Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings on Love

"No one has greater love than this– that one lays down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

There was a period in my life when I was obsessed with the idea of love.  As a freshman in college, I read every book I could get my hands on that dealt with the topic.  When I would meet and visit with married couples, I typically asked how they knew they had found the person they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with.  Answers varied.  One response, in particular, stuck with me.  "If you're not ready to give up your life for someone else," this woman said, "you're not ready to get married."  "That's a little drastic..." I thought to myself.
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As an education major at Central College, I heard countless stories of young ladies who were taken to a particular bench at a nearby park to have a DTR (Defining the Relationship) talk with what would be their future spouse.  I listened to each tale with awestruck wonder, yearning to be that girl.  When my junior and senior years rolled around, it felt like I had a wedding to attend every other weekend.  Lavish and sacred events, I sometimes envied the couples exchanging vows before me.  They were so in love.  

I had no desire to get married at that point, but I did want someone I could stroll through our little town of Pella, Iowa, with, arm in arm, gazing up at him with lovestruck eyes.   I filled journal upon journal with entries about how he looked at me that particular day, or caressed my hand or said something special. (The he would be someone different, in my imagination, with each changing season.)  I would cling to each him loyally with tunnel vision thinking that he was the one.

If I could have a conversation with my younger self, I would say, "I know you are confused about what love is, but it is not what I believe you think it is."
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I have matured much since being in my early twenties.  Recent events in my life have caused me to pause and reflect on what real love looks like, timeless snapshots kept in the camera of my heart:

Love is...

Walking in the ocean with one of my best friends in high school, mostly covered up because I was so self-conscious about my skin.  I told him this, and he gently put his hand on my leg, looked at me, and said, "You're beautiful."  Not in a selfish or sexual way, but in a way that said, "You are my friend and I love you."

A father forgiving his daughter though she has repeatedly broken his heart.

My lifelong family friend who took me shopping for school supplies and clothing at the beginning of each academic year, expecting nothing in return.  I lived for the living room fashion shows I put on for my family afterwards, wearing the latest Kmart and Payless trends.

A mother waking up before the sun rises to pray for her estranged daughter.

My husband filling my Ozark cup with ice water for the evening and setting it by my bedside every night.

Me, choosing to stay at home with my children, and continually wiping their butts, wiping away their tears, teaching and instructing them "in the way they should go."

Friends that will stop what they're doing to help in your time of need.
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There are many things that our world, and especially our society, say that love is.  As for me, I say that Jesus, the woman I quoted at the beginning of this post, and Shakespeare, in some of his writings, got it right.  I will leave you with my favorite Sonnet:

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved." 

-Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Now, what do you say love is?


Monday, September 12, 2016

For the Love of Convenience

Meet Hershey, our Chocolate Lab.
Hello, everyone!  I'm happy to be back in the lovely world of blogging.  I unintentionally took the month of August off due to our family transitioning from four members to six—with the birth of our second daughter on June 19th, and the adoption of our chocolate lab about a month ago.  I would liken life, currently, to a constant three-ring circus:  challenging, fun and noisy.

The Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up program has been a lifesaver for us this summer.  Historically, I have not been the biggest fan of Wal-Mart (for reasons I won't disclose in this post).  About a year ago, they built a store in our neighborhood.  With the convenience of it being five minutes away (when walking), I frequented the store much more than I ever had.

An example of our "favorites"
that are automatically listed
when we shop online.
At the beginning of June, I saw different friends sharing links for $10 off a first Wal-Mart pick-up order through Facebook.  At the encouragement of my husband, I decided to check it out.  Friends, I don't know that I will step foot in a grocery store ever again.  The convenience of ordering my groceries online and having them delivered to my van has been spectacular!  If you have not experienced this yet and would like to, follow these steps :

1.  Go to the Wal-Mart grocery website here.  There is also an app you can download for your phone (Walmart Grocery).  We have had the easiest time going to the website on our phones.  When you become a frequent online shopper, your "favorites" will automatically be saved, making it much easier to shop for your next purchases.

2.  Search for the groceries you would like to order.  This is especially helpful if you are a financially frugal nerd, like my husband.  It makes it easy to compare prices per ounce and get the best bang for your buck, so to speak.  Fresh baked and cooked goods are not included in the pick-up program (ex:  Rotisserie Chicken and French Bread).  If they don't have the particular amount of the item you request in stock, they substitute a larger one at no cost.
Park here or in another
designated area and call for
pickup.

