but you also don’t have the big payout (you are, in fact, paying toward some other person’s big payout). You could eliminate or at least decrease this downside if you take the money you’re saving from renting and invest it.
  • Little personalization – If you’re not a fan of the wallpaper, you’re stuck with it. Renters usually have little control over the ambiance of the home. You can combat this con buy personalizing what you can! Invest in furniture you love and hang your own pictures.
  • No stability – The homeowner can raise the rent as soon as your lease is up or worse, decide to sell at any point which would leave you looking for a new place to live.

Upside of Home-Owning

  • Building a nest egg – Every mortgage payment is getting you closer and closer to a huge payout! You may be paying your mortgage yourself or you may even be renting it out and having a renter pay your mortgage for you.
  • Fixed payments – Assuming you have a fixed mortgage, the mortgage payment will not go up until it is paid off. Unlike rent that can change yearly, your mortgage payment is what it is. This could be very beneficial if you are comfortable with your payment today…it should be under budget within just a few years if your salary increases!
  • Ownership -I didn’t know how important this was until it was taken away from me. I thought I loved our Jacksonville bungalow because it was in a fantastic neighborhood, walking distance to coffee shops, antique stores, and the school I taught at but there was more to it; I loved living in a place that was OURS. I liked that I could change something if I didn’t like it. I took a lot of pride in my home and knowing it was ours.

Downside of Home-Owning

  • Risky – We all hope our homes will appreciate, and over a long period of time, it most surely will. The first decade is hopeful but not certain and anyone who bought around when we did (2006) would understand that! Our home, like almost every other one in the country took a very big hit. Over the next few decades, it will, most likely, prove to be a financial gain but it’s quite frustrating to owe more on our house than it is currently worth!
  • The home you want may not be the home you can afford – Notice I didn’t say what you can qualify for. You obviously cannot simply buy any house that you qualify for. You need to make sure you can afford the mortgage payment (in addition to the taxes and repair fees) today and for years to come. Is your job and income stable? If not, buying may not be for you.
  • Upfront and available money – You usually have to have a down payment at the closing. This is typically 20% but there are mortgages out there that require less. You also need money available for repairs…it’s not a question of if that refrigerator will go out, it’s a question of when!
  • Stability – This is both an upside but possible a downside also. It’s nice having a stable home but this does allow for a lot less flexibility. Your boss (or the Navy) offers you an amazing position in another location? You may not be in the position to sell your house quickly. If anyone reading this moves like we do, you run the risk of not finding renters, or at least not finding good ones. A house ties you down!

Rent vs. Buy

Which is best for you?

The answer has been different for us during different chapters of our life together and on how the economy currently is. My brother owns a home in a suburb of Chicago and has been very happy renting it out in the past. He is currently having a hard time finding renters since the economy is getting better…more people are buying and less are renting! We are currently exploring rental properties, going to open houses, meeting with our realtor all in hopes of finding the perfect home! Wish us luck and I will definitely be visiting xtine danielle for some more guidance!

My Jenny Craig Weight Loss Journey: Week 4 Results! #WeightLossWednesday

Disclosure: I was provided a free trial program and a discount on the Jenny Craig meals and Curves workout. However, the opinions and writing are entirely my own. Members following the Jenny Craig program, on average, lose 1-2 lbs per week. Curves Fitness members on average lose 5 lbs. over a 20-week period.

My last 4 weeks on the Jenny Craig program have been incredible.

As of my weigh in this morning, I have lost a total of 17 pounds and 7 inches!*

*Members following the Jenny Craig program, on average, lose 1-2 lbs per week.

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I couldn’t be happier with my first month’s results but I’m also really grateful for what I’ve learned a long the way. It’s been great having the Jenny foods and literature to help teach me proper portion sizes, visual cues, and the caloric break down of what I need to be eating for each meal and snack.

My Jenny Craig Food Favorites:

Another thing I loved about the Jenny foods is the wide variety. I have had no problem with any cravings coming up that weren’t fulfilled with my weekly meal plan. They have Latin, Chinese, Italian, and All American inspired meal options for whatever you’re in the mood for.

Breakfast

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Cinnamon Rolls (190 calories)

These cinnamon rolls are so delicious and perfectly portioned. It was such a shock to see the types of foods that I was able to eat on Jenny Craig and still lose weight!

 

 

Other Jenny Breakfast favorites of mine: the Barscotti with Cranberries and Almonds (160 calories), Florentine Breakfast Pizzas (220 calories), and the new Turkey Bacon & Egg White sandwich (210 calories).

