Monday Inspiration

It’s here another Monday!!  Let’s make the most of it.

Monday Motivation

I found this video over the weekend.  I love puppies, and it’s so sweet to see them playing together.

….and my Monday motivation song is…..

Michael Franti & Spearhead ” Say Hey (I Love You) ” I first heard this song when I took my daughter to see an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.  I think it’s impossible not to hear this and perk up a bit.

Happy Monday!


Let Us Connect: 7 More Ways for Us to Get to Know Each Other!

Dream Big, Dream Often

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I haven’t shared these links in a while and thought some might appreciate.  Leave me your social media links in the comments and I and others will LIKE, FOLLOW, PIN and CONNECT!  There are around 100 bloggers that have left their social media links in the comments so have at it!   I like social media because I can interact more often with other bloggers and on a more personal level.  It’s nice to get to know those that you read about and that visit your page.

Here are mine:

Twitter @BigDreamer0323

Facebook: Dream Big, Dream Often

Linkedin: Danny Ray

Google +: Danny Ray

The Dream Big Channel



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Field Trip 2015/2016 School Year




Since I’ve been home, a new opportunity arose for me.  At the beginning of her 7th grade year, my daughter asked if she could try home school.  With everything that goes on in the schools now a days, I was all for it.  We’ve had good days and bad days, but she and I have both learned a lot along the way.

To reward our hard work, over Spring Break, I decided to take a weekend and go on a field trip to Cincinnati; as frugal as possible of course.  We have family in the area, so we were able to stay with them for a night.  We also took advantage of some off season deals.  The Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky (across the bridge from Cincinnati) was having a winter deal, where up to two children were free with a paying adult.  This was a really good deal, and if you live within driving distance of Cincinnati, I definitely recommended planning a trip during the off-season.

Day 1 we spent exploring the Aquarium, where we petted sting rays, and sharks!  We also got to walk across a rope bridge suspended over the top of the shark tank; and my personal favorite – we got to see dancing penguins.  We also spent time at the Newport Levee, which is an entertainment and shopping area adjacent to the Aquarium.  They have a huge Barnes and Noble, and my daughter loves going to the book stores, so this was a treat for her.  We were lucky and the weather that weekend was unseasonably warm, so we were able to walk along the Levee, and enjoy the downtown scenery from across the river.

Day 2 we  went to Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, which houses the Cincinnati History Museum, an OmniMax Theater, and The Natural History Museum.  We started our second day off at the OmniMax.  I had never been to an OmniMax before.  Our seats tilted back, and the whole ceiling was a video screen.  We watched The History of the National Parks, which was narrated by Robert Redford.  It was so wonderful seeing all the beautiful places across the country.  After the OmniMax, we grabbed lunch at the cafe, then headed to The Natural History Museum.  Here we learned about and saw an actual mummy, explored an indoor cave, saw an actual piece of moon rock (which was gifted to the museum by Neil Armstrong), and of course there was the dinosaur exhibit.


I have been on school field trips with my daughter before, but I have to say, as a chaperon, it is hard to enjoy time with your child, because you have to stay on the schedule given out by the teacher, and also have to keep up with not only your child, but the other children assigned to you.  So our home school field trip, was not only a great learning experience, but also a great bonding experience.

Thanks to planning ahead, we were also able to take our trip, and stay on our frugal path.  In total, we spent around $140.00 for a 2 day, 1 night trip.  Including: Tickets, parking, gas, spending money for my daughter, and lunches.  We had a couple of gift certificates we received for Christmas, which we used for dinners, and I saved fuel perks at a local grocery store to help with the cost of gas.

If you have a larger city within a couple hours driving distance from where you are, definitely look and plan ahead for any deals, and take advantage of all the deals you can find.

Happy exploring!

Spring Has Sprung

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It happens every year.  After the grey, dreary winter months, suddenly, we wake up one morning and nature has come to life.  I love the changing seasons.  My family and I lived in Charleston, SC for four years, and one of the biggest things I missed from home, was the changing seasons.  I actually missed the snow, and the dreary winter days, because when the magical day came each year that the skies cleared, and the trees and flowers came to life, you couldn’t help but feel the hope and promise of a new season.  Living in a warmer climate, I didn’t have the same sense of appreciation for the newness that each Spring brought.

This is our second Spring being back home, and I have such a renewed appreciation for this time of year.  I’ve been in planning stages for our family, for what I would like to accomplish over the Summer and the remainder of the year.  I love to take time to stop and reflect back on where we’ve been and our path going forward.

