I like to entertain. It is always a lot of fun to have people over, and those visits usually include food (and plenty of it). Typically, we eat so much that we are usually full, but there are always desserts. I make a few different things that come out pretty good, despite minimal effort.
Making a cake or cupcakes with a Strawberry mix instead of the usual Chocolate or Yellow is a nice change. It usually goes over well. Paired with plain white frosting, you can decorate them with pink sprinkles for Valentine’s Day, yellow or purple for Easter, or red and blue for a Patriotic event.
Muffins to me usually are more for breakfast, but sometimes I make them for other times. One of my favorites is using a Banana Nut mix, add a package of Banana Creme pudding to the mix, and throw in some chocolate chips. Before baking them, you can add nuts (or can grate some freeze dried banana chips) on top. They come out delicious! Very moist, almost cupcake-like.
Make up a decent amount of Vanilla Pudding, depending on how many people you’ll be having. To me, it’s easier to serve if you put it all in a big bowl, but making individual ones looks fancier. You can have toppings to choose from. With vanilla, I’ve used chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and even crushed-up grated red and white mints. With chocolate pudding, after it is done and set, you can mix it with a Cool Whip-type cream and make it become almost like a mousse. Same thing – it is fine in a large serving container, but I like the mousse in champagne glasses. Looks fancy!
You can make a simple homemade Peanut Butter frosting with powdered sugar, peanut butter and some shortening (butter or margarine) and frost Chocolate cupcakes or a sheet cake – Reese’s Cake. With chocolate cake, you can frost with the Cool Whip-type cream and grate chocolate sandwich cookies – Oreo dessert. Frosting this way should be done just before serving, however. Though if you want to make it a layer cake, you can frost the middle section and cover the top with the Cream just as you serve it.
Red Velvet Cake Mix is good for Valentine’s Day – frost with white icing and use red and pink sprinkles. You can also use white icing and green sprinkles for a pretty Christmas dessert.
Baking from scratch is wonderful, no doubt. You can still have nice desserts for minimal effort…
As you know, we recently came back from a Cruise. It was wonderful – everything about it was perfect, and we had no complaints. None at all. What we did have was tons of compliments, and many favorite things. One of the best things we had while cruising was the Rum Cake. Eating the small one I brought home as a souvenir, I was wishing we could duplicate it. So this was mentioned to my nephew Dan who was on the cruise, and is currently involved in a Culinary Program in school. He made this cake for Sunday’s Pay Per View party, and to say it was delicious is an understatement. It tasted wonderful, and it was an exact copy of what we had in the Caribbean.
The recipe he used is as follows –
C A K E
Four whole eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup Gold Rum (Bacardi)
1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
G L A Z E
1/2 cup Gold Rum (Bacardi)
1 small box of sugar free vanilla pudding
G L A Z E
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick butter
1/2 cup Gold Rum (Bacardi)
Dan’s variation – for one of the glaze rums, he used Amaretto. Mmm.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cake ingredients and pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. Cook until done, about 60 minutes. Remove cake from pan. Mix the first glaze and drizzle on top. For the next glaze, combine butter, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce and continue heating for five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in rum. Get ready to enjoy!
(Photo credit – Gracehill Bed and Breakfast)
Yes, I am. I have the best friends and the best family, and I feel very fortunate.
You see, yesterday was a Pay Per View Day. That’s a day that the WWE broadcasts a special show, a PPV. While we have had a few minor parties, last night was one of our original, old school types. In the past, we have had nights that had themes – Royal Night, Irish Night, Honey Boo Boo Night, Massachusetts Welcome Back Night. It’s all been a blast. However, last night was just…a party. A fun time for us all to get together.
We had SO much food, and I have SO many leftovers – they were all delicious, and I love it – I won’t have to cook for days. My sister, Ellie and I ate some tonight, for a Girls Night. So good…
Christine finally got to meet Tom. It’s been seven years that they have heard about each other. Getting together after all this time, it was great. It was almost as if they’ve known each other all along. At one point, we actually had a line waiting for food. We had ribs and wings and pasta and loaded macaroni and cheese and chips and dip and homemade rum cake and pudding – whew! Just typing that makes me feel full…
The wrestling on screen was great, but the company here in Scranton was even better. And my babies charmed EVERYONE…
I need to save money. As we are just about to plan our next cruise, barely a week after returning from the first one – it’s more important than ever. I have been thinking of a few things that can help me to add to my bank account (or at least have that same bank account not decrease).
