How To Have A Stress Free Family Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s that time of the year again. Time to be grateful and give thanks for all the blessings God has bestowed upon you. It’s Thanksgiving! And we all want to celebrate it with the least amount of stress possible.

First stop and think about of the preparations you would like to do yourself, or should I say, feel up to doing yourself. Don’t plan to over exert yourself, by having to cook for a huge crowd.

By anticipating how you will feel, will help you determine how many people to invite. We know that we are expected to invite family, so do so. But also know that not all of your family will show up. Some of them, who might be married, or engaged or whatever, may be having Thanksgiving with their inlaws or friends.

Be understanding, and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and besides it makes less work for you. The less work, the less stress. Now make a list of those who are coming, and let’s move on.

Now you want to decide on the menu. Do you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or something totally different? I suggest doing a traditional dinner. It would be a lot less stressful. Now don’t plan on doing the entire meal yourself, by all means get some help.

By that I mean, do a pot luck. Let the family know that you will be taking care of the turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and the mac and cheese. Ask them to bring something, and you should give them suggestions, so they don’t all bring the same thing.

This will eliminate some of the pressure off you. They can bring a salad, some desert, beverages, even some paper plates and utensils. That’s right, I said paper plates, it’s family, they won’t mind. And it will make clean up so much easier for you. Now that’s a stress buster in itself.

Don’t leave out your husband and kids, they should help too. Since you are doing the preparations of food, have one of them, set the table for you. Maybe your husband should do that, if the kids are small.

Let kids help you with clean up. If you used paper plates, they can gather the trash together and take it out for you. They can clean the table off for you, husband can mop floor if needed and the work is done quick and easy. And if family volunteers to help, by all means say yes.

Now that dinner has gone well, and everyone is happy, before family leaves, say a prayer together. Thank God for allowing you all to assemble together once again, and pray that everyone makes it home safely. After they leave, put your feet up and enjoy the rest of your holiday relaxing, no stress.

More Than Photographs

For several years, I was a photographer. Though those days are all but behind me, I still like to dabble in creative content.

While studying for my degree, I interned at Style Magazine. This was where I started learning about photography. In fact, many of my images were used in the magazine. After that first photo assignment for Style I was hooked. I started doing lots of journalistic photography as well as weddings, parties, charity events, portraits and more.

These days, I really only take pictures on my smart phone…I’ll update this page soon with my recommended photographers if you landed here looking for photography services.

Workout and Have Better Sex – Wait, What?

Working out is one of those necessary evils in life and I’d like to share with you a few simple reasons you should make it something you strive to add to your life.

Working out improves your sex life. If nothing else revs you up about working out, hopefully this will. It’s actually been scientifically proven that regular exercise can increase sexual drive, activity, and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle toning improve sexual prowess, and exercise jump-starts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area.

Even low levels of exercise help keep you functioning properly. In fact, men can significantly lower their risk of erectile dysfunction by burning only 200 calories a day.

Lose weight and feel great! It’s no secret that excess weight wreaks havoc on the body. From minor aches and pains to heart disease and high cholesterol- working out will help you lose weight and potentially decrease and possibly remove many health woes. Working out also boosts immunity making you less likely to get sick. In fact, it is estimated that physically active people can save up to $1,000 a year in regular healthcare costs.

Gain confidence. Working out improves your confidence levels. As you get started on a workout routine your body will lose fat and get toned. Just knowing that you are working towards a new and improved body makes you feel better about yourself mentally and emotionally. Working out will inevitably give your self-image and self-confidence a boost, which is often one of the best motivators to stick to a workout program.

Improve brain function. Exercise causes a drop in stress hormones and acts as an antidepressant. If you have ever experienced a “runners-high” then you know exactly what I am referring to. In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain and exercise is definitely good for your heart.

Sugar and Your Body

It seems like sugar is in everything. A personal trainer I met said his clients often ask him  why sugar is so bad and how they can keep from consuming it. Here’s his take on a substance is as addictive as other white powders out there – yes, it’s that serious!

Sugar is sweet and releases a massive amount of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The more you consume, the more your body wants of it. Junk food, sodas, even many energy drinks have a lot of sugar- much more than any foods found in nature. Because of this dopamine release people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to it.

What can sugar do to your body? For one, it can cause insulin resistance which causes obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Second, it can cause you to get cancer- many scientists that people who consume a lot of sugar are more at risk for cancer because of their consistently higher than normal insulin levels.

Insulin is a key hormone in stopping uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells- when your levels are high your body can’t control these growths as well. Lastly, it can mess up your metabolism causing weight gain which leads to a whole slew of other problems. There are several other things that sugar does to your body, but these alone should make you want to quash your sugar addiction.