3.  Schedule a pick-up time for the following day, proceed to checkout and use this code to get $10.00 of your first order.  Bonus:  If you use this code, we both get $10.00 off our next orders!

4.  Drive to the Wal-Mart on Boca Chica Blvd or Alton Gloor Blvd (if you are local) and park in the designated area.  Call the number listed on the grocery pick-up sign and wait while a worker brings out your order, has you sign for it, and loads it into your vehicle!

5.  Kindly thank them, enjoy the treat(s) and drive away like the boss you are!  Depending on the worker, I have been given (at the very least) a bottle of water, Takis and Hershey bars.


This is Sonia.  She works at the Walmart on Boca Chica
and gives the best treats!
That's it!  Easy, right?  It's important to note that this is a FREE program, and the workers are not allowed to accept tips.  The best way to thank them is to fill out the survey they provide the link for when they hand you your receipt.  Thanks for reading, and Happy Shopping!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Many Uses of Basil

Want to know a pet peeve of mine?  When I look up a recipe online, that's precisely what I want:  the recipe.  It's rather inconvenient when the blogger gives me a whole backstory on how the concoction originally came from their great great grandmother and how it's the best version for such and such a reason...blah, blah, blah.  I like a good foodie story as much as the next person, but it's the how to that excites me most.  Thus, here are my favorite go-to basil recipes in no particular order.  Enjoy!

Basil Dressing (adapted from Park's Success with Herbs, 1980)*

Basil Dressing is delicious and healthy!
1 large clove garlic (or whatever size you have to achieve the same amount)
1 c salad (vegetable) oil
½ tsp powdered mustard
1 tsp water
1 egg white
½ tsp kosher salt (can omit for salt-free diets)
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp ground pepper
⅓ c vinegar (I use apple cider or white wine)
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped (I use 4 Tbsp)
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on low for 15 seconds.

In making the dressing I have found the following to be true:

1.  The longer it is blended, the thicker it will be.  Good as a dip for veggie trays, especially raw okra.
2.  For a thinner dressing, add a drizzle of water or milk while blending.
3.  Good as a substitute for mayo on sandwiches.

*This recipe was given to me by Angela McGowan Barnard, The Master Gardener herself.  Notes are hers.  Let's be honest, I was not yet born in 1980...

Antipasto*
Antipasto!  

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
Balsamic Vinegar**
Olive Oil
Tooth picks

1.  Assemble skewers.  Sandwich tomatoes and cheese in between basil leaves.
2.  Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil.
3.  Enjoy!

*Recipe originally found on Pinterest.
**Balsamic Vinegar can also be used separately, as a dip.

Tomato and Basil Pasta


Penne Pasta (or other preferred pasta)
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
Diced tomatoes
Feta cheese*
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

*Because everything is betta with feta!  I threw this together on a day that I needed to go grocery shopping, with items that were readily available.  The basil and tomatoes were fresh from our garden!







Refreshing Strawberry Basil Water!
Strawberry Basil Water*

4-6 strawberries, hulled and quartered
½ lemon, sliced
Small handful of basil, scrunched
Ice and cold filtered water

Fill pitcher to the top with ice and fruit.  Slightly scrunch up the basil so it releases it's flavor.  Cover with cold filtered water.  The water is best if you let it infuse for at least 1 hour.

*Original recipe here.  We love this drink!  I originally made it in an attempt to get one of my little ones to drink more water.  It's delicious and refreshing– the perfect summer drink!


Basil Ice Cream*
Old Fashioned Basil Ice Cream (the children loved it)!

2 c heavy cream
2 c whole milk
¾ c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt
Handful of basil, finely chopped or blended

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar dissolves.  Freeze for 4 hours.  Enjoy!

*This recipe is a combination of two different ones I found online.  I needed it to be child-friendly because I was making it with my children (they ate it up!).  For the two recipes, click here and here.