* Don’t buy what you don’t need, if you already have one. That cute little bottle of lotion might not be expensive, but why bother if you already have more than several at home already?
* Bottled water – to me, it’s a waste. You can go to Dollar Tree and buy a few nice, cute reusable bottles – and fill them up from your tap, keeping them in your fridge all ready to go. If you don’t like tap water, invest in one of those pitchers that have filters.
* Don’t waste food. At all. Any. Immediately put leftovers in the freezer unless you KNOW you’ll eat them in the next day or two. Last night, I defrosted some kind of beef with rice – not sure where it originally came from. I mixed it up with a little bit of tomato sauce or tomato juice (I don’t remember which) and added some shredded cheese on top. Jeff and I had this for dinner, with saltines. It was kind of like a sloppy Joe type dish.
* Keep impulse buys at the grocery store to a minimum. Unless you know for sure that they are an amazing buy (though you should always be reading the circulars before you go).
* Do not ever buy travel size anything. You can get empty travel size bottles, airline approved at Dollar Tree. They come in colors, or clear. Make sure you label them or at least write down what is in them, though. I frequently make mistakes between shampoo, conditioner and leave in conditioner. They even have little spray bottles you can put liquid hair spray in so you can have your pump hair spray, if that’s what you are used to.
* Check all of your bills the next time they come in. There might be charges you can reduce or eliminate all together. Every little bit helps.
* Do not pay ATM fees if you can avoid them. In our area, there are a few convenience stores that charge no fee for using them. Search those places out where you live.
* If you can, avoid paying late fees on credit cards. I just hate having to do this.
* Consider a no-spend challenge. I did this for a one-week period. I told myself all I would get was gasoline, if I needed it. Turned out I didn’t, and seeing my bank balance exactly the same one week later was really nice.
* If you are considering a bigger type purchase or one that will be potentially expensive, wait it out. During that time, you might find a better deal. You might find that you don’t need what you were considering. If after waiting, you realize you still need it, you’ll be confident in what you’re about to purchase.
* Make a budget. This goes without saying. We all should have one. Once my situation here gets more stable and more regular, I will make one and I will stick to it.
* Don’t forget that life is for the living, and it’s to be lived having fun. Find frugal ways to keep yourself happy.
I’m a Cat Mom. I have known this for many years. With the exception of a few short years between 2003 and 2007, I have always had a cat wherever I lived. Now, Jeff and I have five. These three above are Beavis, Stanley and JB.
So, you know you’re a Cat Mom (or a Cat Dad)…
When you pick up your cat, despite whatever outfit you’re wearing – what color it is, if you’re dressed fancy or not. It doesn’t matter.
When your heart feels as though it might explode from love when one of them just randomly jumps up and makes themselves at home in your lap.
When you catch a glimpse of them doing absolutely nothing special, and you get tears in your eyes because you just love them SO much.
When you don’t mind trying to do anything at all with two kittens on your lap.
When you know there is nothing better than waking up to five furry and hungry faces.
When scooping litter boxes multiple times a day doesn’t bother you at all.
When you put out food and shelter for all the neighborhood cats, because it’s cold and you want it to be easier for them out there (if that’s at all possible).
When you and your boyfriend have no room in bed – because as long as the cats sleeping there are comfortable, it’s all good.
When you have to scroll past so very many cat photos on your phone until you get to a picture of an actual human.
When you need space on that same phone and need to decide which videos of the kittens playing are really necessary.
When you see your shelter’s page and get that pang of “I want her” because the newest resident there looks just like one of your babies.
There are so many reasons. They have brought so much joy into our lives, and laughter as well. These two below are our babies, Alexi with the dramatic profile shot. And Nik, after he was trying to “help” me with the vacuum…
Indulgence – indulging in self; satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment…
I write a lot about saving money. It means a lot to me, because since I try to be careful (frugal) with my money, it enables me to spend on things that I find to be significant. I spend my pennies (and considerably more) on things that others might not agree with, but that’s ok. As they say, we all have our own “things.”