Lunch & Dinner

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Pasta Ole (240 calories)

One of my favorite meals, this is a unique mix of orzo pasta, zesty tomato sauce, bell peppers, corn, back beans, and reduced fat mozzarella. It’s delicious. If you’re feeling extra spicy, adding some hot sauce or fresh salsa can really kick it up a notch.

 

Some more of my favorite Jenny meals: the Baja-Style Chicken Quesadilla (230 calories), Cheesy Potatoes & Chicken (280 calories), and their Margherita Pizza (220 calories).

Snacks & Desserts

Honestly, there wasn’t one thing from these categories that I didn’t enjoy.. haha! It’s all really good. I’m a popcorn lover so the White Cheddar Popcorn (150 calories) & Kettle Corn (130 calories) came in handy during snack time. The S’Mores Bar (140 calories) is also crazy good to get your sweet fix.

Click here to check out all of the Jenny Craig food offerings.

“The Secret to Success is Support” -SITS Girls

My favorite blogger network, SITS Girls, gets their name from this mantra. I love using it for every aspect of my life and it couldn’t be more true for weight loss. The more support we get, the more successful we’ll be!

I’ve received incredible support from my Jenny Craig consultant, Renee. It’s been nice to know that she’s only a phone call away if anything pops up that I need some extra help with.

I’m also a big fan of the Jenny Craig online support forums. There are some really great Facebook groups out there, too.

Jenny Craig also has a TON of super helpful weight loss articles that will help you along your weight loss journey. You can check out the entire Jenny Craig article library here.

One of the best tools for weight loss is My Fitness Pal.

In the last four weeks, I’ve gotten into the habit of logging every single thing I eat and drink. Calorie counting and food tracking is essential to weight loss. It’s all about sticking to proper portion sizes and not over doing it. If you’re using My Fitness Pal, please feel free to add me as a friend!

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Remember for the entire month of March, you can enter my Jenny Craig giveaway!

My winner will receive a one month trial of the Jenny Craig weight loss program including foods, products, and consulting services and support from your local Jenny Craig center. So what are you waiting for?

Click here to go enter the giveaway!

Good luck!

NRG and Reliant Want to Keep You Powered Up This Rodeo Season and Beyond

Disclosure: I received compensation for this post from NRG and Reliant.

It’s no secret, we all depend on our tech toys – some of us more so than others. For me, it’s my iPhone. I, literally, feel like a piece of me is missing when I don’t have it on me for my day-to-day and a dead battery is the absolute WORST.

NRG and Reliant understand how important it is for us to stay connected.

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They know we rely on energy to make our worlds go round and enable us to live our lives the way in which we are accustomed to. In today’s world, that means being able to call, text, tweet, or snap a picture whenever we want to capture life’s awesome moments.

As the official energy partners of the 2015 Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo, NRG and Reliant are making it their goal to keep you powered up during the Rodeo and beyond by offering their NRG Personal Power Solutions:

NRG Portable Power:

NRG Portable Power is a network of innovative kiosks located at special events and retail locations through out the city of Houston (and soon all over the U.S.) These kiosks provide power and charging solutions to customers who are on-the-go.

These power stations will be conveniently located through out the Rodeo Houston grounds at NRG Park.

Say for example, you’re enjoying the Rodeo with your family or friends and don’t even realize, your phone has powered down, leaving you with a dead phone – look for an NRG Portable Power kiosk to buy or rent a Power Pack for $3.99/week to keep your charge wherever you go. Power Packs can be returned to any NRG Portable Power kiosk.

Goal Zero® Solar Technology:

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Goal Zero products offer easty-to-use portable solar power products to help you get the energy you need, wherever you need it. Serving as the perfect innovation for outdoor adventure lovers, these are products you’ll want to check out and invest in.

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Visit the Shop NRG online store for Goal Zero products that can power almost any of your tech toys from solar energy including: phones, tablets, laptops, lights, speakers, and even refrigerators!

Helpful #RodeoHouston Tips for First Timers & Families with Kids

It’s that time of year again!

If you’re in Houston, Rodeo season is in full effect!

houston rodeo tips, family activities at houston rodeo, tickets for houston rodeo, best value at houston rodeoThe Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo is one of our city’s staple events. Each year, we make Houston history countless times with our live music shows, intense rodeo performances, the craziest yet most delicious barbecue and fried foods you could ever imagine, and lots more. So grab your boots and Western gear because it’s time to Rodeo, Houston!

If you’re new to town or not a seasoned Rodeo pro, I wanted to gather up some helpful tips for making the most of your experience at NRG Park during this wonderful Houston happening.