Okay, so you know its bad- but how can you stop consuming so much of it? The first thing you need to do is make the decision to stop the consumption. Just like addicts can’t quit drinking, smoking and gambling unless they decide to get help, you must be the one to make the decision to cut back and then stick to the decision.

Consider alternative sweeteners like stevia or honey. Avoid processed foods and beverages made with fructose, aspartame, sucralose and other sugar aliases. Once you find the culprits with the most sugar in your diet it will be easier to cut back.

What Does it Take to Get Famous Online?

Getting famous online requires a lot more planning than using the “post and pray” method. However, searching online will bring you countless methods for how to gain more followers, increase your visibility, and manage your presence successfully. 

Below you’ll find 4 of the most important tips for increasing your chances of making it big. 

While we can’t guarantee that you will get famous online with these steps, they will certainly help! 

1. Decide on your “niche”.

Your “niche” is basically your little corner of the internet. The first step to creating a successful online profile is to really decide what your passion is. What do you have expertise with? What information or knowledge do you possess that other people NEED? Now – go find community there! 

When you think of your niche, think SMALL. It probably feels counterintuitive to narrow down the people you are trying to reach, but my specializing you are competing against a smaller number of posts for visibility. This method also benefits you because the people that you ARE reaching actually need what you are providing.

Pro Tip: Don’t just pick “busy people”. Narrow down to “athletic busy people” or “tea loving busy people”. 

2. Post valuable content.

You have to bring value to your niche. People want to gain something from following you! This could be products they need, tips and tricks, or even solidarity. Either way, they have to connect with you and feel that you are solving a problem they have. 

Finding community is incredibly important for this. For example: If you are focusing on the DIY niche – Post an Instagram Reel showing your niche how to stain an end table in under an hour. Bring the funny and relatable content! 

Pro Tip: Look at your video and ask yourself, “Would I share or save this?”

3. Select 1-2 platforms to really dig into. 

You need to learn about the algorithms (technical “formula” created for deciding which posts show up to many people and which don’t) involved on your favorite platforms. For example: Facebook likes to show posts that involve pictures of a face and that involve conversations. The more back and forth conversation, the more people that post is going to be shown to. 

Once you have found your niche and decided on platforms – get involved in groups (on Facebook) or hashtags (Instagram) and interact with them! Build relationships with them! Providing value and answering questions will build credibility for you within the community. 

Pro Tip: Utilize the search feature on groups or instagram to search for people’s questions in your niche. What questions do you have answer for? What problems do people have that you can solve? 

4. Consistency, consistency, consistency. 

This is probably the most important way to bring maximum visibility and engagement to your own posts. It is incredibly important to put content out on a frequent, predictable basis. People will come back to your account for your daily content! The more you post, the more people will be able to interact, and the more visibility you will have.

Have confidence! Yes, the internet can feel big and scary. But just take these steps one at a time and go for it. Find your people, dig in, and bring that value consistently. May your page views be high, and your bounce rate be low!

Don’t Overindulge at Thanksgiving

Want to hear a frightening but true statistic? The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone. That number is more than double the amount of calories that a man hoping to maintain his weight should consume in a day and more than three times the amount of calories a woman looking to lose weight should consume!

How then, when Thanksgiving is filled with some of the most tempting dishes we eat all year can we keep from overindulging?

Portion Control – I hate to say it, but one of the biggest factors that contributes to this over-consumption issue is overloading your plate. You don’t need all those potatoes and gravy and you certainly don’t need to go back for leftovers of mom’s stuffing just because it’s there.

Load the plate with veggies – If you really feel the need to pack your plate as much as everyone else’s, load your plate with vegetables. If you are heading out this holiday and worry there won’t be any veggies you like bring a vegetable dish of your own.

Drink up – No, I don’t mean alcohol! By the way though, you shouldn’t drink your calories at dinner, but we’ll save that for another post. When I say drink up, what I really mean is drink a lot of water. Drink a full glass before you sit down to eat and this will help you feel a little full preventing you from over eating.

Take a walk before dinner – Studies have shown that a brisk walk before a meal can help you suppress your appetite.

Only eat half of dessert – Nobody said you can’t have a slice of pumpkin pie, but if all you really need is the taste you can probably live with just half a slice and save those excess calories.

All of the above tips can be used at any big meal. Don’t restrict yourself too much because that does lead to binging, but there is no reason you need to stuff your face when you’re trying to maintain or whittle your waist!

When is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel?

Ready, set, go! Wouldn’t it be great if traveling for vacations really worked that way? You pick a spot on the map and you just pack and go! Sadly, that privilege seems to only remain with the rich. So, the question is how can the average traveler decide on the best times to plan their trips?