I get my nails professionally done in a salon. My finger nails, that is. I get a gel manicure, and this lasts about three weeks before it’s clearly obvious that I need to get them redone. The gel is very strong, and it never chips. Regular manicures done there that use the standard polish are just fine, but for a long time afterwards you have to walk around like a surgeon with your hands in the air so you don’t smudge them. With gel, they are done dry in what seems like minutes. So while it does cost me about $35 every time I go (tip included) this is an indulgence for me. I rarely if ever get a pedicure, because I do those myself. I did treat myself and Amanda (my daughter in law) to one right before the wedding, because it was a fun day we had together.
I love Dunkin Donuts coffee. I would drink it every day if I could. But at over $2.00 per cup minimum, it’s too costly on a daily basis. I’ve practiced all different ways and methods at home, and what I make comes out almost as good. I save my Dunkin indulgences for times we are taking a road trip, and when Christine and I thrift store shop – stopping there is part of our routine. And if I am riding around town, doing errands and just FEEL like having one, I will get one. I don’t let it become a regular habit, but it is a nice treat every once in a while.
Two passions of mine are wrestling and hockey. I try to get to as many of these events as I can. This year, this season – I have stayed away a little more than I wanted to, but it’s been pure timing (and the potential of bad weather). I will do my regular skimping and saving all along, and this way when an event comes along, I can go. And my key to these events is – don’t be a seat snob. As long as I’m in the building, seeing it live – I’m good. I don’t need great seats. Nosebleed sections are ok with me.
I love to travel. Even if it’s not far away from home, I just like being someplace new, someplace different, someplace I haven’t been in a while. I scour different websites and try to find deals on hotel rooms. Something as simple as staying in a hotel in Connecticut the night before Jeff and I went to the Maury show. I found a nice place for a reasonable cost, and going the night before made it seem more like a getaway rather than a long day trip. Like with so many things, the key is planning and seeing what is out there so you can do more with your money.
Christine and I always have a great time when we spend the day thrifting. We have a routine, a map of sorts when we go in Jersey near her, and when we go here in the Scranton area. I never really NEED anything, it’s more the thrill of the hunt. I try not to spend a lot, and am usually on the lookout for things for others. It’s a fun day out. Like I said above, we stop for Dunkin. Halfway through, we will get lunch someplace (usually fast food with a coupon) and then end the day around 8 or so, having dinner in a diner. It’s a guilty pleasure day.
This indulgence costs nothing really. Once in a while, even if I am doing small, insignificant chores around the house (or if I feel like doing nothing at all, just relaxing – which is rare, but I digress) I will watch an entire day of trashy television, as some call it. Maybe not even trash, but more or less silly. I get a lot of laughs out of Maury. I watch Steve Wilkos too. It never ceases to amaze me and makes me laugh about all these people who come to these court shows, trying to prove cases that make absolutely no sense at all. I have even come to appreciate Dr. Phil lately, even though I used to think he was a big, pompous jerk. By 4 o’clock, I’ll switch to the local news and it will be back to reality.
Even if you think something is silly, and others don’t agree – do it. You deserve to be self-indulgent every once in a while. Don’t you think so?
I like to do a lot of things that cost money. And because I choose to do these things and spend money (instead of saving) I don’t consider myself cheap. I consider myself frugal. Our money goes towards traveling and experiences that will give us memories. And believe me, I have many. Because there are so many things I have done, and so many things I still want to do, I have had to adopt quite a few strategies to enable this stuff to happen for me. Below I’ve listed some tips that have helped me. Hopefully they will help you too.
1. Never, ever buy anything if it is not on sale. This goes for food, for clothing, for…whatever. I have come to the conclusion that maybe I want chicken breasts, but if they are not on sale, I will wait. If not the next week, the week after that they will be on special. I never pay full price in a store that I know every other week puts their items on a percentage off cost. Even in a thrift store, I will not buy anything unless it is the half-price color of the day.
2. You need to use coupons for everything you buy or do. Search the Sunday newspaper inserts, look online at sites like Groupon, even check the back of register receipts from grocery stores. We have been trying (yet not always succeeding) to only go out to eat at restaurants that we have coupons for.