Contributing her knowledge and expertise to today’s post is Margaret Pinkston who’s served on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Gatekeeper’s Committee for the last 13 years! She is full of helpful information and great suggestions for making the most of your time at the Rodeo!

Top 3 tips for first time Rodeo go-er’s:

1. How are you getting there?  

First and foremost, make a transportation plan. If you’re one to easily get stressed about the whole parking situation at large events, there are plenty of options. Here are a few:

Drive and Self Park – There are plenty of self park lots around NRG Park and these all cost money, so do carry cash with you. My personal favorite lot to park in is the huge one across 610 where Astroworld used to be. I get a nice feeling of bittersweet nostalgia when crossing over that bridge to NRG Park. Plus, you’ll burn some extra calories getting those steps in (it’s a bit of a long walk).

Park and RideHere’s a listing of the Metro Park and Ride schedule and available lots.

Take a Taxi – My friends over at Yellow Cab Houston will be on site all Rodeo long offering transportation from the Rodeo. Their taxis will be conveniently stationed in the Green Lot (pictured below) – For more information, visit this Yellow Cab Houston Rodeo Houston blog post.

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2. Have a game plan. 

Check out the official Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo website before your trip. With SO many options and activities, a little pre-planning is a must. If you have children, figure out the best times to visit the carnival and see the agriculture and animal exhibits. If you’re with adults only, you may want to plan for some shopping, eating, and drinking before your concert starts. It’s up to you but we recommend going in with a game plan so everyone gets to see and do exactly what they’d like while visiting the best Rodeo in the world!

3. Make sure you have the right tickets.

A lot of people may not  know this but if you have concert tickets for a night – that gets you into the grounds everywhere (the carnival, Reliant Center, etc.). You also have the option of purchasing tickets to enter the grounds excluding the Rodeo and concert event for that evening. Many families like to make it a day trip and enjoy the carnival, exhibits, foods, and shopping opportunities alone.

Click here to purchase your Rodeo tickets. If you’re looking for a great deal on concert tickets for a specific performance, check out Living Social

Here are the best deals according to the official HLSR website:

$10 Value Wednesday Rodeo/Concert Ticket (includes NRG Park admission)

  • superstar entertainer
  • championship rodeo action
  • upper level of NRG Stadium

More extra value tidbits to be aware of:

  • $5 Value Wednesday NRG Park Admission (does not include rodeo/concert admission – purchase at the NRG Park gates)
  • Free Value Wednesday NRG Park Admission (for seniors, 60 and over, and children, 12 and under – does not include rodeo/concert admission)
  • $5 off a $25 or more purchase at any official Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo merchandise booth
  • Value Wednesday pricing at various food and merchandise vendors
  • From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., all rides, games and special food items in Kids Country Carnival are $2.

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Family Friendly Tips for Enjoying Rodeo Houston with Kids:

1. Go early. – Wake the kids up early and get a head start on your fun day! Margaret says, “the best time to go is right when the grounds open. That gives you time to do most of the activities before lunchtime, which is right before meltdown time/nap time.” This mom of 2 is speaking from experience!

2. If your kids are picky eaters or have certain diets, you can bring your own food into the park.

3. Wednesdays are Value Wednesdays. Kids 12 and under are free to get into the park; adults are $5. Discounted rodeo tickets available for $10.

4. Strollers and wagons are welcomed. The trams in the yellow lot have certain sections that can accommodate large strollers or wagons.

5. If you plan on going to the grounds alone several days during the rodeo, you may want to purchase a season pass for $25.

6. Activities at the AGVENTURE inside NRG Center open before the Kids Carnival, so Margaret recommends doing that before heading to the carnival.

Extra tip: When bathrooms downstairs at NRG Center are packed, head upstairs. A lot of people don’t know this but there are plenty of nice bathrooms there, too!

What are the MUST TRY at least once-in-a-lifetime Rodeo foods?

For me, it’s the fried Oreos. I definitely won’t be having any this year but Margaret agrees, they are absolutely DELICIOUS. Good thing – it’s a once a year only type of thing for most people cause they can be dangerous! New in 2015 is the red velvet fried oreo! Try it at the Fried What? booth!

Margaret also recommends trying the chicken fried bacon. It’s one of her top picks. If you celebrate Lent and are planning to visit the Rodeo food stands on a Friday, don’t worry – you will have plenty of meatless options to enjoy.

Huge thanks to my special guest contributer and Rodeo Houston expert, Margaret Pinkston!

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any that you’d like to add to these lists, please leave them in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Rodeo-ing, ya’ll!

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