Let's not forget that basil leaves are also enjoyable by themselves.  My husband will often grab a couple of leaves from our garden to "cleanse his palate," and my two-year old daughter eats at least 4-5 leaves when she spends time outside.
My daughter picks a basil leaf to consume.  It has led to us having great discussions about which plants are safe to eat and which are not.
And there you have it!  These are some of my favorite go-to recipes when the basil is plentiful.  What are some of yours?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Sister's Keeper

Erin and me, circa 1990.  As you can tell, I was typically
the more reserved one.
January 10, 1990 has always been one of my favorite days.  It was the day that my younger sister, Erin, was born.  I was an only child for eight years, so the thought of having a sibling thrilled me.  When she came around, everything was so much more fun.  I never felt jealousy towards her, and fighting would have been ridiculous since I was so much older.  In some ways I was like another parent to her.

Our family and those who knew us well described us as, "night and day."  Not only were we different in appearance, her with her lighter, porcelain-like skin, light brown hair and green eyes.  We were also uniquely individual in our personalities.  I always admired her spirit.  From the time she was a toddler, she had no problem making her requests known and not taking anything from anyone.  She didn't care who you were.

Sometimes when Erin smiles, her eyes disappear...isn't she cute?!
She had, and still has, an extra soft spot in her heart for me, though.  When I was in the 7th grade, I made a really bad decision and my parents were scolding me (trust me when I say I deserved it).  She immediately burst into tears and said, "Don't get mad at Sissy (her lifelong nickname for me)!"  We attended an awards ceremony when I was a junior in high school, and immediately after receiving my certificates, she ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and walked me back to my seat, smiling up at me and beaming the entire way.  Suffice it to say she has been one of my greatest fans.

About three months ago, Erin went to see the gynecologist regarding a lump in her pelvic area.  They decided to surgically remove the mass, sent it to a lab and found out that it was Squamos Cell Carcinoma (SCC).  The good news is that the surgery removed it all from the pelvic area and that part of the body does not need further treatment.  The bad news is that after months of tests and lab work, they found five precancerous cells (SCC) in her lungs.  Starting tomorrow morning (Wednesday), Erin will go through eight sessions of chemotherapy, followed by multiple sessions of immunotherapy, in hopes of killing off the cells.

We are optimistic, overall, about the diagnosis and that all will be well in the end.  Erin is now 26 years old and has shown great resolve and strength in the midst of this whole ordeal.  She has told me the dose of chemotherapy she will receive is a low one, and the doctor has said she won't have the usual side effects (hair loss, nausea, etc.).  Ultimately, we won't know how she will react until she has gone through a couple of sessions.

Though she is a full grown woman, I still see her as the little sister that followed me around everywhere when we were younger.  I will likely always see her that way.  This whole process has been a journey for me, too.  I have had moments of great faith, and other times that I have fallen apart at the thought of her suffering.  For a long time growing up, I felt responsible for her, almost to a fault.  It wasn't until I was a mature adult that I realized I was not.  The Lord is her keeper, and will do a much better job caring for her than I ever could.  He has gone before her and will be with her throughout this entire process and will see it to the end.

So I ask that you please keep her and the rest of our family in your prayers.  Pray that she is healed.  Pray that this makes us all better, and not bitter.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13









Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When Mamas Hibernate...

As we get closer to meeting our baby girl (I am 35 weeks along today), I have been reflecting on ways people have helped us in the past that have really blessed us.  I am part of what seems to be a pregnancy wave this time around, and I hope to shed some light on how we can help new mamas.  Because we will be welcoming our third child, we are well versed in what has served us well and what has not.  Read on if you are curious or would like to be part of a welcoming and transitioning community for a new or current mom in your life.

We eat anything and everything!  Favorites include pasta,
chicken dishes and seafood.
1.  Do offer to bring us meals.  

They can be homemade, take-out or store-bought.  Check to make sure that the family you're feeding doesn't have any food allergies.  And if they do, avoid using those ingredients.

We, personally, have no known food allergies.  This makes it very easy to feed us!  Acts of Service is my dominant love language, so my love tank is full when people help in this way (and so is my stomach—winning!).   My mother-in-love, Kathy, and one of my closest friends, Jenn, will be in charge of organizing this when the time comes. Getting in touch with them would be a great move if you are interested!

Don't expect an extended visit when you drop off food. Families will typically set up a general time for meal drop offs (ex:  between 5:30-6:30 pm) that is most convenient for them.  Sometimes I have said hello to those dropping off food and briefly introduced them to the baby, other times I have not.

