During the pandemic shutdown, my family was desperate to break up the monotony of each and every day being exactly the same as the one before. One way we came up to do this was to apply a food theme to a day. Taco Tuesday, French Fry Friday, as well as more random ones such as Brinner (breakfast for dinner) went into regular rotation. Looking back, I think it also served as a way for us to remember which day it was.
One of the themes that stuck around even after we are back to school and work, though, is Thirsty Thursday. It doesn’t happen every week, but very little is needed to convince me to make a special after work cocktail, after dinner dessert, or a delicious liquid meal in the name of Thirsty Thursday. Far be it from me to break a theme. Furthermore, a treat at home is almost always much less costly yet healthier than the take out equivalent.
One of the the Thirsty Thursday treats we can all agree on, whether it be for breakfast or a sippy snack, is a smoothie. Typically, I make two separate batches; one for the kids and one for the adults. Although they are similar, I usually add some honey or sweetened yogurt to the kids’. For the adults, I add protein powder and ground flax seed for added health benefits with a texture the kids won’t go for.
Smoothies the Adulting Way
For each serving (multiply by how many servings you need)
1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberries, mixed berries, mangoes, pineapple, peaches, mixed fruit are all good)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup original almond milk (vanilla would be good too)
2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)
2 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until desired consistency is achieved. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Mother’s Day this year is, out of necessity, full of frugal activities. It just so happens, though, that the agenda sounds PERFECT to me. A morning of relaxing and fishing in nature followed by a picnic lunch is about as good as it gets in my book. The weather is supposed to be springtime perfect, and I can’t wait to be outside!
The afternoon, ideally, will include some relaxing and snacking with the family. Then, my parents will come over for a simple dinner off the grill. Maybe we’ll get to eat outside again!
My Mother’s Day gifting has taken a different approach this year in that the gifts are tangible items. Typically, I am an experience over item type of girl and plan an outing of some type with my mom. We have gone to shows and plays, taken tours, seen movies and many other activities over the years. This year my mom is experiencing some mobility issues, so we are laying low.
Another wrench in gifting for my mom is that she doesn’t need anything. My parents are in the process of moving in with us and are downsizing. More things will just result in more clutter. So, in the end I decided to stick with the K.I.S.S. method.
I ordered small magnets that will fit on their equally small refrigerator from a website that sells school artwork. They were on sale, can go in a number of places, and some of the proceeds go to the school’s art program. Win, win, win.
Next, I decided a simple bouquet of flowers would fit the bill. My mom LOVES flowers. But who in their right mind doesn’t, right? A premade bouquet quickly exceeded my budget, so I set out to assemble (I fall short of arranging) my own. I found the mason jar-ish vase at a thrift store for a couple bucks. The tulips and baby’s breath were found in the single pick buckets at the grocery store. There may be a better place to find these, but I don’t know about it.
All in all, I was able to put together a gift that I think Mom will enjoy for around $30. Given prices these days, I consider it a win.
This year for spring break my family headed from Missouri to New Mexico. Although an escape from gray skies in search of a good dose of Vitamin D was on the list of considerations when choosing the destination, it was not the major contributing factor. My Uncle (and godfather) Russ lives just outside of Albuquerque, and I hadn’t seen him in YEARS. Like 13 of them. I last saw him at my wedding, and he had never met my children. On top of that, he had a health scare about a year ago and, due to COVID, I avoided visiting until everyone (even kids) were fully vaccinated. A visit to New Mexico was long overdue!
True to form, I spent hours and hours months in advance lining out an itinerary, full of frugal options that may be fun for one, some or all members of the family. I settled on spending three nights in Albuquerque with Uncle Russ, and then pushing on to Santa Fe for an additional three nights in a cabin. I booked a well-situated cabin well in advance and then was able to put my planning project aside until the time grew closer and my budget clearer.
In the end, the budget I was able to scrape together was about $2200 for a family of 4 and we would be gone for 9 days. Not too bad!
Hiking: There are sooo many hikes, anywhere from short to long or in between, that are good for people of all ages that this is a no brainer if you enjoy it. Checking out a new climate with new ecosystems, foliage and fauna, etc. can keep all of us occupied for a long time.
We stayed close to Tijeras, which is about 30 minutes from downtown Albuquerque, so our hiking was focused in that area. There are so many trails and cool areas to check out that you can’t go wrong. I found the spring break timing to be perfect as well, as it was between the skiing tourist season in the winter and the camping/sightseeing tourist season in the summer.
Old Town Albuquerque: We made the mistake of going to Old Town on a Monday. We knew most of the museums were closed, but the Rattlesnake Museum’s website showed they would be open. Not so. Lesson learned – call in advance!
Disappointed, we decided to walk around and check things out, pick up some souvenirs, and stop for a snack. These were still difficult tasks. Some of the stores are open, but virtually all of the restaurants are closed and public bathrooms are scarce. That said, we all enjoyed relaxing in the courtyard of the beautiful San Felipe de Neri Church and the kids ran off some energy in the historical Old Town Plaza.