3. Always have individual portions of leftovers in your freezer. This eliminates buying lunches at work. If you take one out before you leave in the morning, by lunchtime it is ready for a quick whirl in the microwave and there you go – homemade lunch. Better than a $5 sandwich from the cafeteria.
4. Do not overlook the “day old” or “damaged” racks at supermarkets. Especially when you notice it seems full, go and investigate. I have done very well there.
5. Shower fast and only do full loads of laundry. You can save quite a bit of water this way.
6. Keep your thermostat reasonable. This winter, we have it set low and if we are cold, we will put on a sweatshirt. Or we will curl up under a blanket on the couch to get warmer. Of course, a cat or two on top of you adds to the warmth too. I will do this now, because once summer comes and it is hot, I cannot tolerate the heat so my AC will be running harder than our heat was.
7. Buy generic brands of everything. And I mean everything. Unless you have an allergy or a particular allegiance to a certain product, there really isn’t much of a difference between name brand and store brand. I did find that I do not like store-brand Frosted Flakes, however.
8. Keep the lights on in your house to a minimum. I do like to keep one or two on when we go out. I just don’t like the look of a house being all dark, because to me that makes things look unoccupied. And I don’t want to buy trouble if I don’t have to.
9. Save all the change, all the coins you get. Everyday. Just put it in some sort of container and forget about it. After a certain time (of your choosing) you can cash it in. I am always pleasantly surprised about how much my changes comes out to be.
10. When you are at a hotel, take the amenities given to you. I do not take unused rolls of toilet paper, and if I use the shampoo I leave that behind too. But if there are unused little bottles of conditioner, hand cream, a pen, some sugars and sugar substitute – I take them home. I have a nice little supply for myself. Some of the sugars I keep in my car in case someone I’m out with needs a little extra.
11. Do not pass up anything used. Anything at all. No matter where it is or where it comes from. Our beautiful dining room table came from the curb. It was a leftover that didn’t sell at a garage sale.
12. Try to ditch the paper towel and paper napkin habit. Of course you will have a bit more laundry, but overall it makes more sense to have something you can reuse. Since it’s just Jeff and I, we only need a few napkins. A family of more than two can each have their own color. They are very reasonably priced at thrift stores. I also have a lot of kitchen towels that have seen better days that I can use as rags.
13. I won’t ever get rid of cable (or satellite). I am a television person. With the cable package we have, there is always something to watch. I am never at a loss to find a program. Search and you will find. Since you’re already paying a cable or satellite bill, it’s free entertainment (well, kind of).
14. If you belong to a gym, GO. I currently belong to a gym that is very reasonably priced at only $10 per month. Because it is that cheap, I tend to make excuses why I can’t be there. My main reason is because I hate the place, but I know I need to go. If I don’t, I really should cancel the membership.
15. Always use a lid when boiling water. Saves gas or electric, and you’re ready to cook quicker.
16. Check all of your bills to see if there are any charges that aren’t right. See if any charges can be reduced or cut out completely.
17. Buy clothes pins – not so much for laundry (unless you like to hang things) but as bag clips. You can get twenty five in a package for a dollar, compared to three or four of the colored plastic clip kind. Clothes pins work just as good keeping a bag of chips fresh.
18. Share clothes with friends. Borrow. Rotate them back and forth. My cousin and I did this as young teenagers. There is no reason this can’t be done by grown adults also.
19. When your birthday is coming up, or someone you celebrate is having a birthday – google things in your area for free birthday perks. There is a local restaurant here that if you go on your actual day, the birthday boy or girl gets an entire free meal. It’s a really great deal, and that’s why we usually celebrate just about all of our birthdays there. There are a lot of birthday deals out there, you just have to find them.
20. Wash your car yourself. Or at the very least, use one of those stations that have the pressure hoses. My car is very tiny. It’s a Chevy Spark, and I love it. It is so tiny that unless it is filthy dirty, I use a spray bottle with water and a bunch of rags to clean it.
21. Try to cure yourself before going to a doctor. This of course involves minor issues. I once had a nurse tell me if you take the correct dosage of cold medicine at the perfectly timed intervals (not missing a dose, or delaying it) and drink plenty of fluids – more than you think you even need – you will end up feeling better. If after a day or so, you are not getting better and in fact are getting worse, then it’s time to maybe see your doctor.