Mothers may be nursing, catching up on sleep, bathing, keeping other children in line, etc.  Life becomes unpredictable for a season.  Do not take it personally if they aren't the hostess with the mostest when you come around.

2.  Do reach out to us.  

This may sound impersonal and calloused, but texting usually works best during this season of life, and will work even more so when the baby comes.  (Please reread #1 under Don't expect an extended visit... if confused.)

Exceptions to this include emergencies, needing to discuss specific situations and conflict resolution—all of which are done better in conversation, either over the phone or in person.  There is too much that can be misread and miscommunicated by text message.

Don't expect an immediate response.  We will get back to you as soon as we can.  If a couple of hours have passed and you still have not heard from us, it does not necessarily mean that we have not read or appreciated your message.  We simply have not gotten around to responding yet.

3.  Do offer to entertain older children (if you have a relationship with them).  

Newborns are completely helpless and dependent on their parents, especially mom.  If there are older siblings in the family, they will be in need of extra love and attention for the first couple of months while everyone transitions.
A couple of our favorite babysitters brought over ingredients
to make Rice Krispy treats for our children; they thought that
was awesome!
Don't expect to take them away on a day-long field trip (unless you are a close, trusted relative or family friend that has done this before).  Some of the best babysitters we have had showed up with surprises for the children or toys they could play with during their time together.  The children love them, and it gives them a break from playing with their usual toys.

4.  Do give us time to transition.  

Everything changes when a baby joins a family.  Everything.  If you start feeling like the relationship you had with a new mother is not the same, that's because it's not (especially if you do not have children of your own).  That does not mean that your friendship is no longer valuable or worth investing in, but it, too, will go through a transition.

Don't expect us to bounce back into all previous extra-curricular activities.  Perhaps this is only me, but I take my sweet time healing physically, mentally and emotionally after the birth of a child.  I am in no hurry to get back to normal life.  I admire those who quickly jump back into everything, but I am not one of them, nor do I desire to be.

Every mother is different, just like each child she raises will be.   Respect whatever boundaries she and her family establish, even if you do not agree with them.

5.  Do be ready to listen.  
Raising children:  it really does take a village!
Being a new mom or becoming a mother all over again can be overwhelming, frustrating and lonely.  Obviously, there are great blessings that come with having children or we wouldn't do it, especially more than once.  Knowing that you are an available ear will bring great comfort to her.

Don't be quick to give advice... unless she asks for it.  New parents, especially, have no idea what they're doing.  Those of us who have done it a couple more times still can have no idea.  None of us is perfect at it or gets it right every time.  Trying to correct her or give your two cents when she hasn't asked for them will only hurt her.

These pointers have worked well for us and close friends of mine and their families that I have observed.  Above all, celebrate and rejoice with the new mothers in your life!  It truly is a wonderful time.

What have been some helpful ways people have served you during these transitions, or what are some unique ways you have served others?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Music Genetics 2016 Summer Camp

We just wrapped up a fantastic week of Summer Music Camp here at Music Genetics Piano Studio, and I am eager to share some of our favorite activities!  This was our second year hosting a camp, and we had a delightful group of students to work with.  Special thanks goes out to Pastor John Phillips and Christ Church of the Valley, for graciously allowing us to use their lovely building and enjoy the gazebo and garden area outside, my mother, for being my teaching partner, and our two volunteers, Maria and Sally, for working hard.  We hope to see all of our participants again next year and encourage them to bring friends!  Please enjoy our week in review!
The mornings would begin with the teachers and volunteers arriving between
8:15-8:30 to set up for the first activity of the day.  Students usually showed up
 between 8:45-9:00.  Pinterest was a great help in writing the curriculum
 for camp this year!

Examples of some of the name tags students made (out of small records).
Our first icebreaker:  we played, "What Note Am I?"  Students had to walk
around and ask one another yes/no questions based on what musical note
they had on their forehead.


A big portion of our camp focused on music theory:  reinforcing how to read
 notes and recognize different musical symbols.
We split the students up into two groups, and they made team flags.  
This team was called, "The Treble Clef Cars."
The other group, "The Trouble (Treble) Clefs."
Taking a break from Dueling Dice, a musical game that reinforces 
mathematical concepts (note values and adding).
We spent at least 30 minutes outside each day (our camp ran from 9 am-12 pm).
  Here we are playing a water ballon note name game toss.  Students threw
water balloons at the drawn keyboards and had to name the notes they hit.
Children standing behind the keyboard enjoyed getting wet!