First, you will need to decide on the details of the trip, i.e. the destination, whether you want cold temps or warm temps, when you can get time off from work and your budget. Once you have these ideas in mind the real research begins. The good news is that if you are working with a reputable travel agent you can bring your travel wishes to them and they can give you ideas for your vacation, but ultimately the final decisions will lie with you.

Once you have the logistics figured out of destination, budget, timing etc… it’s time to book the trip. Still, a question of when to book remains. In most cases your best bet is to book as soon as you nail down your trip goals. The sooner the better because you will have the best options on rooms, flights and transportation to name a few.

In the event you are choosing to visit a destination during its busy or peak season booking quickly becomes even more imperative as the cheaper accommodations can sometimes get snapped up so fast you will be left with either the priciest options or none at all. The same thing often goes for holiday traveling- the sooner you book the more options you will have!

With all of that said if you can book six months in advance great, but up to a year is even better! Besides, the sooner you book the sooner you can start making additional arrangements if needed such as canceling your mail, booking a pet sitter, putting in for the vacation time at work- you get the idea.

Romantic Destinations Worldwide

Whether you are planning an exciting couple’s escapade or a honeymoon, there are many romantic destinations worldwide to suit your taste. If you and your lover are seeking somewhere with that perfect ambiance for your next vacation, read on because we found some of the most romantic destinations in the world:

  • Venice – A ride in the gondola truly symbolizes the magic and romance of this city. Ride down the canals with your lover and enjoy the sites of Venice. Dine in stylish Italian restaurants by the canals and get lost in old brick passages while you stumble upon Italian squares and churches. Venice is definitely the place that can make you fall in love again.
  • Seychelles – These Indian Ocean islands located off the coast of Africa were home for some of the most amazing people in the world. It’s extraordinary, out of the way location makes it an incredible place to spend time with your loved one. There are many spas, golf courses, tropical drinks, and fishing trips ready to make your romantic trip unforgettable. Honeymoon here and you may never want to leave.
  • Maldives – These 23 small coral islands are barely above ocean water and the reefs in the area are teeming with life. And yet, even though they bustle with ocean life, they are quiet and secluded.
  • Tuscany – Villas, vineyards, and historic Italian towns, this entire place billows with a sense of adventure and love. Stay in cozy villas, eat the finest food, and bike through the amazing vineyards to drink the top class wine.
  • Bruges – This medieval city in Brussels may not jump to the front of your mind as a romantic destination, but the setting of the place will take you back to a simpler time that feels just right to reconnect with that special someone. The town has certainly protected its history to our benefit allowing visitors to walk through the ancient city lanes hand in hand and relax at sweet cafes filled to the brim with charm and love. A step back in time- perhaps this is the way every romantic getaway should feel.

Saving Money on Destination Weddings

Getting married is one of the biggest expenses in the life of a couple. It is this reason that leads many couples to choosing to forego tradition and choose a destination wedding. That said, even a destination wedding can cost a pretty penny, but there are ways to save money no matter where you decide to say “I do.”

Don’t invite everyone. The beauty of a destination wedding is that most people will not be able to attend. The guest list is generally less than 30 people and flight and hotel accommodations for guests are not the responsibility of the couple.

Book early and save. If you book far enough in advance your hotel may be willing to sell at a lower rate just to get the room sold. Plus, you will avoid the risk that the cheaper rooms are sold out.

Honeymoon where you wed. Save the additional air fare by sticking with one fun location for both the wedding and honeymoon.

Ask about package deals and you might just score a free wedding. Did you know that there are resorts that will include your ceremony, a wedding meal and a cake for free with your room reservation as long as you stay a minimum number of days? It’s true! If you are already staying at the resort, why not take advantage of a free wedding? Some resorts will even throw in extra perks like rose petals on the bed and champagne in your room on your wedding night.

Just have a commitment ceremony. Getting married outside of the U.S. can be really expensive and there is often a lot of paperwork. Sometimes there are even blood tests, doctor exams and other rules that make it harder to marry abroad. If you want to avoid those extra fees and a lot of hassle, just have a commitment ceremony where you say all of your vows, but make it legal at home.

Do you have some tips to share on saving money on a wedding? Tweet me at @AshleyisFamous, and tell me about them!

Is a Destination Wedding right for you?