Some of my goals for the coming months are:

  1.  Re-do our outdoor space.
  2. Take our first family camping trip.
  3. Spend more family time together.
  4. Resume our nightly walks around the neighborhood.
  5. Relax and have fun.

This will be my first Summer off with the family in years, and I’m so excited.  But for now, I’m enjoying the beautiful Spring blooms, and nature’s  beauty.

Happy Spring!

Walt Disney World / Kissimmee, FL

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When I think of a “frugal” family vacation, going to Walt Disney World in Florida is not even close to the top of my list, but my daughter wanted to go for her tenth birthday, and I was determined to make it happen.  As frugally as possible of course.  Her birthday is mid-June, so of course that is the peak of travel season for families, but we still managed to have a fun, frugal, Disney World / Florida vacation.

On previous trips, we had always stayed at a resort, but a friend told me about a trip they took with their family where they rented a house with its own enclosed patio with pool.  This sounded like a great idea, so I decided to research it.  I began my search on and found an abundance of houses to choose from in the area. We ended up booking with a really nice couple who were locals to the area.  Their website is  We had a wonderful experience booking through them, and I highly recommend them.  We booked a week long stay in a four bedroom, two bath house, and splitting the cost between two families, we paid approximately $450.  Not bad, huh?  The house was beautiful.  The furnishings were very nice, and it was well appointed with video game equipment and games, dvd’s, books, and board games.  The highlight of the house, of course, was the pool.  The kids loved being able to go out and jump in the pool when they wanted, and I didn’t mind floating around, starring up at the stars, after they had gone to bed.  The house also had a gas grill, so most of our meals were prepared at the house.  We only ate out three times the entire trip.

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There of course are so many theme parks, water parks, and shows that cost a pretty penny, but we had decided to only visit The Magic Kingdom on this trip.  It was mid June, and really hot, so we didn’t want to spend a ton of money on theme park tickets, to wait in long lines, and die of heat exhaustion.

We did however, visit Downtown Disney, which is an Entertainment Complex, that houses theme restaurants, such as Rainforest Cafe, Fulton’s Crab House, T-Rex, and Planet Hollywood, to name a few.  We decided to have lunch at Planet Hollywood, while the boys caught a movie at the huge AMC  Movie Theater complex.  We also spent time at the Lego Store and the World of Disney retail store.  Frugal tip: You can find a lot of the same items from the World of Disney store at local gift shops.  In the pictures below, my daughter tried on a sun hat at the Disney store, but I deemed it too expensive.  A couple days later while exploring Old Town Kissimmee, we found the same sun hat at half the cost, so scooped it up.  She did however sweet talk me into purchasing the stuffed Marie in the picture below 🙂

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Lego Dragon – Downtown Disney

We went to The Magic Kingdom on a Tuesday, hoping the crowds wouldn’t be so bad mid-week, but as usual, it was pretty crowded.  We road the tram in from the parking lot, and arrived about 10:00 a.m., just in time for the first parade down Mainstreet, USA.  It was a great way to kick off the day.

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We followed the parade down Mainstreet, to Cinderella’s Castle, where the performers took to the stage for a song and dance number.  It was really upbeat and fun.  The girls were loving it.  Some of the characters also danced and mingled with the crowd for pictures.


It was really hot, but one of the nice things about Disney World is they have a lot of shaded areas, and a majority of the rides are indoors and air conditioned.  My favorite rides were The Haunted Mansion, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain.  My favorite show was Mickey’s Philhar Magic 4D Film.

If you ask my daughter what her favorite part of the day was, it would be getting to meet Tink!

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At the end of the day we made our way back to Mainstreet, where we found our spots and waited for the Electrical Parade, which is such a wonderful experience leading up to and setting the stage for the finale fireworks over the castle.

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I went to Disney World for the first time when I was 10, and I have never forgotten it.  It truly is such a magical place, and I am so blessed to have been able to take my daughter for her 10th birthday.  To say the least, she was a happy girl, and we created a memory that she will hopefully, always remember!


Of course, our trip was far from over!  We still had three days!  Wednesday, we hung around the house and rested from our Disney day.  Thursday we were up and at it again.  We took the kids to The World’s Largest McDonald’s Playland in Orlando.  They played arcade games, and we got ice cream.  We also explored some gift shops.

Our final day, we explored Old Town Kissimmee.  This is a quaint area with shops, restaurants, pubs, and an arcade.  There was a large go-kart, arcade area also, but we decided to play putt-putt golf instead (I had coupons, found in a local discount coupon book).  It was a fun day, and we wrapped it up with a nice dinner at a local steakhouse.