We played a water balloon toss with the leftover water balloons.


The students had fun with our note-name scavenger hunt.  Our volunteers
set up flashcards all around the building.  The children had to find them,
and label them with the correct name on their sheets.  They worked in pairs.
These partners were the only two to receive a perfect score on their 
Note Name Scavenger Hunt.  Everyone did well, but they were extra proud!
Mrs. Rosie taught an incredible lesson on painting a caricature of 
Johann Sebastian Bach!
The children did a wonderful job painting their own individual Bach caricatures.
Musical Twister was a favorite activity of the week!
In between certain sessions, we gave the students 5-10 minutes of free time to
get the wiggles out!  They all got along really well!
We enjoyed snack time under the lovely gazebo each day, and the children
enjoyed exploring the garden area around it.
Story time:  all about the life of Johann Sebastian Bach.

At the end of the week, one of our volunteers, Maria, led the students in
creating a homemade banjo.  She did a wonderful job!

"Let's rock, let's rock...TODAY!"
Reflection is always good.  Towards the end of the week, we had the students
write about and draw what their favorite parts of camp were.
They then shared with the whole group.
We ended camp with a swimming pool party!  Who doesn't love those?!




















It is important to note that most of these activities were not original ideas.  Through Pinterest, I follow other piano teachers and musical schools that are generous with their homemade examples.  Links to some of my favorite sites are below:

Musical worksheets

Music Camp Ideas

A big thanks also goes out to our participants this year and their parents!  Thank you for your continued support of Music Genetics Piano Studio.  See you all next summer!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Fun on a Shoestring Budget

The projected high for today is 91 degrees, which means the summer is upon us.  Or, it's simply an average day here in our border city of Brownsville, Texas.  As we are given a plethora of summer camp options in which to enroll our children, it is easy to overlook the variety of affordable, family-friendly excursions our tropical paradise offers.  Here are some local favorites, in the order of free to worth the long-term investment.

Parks
A visit to a local school at the end of the academic year will reveal that we live in a culture that practically worships our children, and we are a fruitful people.  Whether pupils are celebrating the end of their high school or preschool careers, balloons, baskets, stuffed animals and candy galore dominate awards ceremonies.  This works in our favor, as our city works hard to ensure that there are plenty of child friendly destinations.  With many parks to choose from in our area, here are three of the most frequented ones:

The lovely waterfall at Cascade Park.
Surrounded by nice walking trails, Cascade Park is the most recent development to grace us with its presence.  Fully equipped with a couple of playgrounds, a splash pad, plenty of picnic tables, bridges, and yes, a beautiful waterfall that lights up at night, it is a sure summer destination.

Residents are welcome to ride bikes, exercise and even fish from the bridges.  Birthday parties can also be scheduled if the park is contacted ahead of time.  For more information call (956) 838-0162.



Dean Porter Park is located at 501 Ringgold Street.
Located in the center of the Mitte Cultural District, Dean Porter Park is one of Brownsville's largest and most historic community areas.  There is a walk and fitness trail that lines the outdoor recreation destination, and it sits adjacent to a lovely resaca.

With great picnic areas, expansive playgrounds, and easy access to Sam's Pool (which is home to free lap swimming summer mornings) and splash pad, it is a welcome respite from the intense heat.  For more details on the park and surrounding areas, check out their website.

The Pirate Ship Park is located at 1 Event Center.
The city now has 64 miles of bike trails, granting Brownsville our most recent title: "bicycling capital of the Rio Grande Valley" by Texas Legislature.  There are a variety of playgrounds along these trails, including the Park at the Brownsville Events Center.  

With pocketfuls of outdoor play areas along these paths, families are encouraged to walk, bike and hike together and catch occasional breaks.  This particular park has access to swings and a pirate ship, and also sits near a resaca.  For more information on the Hike and Bike Trails and for a complete map of the trails, please visit this website.