22. If you go to the movies (we really don’t go too much) make sure you bring a big purse. Now I’m not saying to bring something like a small suitcase – just something that can hold a bottle of water, maybe a box of movie-theater size box of candy, and maybe a ziploc bag with popcorn. That should be enough to snack on during a two-hour movie.
These are some of my tips. I’m always looking for more. Have any ideas?
This picture is a pretty accurate description of kitchens I had back in the 1980s. Brings back such memories. That being said, I am always on the lookout for tips, tricks, helpful hints – you know, hacks. These few have always served me well.
I like to make meals with meat that either needs to be marinated, or stir fried. Bottled marinades can be expensive, and I haven’t had much experience making them on my own. Not yet I haven’t, but I will try. In the meantime, you can use a regular bottle of salad dressing. It doesn’t matter what kind, either oil-based or the creamy version. I have marinated chicken overnight in honey mustard dressing, and then either bake it or fry it in a pan. Stir frying chicken tenders (or pieces of thighs, which are very flavorful) in Italian dressing makes a delicious meal. I usually have this with rice and broccoli.
If you like iced coffee, try this. If you have a pot of coffee in the morning, or whatever – and some is leftover, don’t put it down the drain. Put it in an ice cube tray. This way, the next time you want iced coffee, use these coffee cubes and your drink won’t get watered down.
You can buy flavored creamers for your coffee. Jeff loves these. If you want to do it on the cheap, as they say – or for some reason you run out of creamer and only have milk or cream, as the coffee begins to brew – add some spices to the brew basket. You can also add these to an individual cup after it’s done. I have used cinnamon, pumpkin spice seasoning, even hot chocolate mix to make a chocolate coffee drink. Adding it to the brew basket, of course you will need to use more. You’ll get a whole pot of specialty coffee this way. If it’s easier and you do individual cups, just make sure you stir really good. Tastes delicious!
The easiest and fastest way to make rice, which ends up coming out Chinese-food style is in your microwave. For example, use one cup of rice to two cups of water. You can even substitute part of the water with broth. This one cup method goes into the microwave for twelve minutes. When the time is up, the rice comes out absolutely perfect. For 3/4 of a cup, double the amounts but it goes in for nine minutes. Adjust up – last night I did 1 1/2 cups, put it in for sixteen minutes and it came out great. I have been making more rice lately because our little kitten Nik has some “stomach” issues and the rice is helping him. We think.
This next thing is more of a recommendation than an actual tip. When you spill something, especially on your stove – clean it up, or at least wipe it as soon as possible. I have waited too long on certain occasions, and when I finally do go and try to clean it, it takes too much of an effort. I try to do this all the time. If I can. If I remember.
It sounds crazy, I know – but rinse your plastic bags. You know, the ones with the zip tops. I rinse all of them and store them inside out, on top of something tall. Like the container with all the ladles, spatulas, wooden spoons. I don’t keep the thin, little sandwich type bags because they just don’t dry easily. Plus, they are much more reasonably priced. I just cannot see throwing away a decent plastic bag that only had rolls in it, with just crumbs leftover.
Keep as many plastic bags as you can store from the grocery store. Currently we have more than we need. These come in handy for many things. For those of us with pets, you know what we use them for. I always have a bag handy for people who come over and want to take things home. And sometimes I use them as an extra layer over something I’m storing in the freezer.
I haven’t done this in years, but you can reuse your coffee grounds. If you make a pot of coffee to yield eight cups, rinse your pot. In the basket add half the amount you would normally use. Press brew and your new full pot should taste just as good (or almost as good) as the first one.
All of these are boring, I know – but useful just the same.
I was trying to do some research on decorating for holidays. It was amazing to me that no matter what I used to search, whatever term or terms – all I kept getting information on was decorating for Christmas. Now that’s all fine and good, but I do like to decorate my home for other holidays as well.
Of course, my favorite go to place for decorations is Dollar Tree. Going as soon as possible after they put the items out for a certain holiday will ensure that you will get a good choice. I went right after Christmas. Believe it or not, they had both Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day decorations on the shelves already. Between both holidays, I walked out of there with four bags, and I barely spent $20. I got two vases with hearts, several stems of fake flowers, little wooden decorations, 30 paper doilies (in both hearts and shamrocks – these are the perfect few I can put in our front window and have it look good – for cheap) and a few of those bead-like necklaces. You know, the ones they throw in New Orleans. They look great spread around the tray I have on our coffee table.