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It was a great trip, that I hope the kids will always look back on and smile.  And the best part, it didn’t break the bank!!

Happy travels,



Monday – Fun Days

As I’ve gotten older and reflect back over the years, I’ve begun to realize what a bad rap I’ve given Mondays.  All the glory was always given to the weekends and poor Monday was dreaded and hated.  Now I’m alittle older and I realize Monday is actually pretty cool.  I’ve had to retrain myself to appreciate the dreaded day, but I tell myself  Monday is a new start for each week, and I’m truly blessed to reach each Monday and each “new” start to the week.  To help me enjoy my Monday’s more, I like to find an inspirational or funny quote, song, or video to kick off my week.  This helps me turn my Monday into a Fun-Day.

Below are two videos I ran across over the weekend, that gave me a chuckle.

These guys have some moves!  🙂


Poor baby.  I hate avodaco too!!  But that face..haha…too cute!

$10.00 Dinner – Stuffed peppers, baked mac ‘n cheese, and green beans

When I decided to leave the work force for a bit, to be home with the kids, I knew we had to do a complete re-do of our monthly budget.  One of the first things I had to get under control was our trips through the drive-thru.  This meant eating at home more, and on a budget.  As is often the case, I thought back to my childhood and my Mom.  She was couponing and stock piling way before anyone had ever heard of Extreme Couponers.  I sat down and compiled a list of frugal recipes my Mom made when we were growing up.  I came up with a list of $5.00 dinners and $10.00 dinners.  My goal was to reduce our monthly grocery budget to $450.00/month for a family of 4 (and NOT eat hot dogs every night :).  Below is my first $10.00 Dinners Post.

Stuffed Peppers, baked mac ‘n cheese, and green beans

Stuffed Peppers

Cost and ingredients:  4 pack green peppers ($1.00), 1 lb. ground beef ($2.39), 12 ounces ketchup ($.50), 1 sleeve of crackers ($.50), 1/2 chopped onion ($.25), 1 egg ($.15), 1 tablespoon brown sugar ($.10), 1/2 box maccaroni ($.50), 1 cup graded mild cheddar cheese ($.75), 1/2 cup milk ($.15), 1 teaspoon butter ($.15), 2 cans shelled green beans ($1.40), 2 slice bacon ($.30)  Total:  $8.14 or $2.04/person (Note:  my prices are what I paid, purchasing items on sale, and/or using coupons.)

Stuffed Peppers:

Stuffing: In large bowl, crush crackers into small pieces, add ground beef, 1 egg, 1/2 chopped onion, and 10 oz ketchup.  Stir ingredients together until well blended. Prepare Peppers:  Wash the peppers, then remove the top, and all seeds. Stuff  and top the Peppers:  Fill each pepper with the ground beef mixture.  To make the glaze for the top, I use 2 ounces ketchup and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  Mix these two until the brown sugar is dissolved into the ketchup, then spoon and spread over the top of the peppers.  Bake the Peppers:  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, place the peppers into an ungreased baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes.

Baked Mac ‘n Cheese:

In a glass baking dish, add cooked and drained maccaroni, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon butter, dash of salt, and 1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese.  Bake in 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

Green Beans:

Empty beans into sauce pan (do not drain), add 2 pieces of uncooked bacon, cut into bit size pieces, add a dash of salt as desired.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, until beans are soft.

Served with:

A slice of buttered french bread and a tall glass of lemonade.

I hope you enjoy,


Back to School Blog Party! Aug 21-23

Come join the party!

Live ClareLesley

Its August and its that time again!!  We have always loved fall, even though summer is ending, it always feels like a new start!  So come on over, share a favorite blog post or three, and favorite things about fall with us!

Here’s what you do:

  1. In the comments, say hey and post a link to one of your favorite blogs, or even one that has to do with fall!
  2. Let us know if you have a favorite thing that has to do with fall (Clare loves the changing of the leaves and buying school supplies.  LL loves when the air gets crisp and she can go for runs in the changing leaves!)
  3. Go explore other blogs–reach out to your fellow bloggers, visit THEIR pages, and let them know you stopped by in their comments!
  4. Invite more bloggers to party with us!!

Lots of love,

–LL and Clare

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Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN

I want to get away, I wanna fly away….” Lenny Kravitz

As much as I love my home, sometimes I just want to get away!  Luckily, one of our favorite frugal travel spots is only two and a half hours away.  That magical place, that allows me to clear my head, explore nature, and just flat out have a good time on a dime is the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area.