It's never too soon to expose your children to a love of reading.
Academics
If a break from the heat is what you crave, the Brownsville Public Library System has exactly what you are looking for.  With two different locations, a library card grants you access to thousands of books, a Summer Reading Program for children with incentives, the Reader's Mark Cafe with delicious drinks and pastries, internet and computer access, an Adult Reading Club, a Teen Book Club and Movie Time.  For more details on all the local library has to offer, please visit their website.

If you are looking for an online program to help your children with reading fluency, Summer Reading Skills through Baylor University offers curriculum for students as young as 4-years old through those entering the 12th grade.  Helping in the areas of phonics, comprehension, fluency, textbook study skills, speed reading and love of reading, your kids can hone their skills in the comfort of their own home.  Tuition depends on the particular program level, and family discounts are also available.  For more information or to register, please call 1-800-964-9974.  Hours of operation are Monday-Friday 7 am-8 pm and Saturday 8 am-3 pm.

South Padre Island
A portion of the wooden playground at Andy Bowie Park.
Located a mere 20 minutes northeast of us, South Padre Island is nationally known as one of our local gems.  Once on the island, a drive down Gulf Boulevard reveals a few different beach access points that are completely free, some that also include restrooms.  Be sure to pack plenty of water, sunblock, beach toys and necessities and a lunch, if you want to save even more money.

Paying $10 will also give you a one-day pass to Andy Bowie Park, located on the north side of the island, fully equipped with barbecue pits, restrooms and a wooden playground, and Isla Blanca Park,  located on the south side of South Padre with the same commodities.


A rescued turtle at Sea Turtle, Inc.
Sea Turtle, Inc. is a rehabilitative rescue center that conducts educational presentations to help inform the public on good beach habits and what to do if a sea turtle is found.  The center asks only for donations from those visiting and is a non-profit run mostly on donors.  For more details and to plan a visit, please visit their website.

Outdoor Fun
Home to the historic Rabb Plantation and newly opened Barbara T. Warburton Education Center, the Sabal Palm Sanctuary sits right along the U.S./Mexico border.  The sanctuary boasts more than 5 miles of nature trails that feature wildlife sighting areas, for those interested in birdwatching and observing rich biodiversity.  Weekly, guided bird walks and historical tours of the Rabb House are also offered.  Admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for children 12 and under.  Affordable annual passes are also available.  For further details, please visit their website.

Enjoy a bike ride along the Resaca de la Palma trails.
Part of the World Birding Center, Resaca de la Palma State Park is home to over 8 miles of trails and several observation decks.  There is a tram tour that goes around the park every hour and pockets of the Rio Grande can be seen from different areas.

The park also rents out bicycles and binoculars, if needed, for a small fee. Entrance is $4 for adults, with children 12 and under entering for free.  Special events happen monthly, and the summer is full of Ranger Programs.  For more information on these, please visit their website.

Located in Linear Park, the Brownsville Farmers' Market has grown in the last couple of years.  A family-friendly environment where you can find edibles like farm fresh eggs, raw honey, ready to eat and grow herbs, shrimp, homemade granola, fresh coffee and tea, among other items, the market strives to support local farmers and promote healthy living.  Open every Saturday from 9 am-noon year round, the market will often host morning yoga and Zumba classes, and features live music.
  
Come support local farmers and healthy eating at the Brownsville Farmers' Market.

When you are done at the market, head across the street to the Gladys Porter Zoo.  Home to 1500 animals on 31 acres of land, the zoo is a favorite, historic spot.  With a paved, shaded walkway that runs throughout, snack bars with picnic tables, a playground, petting zoo,  butterfly garden and gift shop, it is the perfect escape for little ones to get their wiggles out and adults to enjoy a break.  Membership to the zoo is a worthy investment so that visits can be enjoyed all year long.  Single members pay $60 annually, while a family can purchase a card for $80 (this includes two adults and an unlimited amount of children under the age of 18).  For more information on membership and visiting, please visit their website.

A handsome peacock shows off at the Gladys Porter Zoo.
So there you have it!  Enjoy the summer and all that our city on the border by the sea has to offer.  While you're making the rounds, be sure to grab a raspa or agua fresca from one of our many locally owned stands to stay hydrated.  Carry plenty of water and sunblock during your excursions and get lost discovering old favorites and new places.  Perhaps I'll see you around.

If you're looking for a way to stay on top of your expenses this summer, check out Personal Capital and their useful financial tools