The stems of flowers (in red and pink, and then in green and white) are stuck inside the hard wicker wreaths we have on our outside doors. They are very simple but it shows that we celebrate these holidays here.
Another decorating idea I have had for a long time is dressing up stuffed animals. This was easier when my kids were small, but I found another way. Being the great thrift store shopper I am, I was surprised to find that stuffed animals are very reasonably priced there. Recently, the one store I go to was having a sale – three (of any size) for a dollar. I bought six of them. I got a chick, a plain teddy bear, one pastel blue and one pastel pink bunny rabbit, a St. Patrick’s Day teddy bear, and an Irish looking frog. I will continue to look for more plain types, because for the more patriotic holidays, all I will need to do to dress them is put a big red, white or blue around their necks. Even though no one will be cuddling these items, I still ran them through my washing machine on a gentle cycle. This way, they’ll get more clean if they look a slight bit dingy. And if they fall apart (even though mine never have), what did you lose? Not a whole lot of money.’
I have always said that balloons make a celebration. Now I realize that balloons don’t last forever, but they do last for a few days. If you are having a celebration, say for Valentine’s Day – balloons around the place, here and there – it makes things look festive. I usually have a package or two of balloons – if you don’t, get a few – I try to get the ten or twelve count package (in decent sizes, not those tiny ones). So in an assorted package, blow up red and white ones for Valentine’s Day. When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, you can use all the green ones. Easter will come, and if there are purple, yellow and orange – there you go. For the patriotic holidays, you can use red, blue and white. It probably would make sense to have a few packages on hand – depending on how much you plan on decorating. We are having a small party here right after Valentine’s Day, so since our bottom floor is where everyone will be (and we only have three rooms down here) I’ll have a few in each room.
If you’re using disposable paper goods, get one package of plain, solid color plates – say, red. Do the same with the disposable cutlery – one package of your color. Cups, napkins – the same thing. And then get white plates, white napkins, clear or white cups – and arrange them, alternating the colors. Trust me, you can have a very attractive set up this way. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your table look good.
Another tip I learned (or realized) way long ago when I was an aide in my son’s preschool classroom is that color really does matter. It can be as simple as serving a lot of things that are red for Valentine’s. Dyeing vanilla frosting green and using green sprinkles for St. Patty’s Day cupcakes. For Easter, frost your cupcakes with vanilla and put three jelly beans on top of each. Or even make a sheet cake, and go crazy with jelly beans – all over, or just in the corners. It is totally up to you.
My last tip for decorating, for parties and holidays? Take pictures. And print them out, and display them. Nothing makes you feel better than smiling about a fun time you’ve had…
Hello! We just got back on Sunday – this was my very first cruise, it was wonderful and it certainly won’t be my last! We sailed on the Carnival Pride.
I don’t know how I can even properly explain how amazing it was. First of all, the basics – the value is incredible. If you did nothing but drink lemonade, iced tea or water (which is included) you would pay nothing else. Not another cent. Every meal is included, and every snack you want between meals is also included. I enjoyed more than beer on this trip, which surprised me. But being on the ship, cruising – it was the fruity, frozen drinks and the tropical ones on the rocks that got me. They were great!
The staff, what can I say? They are so nice. Actually, they are beyond nice and in a legitimate way. Being a cruise worker, you have to enjoy people, and the staff on Carnival – they do! We’ve even become Facebook friends with some of them so we can stay in touch. Your fellow passengers – you’ll become friends with people, and it’s as easy as anything. I saw next to no one on the boat in a bad mood. Everyone was happy. Everyone was laughing. It was so nice, people smiling at each other for no reason at all.
I know I am, as they say, preaching to the choir – to those who have cruised before. For those of you who have not, please – give it a shot. I was never really into cruising per se, but my sister is – and she got the deal offered to her way back in January of last year. It ballooned from her and her son, Dan to me and Ellie, to Sean (my future brother in law) and his daughter Eowynn, my son and daughter in law (this was my wedding gift to them) and three friends of my sister. We were a good group. Despite my sister injuring her ankle and Amanda getting sick from an excursion meal, we are all going again!