If you are looking for an action packed trip, and don’t mind splurging, the area has a lot of shows and attractions (e.g. Dollywood, Dollywood Splash Country, Dixie Stampede, and The Alabama Theater, just to name a few); great shopping centers (Tanger Outlet Center, Belz Factory Outlet Mall, and The Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall ); and outstanding restaurants ( my faves: The Old Mill, Applewood Farmhouse, Bennett’s Pit BBQ, Smoky Mountain Brewery, and Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin – great breakfast.)

However, on this particular trip we were on a tight budget, and were more interested in relaxing.  Our budget was $275.00, and we wanted to go for 3 days/2 nights.  First, I used my fuel points earned at a local grocery store to save .30/gallon on gas.  We were able to fill up the suv for $42.00 (one tank was plenty to get us through the entire trip, and back home.)  Second, we traveled during the week in September, and we were able to get a standard/non-smoking room, with a fridge and microwave for 50/night + tax.  The hotel had an Excellent rating on with 4.3/5 star.


The view from our room.

Day 1:

Our check-in was 3:00 p.m.; however, we arrived in town around 1:30 p.m., and went to the hotel.  Since we weren’t traveling during peak season, we were able to go ahead and check into our room.  After we got settled in, we headed to the indoor pool/spa area for a couple hours.  That evening we drove into Pigeon Forge to a new restaurant/shopping/entertainment area called The Island.  Parking for the center was free, and shuttle buses ran to and from the parking lot.  The Island has several restaurants and snack shacks, but we decided to have dinner at Mellow Mushroom, which is a pizza place, located near The Island’s main entertainment draw The Giant Wheel (which is a huge enclosed cabin/ferris wheel that lights up the area.)  The restaurant had an outdoor patio area, which was a nice place to people watch and take in the sights and sounds.  We ordered a 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni pizza and an appetizer (I had signed up for their eclub and received a coupon for a free appetizer).  Our total meal including tip was about $25.00, and we had some left overs.

The Island

The Island – Pigeon Forge, TN

After dinner, our next stop was the arcade.  We loaded $10.00 onto a prepaid card, and headed to the skee ball area.  We love skee ball, and it’s one of the few arcade games that stretches your dollars.  So we were able to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the arcade without breaking the bank.

My favorite part of the evening was heading over to the dancing fountains and relaxing in one of the many wooden rocking chairs that lined the area.  The fountains were lit up, and danced in sync to music.  Fyi, I’m a real sucker for dancing fountains and Christmas trees.  You should be too!

Day 2:

We kicked off our second day by heading to one of our favorite breakfast places in the area.  Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin.  There are a few around between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but our favorite is the one on the left when you first start getting into Gatlinburg.  We spent around $35.00/including tip.

After breakfast, we went back to the room and relaxed for a bit.  Then, we headed into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We stopped at the visitor’s center, and watched a video presentation about the park, in their theater.  It was very informative, and set a nice tone for our journey through the park.  We then headed out by car into the park.  A little ways in, we pulled off to go explore one of the trails.  The park has numerous hiking trails, ranked low impact to strenuous.  We picked a low impact trail, in the Chimney area.  The trail ran along the river, and there were plenty of areas to stop and relax by the water.  After we finished our hike, we hopped back in the car and headed on into the Smokies.  We drove to the top lookout area, and pulled off there into a large parking area.  They had restrooms, picnic areas, etc.  We had brought lunch items, snacks, and drinks with us from home, so we stopped and had a picnic and explored the different scenic views.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

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Mountain stream – Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Late that afternoon, we returned back to the room for a bit, then we headed into downtown Gatlinburg.  Even during the off-season, the streets were hopping with tourists.  There were lots of different shops and attractions to explore.  There were also musicians playing in different areas.  Most were playing country or bluegrass music, and there were rocking chairs here and there to stop and sit a spell.

Once again, we headed into an arcade dropped another $10.00 on some skee ball, then we grabbed a late dinner at a Wendy’s on the strip.  We all ate off the value menu, and Dinner ran about $15.00.  After dinner, we walked through some shops and got some treats from a local candy/popcorn shop, another $10.00.

We got back to our room about 9:00 p.m. and headed to the pool for about an hour, then we crashed.  It had been a busy two days.

Street performers

Musicians – Downtown Gatlinburg, TN

Day 3:

Our hotel had a free continental breakfast, and it was actually pretty good.  They had the usual waffles, cereal, pastries, and fruit, but they also had gravy and biscuits.  After breakfast we relaxed at the room, enjoying the view before check-out, then we headed home, and still had money to stop for lunch on the way home.

Fun but frugal family vacations can be a reality, it just takes some planning, and setting and sticking to a budget.