Wedding planning takes a lot of effort and before you know it you could start feeling like it’s become your second full time job. One thing many couples are doing to forgo all of the planning and skip right to the fun while saving a lot of money is to have a destination wedding instead of a traditional one. But is a destination wedding right for you? Here are some things to consider before you decide:

Can you get away with having 30 guests or less? Although some destination weddings are simple held in another state, most of them are in a completely different country. Because of this the guest lists are astronomically shorter than those of a traditional wedding. Odds are your great Aunt Suzie and your third cousin Tim won’t be in attendance. For some couples this makes a destination wedding all the more appealing, but for others they want everyone to be there to witness the day.

Is money an issue? At the time of this writing, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,200. Most destination weddings can be an all-inclusive price of $5,000 to $10,000 or less depending on where and when you choose to get married. The savings alone is what draws so many couples to leave tradition at the door and have a destination wedding.

Would you be willing to settle for an after party? If you can’t bare the thought of your family and friends not being involved in your nuptials you could always have a really large party in lieu of an expensive wedding. It will be cheaper than a reception and can be as formal or as informal as you would like.

Are you planning somewhere exotic for your honeymoon? One of the reasons it makes economical sense to have a destination wedding is you can honeymoon in the same place where you say “I do!”

Do you mind if it’s just a ceremony and not a legal wedding? Destination weddings are often just a commitment ceremony and not technically legal in the eyes of the United States because of all the paperwork required for a legal wedding in another country. Many couples who opt for a destination wedding will marry at the courthouse in their hometown and then have a ceremony to seal the deal.

If this post has convinced you a destination wedding is right for you, call your travel agent today so they can get started planning your wedding. If instead it pushed you towards the traditional route, that’s okay too because they can still help you plan the perfect honeymoon.

You Can Make Easy Healthy Meals At Home

Would it surprise you to learn that having more meals at home doesn’t require a bunch of cookbooks and culinary expertise? Serving your family homemade meals can be as easy as 1-2-3! You really just need three main components to make a quick meal that satisfies and is healthy.

Protein- Whether you like tofu, chicken, beef or fish you should be consuming about five and a half ounces of lean protein daily. Oh, and by the way- if you prefer meals that are meat free there are lots of vegetable options that can pack a mean protein punch!

Veggies- You can steam them, bake them, sauté them, or even eat them raw such as in a salad. Studies have shown that meals taste better when they are also appealing to the eye so get a bunch of beautiful lush greens, tomatoes, carrots or whatever you like and put a rainbow on your plate!

Grains- Quinoa, brown rice, whole grain toast or some other grain – the possibilities of what you can serve with your protein and veggies are endless.

Once you have the components in your mind you can mix it up and use a bunch of different spices to make any dish go from bland to delicious! Here are three meal options that are a breeze to make even if you only have 30 minutes:

  • Make a yummy blend of Rosemary, Oregano and Basil. Sprinkle it onto some chicken breasts and grill it up. Once it’s all cooked serve it over a bed of fresh romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes with oil and vinegar as your dressing and a slice of whole grain toast on the side. Yum!
  • Grab your fave steak seasoning and season up some flank steak. Then, sauté it with onions and green peppers and serve in a whole grain pita for a quick and easy handheld meal.
  • Get fishy with it! Simply salt and pepper your fish of choice. While it bakes in the oven whip together some brown rice and steamed veggies to go with it. Boom! Dinner is ready!

What Does a Health Conscious Shopper Look Like?

It is incredibly easy to be an unhealthy consumer in America. The truth is we are constantly inundated with fast food commercials and quick meal options that are laden with sugar, salt and other preservatives. Even at the grocery store the aisles are loaded with 30 minutes or less meal boxes and unhealthy snacks that ultimately leave us feeling unsatisfied. It doesn’t have to be this way though! Here is what it looks like when a health conscious person goes grocery shopping:

A health conscious person will stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store filling up their cart with organic fruit along with free range meats and lots of protein and fiber rich greens. The perimeter takes less time so they will be in and out quickly.

When looking for snacks a health conscious shopper grabs fruits for sweet snacks, raw nuts for savory salty snacks and veggies for crunchy snacks. Every item in their cart is identifiable and easily pronounced. Oh, and their grocery bill won’t be nearly as high as most people think healthy items are.

The health conscious shopper also has plenty of energy to get through their day, glide through the supermarket and even has enough energy to go home and cook a healthy meal after shopping.

If this doesn’t sound like you, then you might not be a health conscious grocery shopper. This doesn’t make you a bad person; it simply makes you less healthy. The good news is you can change it and you can do it one step at a time. Maybe this week you will swap canned fruits for fresh fruits and then next week you add a lot more greens in your cart. It doesn’t have to be hard to be healthy. It just takes the willingness to decide to do it. Here’s to your health!

Now, I want to hear from you. What are your favorite quick and healthy meals? Tweet me at @AshleyisFamous, and tell me about it!