Petroglyph National Monument: This park did not fail to impress! It has thousands of symbols carved into volcanic rock by both Native Americans and Spanish settlers. There are three different areas with trails ranging from short walks to over 2 miles. We hiked in the Rinconada Canyon, and the whole family found it engaging and could complete the hike without (too much) whining. One of the most remarkable aspects, in my opinion, is that the park is surrounded by bustling suburbia. Only a couple dozen yards into the hike, however, and city sights and sounds fall away to a peaceful nook of nature.
Before checking out the hike, we stopped by the visitor’s center to get a recommendation on which hike to take. If you are taking kids, this is a must! They provided us with Junior Ranger activity books. These kept the kids busy and engaged while on the hike and in the car on the way back. They also got wooden keepsake pins from this specific park as a souvenir. This is the first time we have participated in the program, but it definitely will not be the last!
Next Time: We spent a lot of time just hanging out at my uncle’s house, which was, after all, the point of the trip. That said, there are things that I really wanted to check out but time did not allow for. Happens every time! Places worth coming back to check out include: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, ABQ BioPark, Jemez Springs (day trip, natural hot springs), and many more.
TIP: Had we known in advance the situation in Old Town, I definitely would have packed a picnic lunch. We returned on Tuesday, and could only find one open restaurant (which is one more than on Monday). There were so many people that the service suffered, and lunch took a very long time. In retrospect a picnic lunch on the lawn of the Old Town Plaza would have been much more pleasurable – and cheaper to boot!
The Cabin: The cabin seemed pricey to me when I booked it (although not compared to many), coming in at $450 for the three nights. However, we used it as a place to relax and regroup, make basic home cooked meals, a home base for activities, etc. Instead of spending time in restaurants and shops (although there were several of those as well), we were able to enjoy time as a family with a bit of privacy… and a fire in the indoor wood burning stove. I’m convinced this not only made our trip more enjoyable, but saved us some moolah on the side.
Hiking: There were hikes both long and short that we could take right from our cabin. That said, Santa Fe is in a gorgeous area of New Mexico. Gorgeous hikes are literally in every direction.
Old Town Santa Fe: This one needs a disclaimer. If you are shopping in Santa Fe, like really shopping, for art, jewelry, gems, etc. then you can go ahead and move this to the “Splurge” category. However, it is easy to spend the day on the frugal side if that is your aim.
We introduced the kids to Looney Tunes on the road trip to New Mexico. The desert scenery and animals, especially in the Wile E. Coyote cartoons, set the stage for our trip. So, when we discovered the Chuck Jones Gallery, it was a no brainer that we had to stop in and see original works by one of the creators of Looney Tunes. If Looney Tunes isn’t your bag, I get it. Santa Fe, however, seemingly has a gallery for every type of art enthusiast.
Rocks and gems were a consistent theme throughout our trip and we enjoyed looking around several of the stores dedicated to this as well. It was snowy the day we were in Old Town, but still enjoyed walking around and seeing the historical points of interest such as the Santa Fe Plaza, Saint Francis of Assisi Cathedral and grounds, and the Loretto Chapel. There is such a confluence of cultures here that a rich history exists and can be found on almost every corner.
TIP: Pick up a free map of Santa Fe available at various locations (we got ours at Haagen-Dazs) and do a self-guided walking tour.
Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary: This place is a hidden gem. I had planned a trip to Bandelier National Monument, but we ended up not going because the girls really wanted to do activities at camp. So, this was a much closer day trip, and while maybe not quite as significant as cliff dwellings, it was well worth the outing.
The house on the property was originally constructed as a sawmill in 1847, but was purchased and converted to a home by Randall Davey in 1920. It was gifted to the Audubon Society in 1983 and is a beautiful structure around which the Nature Discovery Area and trails have been built. The trails are a half mile loop, but connect to trails that go much further if you choose to. There are botanical gardens, a playground, and, of course, many bird attracting feeders.
Next Time: Again with so many things to see but so little time to see them. We missed out on the New Mexico State Capital, which has an art exhibit in it. We did not see the Railyard, mostly due to the snow. I would also be sure to check out the Museum of International Folk Art and Canyon Road. A day trip to Los Alamos to check out the Manhattan Project museum is on the list for next time as well.
Camp Activities: The camp we stayed at offered activities. We were actually the only people staying there at the time, but they offered to give the kids archery lessons and for them to go rock climbing. Knowing it would be a private lesson, I thought the total price of $60 for both kids was worth it. They had a fantastic time, and it was a great way to spend a morning outside without having to drive anywhere.
Meow Wolf: Meow Wolf is pricey. There’s no getting around it. That said, it is entirely worth it. You can spend as much time as you want exploring it, and we took over two hours without seeing it all. I will say that both kids said repeatedly that different aspects of the exhibition were creepy. Be prepared to divert their attention to some of the less intense rooms if your kiddo is specifically susceptible to scare.
TIP: We went in the evening, and next time I may go earlier in the day. We got tired before we had a chance to see everything. I think the mister and daughter M could have spent longer trying to figure out more of the riddles as well as the overall mystery.
Next Time: The parking pass at Bandalier National Monument is $25. While this may not typically qualify as a splurge, there are so many free things to do in Santa Fe that I felt it could go here. I love cliff dwellings, and Mesa Verde is one of my favorite places on Earth. I was very sad to miss this, but I consider it a reason in itself to come back.
If I were to come back without kids (either with the mister or girl friends), I would definitely want to check out one of the swanky hot springs spas. They just look amazing.